“Webpage” to Weblog #3

This is the final blog of a series about using Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom. This section looks at  our school’s “practice run” using blogs in the classroom and the lessons we learnt.

BEGINNING BLOGGERS

We had a clear purpose, and support from the school leadership to move forward on the weblogs. Once we started our blogs, eleven in all, it became clear that we needed some guidelines to define the tone and purpose of the class blog pages. One of the surprising comments from teacher who looked at the work the others were doing but wasn’t actually a participant was that “this could be used by parents to compare teachers.” Clearly this wasn’t the tone that we wanted.

In retrospect and for the future the main philosophy /guiding principals should be:

  • The class blogs are collective blogs to give you and your students a voice and a way to communicate with the local and global community. For example if you browse through “ejourney with technokids” you can see the opportunities that Web 2.0 has opened up for communicating and collaborating. According to the interview transcript shown on the blog, the students particularly enjoy talking to students in another country.
  • The class blog is an avenue for students’ to construct meaning through reflection and sharing their learning with an authentic audience. TaNuj^’s Weblog is an excellent example of a student reflection. It is also for teachers as can be seen by Dean Groom’s response to the student blog.
  • The blog can add impetus to the Inquiry Process through collaboration with experts in the field. [In M3’s blog on Sustainability the students each give their ideas in their own words adding to the knowledge of the individual.
  • It is an opportunity to showcase your grade and the work that you and your students do, and to keep parents and the community informed.

However the impact was immediate. The communication about classroom work in the first few blogs was far more than had gone home in the past year. It was visual, informative and varied according to the class, just as each class is different each blog had an individual feel to it and the added bonus was that the first comments were from students.

DIFFICULTIES


POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Time

The trouble is that to make a blog work really well you need to be passionate about it. The teachers who are at the forefront of blogs are the ones who appear to work at them in every spare minute of their time. I’m sure that blogging can be successful without this type of commitment but I can see that teachers who are cooperative rather than passionate are going to find this a frustrating experience! (Just try embedding a video or two onto your blog and see what I mean.)

Making posts needs to be seen as part of the daily work in the classroom. It can’t be left to the teacher once the student has completed the product. Once teachers have developed confidence in posting student work they will be able to loosen the reins and let students have some responsibility for the blog too. A collaborative blog can have more than one editor with the ultimate control for publishing still with the teacher. and I think this is an excellent way to work in primary schools.

Skills

The technical skills in creating a blog vary quite a bit depending on what you want to do. Even though web 2.0 sites are designed so that anyone can publish their work to the web there is still a long way to go in simplifying the process of uploading multimedia. How are we going to support teachers who are struggling with integrating ICT into their classroom to come to grips with technical jargon such as mp4 vs wmv?

Support groups for beginning bloggers that meet at lunchtime for half an hour just to help the teachers who are newbies. The teachers who have some experience are available to help less experienced teachers. We could train the highly able students to be “tech team” support to that we eventually will have student blogging mentors.

Audience

Creating content is just the first part of successful blogging. It has to be two-way communication if it is going to meet the criteria of supporting students in constructing their knowledge. So soliciting an authentic audience for their blog is another hurdle.

The blogging competition by Sue Wyatt and Sue Waters has been a fantastic way for students to establish networks, links and an audience.
If teachers get involved in global projects which I think they will now that they have a collaboration tool (i.e. blog) they will soon have “blogging buddies”

Content

How do we store and manage the student products such as podcasts and videos so that they are accessible to our blog. PodOmatic, Gcast, TeacherTube and Edublogs.tv all offer a free limited hosting service, which is adequate for most teachers. However each teacher has to create an account for each of these services and upload the work, and then link or embed the files in the blog.

Our technician claims that he can set up a “tame” server at our school to host our video and sound files. This would mean that embedded files would not be blocked at school as they are at present. Uploading would cost less because it would be “in house’ – and we do not have to create accounts.

Sustainability

Sustainability will be one of the biggest issues. Teachers are always busy, so it will be important that they find these tools improve student’s learning and create opportunities to be creative and collaborative.

Blogging topics and ideas, essential questions, and collaboration projects can be included as part of unit plan activities. The grade levels can have similar Blog topics and like the student blogging competition run by Sue Waters and Sue Wyatt teachers can set blogging tasks for the students to improve their skills. Creating international connections with global projects would be another way to instantly see benefits for blogs.

Conclusion

My initial idea sounded like a simple solution to a problem. Now I understand how complex it really is and how much work there is still to do. I also understand that it was absolutely necessary to take this step…leap, …plunge into web 2.0. In fact I find it difficult to image a classroom that should not be using the web 2.0 tools in some way. I am inclined to agree with Hargadon when he said it was bigger than the printing press

One last example of web 2.0 in education, and perhaps my favorite, is an infant grade in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in Canada. The students have pre-service teachers as blogging buddies. The student teachers follow one child’s writing in Mrs. Cassidy’s blog throughout the year, responding to the child’s blogs, but noting the development in writing over the year. A win win situation all around. In an interview Cassidy explains what she does in her classroom and how each student has a blog, which is an online portfolio, and how blogging buddies work with her students. (Cassidy, WOW2 Show #91, 2008). Clearly Cassidy is an outstanding educator with very good technological skill. She has many awards to her credit, but Cassidy has shown that student age is no barrier to using Web 2.0 tools with students and how powerful it can be for communicating, creating and collaborating.

Additional Helpful Links
http://deangroom.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/the-3rs-are-now-the-3ts/

http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org/2006/09/posting_student.html

Lois

Love teaching ICT, and using multimedia as a way to communicate and construct learning. I have developed a passion for blogging as a reflective tool and essential ingredient in learning

4 thoughts on ““Webpage” to Weblog #3

  1. Hi Lois,
    What a great post, looking back at your year of learning together.

    To the mix I would add the voice of Dean Shareski who, like Cathy Cassidy, is from Moose Jaw. This post http://loisath.edublogs.org/2009/01/25/webpage-to-weblog-3/ really influenced my own blogging and has helped my present a wider perspective about its power to my students. This post is a must-read for those of us who hope to sustain blogging, and go beyond blogs as digital newletters or bulletin boards.
    Luckily, there are many stellar examples and many folks such as Sue Waters and Sue Wyatt are prepared to support learners of all ages on this journey.

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