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Resources from EdCamp Baltimore 2012

15 Nov

On November 10, I attended Edcamp Baltimore and had a great time! I came back with a host of new resources to check out and strategies to share with other teachers at my school.

Below are links to online resources that I wanted to check out, as well as my notes of all the sessions I attended. To access other resources shared during Edcamp Baltimore, check out the Edcamp Baltimore website and Storify. To learn more about Edcamps, visit http://edcampfoundation.org/vision/.

Links and Resources:

Tools for Flipping the classroom/Blended Learning

Tools for Collaborative Learning

Social Media sites for teachers

  • Tioki – Teachers connect with other teachers based on mutual interests.
  • Teachercast  – A place for teachers to help other teachers
  • Portfoliyo – free program to communicate with parents through text messaging
  • Kickboard – a social media site to develop classroom culture, academics, and build strong relationships with students and parents.

Smackdown – Teachers shared their favorite Web 2.0 tools

  • Mural.ly – Creative collaboration to map content in one space, collaborate in groups, and show your ideas
  • Wunderlist – a free task manager accessible on multiple platforms
  • Themeefy – grab links, photo and videos to allow students to tell a story
  • No Red Ink – Practice grammar and writing skills
  • Conceptboard – Instant whiteboards for teams and projects
  • Ten Marks – Interactive math website focusing on practice, instruction, assessment, and intervention

Twitter in the Classroom & Infographics

  • Hootsuite – Social media management dashboard
  • Twiducate – Social networking for schools. Free for teachers.
  • Visual.ly – Create or search for visual infographics
  • Easel.ly – Create and share visual ideas online
  • Infogr.am – Create interactive infographics

Blogging Resources

  • Clustrmaps – Know who is accessing your blog from across the world with this visual.
  • Quadblogging – read and comment on other blogs – share with other classrooms

EdTech Practices for 2012 – Tools for Unique Learning Products

25 Sep

In order to kick off your use of technology in the classroom this year, consider incorporating one of these educational best practices into your classroom!

This series of posts expands upon the list of resources collected for Mr. Chase’s AIMS presentation: “Easy Innovations: Web Tech Tools in the Classroom” from last year:

Previous Post:

  1. EdTech Practices for 2012 – Tools for the Process of Learning
'the view from the upstairs room' photo (c) 2010, waferboard - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Tools to create unique learning Products

These online resources are ideal for students and teachers to create unique digital products.

Presentation Tools:

  • Online presentation tools- Break out of the PowerPoint mold and consider using alternative presentation tools in the classroom. Either implement them yourself as part of your instruction, or have students create presentations online.
    • Prezi – This unique presentation tool allows you to zoom in and out around a large canvas, creating meaning through spatial relation.
    • Projeqt (new) – This presentation tool pulls from various social media streams to create unique presentations with strong visual impact.
    • ThingLink (new) – Create rich images with music, video, sound, text and more. Share and discover deeper stories through images updated with your content and metadata.
  • Online PPT Hosting- Share your PowerPoints online to gain a wider audience and encourage collaboration. Instead of forcing users to download files, online services allow you to upload PowerPoint files and add other features.
    • Present.me – With this service you can upload your PowerPoint and then record a video presentation to accompany the slides. The service offers a new educational pricing plan.
    • Slideshare – After uploading PowerPoints onto Slideshare, you can embed them on your Learning Management Systems, just like you would with a Youtube video.
  • Website Tours- More than just a collection of links, create a guided tour of web content to provide greater contexts for your students.
    • Jog the Web – Create a virtual tour of websites, walking users from one site to another with your notes.
    • Sqworl – Collect, annotate and organize your online resources in this clean, visual bookmarking site.
    • Weblist (new) – A simple repository of visual based links and resources.

Writing:

  • Online Documents - Have students write online to easily work on assignments; no more worries about lost USB drives or problems emailing documents.  Also, with online documents, students can easily collaborate on the same project, or contribute to a large classroom assignment.
    • Titan Pad – This web-based word processor that allows for simultaneous collaboration including a section devoted to instant messaging with other users.
    • Quietwrite – Use this simple online writer for easily capturing text with minimal distractions through a browser.
    • Entri – Entri is a collaborative tool that lets you share articles before you post them on your blog. Invite others to collaborate, or just keep everything to yourself.
  • Making Websites - Let your students share their learning with a wider, authentic audience outside of school by creating a website. Many of these sites now let you easily create a website without extensive coding experience.
    • Jux.com (new) – Easily create websites, online slideshows, video, streetviews, all linked from a central account. These sites create a high impact emphasizing images and multimedia in pre-formatted templates.
    • Simplebooklet (new) – Use this website to create “slider”-based websites with a unique visual look. The program comes with a free account option, as well as other pricing options.
  • Blogs - Blogs are ideal for continually updating content for your audience, meaning they are great for keeping your students up to date with important dates and assignments.
    • Kidblog (new) – Kidblog is designed for K-12 teachers who want to provide each student with an individual blog. Students publish posts and participate in academic discussions within a secure classroom blogging community.
    • Edublogs – This community contains blogs written by educators. Create your own edublog for use in the classroom, or just search for interesting blogs to follow.
    • Instablogg – Create instant, one post only blogs without an account for quick projects.
  • Wikis - Wikis allow you to create websites and then invite students to add content to the pages. Wikis can have various levels of control, but the idea is that students can collaborate together on one document, available on the web for a wider, authentic audience.
    • Wikispaces – Create a wiki for your students to allow them to collaborate on research assignments.
    • Hackpad (new) – This service lets you easily create a wiki that looks virtually like a collaborative document.
  • Digital Publishing Services (new)- If you want your students to create unique digital text-based products, consider having them publish online with these resources.
    • Lulu (new) – Use this service to have your students create their own print and ebooks
    • Flipsnack (new) – Create an online “Flipbook” from a PDF.

Multimedia Presentation Tools and Resources:

  • Podcasting/Audio- Have students create podcasts or audio projects in order to easily work with audio. Audio projects are great for auditory learners.
    • Voicethread – Create an account to use this great collaborative tool that lets students upload pictures and PowerPoint slides, personal commentary to each slide, and invite others to comment through voice, text, or video chat.
    • Audioboo – This tool and mobile app allows you to record and share audio with an authentic audience online.
  • Image Editing(new) – Let your students express their creativity with these photo and image editing services.
    • GIMP (new) – This free downloadable software is ideal for “such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.”
    • Be Funky (new) – Use this online editor to edit, add effects, frames and text to images.
    • Aviary (new) – This editing program lets you edit online, or through various downloadable apps.
  • Video and Animation- Students can create video or animation projects as unique final products. Video projects require students manage their time well, and be creative.
    • Goanimate – Create animation from animated templates, uploading your own voice or soundtrack.
    • Vialogues (new)- Private video-sharing service for discussions
    • My Storymaker from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (new) – This interactive format allows younger students to create their own stories using animated characters and objects.
    • Zimmer Twins (new) – Create an animated movie using Saturday-Morning Cartoon-style animated templates.
  • Screen Capture (and sharing)- Screen sharing services are ideal for emphasizing key concepts and using specific technology applications. With these incredibly easy-to-use screen casting tools, you can record and upload video in minutes.
    • Screenflow $99 – This software, the favorite of many bloggers and podcasters, allows you to “record the contents of your entire monitor while also capturing your video camera, microphone and your computer audio.”
    • Jing free (limited)/$14.95 per year – TechSmith, the makers of Camtasia, created this lightweight, easy-to-use screen capture software with both free and paid accounts.
    • Screenr free (limited)/variety of paid options- This web-based video recording system allows you to make webcasts without downloading any software.
    • Screencast-O-Matic free – Create screencasts of your desktop and access them online.
    • iShowU $29.95 – This Mac-only screen-casting allows you to easily record your screen, as well as your video camera and microphone.
    • Camtasia $99 – One of the first screen-capturing tools, TechSmith’s Camtasia offers versions for both Mac and PC and is ideally suited for your screen-capturing and editing needs.
    • ScreenChomp (for iPads) – This app by TechSmith allows you to turn your iPad into a screen-capturing tool.
  • Finding Free Multimedia Resources- Use these resources to find copyright-free images, audio and video for use in multimedia projects and presentations.
    • Creative Commons Search – Search various sites for copyright-free material.
    • Find Sounds – Search for sounds throughout the web
    • FreeSound.org – Freesound is a collaborative database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds. Browse, download and share sounds.
    • MorgueFile – Public image archive for creative images taken by photographers.
    • Office.com Images – Free images available from Microsoft.

Visualizing Information:

  • Infographics- Infographics are modern equivalents of charts, graphs, and maps in which large data sets are visually represented. It is important for 21st Century students to interact with visual information
    • visual.ly (new) – With Visually’s free tools you can easily create beautiful infographics in minutes, and share them with others through the social interface.
    • Chartle – Easily create complex online visualizations with this website.
    • Wordle – Upload text to create word clouds that make it easy to see the most common words used.
  • Mind-Mapping- Mind-mapping tools allow you to easily create flow-charts, word maps and more. These collaborative resources have interesting features.
    • Popplet – Create online mind-maps by easily dragging and dropping. Invite others to create accounts and contribute to your map.
    • Bubbl.us – Use this free website to easily create mindmaps
    • Northwest Missouri State University Mindmap – This free website lets you create a mindmap, with the option to save or print your work.

EdTech Practices for 2012 – Tools for the Process of Learning

21 Sep

In order to kick off your use of technology in the classroom this year, consider incorporating one of these online tools into your classroom!

This series of posts reiterates and expands upon the list of resources collected for Mr. Chase’s AIMS presentation: “Easy Innovations: Web Tech Tools in the Classroom” from last year. (Resources that did not appear in that presentation are marked here as “new.”)

'Day14-geared-up' photo (c) 2008, Lotus72 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/


Tools to enhance the Process of learning

These online resources are ideal for students and teachers to enhance the learning process.


Research Tools
:

  • Content Curation: Use online bookmarking systems and reader sites that allow you to subscribe to the Internet.
    • Pinterest – Share websites and images you find online on a virtual board. Invite others to share similar images on your board.
    • Pocket (Read it Later) (new) – Create an account with this service to easily bookmark articles and read them later. This service also formats articles with a clean background, removing flash ads for easy reading. Read it Later also offers robust mobile integration.
    • Google Reader – This Google service allows you to subscribe to “feeds” of information across the web. Keep track of new blog posts, comment threads, and more, all in one place.
  • Landing Pages: Instead of using Yahoo or Google as your homepage, make your own website with easy-to-access links. Consider creating pages for your students in order to easily drive them towards appropriate content.
    • Symbaloo – Use Symbaloo to create a web presence filled with bookmarks of your own choosing. You can organize the bookmarks within the intuitive interface in any way you choose.
    • Only 2 Clicks – Use this site to create an account and quickly access your favorite bookmarks in under 2 Clicks. Organize links in clickable folders.
  • Task Management / To Do Lists:  These sites allow users to manage tasks efficiently, with robust notifications and mobile apps to accompany the online experience. Use these websites to keep yourself on track. These sites would also greatly help students who struggle with organization and deadlines.
    • Any.do – (new) This Chrome extension is based on the popular Android and iPhone app to have quick and instant access to your to do lists.
    • Remember the Milk – This simple, free website helps you manage your tasks with a variety of services and apps, including iPhone Siri as well as Gmail integration.
  • Note-taking: Never lose your notes again! With these online tools you can access your notes from anywhere and collaborate with others by sharing with a larger group.
    • Evernote – With a variety of ways to create and store notes, Evernote is an ideal system for note-taking.
    • EasyBib / Noodle Tools (subscription-based) – Each of these services combines note-taking with citation manaagement.
  • File Management: If you forget to frequently backup files, and are sick of saving to email, consider creating an account to one of these services so you can access your files from anywhere.
    • Dropbox – With Dropbox, you can seamlessly create backups of all your important documents so you will never lose important files again!
    • Google Drive (new) – Google’s updated Google Docs system comes with a great downloadable application to sync your online docs with your desktop.
  • Citation: Make the research process easier for your students by using these citation resources
    • EasyBib / Noodle Tools (subscription-based) – Each of these services combines note-taking with citation manaagement.
    • Bib Me – This easy-to-use bibliography site focuses on one thing, and does it well: creating free bibliographies.

Communication Tools & the Social Web:

  • Learning Management Systems – An LMS is a website or web-app that helps teachers organize classroom content and learning through the use of online learning objects, discussion forums, and even interactive assessments. For more information, read Mr. Chase’s article “Blending Learning: Learning Management Systems
    • Moodle – Free and open-sourced, Moodle is an extensible course management system, currently used by Capital City PCS.
    • Edmodo – This social based learning management system is easy to set up, and is sure to engage students.
    • Canvas (new) – This robust course management system provides multiple features with a clean interface.
  • Online Study Groups: Encourage your students to use the power of social media for good!
    • eNotes (new) – This site offers homework help in addition to study guides and other educational resources.
    • Hoot.me – Turn Facebook into a study center to encourage students to connect with classmates and tutors.
  • Online flashcards: These online tools digitally recreate the act of quizzing with flashcards and are ideal as study aids.
    • Quizlet – Create flashcards with your own terms and definitions, or search from a database of flashcards. Share your flashcards with classmates, or assign them to students.
    • Easy Notecards – Search from an extensive library of user-created notecards, or create and share your own.
  • Backchannel – Consider creating a “parking lot” on the fly by having students use instant messaging services to pose questions and take collaborative notes
    • Today’s Meet – Easily create and share a chat room without the need to create registered accounts.
    • Chatzy (new) – Free, private chat rooms without registration
  • Video Conference:  Go beyond the walls of your classroom by letting your students interact with others across the country or world.
    • Skype – The industry-standard of web-based communication, Skype allows for audio-only, or video chat.
    • Facetime (new) – This Mac-app for OSX and iOS allows you to easily connect with other Mac users.
  • Polling: Like clicker systems, online polling sites give you instantaneous feedback from students. Easily create and conduct formative or summative assessments online.
    • Poll Everywhere / Mentimeter (new) – These polling systems allow teachers to easily create polls, but require students answer with their own mobile devices, or through a link online.
    • Google Form – Use your google apps account to easily create a form, sharing it with students in your classes.
  • Petitions/Real World Audiences: Allow your students to work on more meaningful projects by engaging in real world audiences. These sites are ideal ways for students to make a real, significant impact on their world.
    • Care 2: The Petition Site – Start a free petition and share it with your friends and the world.
    • Change.org – Start a petition, mobilize support and advocate for change.
    • See Click Fix – Use this site to report neighborhood issues and see them get fixed. Great for fixing local issues.

Note: This blog post is cross-posted with my other blog: Cap City Technology Tips

Blended Learning : Learning Management Systems – 2 of 3

14 May

Blending EducationIn the previous post, I reflected on various attributes of blended learning. In this and the next post I will focus on tools that can help K-12 teachers organize their classroom content and implement a blended learning model.

About Learning Management Systems

There are many different names for the organizational systems that teachers can use to structure their course content: classroom management systems, learning management systems, and virtual learning environments. Each of these systems does basically the same thing: organize classroom content and learning through the use of online learning objects, discussion forums, and even interactive assessments.

Learning Management Systems, or LMSs, are essential tools for blended learning.

Some LMSs emphasize the organization of content, and others prioritize social networking functions, even going so far as to mimic the look and feel of Facebook. There are also sites that do one thing well, focusing on grading systems, or tracking progress and assessing students based on standards.

Implementation Models of LMS in K-12 Schools

There are several ways that teachers and schools can implement Learning Management systems. Some schools mandate which platform teachers must use to ensure consistency, while other schools give teachers freer reign. Here are some of the most common ways these systems are implemented:

  1. Teacher creates her own system for her class to address specific classroom needs
  2. Group of teachers create a shared system for their division or department
  3. School or district provides consolidated system for ease of use & consistency of student experience
  4. Teachers or administrators facilitate students’ independent progress on an online course taken for school credit.

Evaluation of Classroom and Learning Management Systems

In order to best evaluate learning management systems, I have developed a criteria based on the most common and expected functions of LMSes. I used the Joomla LMS Learning Management System Comparison as a basis for this evaluation. The evaluation includes a weighted column so that teachers can track important software functions. This evaluation is a work in progress, and I hope to revisit this document in future months.


https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvGiOvWvIk7xdHV3VlVJU2tOQWdmdU1wXy1kSWp1Z2c#gid=0

Examples of LMS

Below are just a few of the Learning Management Systems currently available for K-12 schools. These systems range from all-in-one content management resources to systems specializing on a specific function.

District or All-School Managed Solutions

These LMSes require district, or school-wide adoption.

Blackboard This industry-standard company offers a variety of solutions for multiple educational markets. Ideal for district-based solutions, or schools willing to invest heavily in a learning management solution
Moodle This open-source learning platform is the major competitor to Blackboard. Ideal for district-based solutions, or schools looking to implement a consolidated system.
Canvas K-12 This LMS company offers a variety of services to a variety of markets, including K-12. “Canvas K-12 is a single, integrated system that bundles attendance, assessments, grading, state standards tracking, messaging, learning analytics, and more.”
Desire 2 Learn This LMS company offers a variety of services to a variety of markets, including K-12. Ideal for districts or schools looking for specific services.
Haiku LMS This LMS, specifically designed for K12 institutions is another competitor to Blackboard and Moodle.
Project Foundry This LMS is designed specifically to facilitate project-based learning, allowing teachers to monitor progress on student work. Ideal for schools or districts hoping to implement a consistent experience.
Sakai Sakai is a community based “Collaboration and Learning Environment” that provides a core set of functions. Additional modules, such as an eportfolio solution can be installed. The software can be accessed through a hosting services, or managed on in-house servers.

Systems with Varied-Management Options

These LMSes allow for different levels of implementations. Schools or districts may implement these tools to provide a standard system for all teachers and students. Teachers could also use these tools individually to create their own course management system, independent of their school.

Brain Honey This LMS allows teachers to create their own free course. The site offers paid solutions for “a variety of learning settings”.
Edmodo Edmodo is a social-based LMS, allowing for discussions, collaborations and online grading. While Edmodo is designed for teachers to create and manage their own courses, Edmodo can also be configured by districts and schools for central management.
Schoolology Schoolology is a social-based LMS with a variety of features. Teachers can create and manage their own courses with Schoolology, although schools and districts can also implement Schoolology to ensure a consistent experience.

Teacher-Managed Solutions

These LMSes allow teachers to create their own customized courses, independent of a district or school-based solution. Many of these systems are new to the market, or in beta form.

Collaborize Classroom With Collaborize Classroom, teachers can create an online LMS with a strong mobile presence, emphasizing social networks.
Diipo Diipo is in beta, and allows teachers to create an LMS for their particular course, implementing an interface based on social networking sites.
Lore (Formerly Course Kit) While seeming to focus on the higher ed market, this startup allows teachers to create and manage their own courses.

Other Solutions

While the above listed LMS tools have a variety of options, the below systems incorporate some, but not all, functions of an LMS. Many of these systems would be best used in conjunction with another LMS.

School Loop Offering a variety of services, School Loop focuses on achievement management systems, to enhance student learning. They also provide a gradebook system.
Jupiter Grades This online grading system helps teachers keep track and share assessment information with students and families online.
Active Grade This standards-based grading system is designed to help teachers collect effective feedback and manage their classrooms.
Class Dojo This real-time behavior management system advertises a boost to classroom engagement.
Mastery Connect With this system “teachers can effectively assess core standards, monitor student performance, and report student mastery to parents and administrators.”

What’s Coming Next?

Learning Management Systems have been growing and changing since the advent and mass adoption of social networks. In the upcoming years, many educators expect that much will change in this industry. Many of the new LMS companies focus on higher education, with subsequent roll-outs for K-12 and other markets. With more and more competition from various publishers and start-ups, some of the K-12 web sites listed on this blog post may not be around for long.

Bibliography

Bates, Tony. “e-learning outlook for 2012: will it be a rough ride?”
http://www.tonybates.ca/2012/01/02/e-learning-outlook-for-2012-will-it-be-a-rough-ride/

Joomla LMS Learning Management System Comparison
http://www.joomlalms.com/compare/

Watters, Audrey. “Why Every Education Company Needs an API”
http://www.hackeducation.com/2012/04/13/education-api/

Blended Learning – Combining Online Technology with Classroom Instruction : 1 of 3

21 Mar

Blending EducationIn this series of posts I will focus on ways teachers can implement a blended learning model in their classroom. Each post will delve into related types of resources, with recommendations for implementation and samples of use.

What is Blended Learning?

Blended learning addresses the way most students learn now: through a combination of online tools and tried-and-tested in-class instruction. A blended educational model stands in contrast to models where learning is conducted solely online (through virtual schools and online courses), and models that  introduces no online component (and they do exist).

According to Tina Barseghian, writing for KQED Mind/Shift,

Simply stated, blended learning is combining computers with traditional teaching. Knowing that today’s learners are wired at all times, teachers are directing students’ natural online proclivity towards schoolwork. It’s referred to as different things — reverse teaching, flip teaching, backwards classroom, or reverse instruction. But it all means the same thing: students conduct research, watch videos, participate in collaborative online discussions, and so on at home and at school — both in K-12 schools and in colleges and universities.

Blended learning is a purposefully vague descriptor. Instead of indicating a specific ratio of online to in-person instruction, focusing on a “blend” emphasizes the sporadic nature of the model. It can look different from school to school.

'Why?' photo (c) 2012, Bart Everson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Why Blend?

Even though most teachers already incorporate a blended model into their instruction (whether they know it or not), it is important to analyze how online resources and web apps are being used. Focusing on the reasons for teaching with a blended model may lead to greater success implementing these online tools.

We can’t afford not to

In many ways, the question teachers should ask is: “how can you not blend?” As Ken Key argues in his forward to 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn,

Twenty-first century skills are the ticket to moving up the economic ladder. Without 21st century skills, people are relegated to low-wage, low-skill jobs. Proficiency in 21st century skills is the new civil right for our times (xvii).

If we want our students to succeed, we need to prepare them for the needs of our digital marketplace. Our curricula must address key twenty-first century skills, including an enhanced focus on information, media and technology literacy. (For more details, visit the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.)

Our lives are already blended

'Texting' photo (c) 2009, Jeffrey Kontur - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Our students already live their lives in a combination of digital and real spaces. Mobile phones are getting so inexpensive and essential that the Pew Research Center estimates that as of 2010:

Some 75% of 12-17 year-olds now own cell phones.

Many parents and students have an expectation of constant contact through mobile devices, and this expectation may clash with school policies about phone use.

Online learning can be ideal for differentiation

More and more schools are looking to incorporate models that focus on student-driven learning. When engaging one-on-one with a virtual instructor, students dictate the pace of their instruction. Many teachers have been able to successfully incorporate online instructional tools such as the Khan Academy and Learnzillion to enhance remediation and basic skills.

Many other teachers are incorporating a flipped classroom model to assign recorded lectures as homework, allowing students more classroom time to work on their skills with enhanced teacher supervision.

Blended learning can potentially save costs by providing unique solutions

Teachers may be able to save costs on materials by using open online resources and learning management systems to create alternatives to textbooks. More and more tools, such as the iBooks Author app, are making it easier for teachers and students to create their own textbook materials from scratch.

Online tools can enhance parent involvement and student buy-in

More and more parents are beginning to expect access to their students’ learning materials online. A consistent school-wide use of online tools such as learning management systems and portals could encourage parents to take a more active role in their students’ education.

These same tools may also motivate students to engage deeper with their learning. Tapping into our students’ love of technology may be an ideal way to enhance the learning process, and drive our students to greater success.

'Toolbox Lock' photo (c) 2010, Dottie Mae - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Types of Tools

In future posts I will cover various tools that could be useful to enhance a blended instructional model. These posts will cover:

1 – Tools for Classroom Management:

  • Classroom/learning management systems
  • Grading systems
  • Project management systems

2 – Tools for Research & Supplemental Education:

  • Study tools
  • Personal learning networks
  • Content curation sites
  • Digital Portfolios

Sources

Three Trends That Define the Future of Teaching and Learning
Barseghian, Tina.
KQED: Mind/Shift. February 5, 2011.

Teens, Cell Phones and Texting: Text Messaging Becomes Centerpiece Communication
Amanda Lenhart
Pew Research Center Publications: Pew Internet & American Life Project. April 20, 2010.

Blended Learning: Combining Face-to-Face and Online Education
Wolpert-Gawron, Heather.
Edutopia. April 28, 2011.

A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute
Richtel, Matt.
New York Times. October 22, 2011.

Blogging with Students for Reflection, Collaboration, and Literacy

8 Feb

Keep Calm Blog On

As schools look to integrate 21st century and technology skills into the curriculum, more and more teachers are requiring student blogs in their classrooms. Blogs can be an ideal platform to teach 21st century literacies and NETS skills, including creativity/innovation, communication/collaboration, and digital citizenship.

More than “technology integration” however, blogs can be ideal for enhancing student reflection (particularly as part of an e-portfolio), and enforcing basic reading writing skills not specific to the 21st century. (Tolisano, Learning About Blogs for your Students – Part 1 Reading.)

Reasons for Blogging

As Silvia Tolisano argues in her essential series on blogging with students: Stepping it Up – Learning About Blogs For your Students, student blogging needs to stem from more than just a focus on technology integration. In her words, “blogging is not about technology, but about literacies (old & new) and LEARNING.” (Tolisano, Learning About Blogs Part 6.) Any technology program needs to stem from the skills we want our students to learn. This means that teachers need to clarify how blogs can enhance learning and understanding in their school.

Blogs could be effectively introduced into the classroom to:

  • enhance reading & writing skills in an authentic, real-world context
  • provide opportunities for innovation and creativity in an online format
  • communicate and collaborate with other students, parents, and schools from all over the country or world
  • allow for ongoing reflection of the learning process

Blogs are ideal for ongoing reflection, which can deepen understanding, particularly as part of an e-portfolio. Dr. Helen Barrett explains reflection in an e-portfolio context in her article Balancing the Faces of E-Portfolios:

Reflection takes place at several points in time: when the piece of work (an artifact) is saved in the digital archive (a contemporaneous reflection while the work is fresh on our minds… or reflection in the present tense)… thus the role of a blogging tool; and when (and if) this piece is included in the more formal presentation/showcase or summative assessment portfolio.

By maintaining a blog throughout their time in a course, students can actively reflect on their work while it is fresh.

Another great effect of classroom blogging is the way it can actively bring parents, guardians and other relatives into the learning process. With a public blog, family members can keep up with a child’s learning, providing much greater “transparency” (Luca).

Criticisms of Blogging with Students

Not all teachers are jumping onto the blog bandwagon, however. Some teachers have reservations about having students make their work accessible online.

Privacy & Safety

For many it is an issue of privacy and student safety. Many schools have strict Accessible Use Policies and media release policies that ensure that students names and faces will not be included on line. In order to securely use blogs, schools should alter existing policies, or create new ones specific to the use of blogs. (For more information on developing blogging policies and strategies, visit the Blogging in Schools Wiki developed by Pt. England School in New Zealand.) One solution to this concern about privacy is to make student blogs private, so that only community members can see them.

Sharing Non-Quality Work

For other teachers, making work online is more a concern due to the quality of work. Sharing rough works in progress may not be best for a school’s image. One way to work around this issue is to consciously address quality in blogs by setting expectations, and using rubrics and audits. Tolisano addresses the issue of quality in Part 7 of her Blogging series.

Time

Teachers consistently struggle with finding time for any new initiative, and blogs are no different. It can be extremely time-consuming for students to continually create posts of quality, as well as comment on other student blogs.

'003/365 - I'm blogging this.' photo (c) 2007, Anna Hirsch - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Strategies for Implementing/Assessing/Teaching Blogs

There are many ways you can introduce your blogging into your curriculum. Whatever model you choose, realize that there will be a learning curve for both yourself, as well as your students. It’s helpful to have the endpoint in mind and develop a game plan to get you where you want to be.

Choose a Strategy

Here are only a few ways teachers have begun getting their students to blog:

  1. Teacher sets up and manages a classroom blog; students can log in to comment on teacher posts, and submit posts to the teacher. Only the teacher has the ability to upload to the blog
  2. One classroom blog is administered by a teacher. Students are given editing access from their own accounts.
  3. Teachers administer multiple student blogs. Students post to their own individual blog to maintain their personal learning reflections. Students are encouraged to comment on each others’ posts.

Choose a Blog Platform

Whether you are creating one class blog, or having students create multiple blogs, you should choose one consistent blogging platform. See which platform works best for your needs.

  • Blogger – Ideal for schools with Google Apps for Education; Blogger must be turned on in the administrator settings.
  • WordPress – An industry standard for a reason, WordPress blogs offer a variety of customizations.
  • Kidblogs – Built specifically for elementary and middle school teachers, Kidblogs allows for secure blogs.
  • Edublogs – Created for K-20, Edublogs lets you easily create & manage student & teacher blogs.
  • Posterous – This simple, easy-to-use platform allows you to easily create a blog.

Find Free Images

When introducing blogs, teachers should also stress the importance of finding meaningful images to enhance posts. Blogs could be a great way to also introduce how to cite sources and access creative commons images. (For a great video explaining Copyright and Creative commons, go to the Common Craft website.)

  • Flickr Creative Commons – Search all of Flickr for images marked Creative Commons.
  • Morgue File – Search this site for free high resolution digital stock photography and because of the Morgue File’s free license, you don’t have to attribute your sources.
  • Office.com Images – Microsoft’s online Clip art and stock photo library
  • Wylio – Made for bloggers, this site lets you search Creative-Commons images and then creates code for you to easily add these images to your blog with a proper citation.

Teach Commenting

One of the most interesting components of blogs are their social nature. Blogs are just one part of a larger conversation going on within the Internet. One way that you can keep the conversation going is to make sure students not only blog, but learn how to comment on other blogs.  

Assess with Rubrics & Audits

Make sure to hold your students accountable for their blogs. Consider making a standard rubric to assess student blog posts, and make sure to conduct blog audits to see how often students are posting.


Models for Student Blogs

Check out these sites for great examples of student blogs in action. Blogging has become an integral part of the curriculum at these schools:

These articles and blog posts contain links to exemplary student blogs:

'Blog Marketing Up Close Pen Graphic' photo (c) 2008, Maria Reyes-McDavis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Related Trends:

Online Education, Digital Literacy/21st Century Learning

Recommended Articles

Resources for Implementation Strategies

Digital Portfolios – Course to Expand Learning

29 Jan

I am taking an online course led by Dr. Helen Barrett called Introduction to E-Portfolios in K-12 Schools. I will share many of my notes and reflections on my ePortfolio learning blog: Chip’s ePortfolio Learning.

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