Blogs: What are they and do they have a place in the classroom?
My exploration into the world of blogging has taught me that blogs are a technological tool with great potential in the classrooms of even our youngest students. Blog posts are like short news articles or a diary of what has been happening in the classroom, but they also open the door for two-way communication between students and a world-wide audience. The 21st Century Learners in these classrooms are gaining important life-long skills through the use of technology. Students have the opportunity to digitally document their own learning journeys. They can also teach others important concepts they have learned through the use of video clips. Skype allows groups of children to connect with one another or with special guests such as an author. A blog can provide information that students may not always share with parents, strengthening the home-school connection. Yes, blogs do indeed have a place in the classroom for those teachers willing to stretch themselves and their students. For those of you who wish to begin blogging, here are some excellent examples of the variety of ways you may incorporate technology into your own classroom.
Motto: “A Class of Six-Year Olds Inviting the World Into Their Classroom”
This nicely organized blog from Saskatchewan, Canada opens to a class picture of the students, which I think helps viewers make a more personal connection to the site. The world is invited into this classroom of six-year olds as daily learning activities are captured through pictures and videos. These young children are given guidance in creating their own “learning” blogs as they take those first steps toward developing positive digital footprints. In one of several links to great resources, Ms. Cassidy describes the benefits of digital portfolios including the feedback students receive from a worldwide audience and how portfolios are used at conferences. The class webpage has a wealth of links to great educational sites for students and teachers. A list of monthly archive links reveals different experiences from the past year. The class participates in a weekly Mystery Number Skype with a class from British Columbia to develop their numeracy skills. How exciting for these young students to learn and work together with another class using this technology.
Motto: “Third Graders Learning and Sharing Together”
From the state of California, comes the award-winning classroom blog of Mrs. Yollis and her students with an assortment of links to information about blogging, technology, and their home state. The blog is used as a means to educate and communicate what students are learning. Student blogs often use digital photos and questions as a means of striking up some conversations. The live traffic feed lets students know they have a worldwide audience. Children are active participants in the numerous video clips created to highlight important concepts they have learned. A video post by students giving tips on how to make good comments about a post was awarded the 2011 Most Influential Post. Viewers learn about being positive, specific, and how to advance the conversation with a question. Viewers will be engaged and may even discover something new. Mrs. Yollis explains nonfiction text features using a fun, cowboy style video. She was inspired to participate in Global School Play Day after listening to a presentation by psychologist Peter Gray on “The Decline of Play.” Visitors can view pictures of all the games, activities and fun children had on their play day. A Skyping session is highlighted in a popular post with another class from Australia. Students were engaged and learned so much through their questions and answers. No doubt, the variety of ways technology is used in this classroom will assist students with communication skills and the retention of information.
Hey Kids… Mrs. Donofrio
This award-winning middle school language arts classroom blog from Florida adds an additional dimension to the documenting of student learning seen in the elementary blogs. Mrs. Donofrio uses the blog as an instructional tool to support the integration of science and language arts. After reading the novel, Tangerine students could access links to learn more about the citrus industry and then they responded online to questions posed by the teacher. Student blogs are used as writing responses. The reach of the class blog is noted in the live traffic feed and a post where the author and movie producer for the novel, Under the Blood Red Sun communicated with the class. What an exciting and authentic way for students to make a connection between their classwork and the real world, which led to more opportunities for reading and writing.
As I reviewed the classroom blogs, it was interesting to see how individual student blogs were used a little differently at each grade level. The blogs of the six-year olds included student work from the classroom. In third grade students were writing personal narratives and by middle school, students were responding to writing prompts. There are so many links to explore on these wonderful blogs, each one providing a glimpse into the classroom of the 21st Century. Teachers are sure to find innovative ways to incorporate technology into their own classrooms.