Help Us Celebrate World Theatre Day

You may or may not know that March 27th is World Theatre Day.

It’s pretty exciting to know that theatre gets its own day of recognition alongside talking like a pirate and pancakes.

You also may or may not know that back in 2013 my Twitter pal @edtech4theatre and I started the World’s Biggest Theatre Ensemble through our first World Theatre Day celebration. You can read about it here and here.

Suffice to say, we’re keen to revive and expand it and we need you to help us.

We recently spoke on TheatreCast about the upcoming day and how you can get involved. We’ve also set up a website which you can check out here.

All we’re really keen to do is have teachers celebrate the day in any way they can – big or small. Maybe you just organise a special lesson with your class. Maybe you present something at a school assembly.  Send it to us and we’ll share it on our webpage. We’re adding information to the website so if you need ideas, permission notes to allow your students to be photographed and used in the public domain you can access it all here at the site. If you want to co-ordinate a gathering of drama teachers go ahead and do it.

Either way we just want to spread the word that teachers all over the world are doing awesome stuff in their classroom every day and we want people to see it, share it and be proud of it. Let’s spread the message that the arts matter.

Please share this post with your colleagues via your school email system, share it on your personal social media pages. Let’s just spread the message of #theatrelove.

Stay tuned to this blog or the World Theatre Day website for updates. Hope to share your WTD fun on March 27th.

Image Credit: www.breaksincornwall.com

The World’s Biggest Theatre Ensemble

I am really excited about this new project I am apart of.

It’s called World Theatre Video. You can check out the website here.

I’m excited about it for a number of reasons. Most importantly though, I’m excited about the way in which it was created.

I’ve posted before about the enormous benefit of starting a PLN (Professional Learning Network for the uninitiated). I cannot stress how isolated I felt in the classroom for so many years, desperate to connect with someone who understood how I was feeling, what I was going through and what I needed.

Now, I will have had my PLN for almost three years this coming January. This blog and now the Facebook page are both products of me starting a PLN. The motivation it has provided me, the support and encouragement it has offered me, has kept me engaged in my profession as a teacher. It is always challenging me to try something new.

It’s a place in which I feel ideas, as lofty and undeveloped as they may seem, are not scoffed at but encouraged and may actually eventuate.

Things, such as this project, World Theatre Video.

Earlier in the year, I made a rather fleeting request on Twitter to see if any drama teachers would be willing to collaborate with me on a World Theatre Day project. You can read about what happened here.

Due to that tweet and everything that happened in its wake, I have had the pleasure of meeting both @MoAsh245 and @edtech4theatre in real life.

It was a rather exciting moment. To connect from half way around the world and another state entirely is a really remarkable thing.

The organic nature in which it all came about was a wonderful thing to be a part of. It made me think how easy it is to connect with those that are willing from anywhere in the world not just from your region or immediate community of schools. Why do we have to keep it to our immediate environments?

In reflecting on that time it was a fun, simple project that engaged my students. Thankfully they were all willing and excited to be seen by students around the world. It made theatre and their own performance real to them. It made them accountable. I also think it is a fabulous way to expose drama and to celebrate the awesomeness that is drama teaching and live theatre.

I’m proud of Nick for expanding the project and incorporating his knowledge of Google Apps to make it a credible, worthwhile project that demonstrates how creative and tech savvy drama teachers can be. That we don’t need to be entering into million dollar software deals. That there are free resources at our fingertips if we just leave the bureaucracy and red tape out of it. Also, it shows how well we can collaborate, particularly virtually! That technology is not something we are afraid of embracing as we move into developing 21st Century learners and the face of theatre as we know it.

Many people still scoff at PLN’s and the use of social networking out of work hours to expand and develop their knowledge of teaching. It does move at an extremely fast pace but I guarantee that I wouldn’t be half as knowledgeable about education “stuff” if it wasn’t for my PLN. It makes me feel that sometimes schools are just so slow and really behind the eight ball. It really is up to the individual teacher to make 21st Century learning happen in their classroom despite the system and the people who are happy to ride along in cruise control in their old beat up Holden. If you catch my drift…

I encourage you to get involved in this project. It is fun. It poses so many questions as to the validity of social media and technology in our classrooms and in theatre as well as the possibilities for it in the future. This may be the opportunity some of your students need or are looking for. It may be what you have been needing or looking for.

Photo Credit: Βethan via Compfight cc

Why Every Drama Teacher Should Try Twitter in 2012

Hands up if you’ve had the thought that Twitter is totally pointless? You know the one where you think to yourself, “why do people insist on telling everyone what they had for dinner?” We have all had that thought. Rightly so. There are people out there who tweet about dinner. Maybe even post a photo or perhaps link to a YouTube clip showing them preparing the meal. You think I’m joking.

I was a sceptic too. I thought, “How much social media does one person need?” It all seemed a bit too much and a little too hard to add another thing to my list of sites to surf when I got home from work of an afternoon. I was immune to swimming in the deep end of the pool on my own trying to keep my head above water, desperately needing to connect with others about my teaching but not knowing how.

But every web tool has a purpose if used in the appropriate way to get what you need. It ain’t called social media for nothing. What can this word “social” imply? Is it just to tweet about what you’re having for dinner or can it be something more?

That is why now I am a huge Twitter advocate. In January last year I participated in an Edublogs.org free Teacher Professional Development course.  It was called the “Kick Start Your Blogging” Teacher Challenge and it was showing teachers over four weeks how to create a blog and use it either as a personal Professional Learning Network (PLN) or as a class blog.The tutorials are still available and if you have not considered blogging before either personally or with your class I highly recommend this website. The tutorials are simple and easy to follow.

In the final weeks of the challenge we looked at building readership and one of the ways suggested was Twitter.

The advice I remember taking was sign-up and start with spending no more than 5 minutes a day on there. So that’s what I did.

Initially I tweeted to some of the other Teacher Challenge participants. Slowly I found links about Drama and bravely shared them using bit.ly to make them short links and therefore easier to tweet (tweets are only 140 characters long). Maybe someone would find what I had to share interesing?

Soon I built up the courage to respond to other teachers tweets. I started following a lot of teachers from all teaching areas as well as primary and high school teachers both in Australia and abroad. Eventually I struck up some friendships. Friendships that have become real life, face-to-face friendships, void of any psycho tendencies. True.

Teaching can be incredibly isolating. Particularly if you are the only teacher in your school teaching your subject. Or perhaps you are first year out or teaching out of faculty. We have our support networks within school but sometimes the day is so frantic you have barely had time to scratch yourself let alone sit down and discuss any ideas you may have or get resources and support from your colleagues. Twitter for me has become an added support system. It has provided me with inspiration, encouragement, support, as well as links to some excellent resources and discussions. About everything to do with education. I learnt about the TeachMeet project through Twitter and it has been another fabulous support network and resource that I encourage all private and public sector teachers to consider becoming a part of.

Whilst the Drama Teacher contingent is growing on Twitter it is still rather small and it would be wonderful to see more of us connecting.

So if you’re looking for a larger support network, new ideas for your teaching and learning practice then Twitter may be for you. Do the same thing I did: sign-up, log on for 5 mins a day and PLAY! Fail, tweet about your dinner and see what comes of it. You may be surprised by what you find.

My drama teaching has felt more invigorated and inspired since finding a larger support network. The collegiality and friendships I have formed through Twitter mean a lot to me.I don’t know what I was doing living in an isolation bubble for so long.

An Introduction to Twitter can be found here.

If you are already a Drama Teacher on Twitter and I have not connected with you I would love to.  Find me at my handle @karlao_dtn.

Share your thoughts with me in the comments. They are appreciated.

Image Credit:Tiny birds in my hand.. / Ilse / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Reflections on TeachMeet Sydney

I did something spontaneous recently. I signed up to the TeachMeet Sydney wiki and signed myself up to attend TeachMeet Sydney on Tuesday 6th September.

Since participating in the Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge back in January as part of the free Professional Learning Edublogs provides users, I have connected with many teachers through Twitter. I was unaware at that point that they actually have TeachMeets all around NSW! TeachMeet Sydney was an opportunity to meet many of the people I had connected with over Twitter for the first time…

…and I’m so glad I did 🙂

TeachMeet has a really great format: two blocks of three 7 minute presentations and two 2 minute presentations about anything teaching related. The presentations are streamed over the internet and can be followed on Twitter using the hashtag #tmsydney.

These presentations aim to connect participants with new ideas to use in their classroom. The great part is that at the end of the presentations there is an informal time in which participants can just connect and chat with each other about their schools and their ideas.

I was a little apprehensive at first I must admit but I have to say I’ve not met a more welcoming bunch of people in such a long time. The best part about it is putting faces to the names and tweets you see each night online. It was kind of like meeting long lost friends who are just incredibly accepting and supportive of what you do.

Since creating a PLN and connecting with other teachers worldwide on Twitter I have felt better supported and positive about the work that I do in the classroom each day. It stimulates my creativity, gives me hope and makes me feel valued.

If you’re feeling isolated in your school or are simply looking for a network of teachers to connect with I strongly recommend Twitter and attending a TeachMeet meeting near you.

Go HERE to find out more about TeachMeet in your local area.

For some fabulous educators to connect with, try some of these great people I met on Tuesday: @EduSum, @townesy77, @7Mrsjames, @whartonag, @Poska, @cpaterso, @henriettaMi, @betchaboy, @ajep, @mylescarrick, @FionaR_B, @malynmawby

Fantastic Find: Twitter Blackbird Pie

I’ve only been blogging for a few months now so I’m still navigating the world that is blogging. It’s all a bit of a “dive in and swim around” kind of experience. I’m learning a heap. To help me do that I have been reading a lot of blogs (see my Blogs I Read list in the right hand tool bar on the homepage), watching and responding to my Twitter feed and reading lots and lots of support websites. You know, the ones that show you “how-to”?

In my daily travels on WordPress.com‘s Support site I found something called the Twitter Blackbird Pie.

The link above has an excellent explanation of what it is and a very good “how-to,” but putting it simply it is a way of embedding tweets into your posts that have active action links that allow tweets to be retweeted, replied to, shortened links to be re-opened and hashtags, user-names and profiles to be accessed.

I like this idea  mainly because it’s a great way to get reader traffic to your blog, your twitter account and vice-versa. It also helps you make active connections with your Twitter followers and their blogs.

The hardest part about this stage in my blogging life is trying to build a readership so it’s interesting when you find a new way of doing this that may help.

I haven’t seen the Blackbird Pie used all that much on blogs, in some ways it seems to defeat the purpose of Twitter at all but at the same time I do feel like it’s another tool in your arsenal to help you gain readership so why not give it a try?

All you have to do is…

  1. Find the tweet you want to post;
  2. Click on the timestamp;
  3. You’ll be taken to a page with the individual tweet. Copy the URL;
  4. In your blog post editor, in HTML view, paste the address on a line all by itself. This is important. It must be by itself. Ensure you “Save” immediately after pasting.

And wholah! There you have it! It should look something like this:

http://twitter.com/#!/abciview/status/59856475341852672

Another cool feature is verifying Twitter as an external service through your User Profile on your dashboard. In doing this, anytime someone replies, retweets or favourites one of your Tweet Posts, they will be prompted to follow you on Twitter. Cool, hey?

Do other blog providers have something similar? Have you used this feature much? What do you like/not like about it? How do you like to use this feature?

Reflecting on the Edublogs Teacher Challenge

This week many beginner bloggers, including myself, finished up our 30 day challenge to set up a blog, connect with others and to keep it going.

I wanted to use this final challenge as an opportunity to reflect on all that I have learnt over the last 30 days and look forward to my next challenge.

This challenge was everything that I needed. In my first post as part of the challenge I commented on how I set up this blog over a year ago and it just sat here never being used. I know now why that was.

I needed someone to show me how best to set up the blog and get it working for me in a way that could potentially gain me contacts and readership.

I needed a teacher. Oh, the irony of it all.

This challenge has made me aware that I didn’t realise how limitless the Internet is in being able to provide support and how I did in fact have a network of educators and help right there in front of me but I didn’t know where to look or how to harness what I found in order to get what I needed.

For years, I have been struggling as a teacher, feeling quite alone and often needing help but too afraid to ask for it for fear of being looked at as incompetent. I now feel a sense of encouragement and I feel a sense of relief that I think I have finally found a voice within myself as well as a growing network of educators to support me.  I also feel quite silly because I never thought to look out in the universe in the way we have as part of this challenge. Especially considering I’m a Generation-Y-er. Isn’t that a given for us? Go to the computer first for answers?

I’m also reminded how my students must feel sometimes. I really did feel like I was walking in their shoes for the first time in many years.

Much of what I have learnt I am glad I can now share with my colleagues at school and also with my students. Some of these things that I have found invaluable include: how to effectively set up a blog, how to write good, engaging posts, reading posts through Google Reader, the importance of comments and commenting, the difference between pages and posts, digital identity, different types of web browsers (like Firefox not just IE8!) creating an RSS feed and using Feedburner, image use and creative commons as well as embedding other media, categories and tags and building readership through Twitter.

Most important of all has been and will continue to be the sharing of ideas, thoughts, opinions, successes and failures and the learning that we have gained from it. Also, that those opinions are valued and appreciated by the blog author and their community.

One of the reasons I like being a teacher is because I think teachers as people are very giving, positive, supportive people. I’ve met many teachers who, even if they absolutely hate their job, they will still offer you some advice, resources, an ear to listen to your woes etc.

For me now, the challenge is to continue posting. At least twice a week. That’s the plan anyway. My fear when I originally started the blog was that I didn’t have confidence to express my opinion. I didn’t feel like I deserved to have a voice because what did I know? I was only a beginning teacher. Now, I feel just a little more confident. Confident in the knowledge that it is OK for beginning teachers to have a voice. The blog has a focus, a purpose. My opinions, thoughts and ideas may not be something that everyone agrees with but I’m glad people respect this space and want to help me gain a better understanding of the things I don’t know.

Thanks to Sue Waters and her team at Edublogs for sharing their knowledge with me, us. To those new and experienced bloggers from the Challenge who have visited my blog over the past month, thank you and please, come again 😉

What has your Teacher Challenge experience been like? If you didn’t participate, what do you think of being offered free online professional development for teachers? Leave a comment below.

Image Credits:

15-06-10 Lets Go I Want To Go All The Way To The Horizon ~ Explored Front Page :), by Bethan, Attribution – NonCommercial-No Derivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)