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Friday, June 22, 2007

Week 2: Blogging in Education (Respond by Friday, June 29th)

I really don't like changing tools midstream like this but I have had too many frustrating experiences with Edublogs over the past few months and this latest interruption of service was the final straw so welcome to my newest Ed Tech blog!

I have included a reading on blogs that you can access by clicking here. You can either read the article online or download a PDF version of it to print. I think this article does a great job of providing a broad overview of blogs and their uses in education. There are a couple things I would like you to respond to after you read through it.

  1. As you think about blogging in your own school what do you see as the biggest challenges or barriers to using blogs with your students? What could you do to overcome those barriers?
  2. Assessment is discussed in the article and I think it can be difficult in some ways to apply our traditional view of assessment on student participation in a blog. Forget about assigning actual grades for a moment and think about what you could learn about an individual student from observing his/her posting and commenting in a blog. How might these observations inform your teaching?
  3. The article provides different examples of blogs in use in education. Take a moment to look at some of those examples online and then search for an example of your own that you think is worth sharing with the group. You can do this by doing a keyword search in Google and then just including the url to the blog you found in your reply. Tell us what you liked about how the blog was being used and why you think it would be beneficial for students.

15 comments:

Ms. Borsick (Goddard) said...

Some of the challenges I have already considered when I got into creating my own classroom blog, was the fact that I know not all my students have computers and/or internet access. Those students would need to write manually in a science journal or come before/after class or even give up recess time to participate.
In my mind I created my class blog so that I could use it for student reflection and as an extension to classroom learning. My assessment would not necessarily be "letter" grading, but more class participation points. As the article discussed, my science blog is aimed to allow the students to evaluate themselves, their learning experience, and encourage further exploration with experiments, videos, literature, field trips, websites, etc. to integrate and solidify learning.
I did a Google search for "Elementary Science Blogs" and the first on the search list was the NSTA website; http://www.nsta.org/elementaryschool/
which had links to Blogs for Elementary teachers and tons of Science resources. I did not create a log in i.d. so, I was not able to access certain literature, but the site was most definitely useful.

Anya said...
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Anya said...

One of the issues that I see with blogging in my school would be the parent’s initiative for allowing their child to participate in the blog. My students are pre-K and their parents would be the person to make sure that the blogs were completed. If parents do not take the initiative, their child would be missing out on an invaluable experience with the computer, as well as being able learn about the topic discussed. Another problem that I would anticipate is that some families may not have computers with Internet access in their home. One way that I would solve the first problem is to make blogs homework, in lieu of traditional homework. I would also give them more time to complete the blog; making it due in a week, rather than the traditional 1 day turn around. The same homework incentives for traditional homework would be given for completed blogs. Homework charts that are displayed will show blog completion. Of course, a training session would have to be given to help the parents login and navigate within the blog page.
For families that do not have a computer with internet access in their home, I will give them a list of libraries that offer free computer usage. With this approach, families not only get to participate in the classroom blogs, but it also introduces or re-introduces them to the library and its resources.
I feel that blogs can be assessed using a non-traditional form of assessment. Authentic assessment includes journals, student work, and finished products. I think that a print out of that child’s blog can be included in a student’s portfolio. I would develop a rubric to assess points based on the child’s input (more input from the child -5, parent developed- 1) on some blog topics. It may also be used to research parent participation or frequently asked questions that parents may have.
I researched early elementary blog sites and I found one that focused on math on every grade level. http://letsplaymath.wordpress.com/
2007/02/13/pre-algebra-problem-solving-
preschool-and-early-elementary/
It was an informative website that allowed parents to comment, without signing up for an account. It had tons of archives and issues in math that parents may have questions about. It gave links to other sites to help increase their child’s math skills. Finally, it gave the parent’s suggestions on how to approach math in a fun way and activities to reinforce important math skills. I liked this site particularly because I have a math minor and in early elementary, people tend to leave math out of the equation for young learners. (No pun intended, ☺) It is important for parents to know that the foundation for education, no matter what subject, begins, at the very beginning.
Through blogging, I could see myself able to communicate, better and more frequently, new and exciting ideas with parents.

Anya said...
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Ahlam said...

The biggest challenge to using blogs in my school is that the teachers do not know how to get started. In my district, Dearborn, every teacher already has a blog set up in his/her name and they just need to go into it and set up for their classes. The teachers do not take advantage of this because they do not know how to do it and most do not take the time to try. Another challenge is that most of our kids do not have computers/internet access at home. Also, parents do not know how to log on and contribute to the blog themselves to show their younger children.
If teachers were given a staff meeting dedicated to learning how to use their blog would be great. I know that if I were taught how to do it I would have definitely tried using it as much as I can with my students. Also, students who do not have computers or internet access can be given extra time throughout the day if they complete their work ahead of time or if they can come before school to contribute. Parents of elementary students can be brought to school and their kids can show them what they learned and teach them how to get to the blog or a teacher can model how the parents can access and contribute to the blog. This will increase parent support in the schools.
When assessing students I would read their comments and what their reflections are about certain things we have studied. Also, if students were asked to write they can have other classmates read their writing and edit it as they may need. This will be more of an informal assessment because it will focus more on students working collaboratively with one another and participating in classroom discussions.
The blog that I found is at http://blogs.canby.k12.or.us/hallway.php?g=5

I liked this blog because it allows you to search by teacher and see what is going on in each classroom. It lets parents read about what's happening in the classroom and any parent letters that have been sent home. It also allows students to communicate with their teacher as well as one another. It allows students as well as parents to check homework assignments they might have missed. It allows the parents to stay involved in their child's education. It also allows the students to communicate with each other off of school grounds. It is a way of keeping them all connected.

Ms. Khan said...

Ms. Ghazala Khan said: I don’t think there should be any huge problem except that I have noticed not many students in my class have their e-mail addresses set up. They normally use their parents’ e-mail address. To overcome those barriers I plan to arrange an orientation day for my students’ parents. Since I am looping with my students this year, I think it is an advantage for me because I know very well about who might be more interested into technology and whose parents can help more.

As for using it as an informative tool I might look more into students’ analytical and critical thinking skills by posting some controversial issues related to our class ‘Fish bowl Discussions’. In addition to looking for these two skills, I think I will definitely learn about my students’ writing skills as well as knowledge and ability to use mechanics correctly in their writing.
http://www.mpsomaha.org/willow/sanborn/blog/ A wonderful website to show how blogging can be used as a collaborative tool as well as an informative and a sort of recapping tool for any grade level for upper elementary students. If I were to use this way of blogging I would choose a student by picking out a stick, so that it is a surprise for him or her. This blogging page seems like a motivational tool for students. I think students will definitely benefit from this kind of informal writing for which they just have to cover a day’s activities in school or talk about one subject in which they had fun.

Miss Burke said...

I embrace the idea of using a blog with my students, however, I know I will face some barriers. The biggest barrier will be the fact not all of my students own a personal computer or have access to the Internet. Another problem would be siblings. I have experienced in the past that older siblings will not allow their younger siblings much computer time at home. For these reasons, I would develop plan B to using a blog. I would set aside 10 minutes before, after school, or during lunch where I could monitor these students who don’t have access to a computer in the computer lab at school while they are posting to the blog. I could also print out the blog responses from the night before, give them a copy so they could hand write their response, and then I would type it for them.

I would not “grade” a blog the same as I would an assignment. First of all, I would focus on the content of the blog and see if the response completely answers the posted question or statement. I would also focus on the responses to each other. If a student is able to respond to my post that shows me they were able to read and process the text in order to respond. If a student responds to another student’s response, this shows me not only are they able to comprehend my post in terms of what I am asking for, they are also able to organize their thoughts and think critically and critique another’s response as well. Also, I would assess the students on their continuity. If the student started their response with formal text and writing, I would expect that type of writing throughout the entire response. However, if the student’s response is informal with emotions, abbreviations, etc. I would expect that “style” throughout the response. I personally feel that mixing formal and informal literacy and text can be confusing to the reader and the writer because you should know when it is appropriate to use different types of text and writing. As a teacher, I am able to take the responses to the post and I can now guide my lesson plan for the next day. If I find the content is lacking, then I know in class I need to focus more on what is being taught and possibly change my teaching style. If the writing is unclear, jumbled, or not smooth, then I will focus on integrating my content with a possible writing assignment.

I set up my blog as a very general blog because it served as a welcoming blog. The post I created was a survey asking students general questions about their thoughts and feelings about the upcoming year. However, when I did my google search for blogs, I focused on middle school science blogs. When I looked for an example of a middle school science blog, this one came up every time I searched http://msfrizzle.blogspot.com/. This is a very funny science blog actually, but it was very informative as well. This blog not only contained many posts, but it also had lots of other useful information from various links, to response rules, and to ways of donating money for school supplies. I personally feel that no matter how your blog is set up, it will benefit you and your students as long as it is used and kept up properly.

stiles said...
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stiles said...

I face a major challenge whenever I want to implement technology in my classroom. I work at a title 1 school and most of my students do not have access to the Internet mainly because they simply do not own a computer. The students who do have a computer Internet access, their parents are very selective about what they can do on them. A lot of the parents at my school do not speak English very well because they are of Middle Eastern descent that have recently moved here. Their children are first generation Americans and sometimes are the only ones in the family who know English. Their parents tend to be slightly afraid about letting their children use the Internet, probably largely due to the fact that they do not understand what their children are looking at or because they do not want the children giving out personal information. Of course all parents are concerned with the safety issue and rightly so. I think for myself when I introduce my blog to the class I will need to have a lengthy discussion about Internet safety and the safe use of our blog. I think by having a thorough discussion with the parents and inviting them to participate in the blogging as well would ease their minds so that they could see the educational benefit of such a tool. One way to overcome the issue of students without access to a computer is to allow them computer time during or after school as well as assigning whole group computer time in the lab.

I think a lot can be learned from students’ blogging. For one thing I think they will be freer with their expression because no one can immediately argue or offer negative feedback to them. I think through blogging teachers can learn if a student truly understands a concept or if they need more work within that area of the curriculum. This not only applies to one student but also if the teacher notices the whole class is off track when discussing a particular topic that could inform her teaching and cause her to go back and reteach the particular topic. Blogging can require conversation and dialogue amongst students, which requires a higher level of thinking. Students need to analyze and synthesize the information they are going to blog. Through blogging I think a teacher can determine if a student has a deep understanding of a topic. A student cannot converse and comment at length about something they are not knowledgeable of or have a thorough understanding about. For students who may not have a deep understanding by reading other students’ blogs they might gain that knowledge they were lacking.

After looking at several blogs for elementary school I came across the Studio-Four News blog made by the students Shepard Elementary School. I stumbled upon several blogs that required students to record the day’s happenings and then post it to the site. What I really liked about this one is that it required parental participation. It is describe at the top of the page that students are required to take their recording of the day home and work on it with parents to create their best work. I think this is a great way to get parents involved in student work and because it is being published so that the whole school can see I think students will put more effort into the project to make sure their record of the day is outstanding!

Jeff Bouwman said...

"Mr. Bouwman, don't you mean frog? What's a blog?" This is what I picture my students asking me right off the bat! I'm not sure if the group of kids coming up to fourth grade have any idea what the heck a blog is. I think that is the biggest barrier. In order to overcome this barrier I will have to explain what a blog is and how it is used. I would show the students my own personal blog, and I would let them post comments during computer lab time.

I would use language arts standards to help evaluate student work. Similar to the article, I would expect students to use complete sentences along with proper capitalization and punctuation. No casual talk! I never thought of a blog as a journal. Maybe the students could post to the classblog once a week rather than write in their journal. I predict that the classroom blog will provide me with inside information to a student's personality along with his/her language arts skills.

I found a fourth grade blog from a school in Whitefish Bay, WI. I love how students posted facts that everyone should know about WI. Michigan history is taught in fourth grade social studies. This would be a wonderful idea that would not only involve technology but social studies as well! I'm pumped! I can't wait to start using my blog. I would also like to see the NSTA website blog as well! This could provide helpful ideas on how to improve our science program.

Jennifer said...

In my district the major challenge is in attempting to negotiate change. Many people in my district are hyper sensitive about students being able to express themselves in a public forum that teachers would be associated with. That is to say that fear of the unknown in my district has led to an extremely conservative outlook on implementing new ideas. It's almost as though many faculty members are concerned that everything on the Internet, if it involves our kids, will ultimately lead to myspace and all of the evils it represents. This is a big liability, and too much for many people in our district.

I think blogging will help my Language and Literature classroom a ton. However, I know that I will be very lonely in my journey through the blogosphere because my district is too political, and too frightened of the language of our kids to encourage this type of activity. I hope that I can be successful, and that by moderating student comments, I can show teachers and administration that discretion can be used while encouraging open creativity at the same time.

I found it interesting in the article that almost all of the research showed that adolescents and young adults comprised half of the blogging population. This inclines me to believe that many of my students are already familiar with blogging as a tool for expression. I am quite interested to use this tool to invoke meaningful journal responses to required reading. As far as grading is concerned, I would like to incorporate weekly grammar lessons into my required responses. One week, I would grade for content and subject-verb agreement. The next week, I might check for content and proper use of punctuation with phrases. I think it would be unethical for me as an English teacher to accept grammatically deficient writing, even if it is in a new and fancy package that doesn't require paper. I respect the distinction between formal and informal writing, but adhere to common standards of language when my students know I will be an audience member. That is not to say content is irrelevant. To the contrary, I would check for content each week, but my expectations for the articulate delivery of the content would increase. This would be especially beneficial in a blog, where I could go back and see the improvements and comments from previous weeks without having to save hardcopies in my classroom.

When I did a search for Language and Literature Blogs, I was a bit disappointed in the results. Many of the pages were formatted in such a scattered fashion that it was unclear where to go. Also, my topic was so broad, and so innately a part of blogging, I think that made the search a bit cluttered. I tried to be more specific by typing in A Separate Peace blogs to see if there were any on the novel. There were a few. Ultimately, I chose to share a site, http://ireadashortstorytoday.com/,
that was about short stories. I liked this one because it shows students that people do actually seek out and read short stories without teachers, homework planners, and grades. Also, it inspired an idea for my own classroom. There are about fifty short stories in my textbook, and we usually only read about ten of them. I could give students the assigned opportunity to read any of the others on their own, and write a blog on it. This would keep the options limited in a way that would invariably have several students reading the same short story. They could comment on each other's responses, and perhaps be inspired to read an extra short story or two.

Jennifer said...
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Mrs. Rizzo said...

The biggest challenge I find in using a blog with my students is access. Our district is very limited and strict with what we can access on the web. The number of computers available in our buildings also limits us. We have one computer lab, and an area of computers in the library. Gaining access to those can be very frustrating. Our classrooms only have one computer available. We are also faced with the challenge of being in a low-middle income community. Some students do not have computers at home, therefore making this very challenging for them.
I think one way to overcome these obstacles is to first discuss the various tools available for use with our technology department. Find out what we are able to access and to what degree we are able to use these tools. As far as the number of computers available, I think this can be overcome by simply creating time slots for students to utilize the class computer. I have a period of time each day to use for curriculum enhancement. This time slot could be used for students to work (with paper and pencil first) to create reflections, comments, etc… to post on our classroom blog. Another way to overcome the lack of computers available is to simply collaborate with our computer teacher. Perhaps she will be able to work on lessons focusing on how to use a blog. She will be a great resource to use. As far as students without a computer at home, perhaps an after school lab would be helpful. Utilizing the public library is an option, too. Be sure to inform the public library about your classroom site.

I find assessment to be a bit vague as far as blogging goes. I feel more comfortable with the idea of observing a student's ability to express himself/herself in an appropriate way. Observation will inform my teaching by allowing me the chance to gain insight on how a student is interpreting what is being learned. It allows me the chance to evaluate how I am teaching a particular concept and what ways I may need to improve my strategies. I will be able to help those struggling and perhaps challenge those who are not.

I found two sites of interest to check out. The first:
http://sargentparkmathzone.blogspot.com is a blog from an 8th grade math class at Sargent Park School in Manitoba, Canada. This site seems very advanced, and is updated often. The teachers, and students have access and utilize the site frequently with discussions, podcasts, videos, and of course mathematics information. I like the fact that the teacher of this class uploads worksheets for students. I know one problem I face, as a teacher is the student who is organizationally challenged. Uploading notes and worksheets is a great way to keep students on top of things, no excuses.

The other blog I found is:
http://grade7math.blogspot.com
This is a very nice blog, also located in Canada. This blog is more focused on teacher, student, and outsider postings. I liked this blog as it shows the positive interaction between people from all over the world. The blog has a widget map that can be looked at to see where and when posts came. There were a number of nice comments from people to one of the students congratulating her on making the honor roll and encouraging her to keep up the good work. People sent posts offering help in mathematics. Some posts were simply thanking the various people who posted tips for the students in the class. I think both blogs would be useful tools for me to show students and parents as an introduction to blogging and the benefits associated with it.

I found the article interesting especially the section that discussed a third type of literacy, digital literacy. I never really thought of this, and the article really opened my eyes to some things we, as educators, need to understand about literacy and how reading and writing are not the only “building blocks for success in society.”

Scott Just said...

Implementing bogging in my classroom should be strait forward. I am looking at just my room and possible the other fourth grades as opposed to starting with more and stumbling through. The biggest issue I foresee is security and all it raises. We have computer lab with a dedicated teacher at least once a week, so students will have the time. Security can be addressed if I can get Ann, the librarian onboard. She is in charge of assigning log-ins to the network for our building. Ann also puts teachers’ web pages together that don’t want to or cannot put one together, she accepts chocolate as payment, so I was told. By getting Ann involved, I will have a huge ally in the building and someone that may be willing to use the pre-assigned student log-ins and create logins for a blog and wiki. Ann has been very helpful with my innumerable questions and I have helped her wherever I can, usually music file issues. The other issue to be addressed will be coordinating with the new technology teacher, whomever that may be.

Once we establish the perimeters for the blog and everyone is aware it is monitored and secure, implementing should be easy, I hope.

Not being a big fan of traditional assessment, blogging offers insights into how students process and generate their work. When students create work and peer edit it, ‘we’ as readers see the maturation over time. We can start to understand how that student thinks and what we can do to challenge them further. By seeing a thread that is only a particular student’s work, allow us as instructors to focus in a way that isn’t easily accomplished with pencil and paper portfolio. As we scroll down the blog, we are going down through the strata of our students work to see how it changed over time. That is an idea I can really get my head around.
Blogging also is more democratic, in that everyone can say as much or as little as they want. Students that do not feel comfortable speaking in class may express themselves without concern on a blog.

Blogging destroys the traditional concept of what is literacy and how we assess it. Blogging just as texting, is literacy as defined by Dr. Elizabeth Birr Moje, author of Social and Cultural Influences of Literacy. Dr. Moje is a professor and researcher from U of M, Ann Arbor, which I saw on campus last term. Dr. Moje’s point was simple; educators and the National Endowment for the Humanities look at literacy through an very small lens, using an out of date definition. To be relevant and engaging to our students, WE need to change.

I Googled several terms none of which returned anything new or interesting until I came across http://blogs.oaisd.org/236 from a third grade teacher in Hudsonville, on the west side of the state. It is a good example of what I hop to accomplish by pursuing the educational technology program. See it all comes together helps me envision what comes next and how to get there.

ftillmn said...

This was a very interesting article. I was familiar with blogging to an extent, but I didn't know of the different outlets that used it as a source of communicating, i.e. journalism and knowledge communities in particular. But it all makes sense.

Although I wasn't in my own classroom last year, I was still able to learn and observe alot about the school and the class that I worked in. Because I actually did a survey of computer and Internet use by the students, I learned that the vast majority of students had computers and Internet access at home. There were, however, enough students without either to let me know that blogging would be somewhat of a problem if students would need computer access from home. It would also be a problem if we were to consider usage from school because of the limited computers.

One process to consider would be to schedule time in the computer lab for blogging purpose only, however, this may or may not be feasable either because of the limited time allowed in computer lab.

When it comes to relating my teaching to observations from student blogs, I think blogging would provide insite on students in many ways. For instance, it would allow me to understand the measure of comprehension students had about a certain subject matter. I would be able to determine student learning based on the their ability to communicate about a particular content area in the blog. I would also be able to determine from the blog if adjustments in teaching needed to be made. If areas needed to be re-enforced or not.

I think that blogging would offer more than just an opportunity for students and teachers to communicate, but a wealth of information could be gathered simply by reading the students' posting.

I was able to locate a particular blog called Quality in Educationl: http://www4.asq.org/blogs/edu/2007/06/

It is used by a group of educators who discuss their experiences. They also outline opportunities in professional development. It is not a recently developed site and many of the contributors are teachers who have been teaching for many years. It seems that it may be a useful site to use as a reference to just hear of the experience of teachers who have been doing what they love doing for many years. This site also allows you to receive emails about the ongoing subject matters being discussed. I think it could be quite useful.