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Student Led Conferences: Sick and Tired of Blogs & Reflection?

SLC

Our students just finished a second round of Student Led Conferences (SLC) this school year (one in Semester 1 and another in Semester 2).

SLCs are a formal opportunity for students to present to their parents about the state of their learning. The students’ advisor (a teacher responsible for a specific group of students during the school year) serves as a facilitator to prompt and guide the students if needed, but is a silent presence as the students share their learning with their parents. SLCs are not a time to talk about grades, student behavior, but about learning habits, process, improvements and goals.

Although there was emphasis placed on an ongoing documentation of each subject area as learning and reflection happened throughout the school year, a significant amount of time was dedicated to prepare for the SLCs

Preparation for Student Led Conferences

Each subject area had to be represented with at least one blog post. Each SLC blog post was to contain a title, an artifact, a reflection and be properly labeled.

slc-post-components

Min Kyung’s Blog

SLC-example

SLC-example2

Karin’s Blog

SLC-example3

Juan Carlos’Blog

SLC-example4

 

SLC-example5

 

Ji Won’s Blog

SLC-example6

Using the documentation posted to their blogfolios (process and showcase items), they select posts and artifacts that best demonstrated improvement or mastery of a learning target. Students connected their learning to specific school identified Core Values.

The slides below were shared with students to guide them through the process of preparing for the SLC. (Thank you Claire Arcenas for written directions as well as Visible Thinking Routines)

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 Student Led Conference

Students and parents gathered with the advisor for up to 30 minutes in a classroom setting. The student’s blog site was projected to the screen and students used the artifacts as a trigger to talk about their learning. They spoke about their challenges, successes and areas of growth in relationship to the Core Values. Parents were encouraged to ask clarifying questions at any time. To wrap the SLC up, students spoke about the learning that occurred by going though the process of preparing for the conference and their learning goals for the last quarter.

Notes and Reflections

There was a loud rumbling noise among students in the days that lead up to the SLC.

Comments such as the ones below were expressed by many:

  • “We are tired of writing reflections”
  • “I am sick of having to write a blog post in EVERY SINGLE CLASS!”
  •  ”Why do I have to do this?”
  • “I am writing what my teachers want to hear, but not really what I think.”

I seriously started to doubt the approach to support Blogging Beyond One Classroom. Was it inevitable, if students were expected to “learn, reflect, share”for all their classes  (from Math, Humanities, Science to Orchestra to Physical Education), that they were going to burn out? Could the “exponential explosion” of reflective blog posts  clumped together in the immediate days before the SLC be blamed for it?

reflective school culture

Was “too much of a good thing”…. well simply too much?

  • Did we need to be more selective with WHAT types of reflections we asked students to make their learning visible? (Not every assignment, project or activity needs to be documented and reflected on?)
  • Did we need to adjust our language to not bunch everything under an umbrella of “Please write a reflection on your blog”.
  • I am reminded that “It’s one thing for us as teachers to articulate the kinds of thinking we are seeking to promote; it is another for students to develop a greater awareness of the significant role that thinking plays in cultivating their own understanding.” ( Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhard, Mark Curch and Karen Morrison). Do we need to double our efforts in helping students develop that awareness and continue to give them the why behind maintaining a blog (learning, reflecting and sharing as part of an overall process)?
  • Did we need to change/alter/modify the routine of adding the reflection as a separate piece, tagged on the end of a assignment, project or activity?

Despite the fact that students openly did not seem to “enjoy” the process  of  blogging and reflecting as it was happening in the days before the SLC (among my advisory students), it was unanimous (again informal survey from among my advisory students) that the process of reflecting, thinking about one’s learning and going back to re-read/watch/look at previous posts and artifacts  to identify areas of growth HAS helped and they are glad to have gone through the process.  Students also recognized and articulated in their SLC specific learning opportunities and teaching methods from many of their classes that inspired and supported them in their learning process.

SLCs are an opportunity for:

  • Authentic opportunity to showcase skills in information literacy (organizing, categorizing and archiving of information created and published)
  • Building blocks of a positive digital footprint (How do we support and guide our students to positive online publishing? What does it mean to be “googlable?” How do we not only build, but also maintain a positive digital footprint?) 
  • Digital citizen issues come to surface (What is shared? Why should we share? Observance of copyright. How do we keep ourselves safe? )
  • Evidence of using technology to demonstrate learning (Technology is not only about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or video games. “Digital natives might be wizards in using technology in other domains, but need guidance for using it for learning)
  • Resource or non-academic subjects are given time in conference and equally contribute to the students’ learning profile
  • Advisors have a chance to step outside of their own classrooms and learn about their colleagues’ work

As compared to first semester’s SLC:

  • Overall blog quality has improved (communication through a variety of media forms, logistics of inserting & embedding different media, beginning of hyperlinked writing, advantages of writing  in digital spaces became evident)
  • As blogfolios are continued being  maintained, it is possible to track learning over time
  • The connections to the Core Values seemed much more natural and not an add-on
  • Student (oral and visual) presentation skills were practiced  in a supportive environment
  • Students and parents focused less on academic grades and more on learning habits and process
  • SLC served and supported parent education in terms of modern skills, literacies and learning pedagogies

Juan Carlos‘ Blog:

“I used to think my learning was accomplished by simple things such as paying attention , doing my work and taking it seriously but now I know that learning has more than those things , you need to be reflective , critical thinker and also a communicator. You need to apply all the core values to able to learn in an effective way.”

Kari’s Blog

“In which of the core values did you show the most progress or growth?  What makes you say that? 
I am getting better at communication.  I am learning more Portuguese and improving with my blog and other technologies.  This is very important in terms of communication.  Balanced says that you can communicate in multiple languages.  Improving in Portuguese means that I can communicate more to people who do not speak English.  Also, I am getting better at using my blog which is another form of communication.  People can come on and see my work and how I use my Blog.”

“I used to think my learning was mostly about critical thinking, but now I think my learning is more about being reflective.  Sometimes you cannot really grasp what you have learned unless you reflect on what you have done.  This is an important part of learning and changing your learning habits and becoming better at something.  If you just do something once and then never again, you don’t really learn anything .  Reflection makes you rethink again and understand better. “

Now what?

Where do we go from here? My hope is to continue:

Where are you in your journey of student digital portfolios/blogfolios? How do you prepare, run and learn from Student Led Conferences?  Contribute to the exchange of ideas, thoughts, experiences, doubts, failures and successes? We are all pioneers. No one has done this for years and is an expert. We are all learning along the way. Let’s help each other. Leave a comment or connect on Twitter, but don’t keep your observations and perspectives on the topic to yourself.

Making Blogging Visible

As I am speaking of the benefits of blogging as a professional and student, I sometimes wonder if the word “blogging” is not a word we speak as we talk at cross-purposes with other educators.

When I use the word “blogging”, I am NOT seeing :

  • technology
  • a project
  • an add-on to the curriculum content.

When I use the word “blogging”, I am seeing:

  • learning how to read and write in digital spaces
  • the possibility of writing for an authentic global audience
  • a platform for reflection, investigation, documentation and curation
  • a platform that supports and amplifies modern skills and literacies

On the tails of Visible Thinking Routines for Blogging, comes this new blog post that wants to make Blogging VISIBLE!

A few days Blake Wile tweeted “Actual screenshots of blogs are so useful”

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So, I am continuing to highlight, screenshoot and annotate to make it VISIBLE what I think,  when I say “blogging”. There is value in auditing blog posts and comments transparently in order to help other educators in the process of understanding the value of blogging in all area of learning. I am not adding assessment for traditional writing skills (grammar, vocabulary, genres, etc. )to the scenarios below, trusting that teachers will see and find ways to use blog posts/comments for formative assessment of these traditional skills and objectives.  I am placing emphasis on modern skills and literacies as well as the goal of transformational use of blogging as a platform to support these objectives in ways that traditional paper and pencil could can’t do.

Scenario 1: Connections (to other people as well as resources)

A sixth grade Humanities student, writes a blog post during the study of Apartheid in South Africa. His post shows evidence of connecting his thinking to other learning experiences and to further resources, by hyperlinking (one instance, moving up along the Taxonomy of hyperlinks)

pedro-blogpost-connecting

He receives a comment from a classmate,  that alters his thinking. She not only points out the parts of his post, that she agrees/disagrees with, but she ADDS to his thoughts. The commenter is actively looking to continue a conversation with the author of the post. It will become part of the learnflow (in time…) Although he does not respond to the commenter directly as a reply to her comment, he shows evidence of reading and embedding her thoughts into his own thinking by leaving a comment on another classmate’s post.

He refers back to the comment that was left for him. [In time...] he will also leave a (hyper)link to the original comment that was left, to follow his train of thought.

PicCollage- comments

Scenario 2: Process

In another 6th grade class, the teacher asked students to take notes on a Popplet, document their understanding of a topic at different points of the unit.They visually mark their notes by color coding bubbles, changing the colors after another learning activity or resource explored on the topic.

Using the popplet as their notes, students write a blog post reflection/summary of their understanding  at different points in time.

  1. The first summary being written after a “visual gallery walk”, where student were exposed to images about the topic
  2. The second summary after a text source
  3. Third summary after further reading of different perspectives on the topic

The image below models the next step of asking students to make their learning process and (potential)  growth VISIBLE.

soweto uprising

Students were asked to create their own annotated screenshot of the 3 summaries from their blog and color code facts, insecurities in their knowledge, incorrect facts that they believed to be true and cause and effect of events. The screenshot image below was created with Skitch

soweto- process visual

Scenario 3: Process

In a Media Basics’ class, students  document and reflect on the process of creating and learning, not just a final product. In addition, giving and receiving feedback becomes part of the workflow and learnflow. Not only does the feedback come from more than one person (traditionally a teacher), but it also allows the person who GIVES the feedback to see that it he/she had an impact on the work.

In time, the posts will include content specific vocabulary, with evidence of using them in appropriate context as well as explanations. The posts will CONNECT with (hyper)links to previously written posts and reflections, showing evidence of growth in skills.

Media Basics-process1

 

Scenario 4: Commenting (beyond isolated opinions and non-value added compliments)

Another example from my Media Basic class. I made commenting part of our classroom routine. Students READ and LEAVE QUALITY FEEDBACK for their classmates. This could become part of warm-up work, an exit ticket, review or homework.

As I  leave feedback for individual students, I  model commenting for my students at the same time.  Emphasis is placed on connecting to the conversation that is going on in the comment sections and adding value to the original post for the author  (and other readers) by giving constructive feedback supported by examples. In time… as receiving and leaving comments becomes ingrained, so will writing with an audience in mind.

media-basics-blogging-post1-audit

 

The sample scenarios above are from Middle school classrooms. Take a look at a previous blog post, titled Assessment in the Modern Classroom: Part Three- Blog Writing or Quality Blogging and Commenting Audit meme  solicited further links to blog writing and commenting audit  as a form of assessment in an elementary school classroom. ( by Stef Galvin, Andrea Hernandez, Sheri Edwards, Tracy Watanabe, Kathryn Trask, Shauna Hamman)

Do you have samples, screenshots and annotations for High School? Why not share and link to them in the comment section?

 

 

Anatomy, Grammar, Syntax & Taxonomy of a Hyperlink

Hyperlinks make the World Wide Web what it is. If links did not exist, EVERY web page would be a stand alone. Let’s take a close look at these “clickable thingies” :)

wormhole2

I  like the metaphor of thinking of hyperlinks as the “wormholes”, that transport us from one section of the universe to another, which is being mentioned on the Web Writing Style Guide 1.0 on the WritingSpaces.org site:

While U. S. Senator Ted Stevens’ metaphor of the Internet as a series of tubes (2006) is inaccurate, we can reasonably think of hyperlinks as the paths (or if you want to get sci-fi geeky: wormholes) through which we travel across the World Wide Web. Click a link and almost instantaneously you will move to a new page within a web site or—seemingly magically—to some new website hosted half way around the globe. In fact, the importance of hyperlinks cannot be overstated; there is no web without hyperlinks connecting one text to another (or more often, one text to many).

Hyperlinks make a word or a series of words “clickable”. Traditionally they underline the chosen word or phrase and are recognized by changing the font color to blue. Themes and other formatting of website  can change the appearance of links. [Langwitches blog currently uses a theme that turns the "clickable" word or phrase to a bold format (not blue nor underlined).]

Many educators struggle to make the transition from writing on paper, traditional student journals or worksheets to an online platform (ex. blogs or wikis)  for themselves and for their students. Ann Davis’ says “It is not just a matter of transferring classroom writing into digital spaces”. I wholeheartedly agree with her.

They struggle because writing in digital spaces is a different than writing on a physical piece of paper.  Most of them struggle, due to the lack of knowledge and practice  of reading and writing in digital spaces on their own part. Let’s become aware of the use AND quality of hyperlinks as we read and surf the web.

Tip: Take a closer look at this blog post you are reading right now on Langwitches. You will see hyperlinks sprinkled across the post. I have included  different levels of links from the Hyperlink Taxonomy. Are you aware of the hyperlinks? Can you find and classify the different ones?

There are three aspects of a hyperlink that I want to pay close attention to:

  1. the anatomy (the bodily structure) of a hyperlink
  2. the grammar & syntax (a particular analysis of a system and structure of language and the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language)
  3. the taxonomy (the classification) of a hyperlink

anatomy

link-anatomy

 

grammar-syntax

One of the faux pas, I often see in hyperlinked writing, are “grammatical  and syntax” errors in expressing a well formed sentence while including hyperlinks.

taxonomy

Hyperlinking goes well beyond simply adding “clickable words” to an otherwise static, unilateral, linear, one dimensional and disconnected text. Critical thinking and strategy skills are needed to include “higher order hyperlinks. A digital writer can

  • emphasize (point their readers) to a virtual place or connect them to a specific idea and concept by choosing what kind of link to place in their hyperlinked text.
  • mix form and content to open up  different dimensions, making their writing non-linear, multi-layered and connected.
  • use the hyperlink as a medium to convey her/his own train of thought

link-taxonomy

 

taxonomy-hyperlink-1

Download the Makeup of a Hyperlink as a pdf file.

I am open to changes, additions to this first attempt to create a Taxonomy of Hyperlinked Writing. Please help continue to develop it by adding, questioning or tweaking.

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