Developing School Collectives

When the Global Teacher project began in 2005 we were working relatively blind. It was my experience, working with an international, intergenerational group of artists and writers at the Soul Food Cafe which enabled me to visualize what a interactive, Web 3.0 community would look like.

In 2005 the word Web 2.0 was just being bandied around. To explain the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 I showed traditional static web sites, like Soul Food, where I had laboriously created each page and explained how the invention of forums, blogs, wikis, online groups, Google documents had enabled me to share the work load and draw people together, at one Web address to work collaboratively. At the time I recall that eyes glazed over. It was still very hard to get one’s mind around just what was possible. I had been using forums, blogging and making internet features, such as the Magic Writing Tram, at the Soul Food Cafe since early 1999. These features replaced my ring binder books stored on the shelves of my desk and the annual School Anthology that was published each year.

So when SLAV asked me to begin showing Librarians the world of blogging I began sessions by taking participants on a short tour of the Soul Food Cafe to show what I had been doing in classrooms with forums and blogs. It was at one of these sessions in Warnambool that I met Faye Matters, the Librarian at Hawkesdale. She invited me to come to Hawkesdale to present to the school and the local cluster.

This was the beginning of the story of Hawkesdale, which has provided a template for subsequent school P.D. and a role model for schools wanting to establish strong Global networks.

Hawkesdale Timeline


August 2007 Two day presentation of the Magic Garden Project to the whole staff and to Year 5 -9 students in individual class groups. Each group heard the story of the Magic Garden, as told by Cora Zon, were provided with a range of high order thinking skill activities and shown, on the Magic Garden blog, what others had done in response to this.

August 2007 – 08 Maintained contact with staff including Anne Mirtschin, and provided online support. Students work was published in the Soul Food Cafe Adventure Calendar that featured Web 2.0 potentialities. Prep students scanned and sent their art work for publication and Grade 5-6 students made videos about Christmas. Anne Mirtchin accepted an invitation and worked with the Soul Food Community in an online project over the summer of 2008.

Early 2008 Revisited the school and ran sessions with students to help them maximise the benefit of blogging as a means of publishing outcomes of work they had completed. Students were shown how to add special features to their blogs.

The school, as their Global Techno Blog Web Page reveals, have  gone from strength to strength. If you look closely at this blog you will see that it is being used as a kind of school magazine, newsletter. It showcases activities that students are actively engaged in and links to global projects that the school has undertaken.  By contrast, if you visit specific subject blogs that are linked to it  you will see how teachers are using blogs to engage students in curriculum activities. For example, Britt Gow’s Science blog is an amazing resource. Britt has links to Science Resources, the work of other teachers and to students in her science classes. Her blog publishes work she is doing with students and when you look at the blog of a student like Cricket Man you can see how adept he has become, see that he has created a digital portfolio of work that he has been completing at school.

The Hawkesdale constellation is worth looking at very closely. You can see that blogs are being used for diverse purposes.

Secret of Success
Committed school leadership and a group of passionate teachers who were prepared to take up the challenge.
Substantial P.D provided for all members of the school community.
Enthusiastic and passionate student engagement. Students have driven the process.
Strong community support.

More Success Stories

Fitzroy North Primary, Horsham West Primary, Doncaster Secondary College, Murrumbeena Primary, Mossigiel Primary and  Berwick Lodge Primary are just some of the schools who have build web based collectives with links to their community members. You can read about how they did it here.

One thought on “Developing School Collectives

  1. Two years ago, I received a grant. Part of the criteria of the grant was to use a blog. As I had no idea what a blog was, our school technician found some information for me. Rather increduously (in hindsight) it was an article by Heather Blakey. I registered for wordpress blog but still did not know what to do with it. So, I just wrote a posts periodically about what I was doing with my class in the grant.
    Then an email came inviting Victorian teachers to join globalteacher for blogging. So, not one to miss out on anything, I registered for that as well but had even less idea what I could do with it. Several weeks later, Heather Blakey came to our school to run an sessions on blogging, at the invitation of our librarian, Faye Matters who had heard her present at a SLAV conference. Heather came to me at the end of the sessions and helped me register a backyard blog (a class blog) in keeping with the theme of the grant that we had. This theme was an easy one to write posts for and the students were keen to write about their backyards. Students saved their writings in their network folders and I would grab them and put them up onto the backyard blog. After the second post, I was rather amazed to receive comments. I did not even know that was feasible, but someone was actually reading what we wrote – not from Australia but from USA. That was it! We were off and writing. We learnt about volcanoes, geography and happenings in other countries. Further research often took place to find out about all manner of things prompted by the comments. Then a clustrmap widget was discovered and we could see who was visiting our blog. The dots on the map grew and grew.
    Still being naive to blogging and a pure beginner, I can remember the Wild Garden Adventure Calendar, which provided such valuable information and advice for blogging.
    At the beginning of 2008, all students from grades 4 to 10 commenced individual blogs. I can still hear squeals of delight, even from the boys when they received their first comments. Again, someone was actually reading their work. Students were encouraged to email back the commentor or comment back on their blogs and so further connections were made. They took great pride in these personal websites, customized them to their own preferences. Cybersafety was taught and then we learnt, often by trial and error, how to behave appropriately online leading to valuable digital citizenship skills being learnt in an educational setting. The excitement of students became obvious to other teachers and soon those teachers started to blog. Individual class blogs in the primary school commenced and some secondary staff also registered class, teacher or subject style blogs.
    We could all have an online space that required little knowledge of coding and was easy for anyone to put up. Interactivity, collaboration and new communication forms were in evidence. Parents became involved and made comments on class or student blogs, even grandparents from the UK. School work was transparent and family and community could see what the students were studying. Students would often go home and voluntarily write posts on their blogs. We gained a much deeper understanding of the students by reading what they were involved in outside school hours. Work was accessible 24/7/365
    The parents club commenced a blog and it soon became evident that we needed a portal to link all these blogs together. So, a school blog was born. That is now a busy hive of activity with regular visitors and updates. Staff can contribute to it without needing to wait for a technician to put the coding together. It can be interactive. Photos can be added easily. The office now have a blog and our school newsletter is linked from here. A flickr widget on the side bar shows photos of school acitivites and events. Links to relevant and appropriate websites are also present.
    Footnote: Those first comments came from Heather’s blogging community. Heather, we thank you for working hard to connect us to that wonderful global world that has taken us on an amazing journey which continues to grow and diversify.

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