Monthly Archives: June 2013
After an enjoyable weekend camping with my boyfriend, its back to the grind I go! Today I am going to be discussing classroom blogs. I will be reviewing classroom blogs from an elementary, middle and high school and assessing the value of using a classroom blog.
After reading through and reviewing Primary Tech in my last post, I decided to check out the class blog of Kathleen Morris.
Mrs. Morris and Miss Jordan teach fourth grade as a team at Leopold Primary School in Victoria, Australia. They use a classroom blog to connect their 53 students to each other, their teachers, and their parents. The purpose of this blog seems to be to put internet safety and good commenting habits into practice and thus teach students how to become excellent global and digitally responsible citizens. The class has a mascot named Leo (a stuffed toy lion) who helps them learn how to comment appropriately and teaches them internet safety. The blog also features a calendar so that parents and students alike are kept informed of upcoming events and activities (i.e. spelling bees and professional days).
Many of the posts review what the students have been doing in class in terms of themes, long term assignments, activities, field trips, etc. Following each re-cap, the teacher asks the students to respond to questions asking them what they have learned, what did they like about the assignment, and why was the learning experience important. For example, the students have been participating in bike ed . Their teachers posted pictures of how they’ve been doing and asked them questions about bike ed. Students responded as did parents, which really helps to bridge the gap between parents and students. So often parents are kept out of the loop as to what their children are doing in the classroom. Blogs can help change that and pull parents into the learning community.
This blog really strives to start the process of create good digital citizens early on in the students’ education. Students are not only reflecting on their learning experiences, but they are simultaneously learning how to communicate with each other online. Another thing that this blog highlights is how global blogging really is. Here I am, sitting in an apartment in Virginia (I’m visiting my dad and stepmom), and I’m reading about a classroom in Australia. Blogs are also great for teachers all over the world to find out what is going on in a different country from their own. We can share learning techniques, lesson plans, etc. and pull different ideas about what works in education from different cultures.
This classroom blog highlights the work and learning of three 6th grade and two 8th grade science classes in Chimacum, Washington. There is a home page where the teacher, Mr. Gonzalez blogs, a list of assignments students have to complete in their blog pages, and a list of links to each student’s blog. Mr. Gonzalez posts infographs and videos related to the content in each unit on the homepage, while students post answers to assignments and their projects on their own blog pages. Estherp has not only posted assignments and answers to questions posed by her teacher, but she also posted about her passion which is art. She even had a blogger from Vermont, all the way on the other side of the country, post a question in the comments section about who her favorite artist is.
Again, this blog highlights how easy it is to share information all over the U.S. and world. What I really appreciate though, is that Mr. Gonzalez is using a blog to make his students accountable for their assignments. Think about it: this blog can be seen by anyone including parents and other students. How embarrassing would it be to have your peers find out that you haven’t been doing your homework. Not that its okay to embarrass your students, but if I was in their shoes, knowing that other people are reading my work including my teacher, my parents, and my classmates, I would try to do the best job I could for my assignments, both written and creative.
Mr. B-G states that his blog is “designed to aid my students in the creation of their own English class blogs.” However, this blog is so much more. Mr. B-G not only posts content-related material, but he also provides students with information on how to use certain Web 2.0 tools such as Google Docs and Flickr. Mr. B-G also posts writing assignments and commenting criteria. It appears that the blog is used to assess student learning, writing skills, and ability to respond and be active in an online learning setting along with attending class.
Each students has his or her own blog that is linked to the home page of the classroom blog. They have to respond to writing prompts, and post their essays and responses on their blog. Their teacher then posts the criteria for commenting on the essays, and students are expected to comment in order to receive credit. The benefits of what Mr. B-G is having his students do is two-fold. First of all, students are being directed toward learning how to comment in a way that is constructive and prompts critical thinking and analysis. Second, students are furthering the sharing process by posting their assignments and having their classmates discuss their writing assignments. Mr. B-G seems to be hitting the nail on the head when it comes to the concept of collaborative learning. Students are learning from each other here, and it will greatly improve their experience and school and will ultimately make them better communicators.
Here, we see a tiered approach when it comes to utilizing classroom blogs as a learning tool for this digital era. At the elementary level, students are not necessarily creating their own blogs, but they are learning how initially communicate on a blog by using the comments feature. They answer questions as an assignment and then can continually respond to feedback from parents, teachers, and peers. At the middle school level, students are starting their own blogs by using them to complete basic assignments and share a little bit of information about themselves. Finally, at the high school level, students are improving their writing and communication skills by writing essays and responding to the posts of other students. There is more independence at the high school level, but they are still accountable for using their blogs responsibly. Furthermore, these blogs allow students to find their own voices among other students when in the classroom, they may not be able to always speak up. Blogs can help students who are shy blossom into better communicators.
All of this falls under the umbrella of concepts we have learned over the past two weeks in module 1. The blogging experience helps students learn how to be safe online, how to be thoughtful and respectful digital citizens, meet technology and other learning standards. Finally, these blogs are setting students on the path to having very positive digital footprints.
That’s all for now. Happy Father’s Day to any dad’s out there! Hope everyone enjoyed the weekend. 🙂
For this post, I focused on three educator blogs. Each blog offered something different, but all three contained material relating to the use of technology in education.
This blog, by educator, author, and co-founder of Flat Classroom projects Vicki Davis, is geared toward sharing information with other teachers, parents, and professionals interested in connecting technology with education. She aims to provide motivation for the personal and professional life and uses her blog to share information on technology that works in a world that is shifting so rapidly toward digital education. Her mission statement, “to help you live life exuberantly, work intentionally, and teach passionately in ways to reach every student,” encapsulates the essence of the Cool Cat Teacher blog. Overall, after reading some of the posts, Davis tries to engage readers in the new and exciting world of technology in education while also reaching out to educators and professionals in a way that helps her readers find balance between using technology everyday and enjoying life.
One post that caught my eye was one that was guest-written by her nephew (http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/06/4-reasons-i-bought-microsoft-surface.html) He reviewed the Microsoft Surface. Thus, not only does Davis engage a student in the writing process and sharing process by having her nephew contribute to her award-winning blog, but she also take the opportunity to share a new piece of technology with her readers.
Another post that caught my eye was the following: http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/2013/06/12-secrets-to-having-truly-restful.html. What I really appreciate about Davis’ writing is that she encourages readers to take a break from technology. She encourages experiencing the world around us and to try and distance ourselves from technology. When so much of our lives are spend being “plugged-in,” Davis lends a hand in directing readers toward steps to help make a vacation more relaxing and rejuvenating.
Classroom Chronicles is a blog that was started in 2010 by a 6th grade teacher in Sydney, Australia, Henrietta Miller, who had just received a SMARTboard, one of those interactive white boards that a few McDaniel classrooms have that are oh so fun to use when giving a presentation. Her goal for the blog is, “to explore, learn, and reflect on my teaching, as I attempt to navigate and incorporate Web 2.0 into my classroom.” While Miller does link readers to a list of presentations and conferences she attended, it seems that this blog is direct more-so toward reflective education, unlike Cool Cat Teacher which combines a majority of professional-type entries peppered with personal or inspirational entries.
For example, this post: http://www.classroomchronicles.net/2012/05/20/learning-through-play/ includes a screencast Miller made with her own tips on how to use a SMARTboard. She uses the post to reflect on her experience creating a screencast, so she is not only teaching students how to use Web 2.0, but she is also practicing their use herself. She continues her reflection with wondering why she doesn’t use as much play learning in her lessons, and then goes on to note that with the overwhelming amount of content that has to be taught, sometimes she even struggles to keep up with the curriculum.
In another entry, http://www.classroomchronicles.net/2010/09/04/why-i-love-my-smartboard/, Miller highlights reasons why she loves using her SMARTboard. She keeps her experience with her IWB positive, and includes a video on the IWB challenge that she and her class too part in (its hyperlinked in the post).
Kathleen Morris, and 4th grade teacher in Victoria, Australia runs an informative blog in which she shares how she uses technology in the classroom. She also provides educators with helpful online resources for this new era of digital learning. Her state aim is, “to discuss various issues around technology integration.” Included on her page are pages that contain useful tips on how to get started with an educational or classroom blog, linked information on internet safety, and information on the e-newsletter that she runs with another educator about technology in the classroom. The content of this blog is less personal and is more about sharing information from personal experience while having less of a reflection element.
The first post that screamed my name was Morris’ most recent on Creative Commons (http://primarytech.global2.vic.edu.au/2013/06/02/creative-commons-infographic/). What a coincidence that we should be discussing the issues of copyright laws, Creative Commons, and good digital citizenship! In this post, she includes a wonderful infographic that helps to simplify and visually explain how each Creative Commons license works.
In a post written in April, Morris shares information about why she chose to incorporate a classroom blog for this school year (http://primarytech.global2.vic.edu.au/2013/04/25/student-blogs-digital-portfolios/). What is fantastic, and actually quite simple when I think about it, is how she uses a bulleted list to explain her rationale and to create a how-to for other educators seeking to create classroom blogs. She links readers to her permission note, a past blog entry detailing how she used to have students earn blogging privileges, and her current classroom blog. This kind of sharing is encouraging to those of us who are just starting to get into the digital learning game.
These three blogs represent different types of sharing and professional development. Cool Cat Teacher shares a wide variety of information ranging from integrating technology to how to disconnect for a while to getting educators involved in conferences and going to see guest speakers, Classroom Chronicles focuses on the reflection aspect of teaching, and Primary Tech shares information on how to incorporate blogging and other online tools into the classroom. The key here is that both sharing and reflection are prevalent in all three blogs.
In thinking about how I want to grow professionally, I’ve come to realize that sharing my experiences with other teachers and education professionals will be the crux to my development as a teacher. Using a blog to share information with others, and to allow other teachers to comment with pointers will be helpful in my need to continually change how I teach to meet the needs of my students. While I won’t be able to re-invent the wheel by any means, following educator blogs, and using my own blog to reflect on my experiences will help me reach my students. As teachers, we love to share information, and blogging is just another way to do that.
Blogs may also be a good way for a the faculty at a school to connect. There are only so many hours in a school day where teachers can actually talk and share what they are doing in the classroom. Encouraging the media center staff to help set up teacher blogs and then encourage other teachers within a school to blog could potentially create and enriched learning and teaching community. It is important for teachers within a school to develop a sense of camaraderie and solidarity so that the lines of communication remain clear and open; perhaps a blog would help do that and maintain continuity in the education experience of their students. You know when a teacher asks their students what they did last year and that teacher gets several different and somewhat unclear answers? Well, if every teacher in one school were to keep an educator and a classroom blog chronicling the previous school year, imagine how much easier it would be to just dive on into new content!
In terms of building a positive digital footprint, a blog will be excellent. I can use a blog to post any type of conference, publication, or event that I am involved it that lends to my professional growth. In one of the readings, the author suggested starting our own websites to launch our digital PR campaign. However, can’t blogs serve as both an agora of information sharing, and a professional website highlighting my involvement in education and my achievements?
Until next time…