Our families are crucial to our success and the risks we take in our Unit. Without their support we would not have the freedom to push boundaries, try new things and ultimately make mistakes. Involving our families and providing them with voice is essential to developing the trust this requires. The introduction of our Unit Blog has provided a space to connect and has been an amazing avenue for sharing our experiences in “real time”. The truth is though that not all our families have access to the internet nor the inclination to get online to see what has been happening. It is thus important for us to connect and involve our families in multiple ways.
Connecting with our families using texts messages and sending pictures via mobile has proven to be a great way to engage them in real time. We almost use this in a similar fashion that most would use a twitter account. We send out general reminders, updates and information. We also share photos of what we are doing and places we go. One consideration we negotiate is having students who cannot have their images shared on social media. This means these students are never included in photographs on our blog, in our newsletters or on our YouTube channel. Sending pictures via our mobile means these students can still share these experiences with families and carers.
We engage our families in many other ways including open forums, technology workshops, student led expos, family conferences, celebrations, volunteer opportunities and invitations to participate in learning experiences. Our reporting process (Semester Reflections) is another way we ensure that our communication to families is valuable and meaningful. This was a priority for me when I came to my current site and I was very fortunate to be given the flexibility to start from scratch. I wanted to ensure that our families knew we were responding to their children as unique individuals. This process continues to evolve and it is through the feedback we solicit from our families that we continue to develop and grow.
I had a discussion today with two colleagues about why I blog. In the past I have had it said “you must have too much time on your hands” or “you need to work less and get a hobby!”
I tend to laugh this off because if I didn’t, I might get annoyed. The time complaint is nothing further from the truth. I do spend a lot of my “free” time on my iPad or computer, but no more time than others spend at the footy or watching TV. I use my technology because I love reading (books via kindle, blogs, Zite and online news) , listening to, finding and adding new music to my library online and exploring new digital tools for use personally and professionally. Previously this would have gone unnoticed because I didn’t have the ease of sharing as I do now via this blog, twitter and Facebook!
Each of these mediums serve a different purpose for me. Whilst other people blur the lines between professional and personal with twitter, Facebook and blogging, I tend to use Facebook exclusively for personal connections. The people I “friend” on Facebook tend to be restricted by a few conditions. I only “friend” people whom I know personally. I would most likely have been in their home, met their parents/children/partners and socialised with them by choice! I know their family by name and they know mine. Facebook is a space I use to share information about my children, connect with friends interstate/international and share music and humour. I don’t spend a lot of time on this domain, but tend to check in from time to time (every couple of days).
Twitter has been a dynamic addition to my online presence. It has connected me with a developing PLN that supports my learning and empowers my teaching practice. I use twitter for professional purposes generally, but do still like to show some personality and not keep it too clinical! I generally access twitter daily.
This blog is a space that has had the greatest impact on how I reflect upon and develop my ideas in a public arena. It enables me to:
- work through feelings
- stay positive
- clarify my thoughts more clearly
I have always written to work through my frustrations or confusion, it was previously just kept private. I have always recorded my reflections, just that it would take the form of a letter or email to my mother, a friend or colleague. This blog provides an avenue to do this in a public forum. Whilst some of my colleagues are anxious about how their writing is interpreted or judged, I don’t tend to be concerned by this. Sometimes I see what is shared via other social avenues and think my few spelling or grammatical errors or misplaced clarity of writing is nothing to agonise over! The benefits for me far outweigh the risk of a negative comment (still waiting) or someone bored by my ramblings! The bonus is that at the same time, I am developing a professional portfolio that is a growing digital footprint, tagged and categorised for ease of reference, no longer a linear record.