Sunday, November 30, 2008

What's Next?

Taking time this term to learn about Web 2.0 tools emboldened me to try out working online with my students. As much as I wanted to jump right in and show them Voice Threads, Wikis, Jumpcut, Go Animate and other such fabulous tools that I had come across in my journeys this term, I started off by using a Moodle. I posted an assignment for FSL that would require the students to use the internet to research the definition of conjugation and explain why it was important to learn how to conjugate verbs. They also had to search and find three websites that they thought would be helpful for them to practice conjugating verbs. I myself had found dozens of sites that I thought would be useful, but I wanted to see what they could come up with themselves. A week later, I sat down to mark these assignments and found the following:

1. Students didn't know how to upload a word document to Moodle (although they had been doing this for two months with their classroom teacher).
2. When saving their work, students were changing the extension of their document so that it could not be read. For example, a document should be saved with the extension, ".doc" and students were renaming the entire file.
3. Students did not know what a web address was, or where to find it on their browser page.
4. Students were not thinking critically about the websites that they visited.
5. Students were unaware of any other search engines other than "Google".
6. Students written work was not greatly improved by the use of a computer.

The last discovery shocked me. I was sure that written fluency would improve with the use of computers. This online assignment that I had given to my students certainly gave me much to think about in regards to written fluency and information literacy. That got me thinking, how can I use these observations to help students improve? I need to think about which tool will my colleagues be most likely to embrace? I have to think of my colleagues comfort level with technology, how much prep and maintenance will have to be put into this tool, the technology that we have available for use at our schools........ Hmmmm...... I need something that is fast, free, and easy to use and maintain that also creates opportunities to address these issues that my students are having with online learning and information literacy. That is when I decided what tool I should introduce and encourage. Are you ready for it?
Drum roll please..........................
The Web 2.0 tool that I would like to start with is Blogs and Blogging for the classroom. Below you will find my "case" for blogging. Enjoy!!

BLOGS AND BLOGGING IN THE CLASSROOM
WHY?
Even though blogging may begin as an extension of student's notebooks, with your encouraging comments and guidance, your students will begin to see that they belong to a global online community of learners.
Visit Mr. Kuroneko's blog to read about six reasons why you should get your students blogging, or if you prefer, check out this You Tube video that has students talking about why they love blogging in their classroom. In short, this is what blogging can do for your students:

* Create an authentic task and give purpose and audience to your student's writing.
* Provide opportunities for meaningful conversation amongst students and other readers.
* Give your students a global audience.
* Create learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
* Provide an educated guide to communicating on the internet.
* Weblogs promote literacy in your classroom (see article).
* Increase student's written fluency (see article).
* Free publishing!
* Provide a safe venue for sharing.
* Give your students a voice!



ARE YOU INTRIGUED YET?

Here's something to think about. When you are teaching writing, think about how you go about doing it. Mini lessons, peer editing, draft writing, and then finally, the finished product. Who reads it then? The author, his/her peers, his family, and the teacher. The result is that the piece of writing comes to an end, and usually ends with the teacher. That is a relatively small audience compared to world-wide publishing! Blogging allows for the same steps to be taken, but does not end with the teacher. Blogs are posted for the world to read and comment on. What, you don't think that your students will believe that others are reading their work? Well now, there is a widget for that! Have you ever heard of a site visitor feed or a cluster map? These add-ons allow blog authors to see who has visited their website! Visit Kathy Cassidy's classroom blog to see how she is using blogging in her classroom and see what visitors are stopping by to read her blog.Link
Come to think of it, there are many, many wonderful classroom blogs out there to visit. Here are a few that I think are particularly good examples of classroom blogs, don't forget to read the comments, sometimes the most powerful conversations happen in the comments section.
Mr. Miller's English 10 Blog
Mrs. Merk's Blog Titled: Wormbins
Mrs. McNamara's Class Blog
Just a few out of hundreds! If they can do it, you can to!

So, have I won you over yet? If you are sold on the idea of blogging and would like to start your journey into the Edublogosphere, here is a short video on how to start your own blog at Blogger.com.

Stepping Out

So, there you have it. My quick and dirty push for blogs in the classroom. Of course, this is just a start to my plans. I am quite fortunate to have many opportunities to share my Web 2.0 journey with colleagues in my district. Not only do I have access to an amazing TL networking group, I am also a member of a group of TL's that have been approved for a grant to explore and implement Web 2.0 tools into our libraries. I'm also the Literacy teacher at my school. With the role of Literacy teacher and Teacher-librarian, I am able to create opportunities to co-plan and co-teach with teachers, giving them additional support to bring these technologies into their classroom which will further increase the chance of a successful implementation!

Hope you enjoyed this week's post. I would really enjoy reading any comments about how blogs are being used in your classrooms. Please send me links to your classroom blogs as well as I am always looking to expand my cache of great reads!

5 comments:

Joanie said...

April,

Nice to have another blogger enthusiast aboard. (I can't even imagine these words coming out of my mouth about 3 months ago - I'm sure Joanne is having a good laugh at this comment!)

I liked the way you began your blog with a little homegrown research to support your views. It is true that students are unable to do many of the very basic things. In the library I find that I spend a lot of time teaching them to save, retrieve and print their word documents and don't get me started on internet searching! Your approach to using blogging as a way to improve basic literacies should help you to win many others over to supporting blogging.

Good luck with your plans.How fabulous that you have a grant to promote your push for greater literacy skills.

Joanie

Jes said...

Hi April,
Just today I had my English 11 students set up blogs for journaling as we are reading the novel Snow Falling on Cedars. I really didn't realize how much difficulty they would have with this. It was interesting to see how proficient some were at figuring out how to make their blogs "their own," while others struggled with signing up. It was an eye-opening experience. But now that they are ready to go, I am hoping that posting will come naturally to this social networking generation.

Mikisew said...

I love the "live traffic feed" widget on your blog - very cool.

I chuckled when I read your observations of your student's exploits with technology. I enjoy such a huge range of abilities in my experiences teaching adults. In my experience I find students do seem to "take off" once the rudimentary stuff is mastered.

I think Kathy Cassidy's classroom blogging is inspirational too and thanks for the links to the others!

Rhonda

Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, April. I thought your analysis and reflection of the Moodle assignment you gave to your students was really interesting. And it was a nice segue into why you would use blogging with students.

Joanne

Cynthia Peterson said...

April, this is an amazing post -- you provide all the links and tools one would need to share blogging with students and colleagues. Thank you -- I'll be returning to this post again and again.