This is the first post in a series of seven blog posts digging deeper into learning about blogging FOR your students.
- Reading Blog
- Writing Blogs
- Commenting on Blogs
- Connecting Blogs
- The Reciprocation Factor
- The Consistency Factor
- The Quality Factor
Writing a Blog starts with Reading
When thinking about “BLOGGING, it is natural to automatically think about “Technology Integration.” When digging a little deeper, one might recognize that blogging is more about WRITING than technology. But let’s roll blogging back even a little further and we will discover that blogging starts with READING!
Becoming an avid reader of a variety of blogs is the first step for a teacher contemplating blogging with his/her students. Reading blogs, with metacognitive analysis in mind, will help expose teachers to the potential blogging holds in relationship to LEARNING.
Will Richardson in his book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Tools for Classrooms” (Corwin Press 2006) states:
Connective writing is, for the most part expository writing, but the process starts with reading […] But more than just reading, bloggers that write in this way learn to read critically because as they read, they look for important ideas to write about. It is an important first step, for as Samuel Johnson said, “I hate to read a writer who has written more than he has read”.
We need to formulate and address intended learning outcomes for our students when blogging. These outcomes must go BEYOND “technology integration” on our lesson plans.
As teachers read blogs regularly, they will become better at:
RECOGNIZING learning opportunities via a blogging platform
FORMULATING learning outcomes for their own students as they see quality examples of other blogs
IDENTIFYING curricular learning outcomes and matching them to blogging opportunities
UPGRADING and REPLACING traditional assessments
GAUGING the quality (or lack) of blogs they read, but also the quality of their own students’ blog (relevant to their age group)
BECOMING FAMILIAR with the new genre of digital reading and writing
RECOGNIZING that writing is changing. The writing process used to end with the last period in the last paragraph. Hitting “publish” on a blog might be just the beginning.
UNDERSTANDING the grammar of social/networked writing. How ideas are linked, connected, expanded, influenced, etc.
EXPERIENCING the culture of sharing
BROADENING their horizons by being EXPOSED to an array of content and global points of view
ENGAGING in reflective practice
BEING AWARE that there is a Global Learning Community of colleagues that are potentially available anytime/anywhere
LEARNING and CONNECTING in their own professional journey
REALIZING that blogs give ownership to the learner by aiding the process of self-directed learning, self- expression through design and content decisions.
OBSERVING the ability of blogs (over time) to function as a tool to curate learning and to document growth
Dean Shareski, on his blog post Student and Teacher Blogging that Succeeds, expresses the obvious, but sometimes hidden, truth for the novice blogging teacher:
Blogging is about writing, but it begins with reading. […] Teachers recognize that in order to be a good writer you have to read good writing. Yet when it comes to blogging, most want to write immediately and sit back and wait for the world to pay attention. It won’t happen. Provide as much time for your students to read blogs as much as write.
I wholeheartedly agree with Dean, but would like to “remix” his statement with the following:
Blogging is about writing, but it begins with reading. Teachers recognize that in order to teach about blogs, they have to read good blogs. Most want to jump immediately in and have their students start blogging, sit back and expect students to write quality blogs. It won’t happen. Teachers need to take time in reading other blogs, before they expect to be able to lead their students in quality blogging.
Where does the Novice Blogging Teacher Start
There are literally millions of blogs out there:
- some of very poor quality
- some of topics that hold no interest to you
- some written in a voice that offends you
- some so expertly written that you can’t believe you get to read them for free
- some that will change the way you view the world forever
- some from which you will learn every time you just think about them
Start with your PASSION! Passion is what will make you read when you are too tired or have too many other things to do.
Make a commitment to:
- Read at least 5 blogs regularly
- Add them to your RSS Reader (ex. Feedly) or add them to an iPad app (ex. Flipboard ). ?Make it as easy as possible for yourself to have access to your chosen reading material.
- Set aside a few minutes EVERY day to read them. ?Like every other routine, you have to practice to make it a habit.
- Read with metacognitive analysis. (?Merrian Webster’s Online Dictionary defines metacognition as “awareness or analysis of one’s own learning or thinking processes”.) ?Be aware of your own learning as you are reading.
- Take notes (yes, with a notebook and pencil is ok!)
- Read the comment section of the posts to get a feel for the conversation style and learn to recognize quality commenting
- Start to practice commenting on your chosen blogs to become part of the conversation
As you read, keep the following in mind:
- What do you like about the blog writing? Notice style, visuals, content, language, author’s voice.
- What don’t you like about the blog writing?
- Do you recognize techniques that extend the traditional forms of writing?
- Be always conscious about your own learning as you are reading.
Here are links to sample blogs for different grade levels and subject areas to give you a head start in finding quality examples of blogs related to teaching. You will want to choose a variety of blogs including a classroom blog, a professional blog, a student blog, etc.
- Linda Yollis’ Classroom Blog This blog is a wonderful example of how to showcase authentic learning experiences in the classroom. Linda also engages her students and readers to comment and contribute content throughout the year. Pay special attention how Linda involves her students’ families with an annual Family Blogging Month.
- Huzzah Classroom Blog What I love about this classroom blog is something they share in the sidebar of the blog: Please notice our successes, not our mistakes. Our blog is an invitation to see what we are up to. Some of our work will be polished, and some will be in draft form. Please honour our attempts. We are learning!
- Miriam’s Magical Moments (Elementary School) Quality student blog. Variety of subject matter. Integration of digital images Comments back to all visitors/Great blogging etiquette
- Charlotte: Capturing My Education Electronically (High School) A fantastic documentation of school projects, writing samples, and reflections. She also includes “Twitter Pitches” to be able to dissemniate her blog posts to a wider audience (ex. http://blogs.zis.ch/2089/2015/03/04/art-sunlight-project/)
- Simply AubreeA wonderful example of a young writer using the blogging platform to share her thoughts, interests, favorite things and just generally what is going on in her life.
School Professional Learning Hubs When schools come together to reflect and share their own learning, a wonderful hub of best practices, recommendations, ideas and thoughts are being amplified and disseminated. See three examples below of schools who learn together and share with each other and the world.
- Teaching & Learning at Graded, The American School of São Paulo – Brazil
- OJCS Leadership Blogs, Ottawa Jewish Community School
- Jenny Luca’s Intercepting the Web Jenny is Head of Information Services at a school in Australia. She blogs regularly on a variety of subjects, among them 21st century learning, libraries, and information literacy. I enjoy Jenny’s blogging style very much, because her thoughts are outlined clearly and supported with quality links (leading to interesting resources or an older, related blog post) or relevant embedded media (images or video).
- Castilleja Library Site This site has won the 2010 Edublog Awards in the Library Category. The site does a wonderful job in exemplifying the extension of a physical space into a virtual space. Student work, book reports are being showcased, as well as images videos and other “Cool Stuff”. Links to further resources and to online databases are easily accessible. The design of the sites complements the information it shares and is invites visitors to explore more.
- Liquid Literacy by Karin Schreier Hallett Liquid Literacy is a blog for educators and all who seek mastery of the new competencies required for navigating the information universe, in both print and digital formats. Karin shares her experiences as a teacher librarian engaged with K-8 students and faculty, creating, using and accessing information of all kinds. The blog features reviews of applications, actual lessons, product demonstrations, and lots more. Why liquid? Information media are no longer solid state–but exist in a fluid world where changes in technology have profoundly affected the nature of how we seek, retrieve, evaluate, create and share information. This blog explores topics in three general areas relevant to students in a K-8 environment: Liquid literacy: The competencies necessary for accessing and evaluating the information universe. Liquid library: An exploration of print and digital media resources. Liquid learning: The use of technology tools for learning not bounded by library walls.
- The Daring Librarian by Gweneth Jones Gwyneth A. Jones, also known as The Daring Librarian. Daring defender of books, libraries, & lifelong learning! Super supporter of digital citizenship, curiosity, & intellectual freedom. Enthusiastic champion of transliteracy, creative commons, mobile media & shameless sharing. Fearless fighter of filters! Protector of goofballs & geeks! Committed to being a positive change agent within school community, district, state, nation, world, & the universe!
Technology in Education
- Rodd Lucier’s The Clever Sheep The blog’s title is intriguing enough to start reading Rodd’s blog, but it is the tagline that makes me come back and look forward to his posts: “Leading in a new Direction.” In his own words he is “on the lookout for opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations with others who see themselves as learners.” On his blog you will find ideas and resources to upgrade your traditionally taught lessons to the 21st century. As a teacher and consultant, Rodd shares specific examples, illustrated with images, to broaden his readers’ horizon and to start them THINKING about ” leading in a new direction”.
- Maggie Hos-McGrane’s TechTransformation Maggie is a fabulous writer. Her voice comes through on every post. I especially like how I can follow her train of thought as she reads books and connects ideas to her own experience and thoughts. Maggie also shares great practical tips as she coaches and supports teachers in technology integration, teaching and learning in general. Her advice is backed up by research and her own extensive experience as an international educator.
- Bill Ferriter’s Tempered Radical Bill writes with a very honest and clear style about topics that will be immediately relevant to any classroom teacher K-12. He uses his blog to reflect on his practice, establishes networks, lesson successes and failures, and anything else related to the practice of teaching. His blog seems to be for him to make sense of his own experience more than any kind of a public soapbox. A blog is simply a means to express. It doesn’t have to be heavily editorialized, chock full of great tools, or connected to every other blog on the planet. If you speak clearly about something you’re interested in, chances are you’ll find an audience. And even if you don’t, a blog is an easy way to document the progression of your own thinking as you develop as a professional.
- Edna Sackson’s What Ed SaidA blog about learning. Edna is a Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator at an International Baccalaureate PYP school in Melbourne, Australia. Her blog is a treasure trove around the topics of inquiry learning, global connectedness, promoting creativity, integrating technology, concept-driven learning, creating a culture of thinking and establishing learning principles.
- John Spencer John believes that every classroom should be filled with creativity and wonder. He wants to see teachers unleash the creative potential in all of their students so that kids can be makers, designers, artists, and engineers.
- Terry Heick’s TeachThough TeachThought covers an existing (and perhaps saturated) topic (education) from new and interesting perspectives (culture, media, and technology). It also has a combination of thorough editorials, easy-to-read digital essays, news, and helpful tools and multimedia for all stakeholders in education. Among other things, blogging is about serving others through your passion and expertise. It also features guest posts from other related blogs to expand its reach.
- Angela Stockman Angela is the author of the book Make Writing: 5 Teaching Strategies That Turn Writer’s Workshop Into a Maker Space Her blog is a fascinating mix of topics, around Documentation, Writing, Maker Space, Making Thinking Visible and Learning.
- Dan Meyer’s dy/danDan has figured out how to not only write about his own learning journey, but how to share lesson plans, resources and anecdotes from the classroom at the same time His use of videos and images to break up his posts and are enriching by visualizing a concept or lesson.
- Mr. Peterson’s Science Ed Blog Jeff is passionate about teaching science in a hands-on, dynamic, student-centered learning environment.
- Silvana Scarso Silvana holds an undergraduate degree in Engineering and a PhD in Instructional Technology. Although you will find a variety of topics on her blog, she frequently blogs about her engineering High School class and other STEM topics at her school.
- Troy Hicks- Digital Writing- Digital Teaching– explores the variety of issues related to teaching writing with new media for K-16 teachers and teacher educators.
- Stacey Shubitz and Betsy Hubbard –The Two Writing TeachersThey write about….what else?…writing. The blog is a place for them to practice their own writing in order to become better teachers of writing for their students, as well as to reflect on the process of teaching writing.
- Katherine Sokilowski’s Read Write and Reflect“Exploring literacy and reflection in the 5th grade classroom.” She openly shares her journey as a reader, writer and teacher; and her blog is an amazing resource.
- The Nerdy Book ClubThe Nerdy Book Club is written by a variety of teachers and children’s authors from around the globe. It’s an ongoing love-letter to reading and literature. From their “about” page: “If you love books, especially those written for children and young adults, then you are an honorary member of The Nerdy Book Club. Like us, you probably always have a book along to read, a title to recommend, and time to talk about works held dear.”
- Shana Gutterman’s Art – http://shoshyart.weebly.com/ Shana’s blog is where art meets, language arts, social studies, math, science and technology
- Shira Waldman’s Art Blog- http://ojcsart.edublogs.org/
- Gareth Ritter’s Ask a Music Teacher– Gareth is a music teacher from the UK. He has student video tutorials and audio examples to share, which help make his blog real, not theoretical. As the title of the blog already gives away, Gareth encourages his readers to ask questions, especially in “around the topic of innovative teaching and the use of technology in the classroom, particularly within music.”
- Connected Principals– The Connected Principals site is a group blog. Principals from different school communities share openly and transparent their trials and errors, successes and thoughts around education and leadership. You will find different writing styles on many topics of interest to administrators.
- Eric Sheninger- Education is a reflective practice. This blog provides Eric’s views on educational leadership, effective technology integration, best practices, and creating a student-centered learning culture.
- George Couros– George is the author of The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity and frequently shares his experience about blogging and encouraging other educators to share their learning.
- Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings– The diversity of content, use of images to fill out content, linking to other blogs (very important part of blogging), and, perhaps most of all, it covers an interesting topic with passion and consistency.
- Discuss with a colleague or in the comment section below what Dean Shareski’s quote: “Blogging is about writing, but it begins with reading.” means.
- How can you make reading other blogs part of your routine and a habit? Share your ideas in the comment section below
- Describe in the comment section below recommendable characteristics of blogs you enjoy reading.
- Now that you “read” all about the importance of reading blogs to start your blogging journey, how would you share what you learned with a colleague?
- Recommend a blog you read regularly (or are planning to read), explain why another educator would benefit from subscribing to that blog.
- Create a Feedly account and subscribe to at least five blogs.
21st century skills: Skills that are increasingly important for all people to be competent, educated citizens. The 5 C’s of communicating, collaborating, connecting, creating and critical thinking are skills that lead to the capabilities of developing capacity in an amplified way and support 21st century literacies.
21st century literacies: These literacies expand beyond the basic literacy of knowing how to read, write and communicate our ideas effectively. Under 21st century literacies, also known as contemporary, modern or “now” literacies, we understand global literacy, media literacy, network literacy, information literacy and digital citizenship.
Blogfolios: blogs + digital portfolios = blogfolios. Digital portfolios on a blogging platform
Metacognition: The awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes. Thinking about your thinking.
RSS Feed & RSS Reader: RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. An RSS reader is designed to gather and display RSS feeds. Subscribing to a website RSS feed removes the need for the user to manually check the website for new content.
Feedly: An example of an RSS Reader- http://feedly.com/
Flipboard: An example of an RSS Reader – https://flipboard.com/
This was the first post in a series of seven blog posts digging deeper into learning about blogging FOR your students.