Fantastic Find: grammarly.com

So I have been very fortunate this past couple of months to have increased my readership. Thank you. I am very glad to have people reading the blog and finding it useful. It is even better when people comment and leave feedback about the blog.

In saying that, with an increased readership comes an increase in spam comments but also negative comments too. I should not say “negative”. I should say “constructively critical”. I have approved most of them because I think they are necessary. They remind me that my work still needs improvement and that I need to refine my writing and publishing processes. It demonstrates that my readers are important and that I value their contribution to my blog, which is true.

As you may have guessed, I have found that the negative comments seem to appear when it comes to my grammar.

I was not schooled in grammar can you believe. I was of the generation where learning what a “clause” and a “present participle” are (say, what?) was non existent.

The quality of the blog is important to me. So recently I have been making sure that my posts have been of top notch quality. I have been using a new website I found called grammarly.com

It is an automated proofreader and grammar coach. You do have to sign up and pay but in saying that the service is quite reasonably priced, and the website is easy to navigate. The explanations are also easy to understand. I imagine this is because English is my first language and I converse and hear it daily so the rules make sense. They offer you a free 7 day trial before you pay your subscription fee.

I found that using grammarly.com made me focus on my writing a lot more and be more considerate when editing my work. These are valuable skills we want to ensure our students have.

Most of my students were not schooled in grammar either. So I think this would be a worthwhile website to encourage kids to use when they are working on assignments. It is another pair of eyes, and it does not just make the corrections without first explaining why you need to change them. You do have to save your documents in Microsoft Word and upload them which I did find a little bit cumbersome when I’m already using a blogging interface. However, if you are blogging with students or doing some other writing that will require publishing, this is a worthwhile tool in which to invest.

Does my writing sound/read differently? It has been edited with grammarly.com. Comments (good and “critical”) are always appreciated.

Photo Credit: jDevaun via Compfight cc

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Creating Creative Connections

To be honest I don’t recall how it all began.

In the holidays I tweeted about how excited I was to be using Skype for the first time. I posted about my first Skype chat here.

I’d been thinking of using it for some time personally with the big picture intention of getting it into my classroom, my student’s would be using it and would be connecting with schools overseas.

I posted my story about Mazz and her theatre project in Ecuador on Twitter and @LMSDrama responded with some encouraging feedback about the post. It was from there that we got into a conversation about my ideas for connecting classrooms through Skype and blogging.

@LMSDrama said, “Have you ever tried Google + Hangouts?” I hadn’t. I’d signed up for Google + when I was invited by a colleague at school, had a bit of a play on the site and kind of left it alone. I felt like I was drowning in social media and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it all.

It was the holidays and I had some time up my sleeve so I decided to experiement. It was trial and error and my out of date hardware let me down so we ended up using Skype but I think we’ve landed on something pretty exciting.

So far we’ve had two “Hangouts” on Skype. First it was just the two of us. Then we had to try to invite a colleague along to join us at our next chat. We sorted out the timezone differences and amazingly we conduct the chat on two different days. Our initial session was a half hour “get to know you chat” and we decided at our second session to bring some questions or ideas to discuss.

This week we had our second session. We have decided to:

  • Create a monthly Drama “Hangout” using Google + to talk about issues and ideas in Drama.
  • Create a Drama Teacher’s Edmodo Group to help us facilitate our “Hangouts” and other resources.
  • Connect our schools using our class blogs, videoconferencing and Skype.

Pretty amazing, huh? It’s amazing what can happen when you have enthusiastic people willing to drive a new initiative in your school.

The night before I had tweeted out of desperation, for someone who would be willing to join me for the chat. @KerriDrama, who I had already been in contact with about joining class blogs, let me know she was keen. Then @Theatresaurus got involved too. Within the space of about half an hour our chat group had doubled.

Now we are awaiting our next chat and hope that we can encourage more of you wonderful Drama Teachers out there to join us.

So if you’re keen, we will be conduting our next Drama Chat on:

Tuesday 15th May, 6am Australian Eastern Standard Time

If you want to check what time that will be for you, head on over to this site.

NB: Google Hangouts can only host nine users at one time. If we get more than that we will resend amended details.

 Leave us a comment to let us know if you would like to join us and I will contact you with the details. Email is easy, Twitter is even easier.

If you are a Twitter user, be sure to use the hashtag #dramateachers or #tweatre at the end of your tweets so we can keep track of all your drama goodness.

Hopefully we will see you at our next chat.

Image Credit: εntropy ≥ mεmory . crεatıvıty ², jef safi, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Daring to Share Our Dramatics Online

I’ve blogged about my foray into student blogging before (here and here). It was a mild success for me last year with more than half the class creating their own personal online logbooks or “blogbooks” as I now call them. They weren’t diligently maintained however. Nor was the class blog that was linked to them.

With a little reflection and a redefined direction I am relaunching the class blog this term with a new plan of attack for how to post on the class blog and the expectations for the student blogs.

The class blog will be simplified. I think initially I had huge, grandiose ideas in my head thinking that there would be a mammoth amount of work required to maintain it. In reality though, blogs grow naturally, so however small or simply they begin, they will flourish and change with time. So in the end, it really doesn’t matter what I start with. It’s a blank canvas that needs paintaing.

I knew that it was about sharing our work in drama class with the intention of connecting with other classes. That is what I have done. Both Year 10 and Year 12 are in the process of devising their Group Performance. We will share photos and stories from our lessons. The school community have been informed about it through our school newsletter and I will let them know through our school Facebook page as well. I will also encourage my own Twitter followers to head on over, have a look and comment.

The individual blogbooks will represent each individual’s participation in the group project. What scenes and ideas they have had, what problems they have encountered and how they solved them, all the while thinking about their digital citizenship and their need to remember that their blog is public and has the intention of informing and assisting others with their understanding of Drama.

So. Drumroll please. May I present…

St Clair High Drama: Daring to Share Our Dramatics Online

Head on over and write us a welcome comment!

Image Credit: The Endeavour Lifts Off, Stuck in Customs, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

My Journey with Student Blogging: An Update

Back in March I introduced student blogging to my Year 9 Drama class. I dived right in having each student create their own individual student blog which was connected to a class blog.

The other day a very kind reader of my blog asked me how my class blogging was going and what my thoughts were on using it in the Drama classroom. I had been meaning to update on this for some time so having interested readers push me along in this pursuit was great!

Here is the class blog page.

As you can see, I’ve added absolutely zilch to it since starting it. That was my responsibility and my fault and I have some thoughts on that further on.

However, some student drama blogs that I think are well worth taking a look at from my class include:

On the downside though, only these four of the eleven students in my class have really taken to blogging and have been updating it regularly. Three of my student’s haven’t added their link to the class blog page at all. Student’s were just not contributing to their own blog nor commenting on their peers.

This really surprised me. I really thought the kids would want to engage with their laptops and create a blog.

So why, were they just not getting into blogging?

Most of them did not know what a blog was nor did they have the patience to set one up thus making them very frustrated and hence giving up on the idea all together (thus why many of them are not regularly updated or are non-existent).

This classroom moment did re-affirm for me this idea I have that technology is really not that scary and children don’t necessarily know more than us about technology. Their fear of trying something new online was just as obvious as that of any adult using a computer for the first time. Student’s may be surrounded by technology but they really don’t know the breadth and depth of it nor do they really use any more than a couple of web tools on a daily basis. I guess this is obvious to many of you who have been engaging with web tools and web based learning for a long time but I’m still new to this revelation.

In reflecting further on this I really shouldn’t have delved straight into individual student blogging. Spending time reading other blogs and simply commenting is the best way to go. I should have also done my part in keeping the central drama blog up to date along with the kids.

Time is something I do feel pressured by and I do find critical reflection and appreciation in drama can get lost by the wayside when you are dealing with student’s who have behaviour problems, learning difficulties or simply do not like having to write.

What I have learnt though and I what I need to get better at, is really sticking to keeping the last 15-20 minutes of a lesson (mine are 75mins so adjust accordingly) for writing activities. Unfortunately, getting student’s to do this kind of reflective work at home is not an option at my school. If you can do it though, go for it. It is ideal because then you really can concentrate on practical activities. Getting into habits, such as writing for the last part of the lesson,  is a basic teaching rule and one that I think can be forgotten in Drama classrooms because of the practical nature of our subject.

The way the student’s have completed their “blog logs” for drama is based on a template I gave them which I will share in another post.

For web tools and ICT to work in the Drama classroom, I believe teachers need to allocate appropriate amounts of time to appreciation, critical study and simply writing to ensure student’s are getting into effective habits that will assist them to process the thoughts and experiences of the practical classroom and then to eventually share that with the world of the Internet.

My Journey with Student Blogging

I started blogging with one of my drama classes this week. It’s going really well.

This week I set up the class blog along with each student setting up their own individual blog.

I know a lot of the information out there suggests that you start with the class blog as a base and get the kids to comment but I couldn’t wait! I’ve been wanting to blog for so long I just wanted to dive right in!

This could backfire on me terribly but I don’t think so. The class are very good and very keen to listen and learn.

I was torn between using a web based platform or the platform provided by the NSWDET called BlogED. Whilst numerous people out there offered me excellent support and advice it was more of a hindrance and hassle to get it working as opposed to the ease of going onto the Internet and working with the platforms available on there. That is my only gripe with BlogED. I’ve gone with Edublogs only because WordPress is blocked by my school’s filters.

Now here, I’ll be quick, is my tiny, tiny, tiny, rant: I think one of the biggest stumbling blocks with technology use in our schools is that it is such a rigmarole to get it working. All the blocks and filters, permission for access etc. I understand certain areas need to be filtered but some valuable things are being lost and some inappropriate content still getting through. You’ve not even started working with the program and you’re already frustrated. Valuable ideas are thrown out the window because the practicalities of working within the program fail to allow you to do anything. The DER laptops are another example of this. I can’t download the latest Flash Player because the laptop has not been authorised to do so. If there was a little more ease of access in getting started and using programs then perhaps those in our schools who are already reluctant to use technology, may be less so when they see that it isn’t so difficult to get it working. I always find we shoot ourselves in the foot when we try to demonstrate something and then the computer freezes or the projector doesn’t work. Those reluctant types go right back into their little safety, smug bubbles.

Anyway, my rant is over with. Here is our class blog with links to each student blog. It is very basic and hasn’t had a lot added to it just yet but it will be great once we get it going. I am literally working at the same pace as the kids so we have only created our accounts and chosen a theme. The only thing I have added is a blogroll and blog guidelines which I will discuss in a future post.