Last week I attended the fabulous TeachMeet 5 Squared hosted by @simon_harper3. I gave the following presentation. Ban Boring Homework – Use blogging instead. In this five minute presentation I gave a glimpse into the way we use blogging to engage our year 6 students in reading, writing, presenting and reflecting on their learning, using Edublogs student blogs. Last term my students completed Passion Projects for homework, over the course of the eight weeks. They then used their students blogs to report on their learning, to comment on other students learning and to reflect on the process. Why did we use blogs for this? Because the new Australian English curriculum has outcomes such as ‘Students create well structured and well -presented written and multimodal imaginative, informative and persuasive texts for a wide range of purposes and audiences’. To my mind blogging about learning, reflecting on the process and sharing it all with a wider audience fulfills this outcome perfectly. Next term we have decided our students will complete ‘choose your own adventure’ narratives. Each week they will be required to write a chapter of their story. Fellow students, parents and the wider community will then vote on what should happen next. Authentic imaginative writing for an authentic audience. What could be better. If you would like to comment or have your class read, comment and vote on their narratives, please let me know, as we would love your involvement.
Holidays are a great opportunity to not only relax and recharge but to rethink and reflect. During our recent break I spent some time reorganising my iPad, saving and deleting old notes etc. As I did so I came across several notability files that I took on my trip to the UK last July. During my stay I visited a number of schools, both primary and secondary, who were successfully blogging with their students. I blogged at the time, trying to capture my immediate thoughts and impressions but on reflection my notes tell me so much more about successful blogging with students and classes.
These are a few of the main points I captured:
- Blogging with your class and students can and does improve literacy outcomes. Several UK teachers reported that by teaching their students how to write extensive and interesting blogging comments their overall writing skills had improved, often across several levels.
- That when students learn to write reflective and positive blog comments, they become able to transfer this skill into their own work. Especially when placed in such situations as peer moderation for writing.
- That the nature of blogging being a very public act forces students to become more accountable.
- That the act of blogging improves writing skills, as students become more able to think who is their audience, what is their purpose and what effect should this writing have?
- That blogging gives students ownership of their writing.
- That blogging increases the engagement of students in the act of writing.
- That when students have an audience they have a greater sense of autonomy.
Interestingly I came across this beautiful video and article this week from an US school with the very youngest of writers. In it Mrs Maley a year 1/2 teacher explains.
“But it’s never about the technology — it’s about curriculum and learning,”
Not only are the students more engaged when blogging, they also produce better quality writing than when they write in the paper journal only their teacher will see. “Audience is the biggest part to it,” Maley says. “Anytime we get feedback, even as adults, it helps … push us to new heights, so I find blogging pushes them as writers.”
Watch and read it for yourself HERE and see how it too encapsulates everything the UK teachers were saying.
It is great to be reminded that I am not alone in believing in the power of class and student blogging to improve literacy outcomes.
Ever since my recent visit to the UK, I have been pondering how better to engage my students in meaningful blogging lessons. I have read other teacher’s posts about how they blog with their students, such as Kathleen Morris in Victoria who makes blogging part of her literacy rotations. I have viewed blogging in action at several UK schools, which I wrote about here and here. And I remain convinced that blogging can and should be part of a 21st century classroom. I am sure of this even more, since I spent a day last week unpacking the new Australian curriculum. I know that my blogging students will meet its digital literacy outcomes with no problems at all. Yet I also know that for us to claim that blogging meets our English indicators, we need to be making it a bigger part of our literacy routines.
I have blogged with my students and classes for the past four years. Our class blog is used to report on activities and lessons to the wider community, we share our learning with our parent body and other visitors, connecting through views and comments. In Year 6 we also encourage our students to take up the challenge of starting and maintaining a personal blog. But we do not make student blogging compulsory, they are not portfolios and we do not offer much time for students to maintain them during class time. So obviously if much of the writing has to be done in free time then not all students want to have one. I am convinced that having a compulsory blog makes it onerous for some students, just another writing activity. And I am sure that true success in blogging comes to students who maintain a blog because they want to, not because they have to.
So our challenge has always been, how to integrate blogging into English lessons, when maintaining one is not compulsory. How to engage our students in meaningful reading and writing activities which will increase their literacy skills, engage them as learners and allow them to make meaningful connections with other students around the globe. Our students are in Year 6, we do not have rotational literacy groups on a daily basis and even if we did, we could not justify the luxury of always reading and commentating on other student and class blogs. So for a while now personal student blogging has been a Friday afternoon activity, often canceled and always rushed. With some students writing posts and others reading and commentating.
This week though we started something new. The 30 students who have started personal blogs met in one classroom and the 23 who have not, met in the other. The ‘bloggers’ each spent their afternoon designing a document in which they placed a screen shot of their blog header, a personal photograph of themselves and a QR code of their own blog. After they had done that we brainstormed ideas for blog posts and they set about writing new ones. The other students met next door. They firstly brainstormed what they thought made a good student blog. They agreed they needed an ‘about me’ page, ‘blogging guidelines’, clear use of cyber safety rules as well as interesting posts which are updated regularly. They then reminded themselves what makes a good student comment, a least five sentences with excellent grammar and punctuation were agreed upon. And they then spent the rest of the afternoon visiting, reading and commenting on their peers blogs.
Next week they will meet again and this time they intend to nominate and vote for the ‘Student blog of the week’. That student will have their self-designed page including the QR code displayed in our school reception. To add to that, our student bloggers will nominate and vote for the ‘Commentator of the week’. This student will get to create a document with the comments they have written that week and a photo, it too will be placed on display. All the other posters we will place in our classroom windows to attract other passing visitors.
We are hoping that this mini competition will encourage our bloggers to maintain well written and quality blogs and our non blogging students to read and comment on more blogs than they might ordinarily choose to visit. Hopefully it will be win-win situation all round.
The original idea for using QR codes to direct readers to student blogs was shared with me by @claire_N_Jones, thanks Claire. I met Claire on a visit to her school in Blackpool. Read about it here.
Day two saw @jjash and myself visit two schools in Blackpool. Both of which are using technology in interesting ways with their students. This was followed by a talk fest dinner with @deputymitchell and @cheriseduxsbury.
As I walked around the school buildings I was struck at how familiar it all looked and how at home I felt. I was also aware of what a luxury it was to be able to have the time, the space and the means to be able to make these visits. I came away with several ideas I want to put into place within my classroom.
As I reflected on the day it occurred to me that our stories were essentially the same, blogging with our students works for us. We all see increased student motivation for writing and an increased sense of community within the classroom. Some parents get involved more than others and some teachers at our schools understand and use blogs well more than others. We are all on a journey of learning with our students in which we see blogging play a vital part.
I was particularly interested to see the way @Claire_N_Jones was using blogs as a means of engaging her students in writing through the use of the 100wc.net all thanks to the amazing work of @theheadsoffice retired teacher Julia Skinner. So that even her lower ability writing phobic students were vastly improving their literacy outcomes. It reminded me that we had not found time for this valuable resource yet this year.
I also loved this use of QR codes (see image) I am sure we could display this type of image in our classroom windows and so attract visitors to our student blogs as they pass us by. Or even pick one blogger each week to be represented this way, in our school office or newsletter. Such a simple idea that I had to travel half way around the world to find!
All of a sudden I seem to have a whole new readership. Almost daily my email tells me of a new ping-back comment. It appears I have made it onto a university list and my guess is these students are visiting and reading lots of education blogs. These students are using blogs as a reflective tool. Finding new ideas, challenging some and blogging to reflect on their learning. Not all of them agree with the points I make, which is fabulous. I would hate to think that my viewpoint is the only one. After all these are my musings, my reflections and my thoughts. What works for me may not work for them. I am fine with that.
I am though excited by the thought that student teachers are being taught to blog. Not because I am ever concerned by my readership but because I know the power that blogging can bring. I know that the act of reading, writing and reflecting has made me a better teacher. I know that to share is to give and that the act of giving builds in me a sense of self worth. I know that by blogging I have connected with and met so many other fabulous teachers that my life has been enriched by the experience. I know that blogging with my class has opened their eyes to the world and helped them too make connections that reach far beyond any classroom walls. And after all isn’t that what teaching is all about? Doing what one can to improve, grow and learn, so that whatever subject you teach your students too can improve, grow and learn?
This is the third year I have chosen to maintain a blog. I write posts daily in my head and many never make to this site. I do not have the time to correct, check and edit many of my musings. I am not interested in making money from blogging and I have turned down several advertisement opportunities. Admittedly most of them were for gambling sites! So to the students out there in cyber space. Keep reading, keep writing, keep reflecting, keep learning. And above all enjoy the journey.
And to let you into a little secret. Teaching is the best job ever. Never will you be bored. Never will the days seem the same. And the joy you will feel when a student ‘gets it’ is beyond anything that an office job can offer. I truly hope you will be as blessed as I am and that you will love it too.
Edublogs is a wordpress derived blogging platform aimed at teachers and students. Its own websites states that Edublogs lets you easily create & manage student & teacher blogs, quickly customize designs and include videos, photos & podcasts – it’s safe, easy and secure. At our school edublogs is our blogging platform of choice. Each of our classes has a class blog, which we use as our public face to the world. On my class blog we write posts about what is going on in the classroom, we blog from excursions, we write about our learning, we reflect and we share. Essentially we are trying to provide a window into our classrooms. Our blogs are open to the world and we allow comments from our visitors. At times we actively seek those comments from the wider community. Edublogs also allows my students to blog and many of them do, running their own personal blogs which they too use to display work, reflect on their learning and share with family and friends around the globe. Blogging allows my students to maintain a digital footprint and to learn authentic cyber safety in a real context. Edublogs does allow classes to blog in private with password protected controls. At my school though, we choose not to use this feature, believing that it is better to maintain a positive and open digital footprint, that to hide behind a wall of passwords. If you are considering blogging with your class or students then edublogs should be your platform of choice, from the variety of website designs available to you, to their excellent support, they cannot be faulted.
Edmodo is a secure online discussion forum devised by teachers for teachers and students. In my classroom we use edmodo in many ways. It is our chatting space, our ask for help space, our private connection space and more. I have groups running for most subjects and my students are in it daily. Edmodo looks a bit like facebook, the conversations flow down the middle, while files and folders can be easily stored on the sides. I can upload videos and work samples, questions and answers. I can put anything I want my students to see and read in it. The main point is that Edmodo is private. The only people who see what is in our groups are the students and teachers who are in those groups. The point of edmodo for me is that it is a space where my students can learn and share in private. They can be messy, they can make mistakes, they can chat and giggle and write without having to worry about their digital footprint and they can do this with other students and teachers from around the country and around the globe. I also use Edmodo to connect with other teachers from around the globe sometimes even forming joint groups for our students to work and learn in.
In my classroom we use both edublogs and edmodo. they are both vital tools in our planning, teaching and sharing. To add to the mix we are also a moodle school using it as a secure online LMS system. My students are confident users of all three systems and many other tools besides. Confident 21st century students. learning, sharing, reflecting and more. Extending the length of the school day and breaking down the walls of the classroom to learn with the world.
Other posts you might enjoy about edmodo and edublogs
I have been blogging for nearly two and a half years, sometimes I wonder why I do it and what I hope to gain from maintaining this blog. This week I have been reflecting on my reasons. To add to my thoughts I read this yesterday at a book marketing website.
- Nationally, over 12 million adults maintain a blog of their own.
- Over 57 million individuals read blogs on a frequent basis
- There are over 1.4 million new blog posts per day.
- Blog readers average 23 hours online each week.
So if there are 1.4 million new posts everyday I wonder how many of them are written by teachers? Even if it is just a small percentage of that 1.4 million, it is still an enormous number of posts. I am also interested in the fact that there are an enormous number of blogs that are written giving advice on how to attract readers, how to increase ones statistics, how to attract advertisers and build a readership. Yet do teachers blog to attract readers? I have to admit that I occasionally check my statistics. Yet is that why I blog? On reflection I think I blog for the following reasons.
- I blog to share my ideas about what works for me in my classroom
- I blog because the act of writing gathers my thoughts and helps me plan
- I blog because I see myself as a lifelong learner and it is through reading blogs that I learn
- I blog to give back to the community of learners I learn from
- I blog to share my conference presentations, after all why should I exclude those who cannot escape the classroom?
- Sometimes I blog to avoid doing other things, such as my housework.
But above all I blog to reflect on my teaching practice, as over the past two years I have found that the act of writing and sharing my thoughts has allowed me to improve and refine my teaching practice. I try to publish once a week but I also have many incomplete draft posts, that I still reflect and learn from. Why do you blog?
Other posts about blogging
It’s the holidays here in Sydney a much needed time of rest and relaxation. A time to recharge ones internal batteries and prepare for next term. Teachers are much maligned in the popular press for the holidays we get. We know though that without these breaks we would not survive for long. I actually have masses of work to do, including programming, marking, planning and devising lessons. So my holidays do not really feel like a true break. Still I am making sure I find time to read, drink coffee, catch up with friends and sleep! So that I too will be ready for the term ahead.
Today though I am reflecting on whether my students realise just how much they have been demonstrating their learning during the past ten days of holidays? They too are spending time with family and friends, visiting other countries. Going to the Easter show. Having sleepovers, watching movies and more. How do I know this? I know this because they are writing about it. They are writing to each other and our American friends using our Edmodo groups. They are writing in depth accounts of days away, holiday trips, things they are reading about, movies they are watching. Sleepovers they are having or looking forward to. They are writing to each other from across suburbs and across the world. The American students are asking questions such as ,’what is netball?’ My students are responding with lengthy answers. All the time they are writing, reading and learning.
I wish I could show you some of the in-depth and well written responses I read last night but I can’t. Our edmodo groups are of course private and in many ways that is what they need to be. Only myself and an American teacher are watching these conversations. We are not correcting the grammar or checking the spelling. Just eleven year old children being social in ways they know how, using the medium they are used to and the program that best connects them.
Interestingly to me is the fact that not many of them are blogging. A few posts here and there but nothing to brag about. Yet in Edmodo the writing is in depth and the conversations are flowing, My guess is that in a few years time it will be facebook, I wonder though if the conversations they will have then will be in quite so much depth? Will they be as well written? Will they be as interesting as some of these are to read?
Previous Posts you might be interested in:
This blog post has been prepared to support a presentation I am giving at the University of NSW for an ICTENSW workshop. My workshop will be provide participants with information on how to connect their classrooms to the world and extend the length of their school days, using edmodo and edublogs.
The secure online networking forum of Edmodo has so many classroom and teacher uses, that to list them here would take too long. You can read more about why I love and how I use edmodo here and here. You can read a series of posts about how Bianca Hewes uses edmodo in her high school here. Thanks also to Monique Dalli for her excellent blog about using edmodo in a high school setting.
At my school, class blogging is scaffolded and promoted from K-6. We start with class blogs and move towards integrating personal student blogs. Every step we take follows a scope and sequence and it is introduced slowly. By Year 5 student blogs are also added for those who are interested and this is extended in Year 6. We use edublogs as our blogging provider, since in my opinion their help guides and online support are excellent. They also have links to many class blogs around the world. For a list of some of the excellent ones in Australia please read this post. To read through a Themeefy so as to learn more about the uses of edmodo and blogging with students please read this post.
I will also be promoting some of the excellent teacher blogs from around the world. My aim is not to promote one blog over another but to show participants how they too can connect and learn with and from others around the globe. In my classroom I aim to model and promote a love of learning and an enthusiasm to try new tools. I believe though that it is about the learning and not the tools. In my opinion both edmodo and edublogs are tools which support reading, writing, and digital literacy. They also provide students the opportunity for extension, collaboration and sharing. During this workshop we will discuss other free tools which are valuable resources for classroom teachers. These will include voicethread, animoto and Spelling City. You can read more about tools that I use in my classroom here.
During my workshop I will be showing this prezi.
As we come to the end of our summer holidays here in Australia, my mind inevitably starts to return to the task ahead of me, namely preparing my classroom for the year ahead. This week I have been into school to tidy up, rearrange desks and physically prepare my classroom. Mentally too I have been thinking about my program, planning new units and creating name labels and desk stickers.
Before term starts though I will be presenting at another school, to staff interested in learning about using edmodo and blogs in their classrooms. I am calling my presentation ‘Connecting your Classroom‘ and I will share my ideas and links here for anyone who is interested.
It appears that I am not alone in thinking and planning about how best to assist teachers to connect their classrooms to the world, as this week I have read several other blog posts saying just what I wanted to say on the subject. So much so, that much of the work I was planning to do for my presentation has been done for me. A big thank you to my PLN, you have helped to make my holiday longer and my job easier. Great minds think alike!
I will start by recommending the following magazine ‘A teacher’s guide to edmodo and student blogging‘ I created this using a new program called Themeefy. In the magazine I have included links and details, which should answer most teachers queries on the how and why of using blogs and edmodo with students. In it I have included videos, posts and a podcast with both primary and secondary teachers.
Kathleen Morris is an experienced teacher and bloggers from Victoria, she blogs at Integrating Technology in the Primary School, I consider her blog as a must read for all primary teachers. She writes here about Setting up Student Blogs , this fabulous post contains all the information a teacher needs, to help them get started with classroom and student blogging. Of particular note is her advice on spending time teaching students how to write quality comments as well as all about creative commons, copyright, internet safety and netiquette.
I have long been wondering how to persuade more teachers of the value of reading blogs themselves, part of my presentation is on the educational and social value of connecting and learning from other teachers through the reading of their blogs. Edna Sackson, a Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator from an International Baccalaureate PYP school in Melbourne, Australia, has written here her Top ten steps to get teachers into blogs.
Finally this educational wiki has been created by award winning American teacher Mrs Yollis, she started it up as a resource for all teachers who are considering setting up a class blog. She writes ‘Having the classroom blog is like having Open House all year long. Students share what they are learning and then return to comment. Parents have regular opportunities to participate in the learning through commenting. I agree wholeheartedly with her point of view. I will be blogging for the third year with my class this year and I cannot wait to get started again.
As part of my presentation and workshop we will be viewing a prezi. I have included it here as a reference point.