Tag Archives: blogging

Who’s That Blogger? Norah Colvin

This week I am feeling honoured to be featured on Who’s That Blogger? by Barbara Vitelli, Book Club Mom.  Thank you, Barbara.

Book Club Mom

whos-that-blogger
Blogmaster
:  Norah Colvin

Blog names:  Norah Colvin and readilearn

  

Type of blog:  NorahColvin: education focus; readilearn: early childhood education teaching ideas and resources

Where in the world?  Australia

Blogging since when?  Norah Colvin August 2013; readilearn August 2016

What’s your story?  When I started thinking about self-publishing stories and teaching resources, I did a lot of online research and attended many writing seminars. The collective intelligence promoted blogging as the primary avenue for writers to make connections and establish audience, and insisted on the importance of doing so prior to publication. Social media was also important, but secondary to blogging. At that time, I didn’t know much about social media and had no idea about blogging. Some of the course presenters suggested bloggers to follow, so I quickly got started and developed an understanding of what blogging was about. I was then keen to get…

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The importance of feedback

 

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Feedback, whether inherent in the task itself or supplied by another, is essential to learning. This is true whether figuring out what happens when an item is dropped from a high chair (will it always land on the floor; will a carer always retrieve it?), how hard and at what angle to kick a ball to send it over the goalpost; how much a sibling can be antagonised before retaliation ensues; or whether your performance meets expectations.

In almost all of these cases, the tasks are self-selected and the feedback is integral and immediate, enabling the learner to adjust what happens next accordingly. While those conditions may also be true when considering the success of performance; such as our own assessment of our output, it is not always so.

F

Students and employees may be engaged in tasks that are not of their choosing, which provide little inherent feedback, and are reliant upon feedback from others that may be neither timely nor specific to the learners’ needs. Sometimes the feedback can be unhelpful and hinder, rather than encourage, learning, without any real explanation of how improvement could be made.

As a teacher, I found it necessary for an exchange of feedback between me and my students. This was sometimes supplemented with feedback from carers and other school personnel. How well the students engaged in the classroom, participated in class activities and performed tasks provided me with feedback on my performance as a teacher and provided important information about what to do next, which in turn involved feedback to students.

While feedback is an essential ingredient in any classroom task, one of the most enjoyable for me was the daily journal. Each morning the children would write to me and every afternoon after they had gone home I would read and respond to their messages. The children loved writing these diaries as much as I loved reading and responding to them. Responding was time consuming but I believe it was worth it:

  • The children had a purpose for writing
  • Their writing had an audience
  • They saw writing as a tool for communication

When responding to their writing, I would make neither corrections nor changes. However, I would model correct grammar, spelling and punctuation as I responded to the content of their messages. The children were then able to refer to my comment when writing their next message.

Sometimes the children would tell me about something different each day. Sometimes we would have conversations that could extend over weeks. I always felt it a privilege to have this window into the children’s lives. At the same time, it provided a record of their development as writers.

At the end of the year I would bundle up all of the journals that had been filled during the year and present them to the children to take home. Recently when I was talking to the mother of a child I taught in the eighties, she told me how they had been looking at those journals with his young children who are now at a similar age to his when he wrote them. How gratifying it is to know that they were treasured by at least one family.

thank you - rose

When I started blogging, unbelievably, almost three years ago, I had no idea of what to expect. I am a little more knowledgeable now, with thanks to those who provide feedback by reading and commenting. I am very grateful to all who have joined me along the way. The conversations here or on your own blogs are what have made the journey enjoyable and worthwhile.

yves_guillou_question

Now I have a decision to make and I would appreciate your feedback in helping reach it.

At the same time as I have been blogging, I have been preparing early childhood teaching resources for my website readilearn. I always expected readilearn to include a blog and a newsletter. I knew I couldn’t write that additional content alongside posting twice weekly here and preparing new readilearn resources as well. I thought to:

  • post once a week on this original blog by continuing to participate in the flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch, as I have done for more than two years; and
  • post once a week on the readilearn blog with content written specifically for early childhood teachers rather than general readership.

However, it has recently come to my attention that it may not be possible for readers to leave comments on the readilearn blog, which leads to my quandary.

I enjoy the discussions in response to posts almost as much as writing them; and

I am disappointed when I am unable to “like”, leave a comment on, or share another’s blog post I have enjoyed.

megaphone

It seems some bloggers are more interested in broadcasting than engaging with a community, but that is not my way.

Newsletters differ from blogs, though, and the readilearn newsletter, which will provide information about new resources, teaching suggestions and other educational content, will “broadcast” and not invite feedback.

How important, then, is it to have a blog that doesn’t invite feedback. I’m thinking that, without feedback, I’ll quickly lose motivation.

What do you think?

When you read blogs, do you look for an opportunity to add your voice through a “like” button, leaving a comment, or sharing content on social media? Is the ability to engage with the writer important to you, or do you simply read?

As a blogger, do you welcome comments and discussion, or is it more important just to get your ideas out there?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I am very interested to know what you think and appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school

In a previous post I introduced you to Pauline King, The Contented Crafter. In comments on my blog, Pauline revealed that she was a teacher so passionate about education that she had attempted to establish an alternative school. I was excited to discover that we have these things in common and I immediately invited her to share some additional thoughts about children, learning, schools and education.

I am honoured that she has agreed, and delighted to welcome her here. In this post Pauline shares a little of her life journey, and her reflections on teaching and school. In a future post she will share her some of her wisdom about children and parenting.

Pauline, please tell us a little about yourself. What things are most important to you? What do you hope to achieve through blogging?

art of contentment

I was a Steiner School Teacher for some twenty years, here in NZ and in the UK briefly.  It was a demanding vocation that taught me more than I ever imparted to the students in my care.  I left teaching in 2003, spent a year or so recovering my health and eventually took up life coaching – a kind of a natural segue as I had spent a lot of my time in the school system mentoring young parents and teachers. I retired in 2014 and stepped full time into the art of contentment.  It’s what I think I spent my life looking for and in these later years what I taught to the women who came to me for life guidance. 

joy of blogging

In my personal life I have always been a creator – hand work, interior design and decorating, gardening and various crafting and artistic outlets that changed over the years.  I took up blogging almost three years ago simply to keep track of my creative work as I was notorious for making stuff, giving it away and not being able to remember what I made or the processes around it.  I soon started using my blog as an on-line diary, documenting the things that amused or dismayed me along with whatever I was playing around with at the time.  I don’t think I really expected anyone to read my blog and was quite surprised when I got comments and returned visitors and followers.  In a surprisingly short time I discovered a new world that was peopled by like-minded souls and fun people and I kept blogging for the joy found in the community that built up around my little blog.

I live alone in a tiny house with a Maine Coon called Olando and a Shi-Tzu X named Siddhartha [Siddy for short].

positivity

I live simply and contentedly, paying close attention to my own personal development and take responsibility for the events in my life.  I am not religious but view life and the planet from a spiritual outlook.  I study quantum physics, enjoy nature and believe in spreading positivity wherever I can.

I don’t write about education in my blog – even though it is an area I am passionate [and opinionated] about – I simply don’t want it to impinge into the simple creative life I lead nowadays.

Pauline, you were a teacher? What was it that attracted you to teaching in the first place?

teacher

I always wanted to be a teacher, from a very young age.  School was a safe place for me in a family that was damaged and dysfunctional, so I guess that may have been the genesis.  However, I was not allowed to stay in school and was put to work in a factory at the age of 14 [my mother lied about my age].  When I gained my freedom I set about continuing my education and have kept on learning formally and informally ever since.  I was 33, a wife and mother, before I finally achieved the goal I had as a child.

What things did you love about teaching?

art of teaching

I loved being in the classroom – working with the students and the Steiner curriculum [which is a wise and clever thing].  Later when I side-stepped into too much administration and other non-teaching roles I simply dried up and eventually became ill.  That made me really conscious that it was the art of teaching that I really loved.

You said that you spent many years attempting to establish an alternative school for your eldest daughter. Why was this important to you? What was lacking in schools available to you? How would your school differ?

bloom and blossom

My feeble attempts to start a school were short lived, I did not go as far as you did as there was little support or enthusiasm for my initiative.  Within two years I had discovered Steiner Education and serendipitously fallen head first into that with my two daughters.  Both began to bloom and blossom in ways they never had in the state system they were so briefly in and I soon transferred my interest and passion to that form of education.  I began an informal study under the auspices of a venerable old retired teacher and soon went on to study full time.  I think I was incredibly fortunate for throughout this time I was mentored and supported by several practising teachers, and one wonderful head lecturer who went out of his way to keep pouring his wisdom into my listening ears.

How wonderful to have the support and encouragement of a community so passionate about children and education. Do you have anything else to add?

it takes a village

Only that, from this vantage point I find I have become a person who would like schools scrapped and to see education in the true meaning of the word be given back to parents and the community.   My new mantra is ‘It takes a village to raise a child – and educate one too.’

I totally agree with your new mantra, Pauline! Thank you for your openness in responding to my questions. I could hear the passion in your words as you answered them. I appreciate the time you took out of your contented creative schedule to share your thoughts with us. I think there are many of us who could do with some contentment mentoring. I look forward to welcoming you back next week to share in your wisdom about children and parenting. I’d also love to know more about the Steiner curriculum. Another conversation …

Addendum: Since this post was published, in an attempt to add clarity to her statement referring to the scrapping of schools, Pauline has expressed some of her reasons for wishing to see changes to schools and the way children are educated. She has done so in a response to an observation made and query posed by Anne Goodwin which you can read here, and a little more clarification here. I apologise, Pauline, if the inclusion of that statement misrepresented your position and caused you concern. It made perfect sense to me! The differences I see between education and schooling feature regularly in my posts.

Connect with Pauline on Twitter or on her blog The Contented Crafter where you can also check out her delightful Gift Shop

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Have you got a handle on it? Tweet!

 

tweet bird

Each week I read and comment on more than 50 blog posts. If I read a post I enjoy, and I rarely read one I don’t, I like to share it on Twitter. I usually share it immediately and then use Hootsuite to schedule future shares for hashtag days. It is quick, easy, and allows me to assist others to build a wider audience. I am happy to do it and have no expectation or need of “Thank you” tweets in return.

thank you - rose

Some blogs and posts are not easy to share as they have no sharing buttons, or their sharing buttons are difficult to find. While it is possible to copy the URL and paste it into Twitter or Hootsuite, it takes a little more effort to do so and is not something a reader should, in my opinion, be expected to do.

If bloggers wish others to share their posts on any of the Social Media Platforms, I believe they should make doing it as easy as possible.

I am familiar with WordPress only so am not sure how it works with others. However I do know that when I visit non-WordPress blogs, sharing doesn’t seem to be as straightforward.

This next section is for WordPress users only.

To add sharing buttons in WordPress, go to

Dashboard — Settings — Sharing — Publicize

WP -publicize

  1. Select in turn each of the social networking sites to which you belong and add your “address” to each. This is important. It means that people will be able to find you on those sites. It means that when your post is shared on Twitter you will know because the tweet will include your “handle”, your Twitter username.

For example, when my posts are shared the tweet includes my username @NorahColvin and I know it has been shared; like this:

tweet -me

If the username is not included the tweet will have @wordpressdotcom; like this:

tweet - WP

That’s not very exciting and you will never know that your post has been shared.

Sometimes, if I know the blogger’s Twitter handle I will change the tweet to include it, but as I said before

If bloggers wish others to share their posts on any of the Social Media Platforms, I believe they should make doing it as easy as possible.

More often, if the handle is not included, I am less inclined to share more than once.

2. Choose the buttons for each platform on which you wish to share your blog.

sharing buttons

I think it is a good idea to have the buttons appear on every post and page. Remember to save any changes you make!

sharing buttons on

I assume there are similar ways of adding sharing buttons on other sites. I know it is possible in Weebly as Anne Goodwin added her username after I alerted her to its absence. If there are ways, I recommend you use them. If you have chosen to not add your handle to your sharing buttons, I’d be interested to know your reasons.

Earlier I expressed that I have no requirement for “Thank you” tweets in return for my sharing of a post. I consider the best way of saying “Thank you” to be sharing a post of mine in return. If you have shared one of my posts in a tweet, it is extremely likely that very soon I will sharing one of yours. I’m not talking about retweeting someone else’s shares here. I treat those differently.

I mentioned scheduling tweets in advance. There are a number of hashtag days on Twitter. These are the ones I use most frequently. Not all posts are suitable for every hashtag. I generally share a post on each of the next 2-4 suitable days.

Hashtags

#SundayBlogShare

#Mondayblogs

#TuesdayShares

#TuesdayBookBlog

#wwwblogs (Wednesday – Women Writers)

#BeWOW (Wednesday – all)

#ThankfulThursdays

#TBT (Throwback Thursday)

#LinkYourLife (Friday)

#BluSkyFriday

#ArchiveDay (Saturday)

Nothing says that I am right of course. What I have shared here is what works for me, at the moment. I’d love to know what works for you. How do you share on Twitter? Do you think it’s important to include the username in tweets? How often to you share the posts of other bloggers?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

How to add a badge to your WordPress blog

SMAG ccbyncnd

A couple of months ago I invited readers of my blog to join S.M.A.G. Society of Mutual Appreciation and Gratitude and to paste the badge onto their blogs should they wish to do so. Well, invitation isn’t quite the correct word because membership of the group was not conferred in response to an invitation, but automatic through offering other bloggers support and encouragement through positive comments. I’m pleased to say there are a good number of S.M.A.G. members in the blogosphere regardless of whether or not the badge adorns their blog.

A week or two ago Jules Paige, who blogs at Jules in Flashy Fiction (and elsewhere), commented that she wasn’t sure how to go about adding the badge to her blog. I offered to send her instructions, and thought that maybe the information would be useful for others as well.

The following instructions are specific to the S.M.A.G. badge and WordPress blogs. A similar process would be used to add any image to a WordPress blog. However I am unsure how similar the process is for others. Please let me know if you find these instructions useful, or lacking in any way.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Life is like . . . a game of Snakes and Ladders

Well, maybe not the whole of life; that would be rather two dimensional; but certainly parts of life. I’m feeling a little that way at the moment about my website plans. No sooner do I seem to find a ladder to climb up, than I encounter a huge snake, and down I go again. At the moment I seem to be stuck in a three-steps-forward three-steps-back dance.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I won’t say that everything one needs in life can be learned from playing Snakes and Ladders, but there are certainly some good lessons to learn from playing games. I mentioned some previously in Are you game? written in response to a flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch; and observed them recently when playing Snakes and Ladders with my five year old grandson:

dice

  • Getting along and taking turns
  • Acceptance – accept the roll and respond accordingly: don’t try to pretend it wasn’t a “proper” roll (e.g. dropped); or attempt to change the count by skipping or counting twice on a square
  • Resilience ­– stay strong and focused and don’t crumple with repeated setbacks: okay, so you’ve been swallowed by this same snake three times now; next time you just might overcome it
  • Persistence – keep going: you might roll a succession of small numbers but each moves you closer to the goal
  • Humour and fun – always look for the light side: it is just a game after all, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play it. (On the board that we played, one of the ladders ended on the same square as a snake’s head! What could we do but laugh!)
© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I guess those are lessons I need to apply to my website “game”: I have made some good progress preparing resources; I have had some work illustrated; and I approached a web designer for a quote. The ladders seemed to be lining up just right.

Then I landed on another snake!

In a comment on a previous post Anne Goodwin, who blogs at Annecdotal and is author of the soon-to-be-released Sugar and Snails, suggested that I be mindful of my Unique Selling Point (USP).

I think my USP is probably the same as what I consider my Point of Difference (POD): resources that are interactive. Unfortunately, judging by the quote I received, the POD snake has an extreme appetite.

In a post about his self publication journey Geoff Le Pard, author of Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle who blogs at TanGental, stated that he wanted to spend as little “real” money as possible. I know that I need to spend some to achieve my goals, and as a way justifying the expense to myself, if not to anyone else, I decided to consider it a “retirement jetski”.

My retirement jetski

My retirement jetski

However an initial quote indicates that the interactive component of resources could end up costing as much as a Bugatti or a Lamborghini!

Okay, I am exaggerating – a little.

But I think I’ve slid down the back of that long snake and need to do a little recalculation as recommended a short while ago Charli Mills. I will let you know how I go extricating myself from the loop.

Snakes and ladders – Opportunities for learning

In the meanwhile, here are some suggestions for parents to make the most of learning opportunities while playing Snakes and Ladders with their children over the long summer holidays. We don’t want the progress that children have made during the term to be swallowed up by those snakes as was suggested as a distinct possibility by Sarah Brentyn in her post Harry Potter or Sidewalk Chalk? on her blog Lemon Shark. While I provided some suggestions for preventing that slide in a previous post, these suggestions are specifically for

Making the most of “teachable moments” while playing snakes and ladders:

On each turn, ask children to:

  • identify the number rolled on the dice and move their tokens the corresponding number of squares, counting them out. Ensure they do not count the square they are on.
  • tell the number they land on.

Other opportunities for discussion:

  • Who is coming first? What number are they on? What number are you on? How many do you (they) need to catch up? Could you (they) catch up with the next throw? Why/Why not?
  • How many do you need to throw to land on a snake, on a ladder? Do you want to land on a snake or a ladder? Why or why not? If you land on a snake (or a ladder), will the number be higher or lower than where you are now?
  • What number do you not want to roll if you don’t want to land on a snake?
  • What number do you need to roll to land on a ladder?
  • How many do you need to win?

Ask the children what they notice about the way the numbers are arranged. How does it differ from a usual 100 board? ( On a Snakes and Ladders board, 100 is at the top and the numbers “snake” back and forth across the board. On a 100 counting board, 100 is at the bottom and each row of ten numbers goes from left to right.)

100 flowers outline

100 counting board © Norah Colvin

Ask the children why the numbers may be arranged differently (eg 100 has to be at the top so you can go up the ladders, numbers go back and forth so you can just keep going).

But most of all, just have fun!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Five Photos Five Stories — Day four

Back to Day one (books) and introduction to the challenge

Back to Day two (writing)

Back to Day three (Break out)

My retirement jetski

My retirement jetski

My retirement jetski

Geoff Le Pard threw me a challenge to post five photos and five stories over five days. He is probably just as surprised as I am that I took him up on it, especially as this week is particularly busy and significant.

Tomorrow I finally break up with a relationship that has been on-again-off-again for over forty years. Tomorrow is my last day working for Education Queensland. While I then become “officially” retired, some of you may know that I am not very fond of that “R” word and prefer to think of my life as taking a redirection.

In a couple of weeks’ time I commence another part-time job at the University of Queensland with the exact number of hours for me to remain “officially” retired, but nominally “working part-time”. The remainder of the week I will continue to write and work towards fulfilling my goal of establishing an online store of educational resources. This is where the jetski comes in.

There are many expenses involved with preparing content for the website including getting work illustrated, having the website designed and, hopefully, if I can figure out a way, having interactivity added to some resources. Deciding how much cost is acceptable is difficult when there is no guarantee of ever getting any return, and often the time I spend tapping away on my computer keyboard when I could be doing other things comes into question.

The fact is I love tapping away on my computer keyboard writing works of my choosing, and the expenses involved are necessary in order to make my “creations” available to others through a website. If I were to choose a jetski, a sports car or an around the world cruise as a retirement gift for myself, as many do, and spend hours each day riding the waves or the roads, no one would question my choice of activity or the cost of the initial purchase or ongoing maintenance. They would be pleased that I was having fun, enjoying my later years. Well, for the moment at least, writing is my pleasure and I (try to) justify the expense by calling it my “jetski”.

As my work targets an early childhood market, illustrations are an essential accompaniment to my work. When I first registered my business and domain name, my (graphic designer) niece designed my logo and beautiful banner, which you see at the top of my blog, and produced illustrations for some stories. Recently I have had other illustrations done by artists from 99designs so I am starting to make headway in that direction.

Kari Jones (ArtbyJonz), who did the S.M.A.G. badge has produced illustrations for two stories. Here is a sneak peek at one illustration from each:

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and sneak peeks of illustrations for stories by Sketcherlady, Goetia and Tyohermawan, to whom I awarded the first contest.

sketcherlady ©Norah Colvin 2015

sketcherlady ©Norah Colvin 2015

Goetia ©Norah Colvin 2015

Goetia ©Norah Colvin 2015

tyohermawan ©Norah Colvin 2015

tyohermawan ©Norah Colvin 2015

I have been very happy working with each of these designers. They have all been very helpful and accommodating and worked hard to produce illustrations to match my requests. I am happy to recommend any of them if you are looking at getting some work illustrated.

The next step is to speak with a web designer. I must say I’m a bit fearful of the cost, but hey, it’s my jetski.

What seems to be more problematic at the moment is adding interactivity to some resources. PowerPoint has some facility but not enough. I looked at another program recently which promised any interactivity I could imagine. But unfortunately the program designers had not imagined what I had! I discussed some of my requirements with a friend who is learning to code and he thought it would even be difficult to code what I want. Since these open-ended interactions are to be a point of difference for me, if I can’t have them, I may need to trade-in my jetski on something completely different. Maybe a novel? (That must be pretty easy, eh Geoff?) I’m not sure I’m ready for that. If you have any suggestions about adding interactivity to resources I’d love to receive them please.

I nominate my lovely fellow local Queensland bloggers to take up this Five Photos Five Stories challenge should they so wish:

Irene Waters who writes memoir and blogs at Reflections and Nightmares and already shares many beautiful photos and stories;

Desley Jane, a girl with a camera who blogs at Musings of a Frequent Flying Scientist; and

Marigold Dicer who blogs at Versus Blurb but who has popped off the scene temporarily while she completes what used to be called “prac” teaching when I went to college.

Please be aware that your participation is completely voluntary. I know each of you already post frequent photo stories. However if you choose to participate, I hope you enjoy the challenge as much as I have. 🙂

The “rules” of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.