Tagged: blogging

Blogging Workshop at Warrnambool College

Last Friday, 25 Year 7 students from Hawkesdale visited Warrnambool College to participate in a blogging workshop with about 130 of their Year 7 students. Our students have been blogging for up to four years, so they were able to act as peer tutors for six classes, over three hours. As Warrnambool College students are just starting their blogging journey, our students were able to assist them to change their theme, title and tagline, write their first post and some added links to their blogroll. Alannah and Anna shared their own blogs, showing a cluster map, “Sparklee” text and how they use text and images to share their learning with readers from across the globe.

This was a great opportunity for our students to share their blogging knowledge and demonstrate confidence and leadership skills. We hope that we can continue to connect with students from Warrnambool College, as blogging buddies and perhaps, in future, our students can assist to share their knowledge of the Ultranet.

Thanks to Greg Twitt and David Clift for organizing this exciting opportunity and also to our Year 7 students who did an excellent job. After the workshop the class was treated to a game of Ten Pin Bowling.

“I liked sharing my blog with Warrnambool College students – it was good to be able to help them start their own” Alannah, Hawkesdale College Year 7 student

“I couldn’t believe Hawkesdale have been blogging all that time, but once we were shown how, it’s not that hard really.” Warrnambool College Year 7 student.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Benefits of Blogging for Students

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Way back in June 2008, Anne Mirtschin wrote “What is a blog?” with a description of the different ways blogs can be used. We are still blogging at Hawkesdale, due to the great benefits for students:

1. Student-centered Learning

Blogs allow students to create their own space on the internet, where they can customize their templates, express their ideas and share their opinions. Students love to add different widgets, images, music and animated clips to their blogs.

2. Supports Differentiation

Blogging is an authentic, open ended task that is suitable for a wide range of abilities. You can be young or old, speak any language and use blogging for your own purposes and interests.

3. Open Learning Community

A blog is accessible 24/7 to students, peers, parents, relatives and anyone! Students can display a portfolio of their work to a global audience. Cluster maps or other widgets can be added to show where visitors are viewing from. Students love to see red dots popping up on their cluster maps and it can become a geography lesson too!

4. Authentic Audience

Students take more pride in their work because it has the potential to be viewed by this global audience, including their peers in other countries. They are no longer just writing for their teacher, but the whole world!

5. Improves Literacy Skills

Blogging encourages reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar and research. As the blog builds (with the most recent post at the top) you can look back and see improvement over time.

6. Builds 21st Century skills

Blogging allows connections with the global community and promotes teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. Blogging helps to build information, media and technology skills required for 21st century work places.

7. Engages students socially

The Facebook generation expect to have a global voice, they expect to be able to communicate with everyone, all the time. Blogging allows this. Students can create links to their friend’s blogs and other sites of interest.

8. Allows reflection and a record of change

Like a diary or a journal, but accessible from anywhere, a blog can document the development of the learner. Blogging gives users time and space to record their reflections.

Year 7 Student Blogs:

Jade’s blog
Jasmine’s blog
Elektra’s blog
Jobe’s blog
Tobie’s blog
Sam’s blog
Messiah’s blog
Tayla’s blog
Chris G.’s blog
Emalee’s blog
Helen’s blog
Alex’s blog

Global2 Challenge – Collective Knowledge Construction

The final activity in the Global2 Blogging Challenge is to reflect and rethink our expectations of online teaching and learning activities. I have created the slideshow above to demonstrate some of the activities our students at Hawkesdale P12 College participate in. As we are a 1:1 learning environment, all our students from Grade 5 to Year 12 have nearly constant access to a netbook or desktop computer. This has been a steep learning curve for both students and teachers – in terms of classroom management, wireless access challenges, social networking opportunties, which sites should or should not be blocked, web2.0 tools available and changing expectations of students, teachers and parents.

I think that our staff and students have been learning collectively about how technology can impact on learning – just putting a computer in a child’s hands doesn’t necessarily improve their learning. Most students like using technology, but they prefer to use it different ways. Many teachers have discovered that netbooks allow learning to be more personalised – we can give students a greater variety of choices in their learning. Students can access, store and synthesise information quickly, allowing more time for evaluation and creation. Teachers are also learning to model appropriate use – from email and file storage to creating teaching tools using videos and screencasts.

We know that we need an appropriate use policy to be signed by students and parents at the beginning of each year, but we also need to remind students constantly about what appropriate use entails. We know that it is helpful if all students have agreed to have their images posted online and that it is helpful if parents have a good understanding of the benefits and risks of on online presence. We have found that it is easier for all teachers if we are open to learning from our students – often they can demonstrate better ways to achieve the same goals, rather than being restricted to the teacher’s method. We know that students and teachers need time to explore and practise with tools to be proficient in their use and that we can improve with reflection and feedback. It has been an interesting e-journey for the whole school and we hope that our students are developing 21st century skills that will enable them to be successful global citizens.

Global2 Challenge: Learning Collectively


Image created using WordFoto app for iPad

In a small, rural school, such as Hawkesdale P12 College, the ability to access resources from outside our remote location has been hugely beneficial. As well as communicating with students in all parts of the globe, teachers are able to form personal learning networks across continents and oceans. Teachers, students and community members can feel somewhat isolated from city life, without the great range of choice (shops, libraries, learning options, hobbies, medical and sporting opportunities) that are available in metropolitan areas. Through blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other online social networking platforms our community members have the ability to seek out others with similar interests, that they would otherwise never have the opportunity to contact.

In my school we have a Maths and Science faculty of just five teachers. We get on well and very quickly get to know each others preferred strategies and teaching philosophies. By joining online education communities (such as #vicpln on Twitter or the “Guide to Innovation” Ning) I am able to draw on – and contribute to – a much greater diversity of teaching experience. I certainly believe that effective professional development can occur as collective online learning – this has been consistently demonstrated by the Classroom2.0 forum, Anne Mirtschin’s “Tech Talk Tuesday” and “eLe@rning” on Wednesdays, as well as the Ultranet “Share and Tell” sessions. Each of these platforms operates on the premise that we all have something to contribute – everyone has different skills and experiences that others can learn from. By allowing different guests to present their own ideas and reflections, participants gain a wide range of perspectives.

Time and distance can prevent students from visiting museums, galleries, gardens, zoos and other places of interest. Many rarely have the opportunity for attending live theatre, dance or concerts. However, they can connect with like-minded people through gaming and other various special-interest forums. An example is the 365 project, which is a site where participants upload a photo each day for every day of the year and comment on photos of others. Several teachers at our school started the project this year and encouraged some of our students to join. As keen photographers they are able to share their work with others, view images from other beginners and experts, critique photos, ask for advice and contribute to discussions. This experience has allowed them to explore an interest and improve their skills outside school. Together the 365 community have built a resource of incredible images, together with information about cameras and how to create amazing photographs. These students have been able to take photos for the school magazine and enter photography competitions.

Another example of online collective learning has been the VCE Environmental Science Online course. This course has enabled students from four different schools to enroll in the subject, who would not otherwise been able to, due to lack of a willing and/or experienced teacher or due to too few students wishing to study the subject. We spend 90 minutes each week on Blackboard Collaborate (formerly Elluminate) and communicate via my blog, email, Facebook and Skype. These students are passionate about the subject – willing to take the risk on a trial in 2011 – and contacted me through my blog to request an online course. Ubiquitous access to technology has enabled them to connect with students of similar interests and support each other throughout the course.

Other students have taught themselves to play guitar using YouTube clips, create and upload animations and identify invertebrates, frogs and birds found on their farms. This ability to personalize their learning is motivating and increases the opportunities for students to develop skills for life-long learning. They are able to ask their own questions, contact experts and investigate answers. They can, as Sir Ken Robinson would say, find their “Element”. Teachers need to be very strategic and imaginative to be able to incorporate these types of learning within the scope of the VELS framework. I only hope that the new Australian curriculum will be flexible and open enough to allow teachers to facilitate online collective learning that matches the passions of our students.

Global2 Blogging Challenge – ReThinking Publishing and Transparency

global2 blogging challengex450

Students, classes and teachers at Hawkesdale P12 College have been blogging for the past four years, since Heather Blakey came to visit. We blog with varying degrees of success – none I consider to be failures. Blogging is the ultimate open-ended task, suited to all ages and abilities. As a digital portfolio it allows students to build up a chronological record of their writing and changing interests. It can be customized to suit individual students with a huge variety of templates, widgets, headers and colours available.

My daughter (aged 12) enjoys posting on her blog “to share with everyone” – although she doesn’t receive a lot of comments, she is careful with her writing because she knows she potentially has a global audience. She likes to choose widgets which express her personality and is constantly working to improve the appearance of her blog.

As a science and maths teacher, I have limited time to blog with my students in class. I do like them to produce digital products, such as slideshows, posters, quizzes and reports that can be added to their blogs. It was interesting that some students preferred not to add their slideshow of an eye dissection, because “people don’t want to look at blood on my blog”. Ideally, I think students should write at least weekly on their blogs and comment on their peers blogs. It would also be great if relatives, parents and teachers could comment regularly to encourage thoughtful blogging and reflective thinking.

Our school has started to focus more specifically on learning intentions, success criteria and making these explicit to students. I believe this is a powerful strategy for teachers and learners to improve learning outcomes. If we encourage students to state these learning intentions and reflect on their progress towards them on their blogs, students will be able to document their improvement over time. The development of this metacognitive process allows students to become more independent and improves their critical thinking – all valuable 21st century skills.

I think we can improve blogging at Hawkesdale by involving parents in the process. We are planning a parent information night when we will demonstrate the use of Facebook, blogs and other web2.0 tools. This is part of a proactive strategy to minimize cyber-bullying by assisting parents to monitor their children’s behavior online. We are also running a competition “What does my Digital Footprint say about me?” with prizes donated by local businesses. Students in three different age groups will submit artworks, writing, multimedia or songs demonstrating their understanding of appropriate online behaviour. This is one small way we can facilitate student thinking about how to behave online.

How does your school involve parents with technology learning?
What are some effective strategies to encourage students to behave appropriately online?
Why do you think inappropriate comments are more frequent on Facebook than on blogs?

Blogging Challenge #3: Add some Muscle to your Blog!

da_vinci_muscles

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Study of Human Shoulders and Arms” – Try this picture as a “Jigzone” puzzle here (and see if you can beat my time!)

 Today’s challenge is all about how pages can add “power, flexibility and weight” to your blog. New blogs tend to have just two pages (the “Journal” and “About Me”) while some others, like  Anne Mirtschin’s class blog “E-Journeys with Technokids”, have over twenty different pages. As you can see, my blog is somewhere in between, currently with six pages.  

Mrs Yollis  won a “Lifetime Achievement” award and was runner up in the best class blog in the 2010 Edublogs awards. I really liked Mrs. Yollis’ “Meet Mrs. Yollis” page, which included a photo of her as a child as well as some professional and personal information about what she enjoys and her achievements. As well as some contact details and professional achievements, Anne Mirtschin’s “About Me” page has some great multimedia, including a slideshow and Voicethread. 

After browsing around some of the blogs mentioned in my previous post, I have decided to do a little page maintenance with my blog, here at Technoscience. I plan to:

  •  Add a childhood photo or slideshow to my “About me” page
  • Add a “Professional Development” page, listing courses completed and achievements
  • Combine the “1:1 program” and “21st C Learning” into one page
  • Delete the “Year 7” and “Year 8” pages (this information can be found by selecting the appropriate category)
  • Add a “Survey” page, with a Google form embedded to find out more about my students at the beginning of the new school year. What are their strengths, interests, fears and abilities? What do they hope to achieve this year and what equipment and resources do they have available to them?

I have been reluctant to delete pages prior to now, because I will lose some of the valuable comments that have been contributed. However, I may be able to re-name the pages and maintain those comments. That should keep me busy until Challenge Activity 4 is released!

Down Blog’s Memory Lane

Tagxedo

This post is my response to the Teacher Challenge, supported by Edublogs, Kickstart Activity 1:  Ten questions to ask my blog. The image was created in Tagxedo, using the text from this post.

1. Good Afternoon Mr. Technoscience. Now tell me when and why you started blogging?

My first post was in February, 2008 and I have been posting regularly since then, with over 260 posts to date. I was encouraged to start blogging when Heather Blakey visited our school for professional development. I saw blogs as a good place to collect all the many science, maths and other educational resources online, together in one space. I have been encouraged by Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch, both keen bloggers, as well as comments from other teachers and students.

2. Has it been difficult to keep blogging regularly?

 I usually post two or three times a week on each blog (I have five blogs now!) during the school term. I have a blog for each class I teach, so it is my lesson planning, resource storage, reflection space, as well as the place for my students and I to find links to content, tasks and extension activities. So it is not difficult, it replaces some of my pen-and-paper planning and is a resource for students who are absent and other teachers who may be interested.

3. Why did you create separate blogs, instead of different pages on your blog?

I found that it was more difficult to edit pages than post on the front page and most of the time, people just look at the most current material anyway. I could have created separate categories for each subject, but then the posts were moving down the front page too quickly. So now I have Biology, Environmental Science, Technomaths and “Photo a Day” blogs as well as Technoscience.

4. What do you like most about blogging?

I really like having my own space on the internet, where my students, as well as their parents and other teachers, can see the work we have been doing in class. Blogging helps to organise my thoughts and plan for the week ahead. It gives students a launching platform to the world wide web – a familiar place from which they can start to explore the vast array of resources available, with a specific task in mind. It is a place to celebrate student achievements (videos, slideshows, text and images of their work) and a place to gain feedback about their learning. It is one of the places, together with Twitter, where I can meet other teachers.

5. Which are your favourite tools to embed in blogs?

 I regularly use Irfanview to crop, rotate and resize images for my blog. These images are my own photos, creative commons photos and diagrams from Flickr or sourced using Creative Commons Search. I also often use Voicethread, Slideshare, MyStudiyo (quizzes), Google forms and YouTube to embed content I or my students have created. You can find links to these sites in the column at right.

6. Which of your posts have been the most popular?

According to which posts have received the most comments “Steep learning Curve”, “Porshe versus Volvo” and “Test-driving the Volvo” have been the most popular. “Like knitting with a knife and fork” was also an interesting post. The thing that these posts all have in common is that they are my reflections on teaching and learning with technology. I am always grateful for the positive feedback I receive from colleagues and teachers from other schools.

7. What have been the most challenging parts of blogging?

 In the beginning, the most difficult tasks were the ‘behind the scenes’ technical aspects – how to add widgets and links, embed code, manage comments and add an avatar. Now the biggest challenge is maintaining my readership – keeping the content interesting enough to attract an audience and have readers return to the site. I also find I am getting more spam comments, which need to be managed.

8. What have been your most exciting moments?

Receiving a comment on my first post (very encouraging), receiving a comment from a fellow maths and science teacher in Lima, Peru, requesting participation in a global project and being nominated and short-listed in the 2010 Edublogs awards.

 9. Where does your future lie?

I think that I will continue to blog as long as I teach, and possibly even after that! I believe blogging is an essential tool in my professional development, improving my teaching by thoughtful planning, gaining feedback from students and teachers and regular reflection on teaching and learning. Although the Ultranet is designed to host teacher and student blogs, I will be running my global teacher and edublogs sites outside the ‘walls’.

10. What would you say to teachers who don’t blog?

Blogging won’t suit all teachers, but technology is nothing to be afraid of – it is a neutral tool that can be used for both good and evil. Many of our students are very tech-savvy and expect to be constantly communicating and connected to the world beyond the classroom walls. Keeping a blog doesn’t need to be something extra on top of the daily teaching load, it can replace a professional learning journal, lesson planning diary and task sheets for students. Give it a try and you might even get the blogging bug!