Friday 19 January 2024

A social dilemma

I am in a quandry. I am not a great fan of most social media, but feel I need to air my thoughts on here.
My favourite of all time was Google+ (or G+, then Currents as it became). I was connected to so many cool educators and we talked about awesome stuff. Then Google killed it, with no alternative to turn to.

Image from: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/why-social-media-is-important/285809/

I have had a Twitter account for 12 years, with thousands of interactions. I killed it because Elon is a dick, and I can't get behind anything he does, ever. The trolls, racists and Trumpists broke it. It became a cesspit of the worst types of people. I checked earlier out of curiosity; my account is dead and gone. No chance of resurrection so I am walking away from it completely. I feel mildly bereft that so many
cool interactions in both of these platforms are gone forever. 

I use Facebook, but keep it very private. Not a useful place to connect although it does have times when it is useful. Not a big fan though, and I find plenty I don't like.

Instagram - not a place for decent social interaction. Likewise Threads. It started with promise but is full of crap. The diaspora have spread. 

Mastodon feels like I am shouting into the void and there is not even an echo. Ghost town would be an understatement.

Bluesky is a bit exclusive as it is invite only at the moment. Starting to gain  some traction among educators though, so it is showing a little (slow-moving) promise. I will be focusing a little more on building this one.

I am using LinkedIn a bit more, it seems to be reasonably OK in terms of the people I connect with, but we don't have fabulous discussions like I had on G+ and Twitter/X. Has the world moved on and left me feeling more anti-social media? Or have I moved on? We'll have to see what happens a year from now if any of these other sites gains traction. It's a shame to have to leave good channels of communication behind.

If anyone has ny better suggestions for places to connect with likeminded souls, hit me with them!

Tuesday 24 October 2023

A year on: catching up

Good grief, really a year since I updated this blog? My inspiration has been that I don't feel I've been reflecting (on anything...) enough and need to get going again.

I have redirected (hopefully) my custom domain back to this blog, after all it was pointing to a Google Site before, with this blog embedded and exactly the same content on both. What is the point? So, until I can afford a suscription to Wordpress, I am going to continue using Blogger. The custom domain name is https:www.nick-major.com just in case anyone actually has a look at this blog.

In the near future, I am going to add some more thoughts about using Chromebooks, my interactions with Google, my classroom practice etc. Back to doing this regularly (ish). I firstly need to make sure all of the information is correct, all images are still in place (time to create a folder called "Blog" in Drive, perhaps?) and that DNS name servers are pointing in the right direction. Or something along those lines anyway

Saturday 22 October 2022

Falling behind

 I've neglected my personal digital stuff for a long time. I haven't posted anything on here for so long it's ridiculous, and having just paid for my website renewal for the next two years, I realised I haven't done anything there either. Bogged down with work, doing the Earth and Space Educators of NZ stuff and the Morris dancing side websites as well, so have really not been showing my spaces some love.

Time for all of that to change. I want to be more reflective in my teaching practice; I've neglected a lot of that sort of thing over the last year. I've fallen out of a lot of my reflective habits in my work, which is not good. Perhaps next year with no senior classes (looking likely that this will be the case), I might focus back on the core aspects of being a science teacher, and try and really work on my delivery and pedagogy. There have beeen so many things thrown at us this year (and the two preceding years) because of COVID and the changes that had brought about. It has meant not really knowing what the heck is going on most of the time. Hopefully this will all start settling down now and we can start going back to a sort of normality where the students enjoy learning and we get to re-enjoy teaching.

I've virtually given up on my ESS students this year as they are really not interested. We didn't get to do any field trips this year (mandate from SLT) and it has impacted on the course I feel.

Onwards and upwards for 2023.


Monday 5 July 2021

Digital hoarder

 Hi, my name is Nick and I am a digital hoarder. There, I've taken step one.

From the WSJ

I stopped to take stock of my digital 'stuff' recently and came to the conclusion I have way too many links, bookmarks, saved pages etc than I can ever get through. Just a quick stocktake - I have several thousand bookmarks across my personal and work accounts for a starter.

Then there are the saved pages on Facebook, the likes on Twitter and a few saved posts from Instagram (the least of my 'stashes') that I need to actually go through and look at. I never got into Pocket or Pinterest, so no issues there. I do have over a thousand saved items on my Wakelet account, though but I am working on making these tidier. Another issue is using OneTab to minimise everything. I then save these hoards of additional links as yet another bookmark. 

I know this is ridiculous; I can never get through all of these, without taking a lot of leave and hiding away to read everything. I also know that most of it is probably no longer relevant; after all, if I have not used it recently, then I probably won't use it. I do organise bookmarks etc into folders, supposedly by class and subject, but then I don't use them properly. I am trying to get everything into Wakelet, organised into Spaces and then these can be used as a class website (also allows whanau to connect with what is going on in my classes). If you have never used Wakelet before, it has been described as Pinterest on steroids. It has a myriad of uses and functions and is a very useful tool. If you want a more detailed description of some of the superpowers this tool has, check out this awesome blog post by @pdubyatech 

Maybe I just need to take the time off and hide away to get everything organised... My body certainly feels like this is the best option!










Thursday 17 December 2020

Planning - a nightmare...

I used to have the ubiquitous black planner when I started teaching and this was carted around to each of my lessons (I'm not sure why...) Since I decided that this was not a good idea, I have played with various digital solutions instead, as this is more accessible (and portable) and also has in-built flexibility.

My problem is, I can't decide what system to use, and spend more time than I should trying, creating and scrubbing digital planners, many of which start with the basics of the black planbook and build on that.

I started with Planbook which has a myriad of features, but costs money I don't want (or need) to be
spending. Also, there were issues in terms of timings for me. Our school has a six day timetable with Tuesdays and Thursdays having different timings to the other days. I had to create an 'alternate schedule' for Tuesday week 1, Thursday week 1 and so on, meaning a LOT of additional messing about. 

The next stop was a free programme, similar but with not as many features (still very good though) called Planboard. Visually appealing, and easier for the changeable schedule as I can just adjust the individual day as needed. It irks me that I cannot see the whole day in one go as the boxes are a bit large. Just a small niggle, but one that pushes me away sometimes.

Both of these have grading features and class attendance recording, but both are geared towards the US system for grading - the grade for each piece of work counts towards an overall final grade, not something I want for New Zealand style assessment. Also, both of these features are completed by my SMS (Kamar), so why duplicate?

A NZ-based planner is iUgo. It is designed for our schools and curriculum but is so stupidly expensive (over $100 per year per person!) that I am going to say no more about it. I tried the trial version, and it is not as intuitive or nice to work with as the price would suggest it should be. Absolute fail on most counts (especially the cost, do they think teachers are paid well??)

Another option I have tried multiple variants of is using one or other Google Apps. Docs - created a list of lessons, have done lesson plans through a form that automatically generates a lesson plan etc (like I put that much thought and effort into planning...) Sheets - one week per tab, one sheet per term, have to use Ctrl+Enter to write on a new line, keep fiddling about with the format etc. Slides - I've created my own fabulous planner and tried some of the available ones (Slidesmania has some good templates, but not quite what I am looking for). The other issue is then having to add things like date, day, times, school cycle day etc. Then when you factor in all of the stuff that takes students from the classroom (photos, sports, swimming, relationship talks etc), sometimes things need a whole rejig and a lot of copying and pasting of events from one place to the next. #SIGH#

I'm starting to run out of options.

I tend to fall back on Google Calendar, colour code each class and add links to Drive items etc as necessary. It's not visually the best system (can't tell at a glance what I have planned or whether I need resources such as science gear etc), but I tend to just use emojis to denote specific things to jog my memory, like in the image below, and I can download it straight from Kamar to make it easier to load all of the timetable for the year in.


I don't suppose the perfect system exists for me, but I know I'll keep playing and trying (and getting frustrated and getting rid of) different planner systems. I never seem to be completely at a loss in the lesson, even if not planned to the nth degree (actually, these are often my better lesson...)

I would love to know how everyone else copes with planning. I view it as a necessary evil and will continue as I am for now!



Wednesday 18 November 2020

 I really wanted to use this to record what I am up to in my classroom, and yet here I am again not having done my reflections for quite some time. There never seems to be enough hours in the week to keep on top of everything, and Arinui has fallen by the wayside too. Added to which, this has been the year of COVID and things have been wayward to say the least.

I have spent a lot more time than I might ordinarily trying to ensure all of my work is able to move to an online model if the worst happens and we return to lockdown. I have been invested heavily in the digital education world for quite a few years and most of my work has been hosted through Classroom for the past five years, but it still made me rethink my workflow.

Since we got back into school, I have tried to focus on the courses I have and the students I am teaching and I've had a lot of fun with the Life On Mars course again, and have really just ticked along with the 9s and 10s. My combined 12/13 ESS class has been a bit of an issue. There have been several students who lost the plot and never found it again. It has been difficult to run full courses for both, so it has been done a lot as a flipped model and several of the students have really responded well to this model, although the assessments come in at random times making marking a chore.

One real success came with a field trip I managed to get organised, to the large radio telescope at Warkworth (AUT own and operate this) followed by a trip to the Rocket Lab factory for a look around. This was on the day of a successful launch and the feeling was tangible in the factory. No photos sadly, as we were not allowed cameras or phones inside, but it was AWESOME.

Students found both fascinating, and I have students interested in going to work for both places which is a real win. I'll do what I can to promote the space industry to the girls I work with!

One of my roles this year has been part of the Kahui Ako In School teacher positions with a focus on STEAM. Some good that has come of this has been the creation of a 21st Century class for our y9s which each core class will go through 2 lessons per cycle for the whole year, where we can deliver digital citizenship and learning skills. All of the STEAM teachers also went to the STEAM conference in Auckland (the only conference I have got to this year). There was very little that was of direct benefit to our school (especially at the price we paid for the tickets) but it confirmed we are on the right track.

Now the seniors are gone, the y11s are out from Monday, both 12 and 13 ESS papers are done with, and there are very few lessons with my y10s left, so I am looking forward to 2021 and a change of classes. I am going to have a separate 13ESS and 12ESS class (oh yes!), 2 of the aforementioned 21st C skills classes and I am also going to be involved in the Switch programme, our integrated learning class for y9 and 10s. I have never been involved before, and am looking forward to this. I will also be doing the digital learning stuff, as well as being a Kokiri leader and part of the STEAM kahui ako staff. It's amazing how much time can be spent on all of these other projects!

I'm looking forward to posting my reflections, but I know it's not going to be regular enough... We'll see how I go with this!



Thursday 23 April 2020

Isolation reflections


I have been fortunate with this lockdown in that I already have a suite of tools to use in remote learning and my courses lend themselves to students working on their own and just checking in when they need help.

It has still been trying (motivation has been lacking, and I help the staff at our school get going with online/ digital learning which has been demanding). The other thing that I have found most trying is actually not being in the room with my kids; the banter is still there online but it's not the same. I miss them. A lot. I might even tell them that...

It looks like we are on track to lower our alert levels a little in a week's time. Our new normal is going to get a little weirder because we will be able to access the school and can have a limited number of essential students (only y9 and 10) in with a 1m gap between everyone at all stages.

They will be in a specific classroom, with specific teachers, but the majority of learners are being told to stay home and we have to continue with our online learning stuff while also being in school. The learners that come in will be working on the same stuff as those at home. I still won't be with the majority of my students and will continue teaching them asynchronously. More time at my little desk ahead, but it is comfortable and has everything I need!

One thing I have observed from all of this is that teachers are soooo much more versatile, flexible and resilient than people often give us credit for. We were given very little time to prepare to completely change the way we did everything, and we did it. We set up our home offices, sometimes with whiteboards and other props, sometimes just the computer and books. New tools have been learned rapidly, and the tech toolbox of so many people has been increased.

I am so proud of my colleagues, at my school and even globally for embracing change in the face of adversity with the minimum of fuss. I salute you all for the work you have put in for the learners and am proud to be a part of such a cool profession.

Kia kaha, Aotearoa!