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Coming Soon: Stepping it Up- Learning About Blogs FOR your Students

Over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a guide  (in several parts) for teacher, new to blogs and blogging with their students. The guide will be based on the assumption, that in order for a teacher to facilitate quality student blogs, the teacher needs to have their own understanding of quality blog writing.We will

Stepping it Up: Learning About Blogs FOR your Students

Stay tuned for:

  • Part I- Reading
    As teachers, we need to be aware of  blogging potential in relationship to learning. We need to formulate and address intended student learning outcomes beyond checking off “technology integration” on our lesson plans. Becoming an avid blog reader of a variety of other blogs will help expose teachers to the potential blogging holds. As we read blogs regularly, the better we will become in RECOGNIZING learning opportunities, GAGING the quality (or lack) of our own students’ blogs.
    This part will include sample blogs for different grade levels and subject areas to give teachers a head start in finding quality examples.
  • Part II-A- Writing
    addresses the need for teacher to be writers (bloggers) and to experience the process of learning for themselves, if they are to teach/model/coach/facilitate writing via student blogs.
  • Part II-B- Student Writing
    We acknowledge that most of us (teachers) did not grow up with blogs, nor did someone teach us how to write our own blog or comment. If we require our students to blog,  we need to be become knowledgeable about blog writing. Quality blog writing includes

    • logistics of digital writing, such as hyperlinking, embedding media, categorization, etc.
    • focused quality content
    • traditional quality writing characteristics
  • Part III- Commenting
    We are our students’ first and primary commenters. When we comment on our students’ blogs, we model quality writing AND content as well as encourage them to expand their own horizons to make connections in the online world. It takes time to learn how to become a quality commenter FOR our students. We, as teachers, need to
    • model commenting
    • model writing
    • model proper grammar, etc.
    • take the time to discuss and reflect on comments left by others on our blogs
    • to respond to continue a conversation.
  • Part IV-Connecting
    We need to make a conscious effort to connect our students to a global authentic audience. A global audience for our classroom or individual student blogs does not happen on its own. How do teachers drive traffic to their students’ blogs in order to connect them to an audience?
    • Joining pre-existing blogging projects
    • tweeting to our network
    • cross posting and linking on our professional blogs
  • Part V-Reciprocation
    If we expect others (educators, mentors, etc.) to take the time to comment on OUR students’ blogs, we need to be prepared to reciprocate. If we want our students to have an audience, we need to be the audience for others. Teach your students to leave quality comments on other blogs with a link back to their own blog or formally volunteer to be a mentor teacher for other blogging classes or students.
  • Part VI- Consistency
    We are understanding that blogging is not about technology, but about literacies (old & new) and learning. Blogging is a process, not an event that happens as a culminating activity to a lesson or unit.
    Consistency, in using blogs as a platform, constitutes a building block
    • to build classroom learning communities
    • to experience the cognitive process of learning over a period of time
  • Part VII- Quality
    Reading, responding, assessing and monitoring our students’ progress on their blog requires pedagogical commitment. It is a commitment to student learning, not a commitment to using a specific technology platform. How does an assessment for student blogging look like? How can teachers recognize, encourage and support quality student (digital) writing?


Learning About Blogging FOR Your Students

Since writing my last blogs post titled We are Blogging…Now What? Stepping it Up!, my train of thought has turned towards creating a guide for teachers, new to blogging WITH their students. Blogging with students is a process, not an end in itself! In order for a teacher to facilitate and mentor his/her students in blogging, he/she has to have a clear understanding how blogging can enhance and benefit the learning process. That thought has taken me to focus on:

Teachers learning about blogging FOR their students!

  • How could I make it easier for teachers to learn about the process of teaching and learning with blogs?
  • How can blogging enhance student learning?
  • What are components of QUALITY blogs?
  • How can I guide teachers in experiencing a shift in teaching and learning and help them make a pedagogical commitment to blogging.

Chic Foote, commented on my post (which was cross posted on the Curriculum21 Ning)

As an educator who reads a wide range of blogs,  I really endorse the importance of this strategy as a way to develop insight and understanding of quality blogging.  However as a novice blogger,  I am realizing the importance of being selective about the range of blogs I read in order to get the greatest advantage from the reading I have time to do.  You have prompted me to think about what I find most engaging and what makes me want to continue to follow a blog.  Thank you Silvia!

Considering my own experience, and how it will inform my writing in the future, has started me thinking about the range of teachers I work with and what this will mean for them.  There are those that would find these guidelines a helpful addition to what is, for them, a natural process. But for others who are not so familiar or confident with blogging there may be a need for further scaffolding.

There is such an expanse of material out there and it would be very easy for over worked teachers to feel swamped with the vast array of difference. To guide teachers it might be helpful to suggest choosing a strand (theme/focus) and a number of blogs to follow over a period of time……perhaps 4 different blogs.  They can then really get a sense of what they identify as quality and how this might inform their blog writing and their strategies to gauging and guiding quality student blogs.

As teachers develop the confidence in managing time to read and review their (4) selected blogs there will be a natural extension to reading other blogs.  The increased range of blogs read will become self perpetuating.

Perhaps with this deliberate scaffolding we can help a wider range of teachers gain confidence. This increased confidence will lead them to discover the rich opportunities for blogging to replace the more traditional forms used to apply skills and content knowledge.

Thanks to Chic for pushing my thinking further and to dig deeper in order to help educators who are just starting out in their journey of using blogs as a platform for LEARNING.

You can help too, by contributing links to quality blogs for a variety of grade level and subject areas that can provide a solid start for “novice blogging” teachers to learn from. You can fill out this form as many times as you wish.

The document with the contributions is available to everyone.


First Graders- First iPad Encounters

The iPads are finally set up and ready to go into the classrooms! It happened to be our first graders who were the first ones to get their hands on them!

A few days ago, I tested and reviewed a great new app: Book Creator. I felt it was a great opportunity for our first graders, who had just finished a unit on butterflies, to create a book about the different stages of a butterfly and their learning reflection as a culminating activity.

Students wrote a story, as a class, about the different stages of the butterfly. We shared their words with our Art teacher who would be working with the students to create the illustrations for the book.

The first time, I brought the iPads into the class, we spent time talking about the care and handle of the devices.

When picking the iPad up from the teacher we reminding them to

  • carry the iPad with two hands to their desk
  • set them down as quietly as possible
  • don’t hold the iPad from the SmartCover
  • don’t walk around the classroom with an iPad in your hand
  • no pulling, showing or tugging on someone else’s iPad

It was important to also introduce “iPad” vocabulary to our first graders, so we would all be able to use a common language when instructing or asking questions. We introduced this first time the following lingo:

  • Home button
  • screen
  • swiping
  • sliding
  • tap
  • apps
  • icons
  • pinch in/ pinch out
  • front camera
  • back camera

The introduction was done with the whole class. We then split into groups. These groups rotated in and out of the classroom to go to Art to start working on their watercolor illustrations. The rest stayed with us in the classroom to become familiar with the iPad.

We projected the iPad to the screen at the front of the room to show them the two apps we would be “playing” with that day: iBooks,  Doodle Buddy.

As we showed them one of the student created eBook , as an example,  it was the perfect opportunity to examine some of the similarities (author, illustrator, text, images) and differences (spine, turning pages vs. swiping pages) between a traditional printed book and an eBook.

Each student then was free to read the eBooks we had pre-loaded on the iPad, and then move on to Doodle Buddy. They discovered quickly the Tic-Tac-Toe and Maze backgrounds as well as the stickers with attached sounds. All in all it was a great way for students to get comfortable with touching, swiping, sliding, drawing and overall handling of the iPad.


By the second encounter, students were ready to learn to use the built-in camera app of the iPad2. We had the entire class together for this session. We showed them the location of each little camera on he front and back of the device and helped them locate the camera app. There were lots of giggles when they learned how to switch between the front and back facing camera. They then could practice taking their own picture. Not an easy task, when keeping in mind to LOOK at the camera lens, instead of the button to shoot the picture.

We showed them WHERE to find the pictures that they took (Photo Album) and how to swipe through the images.

Since this encounter involved:

  • the entire class together
  • six year olds having to pick up the device off the table and holding on to the iPad with one hand only, so they could use their other hand to snap the picture
  • silliness when shooting and viewing their own image
  • eagerness to share and show it off to their classmates

…it was a little unnerving, I was worried for the iPad to fall to the ground by accident or get pushed over the edge of the table. We might have to look into investing into protective iPad cases to prevent these worries in the future.

The following time I came to the first classroom, it was time to introduce them to the Book Creator app. This time the iPads were part of a center that students rotated through.

We reviewed how to find and open an app. I then showed them how to insert the image that they took of themselves the previous day. They then practiced resizing and moving the image.

During journal time, first graders had written a short reflection about what they had learned about butterflies during their unit of study. They also included a sentence how they felt about it.  They brought their (paper) journal to the table and learned how to bring up the iPad keyboard and to type their text.

A hush fell over the center as all the students were busy :

  • sounding words out
  • finding the letters on the keyboard
  • inserting spaces
  • learning that the cursor will automatically advance to the next line, if they ran out of space
  • being amazed that the iPad will capitalize the first word after a period automatically, etc.

I kept a student as a “helper” from a previous center rotation when a new student rotated into the center in order to help me with pointing out the insert image or text icons or location of the space bar or delete button.

I took a screenshot of a finished page in order to be able to email it to myself. I will crop the screenshot to then be able to insert that image into the final class butterfly book.

Looking back at these three “First Encounters with the iPad” sessions with our first graders, I am excited and thrilled. I can “feel” the potential, the engagement and motivation of the students. I can see how the devices will become a tool to bring instant information, growing collaboration, and creativity to the classroom.

Alan November’s powerful words on the motivating and empowering factor of “Leaving a Legacy“, in regards  to student learning, are ringing in my ears. We will be sharing the iPads among ALL of our students (K-8). I can  see how we can develop a cross grade level and cross subject area support center, media center, and library FOR and BY our students. My hope is that students will take ownership of these iPads to contribute their best work, knowing that they will be sharing it with the rest of the school.

The work students are doing with their “Butterfly Book”, will not only be seen by their current teacher and their parents, but will be part of research and background information for upcoming students in years to come.

Let’s create a culture of “valuing and celebrating learning” and sharing among ALL of the students at the school. (I am imagining 8th graders walking up to a 1st grader and talking to them about  butterfly information.)





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