jump to navigation

I’m baaack! September 17, 2010

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
Tags: ,

I’m back to my blog . . . after a two year hiatus! I’m going to honest to any readers I may have out there. I didn’t just decide it was time to start blogging again. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’m resurrecting my blog because it’s a requirement of a class. I hope that with the increased readership that I expect this class will generate for my blog, perhaps I will get hooked and begin to blog regularly, but I’m not too sure. Let me tell you a bit of my blogging history and then I will pose some questions that will help me reflect on why I’ve had a difficult relationship with blogging.

I started my first blog with my students. Back in 2005, I was teaching English Language Arts at the American School of Kuwait, and I wanted to help students find an audience for their writing so we started a class blog where they essentially journalled each week, read each others’ writing and commented to each other. While I say this was my first blog, I guess that’s a bit of a misnomer because I just set up the blog and provided a space for my students to write–I was just a member of their audience. In retrospect, I should have been blogging with them to model the practice, but I didn’t.

In 2006, I returned to Saskatchewan from Kuwait to work on my Masters of Education in Educational Psychology. During this time, I had the good fortune to work with the Digital Internship Project and began to learn a great deal about using technology in the classroom. As well, my research for my thesis revolved around teenage girls’ experiences with cyberbullying which helped me understand how social networking and the use of technology affects the lives of girls. At this time, I started this blog to provide a space for me to reflect on what I was learning; however, it didn’t take long for me to abandon this blog.

Then in 2009, I turned 30 and decided that my goal for my 30th year would be to do 30 new things that have never done before. My plan was to document my adventures on my newest blog:  30 Adventures at 30. This time I thought I would blog about my experiences and monetize my blog–perhaps the lure of possibly making money on my blog would motivate me to stick with it. In starting this blog, I also figured that blogging about 30 new things I would do in my 30th year would give me a specific time frame and if I abandoned my blog after that, at least I could say that I stuck it out for a whole year. Unfortunately, as you can see on my “30 for 30” blog, my attempt was short lived and I only ended up blogging about a few of my experiences.

I must say that I am generally a very committed and dedicated person and when I start something it almost always gets finished. So, with all of these failed attempts to blog regularly, it begs the question, what’s the problem? Why haven’t I been able to stick with blogging for either personal and professional purposes? This made me wonder why other people blog and what purpose do they see in their blog that keeps them committed.

Jason Kaneshiro talks about the concept of not “Breaking the Chain”—an idea he borrowed from Jerry Sienfeld. This strategy to stay committed to blogging basically focuses the blogger to write everyday. Yes, it’s that simple. He says that every time you write, mark it on a calendar and you will eventually see a long chain that represents your progress which will be a motivator to continue. I suppose that I can see how this works, and Kanashiro compares this to process to sticking with a diet or exercising. However, my problem is that I would use a method like this to stick to a diet or exercise because it is healthy for me. Blogging, in my mind, does not make me “healthier” and I do not want it to become an onerous chore.

Similarly, on his blog about Blogging Ethics, Martin poses the questions to his readership, “Why did you decide to start a weblog? What did you want your blog to accomplish? Have you achieved that purpose yet?” His readers responded with several reasons to blog that make a lot of sense to me such as “keeping my writing sharp,” keeping a record of my thought process, and learning from others through feedback and critique. However, I am still unsure if any of these reasons would compel me to stick with a blog for the long-term.

So I pose this question: Why do you blog? What makes you want to do it everyday and stick with it? As evidenced by my various attempts, I want to be a blogger, but what am I missing?

Cyberbullying and Girls’ Online Social Performances May 15, 2008

Posted by ashleyquark in Uncategorized.

Tomorrow I will be presenting the findings of my master’s thesis at the TLt Summit 2008: Learning in a Digital World. Below is my presentation for anyone interested in revisiting it.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss the findings of my research, please do not hesitate to contact me.

February 7, 2008

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools, Training.
add a comment

I gave a presentation today for pre-service teachers on Classroom Websites and Blogging.  I have included my favorite software for creating websites and blog, but obviously there are many others that I have not included in the presentation.  I have embedded the presentation below.  In the session, participants had the opportunity to explore the Web 2.0 software of their choice with the following Screencasts to help them along the way:

Setting up a WordPress Account
Changing your Page Template, Writing a Post and Writing a Page
Difference between Writing Posts/Pages & Managing Posts and Pages
Embed a video

Getting help

The creators of wikispaces have created their own screencasts to give you a tour and a “how to” for wikispaces.
Get an ad-free wiki:  Free for educators! 

Class Blogmeister
Setting up an Account
Tour of Ning
Free Ning Accounts for Grades 7-12 Educators


Here’s my PowerPoint presentation.  Note that all links in this presentation are live so you can go look at the examples I supply for classroom websites.

Technology in Post-Secondary Education January 27, 2008

Posted by ashleyquark in Post-Secondary, Tech Tools.

Preparing pre-service teachers to be able to effectively use technology in the teaching and learning process is very important.  Information and communication technologies (ICTs)are becoming increasingly available in schools, but often teachers in schools are not aware of all the possibilities for how it can be used in their classrooms. Therefore, as a university instructor, I am working to incorporate these technologies into my classrooms to help familiarize students with Web 2.0 software that can be used to enhance the learning process.

This semester, I am teaching two undergraduate classes in the Faculty of Education and am trying to infuse technology into my classes.   One of the classes is a Writing Methodology class for English majors in the Secondary Education program.  We spent a significant amount of time discussing the idea of multiliteracies.  We discussed the various ways people may be literate (cultural literacy, functional literacy, technological literacy, critical literacy), who is privileged in the ways we teach in schools, and what implications this has for our professional practice.  In discussing multiliteracies, we also talked about the various ways people can represent their knowledge and how “new literacies” sparked by technology may impact our classrooms.  My students seemed to enthusiastically embrace these ideas, but were apprehensive about the technological skill base they will need to incorporate technologies into their classrooms.  To help my students become more comfortable with ICTs, I have developed a social network through Ning where we discuss the readings and extend our class discussion.  I chose Ning because I believe it is important to model the use of technologies that students could actually use in their classrooms.  Ning offers a free ad-free social network for the use in Grades 7-12 classrooms.  As well, my class is sharing their writing and lesson plans on a wiki through wikispaces, another Web 2.0 that offers free wikis for use in K-12 education.

In the other class I am teaching, I am using technology in a very basic way–to post homework and class announcements.  However, as a firm believer in the use of multiliteracies in the classroom, I am trying to provide homework assignments that allow students to do things beyond reading journal articles and chapters from books.  With the website, I have been able to link podcasts and videos to our site and have students “read” these forms of media for homework as well.  While a class website is nothing complex, having a place to link these forms of media makes it easy to give such assignments. If I were to teach this class again, I would likely try to design the course so students are not simply consumers of media, but also producers of media, using various applications available through Web 2.0. 

I hope that with the use of ICTs modelled in their univeristy classes, my students will have some ideas of how they might use such technologies in their classrooms once they start teaching.

Teacher Training and Support December 20, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Training.

In recent years, school boards have been urging teachers to integrate technology into the teaching and learning process.  However, there are still many teachers who have limited technologocial skills which means they don’t feel comfortable implementing it into their classrooms. I can understand this.  Teachers have very busy lives between their jobs, extra-curricular activities, families, etc, etc, etc. Taking an hour to sit in front of a computer a few times a week does not seem feasible to many teachers.  And even if they have the time, many teachers (I’ve been one of them) say, “I don’t know what I’m looking for.”

However, if we want to meet student needs, teacher training and support needs to be a priority for school boards.  From my experience working on the Digital Internship Project (a project where pre-service teachers volunteer to focus on the integration of technology in their classrooms in their internship), I’ve been tossing some ideas around in my head.  One method that I think could be extremely effective is to model the process we have taken with the Digital Internship Project with practicing teachers.  This is how it could work.  Teachers volunteer to become “Digital Teachers” for a semester.  They are each given a laptop and are invited to attend 4 one day workshops throughout the semester.  At these workshops teachers would be introduced to various Web 2.0 applications such as blogging, wikis, podcasting, digital video editing, and so on. Then they could go back to their classrooms and try some of the stuff out.  The teachers could also be part of a social network like the Digital Internship Project social network to share ideas and troubleshoot between workshop.  If the teachers approached this project with half the enthusiasm as we saw in the intern teachers, great things would happen in classrooms! And then, of course, these teachers would become leaders in their own schools!

Another model was one I heard about from a cooperating teacher who attended the Digital Internship Project. This teacher teaches in the classrom 60% of the time and then the other 40% of the time, she is a teacher-mentor for the staff in her school.  Her colleagues invite her to their classrooms so she can help them learn how to integrate technology into their classroom and she can offer support when the students are there.  The great thing about this model is that the technology mentor is a member of specific school community.  They can ask her questions as they pass her in the hall or have lunch with her in the staff room.  Teachers do not have to play email-tag with someone at the other end of the city to get support. I love this model as well. A combination of these two ideas might work well too!

I’d love to hear other people’s ideas as well as what’s going on at their schools! 

Schools Killing Creativity? December 8, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in English Language Arts.
1 comment so far

Yesterday, I came across a TED Talk video delivered by Sir Ken Robinson where he challenges our current education system, proposing that we are killing students’ creativity. This video is about 20 minutes in length but is very funny. He offers an interesting perspective of our current education system.

One of his points is that schools systems are focused around what we call “academics.” Math, Science, Language Arts and Social studies are percieved as the “core” subjects and then other subjects like visual art, music, drama, physical education are tacked on as extras, but are not seen as being essential to students’ education. The way I see this model continuing is because the decision-makers in the eduation system are the people who succeeded within the present system and therefore it is in their best interest to allow this system to continue. It privileges the privledged and marginalizes Others.

Furthermore, in continuing this model of education and by privileging these “core” subjects, Robinson points out that we are sucking the creativity out of students. The world is changing so quickly that the world that we are preparing our students for is completely unknown to us. We have no idea what the world will look like in 20 years, and yet we are trying to prepare students to be citizens of that world. We are preparing students to do jobs that don’t even exist right now! I think that we are doing an injustice for students unless we are teaching them critical and creative thinking skills. Students need to think for themselves and be problem solvers. The only way that we can do this is by fostering creativity in children from a very young age.

Blogging: 21classes.com December 6, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

A huge barrier that I have seen among teachers trying to start their classes blogging is gathering and then entering student email addresses.  For example, when I taught grade 8 language arts at the American Schools of Kuwait, I had about 120 students blogging using Blogger.com.  In order to have them join my blog, I had to gather all 120 students email addresses, type them all into Blogger, and then invite all my students to join.  This was a pain. At least I had my students blogging all year so the work I did at the beginning of the year paid off. However, one of my friends recently told me about a site that does not require teachers to know students’ email addresses for them to join the blog, but the teacher can still make the blog a closed community.  This site is www.21classes.com. It is possible that Class Blogmeister or others allow teachers to do this as well, but my friend, Brenda, who is using this site with her high school students found it to be very easy to set up. Check it out.

Cyberbullying Ads December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in cyberbullying.
Tags: , ,

The following ads have recently been put out by the Ad Council in an attempt to prevent cyberbullying and give children and adolescents a different view on what they are doing when they insult someone online. These ads are definitely attention-grabbers and they may make some students think twice about what they are doing when they cyberbullying.  It seems that through these types of ads, advistisers are trying to teach students empathy as a means to prevent cyberbullying.  However, in the research I have done for my master’s thesis, I have come to see that such interventions are circumventing the root of the problem.  Participants in my study were cyberbullied through the use of social markers such as race, gender, and sexual orientation.  To me, this indicates that teaching students empathy is not enough.  Discussions need to be taking place in classrooms about systems of power and privilege.  As an educator, I realize that this seems like a daunting task.  It is not a “quick fix” by any stretch of the imagination.  But I think if teacher education programs, school administrators, teachers, and counselors start viewing bullying, cyberbullying, and other types of violence from this perspective, we may be able to begin to address the inequities in our world from which such violence stems.

Check out the videos and see what you think.

Technology in English Language Arts December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in English Language Arts.
Tags: , , , , ,

This is a presentation that I gave at the Saskatchewan Teachers of English Language Arts conference in March 2007.  This powerpoint presentations outlines various ways that teachers can integrate technology into the secondary English Language Arts classroom. Click on the links within the presentation to visit the examples.

Create Screencasts with the Jing Project December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

This is an exciting new program online that allows people to capture images or video on your screen and add a voiceover through simply speaking into your microphone.  This is useful in the K-12 classroom because it could allow you to quickly give instructions to students.  Watch this Jing video (which took approximately 5 minutes to create) to find out more:
Watch Jing Project video now!