Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why use blogs in your classroom - powerpoint

Here is a useful link to a powerpoint which makes a case for using powerpoints in your classroom (it outlines what the advantages are) and then takes you through the process of setting one up (using a different host server). I didn't like this one as much as the blogger one - but it still might be useful for some people.

Easy instructions on how to set up a blogger blogsite

Follow these very simple instructions and you will create a blog for yourself:-)

Why Blog? A visual diagram.....

How to keep them coming back.....

I found this list of helpful ideas on 'The Stenhouse Blog' on how to keep your blog successfully running......

This question presents the real challenge – How do I encourage parents and students to continue contributing to the blog? Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

1. Blog regularly. You’ll lose readers if you only post once every two weeks. Try to set aside a day a week to work on your blog. Parents will visit regularly if you post regularly.

2. Send email updates. Like many teachers, I created an email distribution list at the beginning of the school year. Whenever I want parents to read a particular post, I’ll send out an email with the blog’s link. It’s an easy way for parents to check the blog.

3. Give students a sneak peek. Each week, I show my students what’s new on the blog. Like all kids, they love seeing pictures of themselves! And like all kids, they want their friends and family to see the pictures, too. My students love to go home and ask their parents to view and respond to the blog.

4. Create posts that ask for a response. Present a challenging math problem and ask students and parents to share their thinking. Showcase a student’s writing and ask for feedback. Ask students and parents to post questions about your current unit of study in science or social studies.

5. Make it worthwhile. Parents love to know what’s going on in the classroom – your blog gives them an opportunity to take a “peek” inside. Post lots of pictures and videos of the incredible learning that is taking place. Use your blog to make your classroom “come alive” for your parents.

6. Respond. Make sure you take the time to respond to comments. Blogging is a conversation, so make sure you’re a part of the dialogue.

When parents and students begin reading and contributing to your blog, a conversation begins. Learning is no longer contained within the walls of your classroom; it is now part of the larger world.

How to leave a comment on a post....

This is a helpful short video clip which shows you how to leave a comment on a blog post:

Creating a blog lesson plan

Tomorrow I am spending the day at Villa setting up a classroom blog with Year 7 & 8 students. That means that my task today is to create a lesson to introduce blogs and work through the process of setting one up, teaching students how to post/comment on it, thinking about digital safety/rules for use of the blog etc.

I am finding this a really good experience because it is one thing to know how to create a blog of your own, and a very different thing to teach these skills to other people. I am hoping that it is going to be a very valuable experience in terms of preparing me for when I am in my own classroom, and I am excited about the collaborative approach that I am taking to setting this one up.

I am also hoping that my lesson tomorrow can be used as a basis for my seminar presentation next week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mentor Group Meeting - Week 4

Important Points from Today:

Keep in mind that the course is not just about the presentation – the process is also important – and what are you going to do after the journey is over

‘Carpark’ an idea: – an idea that is outside of the actual project that you are interested in exploring – you can ‘carpark’ it and come back to this idea later)

Thinking Tools: Are we using thinking tools to help bring it all together? Something to think about)

Thoughts about my presentation: Go through the process of setting one up as part of my presentation – show people how easy it is to demystify it.

After the meeting I also has an interesting discussion with Jane about inquiry. She gave me two things to think about in terms of my reflections this week to ensure that my inquiry is linked to real outcomes for my classroom teaching.

- Think about implications for our classroom
- Try to link with key competencies

Monday, June 22, 2009

Timetable for the rest of inquiry.....

I have worked out a plan of attack for the final week and a half of Inquiry. Some of this is likely to change after my mentor group meeting and meeting with Niki tomorrow. These meetings will give me a better idea of how I am going to present my research and whether or not I decide to create a website will have a bearing on what my final week plans look like.


I haven't really dedicated special posts to collections of wonderings, in fact I think it's fair to say that most of my posts have involved wonderings. Wondering is simply part of the reflective research journey. But I thought that I would list a few of my current wonderings below - if only to allow me to come back at a later stage and see how them developed/were resolved:

- How am I going to present this research? How do I balance the process learnings with the research outcomes? How do I make it interactive?
- How am I going to approach the setting up of the classroom blog at Villa?
- How am I going to upload my interview data? (and is there an easier way to do this?)
- Am I going to create a website - or is there a way I can modify my blog and share that instead? (time constraints are getting pretty tight at the moment - and the setting up of a website could be beyond what is possible in the next week)
- What am I going to do at the end of this inquiry project? How will I continue the learning?

- What does all of this mean in terms of the Inquiry process? What have I learned about inquiry through this research project and how can I take this into my teaching?

Creating a classroom blog site at Villa Maria College

I have been in contact today with the person in charge of IT at the school. I got a very positive e-mail response from her:

Plans are underway for creating a blog site with a Yr 7/8 class at Villa.

Over the next couple of days I am going to go through the process of setting up a blog site again to make sure I am 100% familiar with it before working with the class. It will also allow me to explore the security and set-up features to ensure that I set one up in the safest way possible (while also allowing for the access that a classroom site demands).

I am excited about having a practical outcome from the project. It is interesting to look back on the initial brainstorming that I did for this project - creating a classroo blog site in collaboration with an actual class was something I never imagined I would do. I guess partly because the idea simply didn't cross my mind, partly because I was unaware of the potential uses of a blog within a classroom, and largely because I didn't think I would have the skills to be capable of doing this. It has been a really interesting process from being a beginner with very little knowledge - to an 'expert' to some degree who can help transfer the skills and knowledge onto others:-)

Plans for week 4 - A BUSY week!!!

It's crazy to think that it's already week 4:-O But also great when I think back on all the learning that has taken place. This morning I have felt a bit like Bob the Builder coming across multiple technical roadblocks with uploading some of my research data onto my blog. I have managed to find my way through the problems and come up with creative solutions to them:-)

So what is the plan for this week?

- Continue uploading data from my afternoon at Fendalton School
- Meet with Niki and have a chat about setting up a website - part of me is now wondering whether this is needed. There is a lot of valuable information in my blog and I am wondering whether I need to duplicate by making a website. I am potentially interested in something like a wiki if it can be an easy way of organising the information (in a kind of copy and past from blog way).
- On Thursday I am spending the morning with a Year 7 & 8 class at Villa Maria helping them set up a classroom blog site. I am really excited about the opportunity to put my learnings into a practical outcome like this. I am meeting up with the IT technician beforehand so that we can have a chat about digital security, setting up the site on the network etc.
- Thinking about my presentation. I am still thinking about how best to do this. I think I will try and take some more footage on Thursday of the setting up of the blog site and try and integrate some of these videos into my presentation next week. I would like to make the presentation as interactive as possible. In an ideal world I would love to get the group to create their own blog post - but this would be complicated in terms of getting everyone usernames etc. This is something to keep thinking about this week.

An Interview with Paul Sibson - Principal of Fendalton School

Fendalton School has a very innovative approach to the use of ICT in their school. I was interested in finding out their principal's thoughts on the role of interactive digital technologies like blogs within their school.

Question 1:

Frustration - how to upload audio files

I am editing my interview with the principal of Fendalton school. I am splitting the files so that they are divided up according to the interview questions.
Ideally I had hoped that I would then be able to upload these to my blog so that under each interview question would be a link to the response as an audio file,

BUT I don't seem to be able to upload audio-files - only videos or photos - I am still trying to find a way around this.

Rm 17 'experts' share their experiences....

I also spent some time talking to a few 'experts' from Rm 17.

There were some technical difficulties with the video recording which meant that we only got a couple of minutes at the end to re-cap - I have edited it and it can be viewed below:

What else did I learn?

- They shared a lot of the same frustrations that we had talked about as a whole class. One major one affecting their ability to blog is the internet speed. This was demonstrated by the fact that we spent 30mins outside chatting and in that time we were only able to download two internet pages. The students described the way this often made them less enthusiastic to post blogs because of the frustrations that they encounter during the process. It definitely left me thinking about the ways in which successful implementation of a process like blogging can at times be beyond your control when you encounter these kinds of problems (and something that doesn't look like it will be solved any time soon in NZ).

- The students said that the best thing about blogging was the ability for people to provide feedback on their blogs e.g. I really liked this part of your story. It was really interesting to see that they like the constructive feedback that was given, and the ways in which is was functioning as a form of formative assessment for students in their writing. Students also liked to provide feedback to other students so it appeared to be very much a two way process of writing and providing constructive feedback.

- The students described the way their parents provided comments on their posts and like to see what they were doing in class.

- The students explained the digital safety rules that they have in place (these are displayed in the classroom alongside the fire and earthquake safety rules). They described the way they only use their first names when posting because "someone might see us and find out who we are and want to kidnap us". They were very much aware of the serious risks that could be associated with their posting, but also appeared comfortable because of the rules that are in place.

- The students I spoke with preferred to use a blog over writing in their books, but they like to make sure they have it 'right' before they post things. They described the frustration of reading things with spelling mistakes.

- An exciting connection had been made between their classroom blog and a blog of a class in the North Island. The students said it was exciting to be able to post on their wall and to know that another class in NZ was interested in what they were doing in Rm 17.

- Students said that it was usually a 'first in, first served' approach to who could blog. Blogging is also listed as one of the 'can do' activities that students can work on once they have finished set work. It was also a popular activity on a Monday morning when students wanted to share what they had done in their weekends.

- We also talked about what makes an interesting blog post - how do you decide what to read and comment on. Students described things like 'headings' and the 'topic' being deciding factors in what they choose to read and comment on. Extra additions like photos or video clips also made posts more appealing.

Rm 17's Blog - Acrostic Poem

The students of Rm 17 showed me the acrostic poem maker that they have been using on the read/write/think website.

Using this we created an acrostic poem on a BLOG:

Here it is:

It was valuable to see the ways in which other online tools and applications like this one can be used and integrated with student blogging.

Visiting the experts.....Rm 17 Students

I visited Rm 17 at Fendalton Open Air School to find out about their classroom blog......

What did I discover?

Here is a summary of my discussion with Rm 17 Students

Best Things About Blogging:
- sharing things with other people - more people will look at it - a wider audience
- feedback from people helps with our writing
- comments about posts that people find interesting
- can see what is happening in other classes in the school
- family and friends overseas can see what we are doing at school
- we can put photos and videos on our blog (not just writing)
- We can write interesting stories/Acrostic Poems (current focus using Read/Write/Think)
- We can access it from anywhere in the world
- Mum and Dad can find out about what we are doing at school (and post comments)
- We can record ourselves talking and put this on the blog (e.g. introductory videos from each student at the start of the year; poetry; what we did in the weekend; visitors to the class)

- the internet speed (slow)
- problems with spelling
- takes longer to type than to write
- forgetting passwords to log-in
- finding things to write about

The class has a list of rules for digital safety and using the blog. Students have written instructions for using the blog site which are pinned to the wall by the computers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Students teaching teachers computer skills

This news item was featured on TV 1 news on Saturday night. It was really encouraging to see a school acknowledge that sometimes students are 'experts' with skills to share. The ways in which students were sharing their IT skills with teachers and parents was really exciting, as was the ways in which these new skills were then being incorporated into the classroom teaching in the school. It also seemed like an affordable way of doing PD for teachers in the school!!