Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's still above the water

Can't say I've gone completely under yet, but I did take quite a break from blogging, at least here. However, I've spent the last two weeks immersed (drowning?) in my student blogging experiment. Much of my time has been spent reading student postings via Google Reader and leaving comments to them. Meanwhile, my bloglines blogroll, which was malfunctioning the last few weeks, is chock full of unread postings. Today there were 756. I'm still afraid to clear it for fear that I will miss some nugget of learning previously undisclosed and containing the answers to all my web 2.0 questions. I need to get over that.

Normally at this time of the year, I'd be drowning in last minute essays and stuffing paper into my briefcase to carry home, ignore, and then lug back to school. At least with the blogging, my briefcase isn't as full.
However, that's not the reason I'm sitting in front of a laptop trying to piece together a blog entry. The real reason is that I've felt yet another noticeable shift. I have witnessed students talking to one another - sometimes naturally, sometimes a bit contrived, but talking nonetheless, on their blogs. I'd like to see more, but it's amazing when I consider where I was just 9 months ago. This end of the year blog experiment has provided me some wonderful insight and fodder for next year. There are two weeks left in this year, and students will spend a bulk of that completing their final portfolio project. In past years, I've kept class writing assignments in a folder in class and divided them into formal and informal writing assignments, essentially those typed and assigned long term, and those completed in class or impromptu. This year, much of the student's work can also be found online - as comments on the English 10 blog, as pieces of a wiki entries, and lately as their own blog postings about 1984 or Fahrenheit 451. Thanks to Google, I've also been able to share highlights of some of the more interesting entries.

Eventually, I should probably sift through their work and render some kind of timeless and essential learnings, which I can then pass on to the rest of the edublogosphere. Don't know if I quite have it in my right now, but I'm going to start with a list of "What did I do & What should I do next?"

What did I do?

  • Introduced students to blogs
  • Showed students how to comment on a blog
  • Walked students through setting up a blog on blogger
  • Taught a lesson on blog safety, using the blogs
  • Assigned students topics to write about
  • Commented on individual blogs
  • Assigned students to comment on each other's blogs
  • Showed students how to label their blog postings
  • Asked students to link to each other's blogs as part of one posting
What should I do next?
  • Everything from the above list, but do it during the first quarter
  • Spend more time giving an overview of what a blog is earlier in the year
  • Research if Blogger or another service (Edublogs?) offers better options for classroom blogs, complete with more oversight capabilities etc...
  • Require students to revise some of their entries with specific requirements in mind
  • Teach more lessons on creating blog posts and comments to one another
  • Emphasize tagging or labeling and introduce more possibilities there
  • Get students reading blogs from outside the building
  • Remain up to date and vigilant in terms of new issues that will invariably arise
  • Connect with another class somewhere else in the world

That last point is my ultimate goal for next year. If we are serious about 21st Century skills, then we need to embrace the kind of teaching and collaboration that will bring it to our students. It would be great to hook up with another teacher and connect our students, commenting on one another's blogs, collaborating on a joint wiki project, sharing drafts of writing.

As I have discussed before, I am lucky enough to have a new classroom set of laptops for next year. If I do nothing more than plop my students in front of those laptops and ask them to write their papers in Word or whip up a PowerPoint, then I am not doing my job. In fact, with this 1:1 computer opportunity, I have a much greater responsibility to bring those flat world possibilities into F14. What would be worse than if the students left my class thinking that school computers are only good for nothing more than old fashioned writing tasks and finding ways to bypass filters to access their Myspace accounts?

I know I'll have more at some point, but it just can't be right now. Stay tuned.

Photo credit: Head Above Water by Finiky on Flickr


Karen Janowski said...

What are your students saying about their experiences with blogging this year? Are you surprised by what they are saying? Did their reactions meet your expectations?
Are other teachers in your building aware of the shift in demonstrating understanding that has taken place in your classroom? What are they saying?
Can you tell that I'm curious and anxious to hear your response!

Matt said...

Two blogging platforms that were designed with the classroom in mind are and I have used classblogmeister in the past and found it very useful as a classroom blogging tool. 21classes looks promising, and part of my summer homework is to see if I want to try it with my students in the fall.

Mr. B-G said...

I too would like to collaborate with another teacher/group of student bloggers as another way to offer students writing feedback from a real and different audience.

This year I created individual class blogs for my students, where they posted three assignments - a short story, an essay on The Old Man and the Sea, and poems. They then responded to each others' work. It went well, and they responded to it.

I am considering doing what you have done - helping students create their own blogs - next year, but am struggling with how to implement it.

I plan to read more of your and your students' blogs for insights.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed readding about blogging. I am not skilled in the computer world. I just want to comment on a blog and I can't in most of the sites.


Patrick Higgins said...


Just wanted to check in with you to let you know that I've tagged you with the "8 Random Things" meme. Hope your summer is going well.