Why Blog? (the short version)
How can a blog enhance and redefine learning? Blogging and other online applications can be used to create learning opportunities for students in which they are able to build autonomy, mastery, and purpose within the context of school and their lives. Research has shown that when people are given these three opportunities (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) for growth and independence they will produce a higher quality of work and be more motivated.
In my own experience as classroom teacher using various technologies, I have seen this kind of independence begin to emerge.
Most blogs are public to enable the students to have the opportunity to collaborate with peers locally and globally. However, Blogger can be configured so that it is secure and available only to those who have been given access. The second example below demonstrates this option.
There are various ways that a blog can be used in a classroom. It depends on the grade level, students current skills, available technology, and what a teacher and/or students want to accomplish. Regardless of age and ability, blogging and other applications are currently being used from Kindergarden and up by teachers around the world.
The following are some examples of what I’ve done in the classroom with fifth and sixth grade students.
A blog as a parent teacher communication tool
The above blog, which can be viewed by clicking here, is simply a platform to share information for parents, assignments for students, and at times student work. The blog is open to the public.
A blog as a platform for student work and peer feedback
This particular blog was designed to be limited to students and teacher interaction. Access is restricted to invitation only. Click here to see what happens if an uninvited person tries to view it.
If you are interested in having a closer look, send me an email and I will grant you access via your Gmail account.
The original vision of this blog was to have two fifth grade classes, one on each side of the Pacific Ocean (Hsinchu City, Taiwan and Vancouver, Canada) share and comment on each other’s poetry. It would have been a great opportunity for students to enter into global collaboration. However, because of school policy that restricted student internet use on the Canadian side of the Pacific, the project never got off the ground (As I write this and reflect upon the challenges at the time, I realize I now know the Google Hack that would have solved the problem).
The purpose of the blog ended up being a little less global. It became a place for the final step in the writing process; students publishing their work. It also provided a chance for students too get peer/teacher feedback about their writing, as well as learn to provide positive constructive feedback too others.
A blog as a platform for students to become global communicators
The following is a student blog. The post is an extension project from a science unit on resource use.
Click here to visit the original blog (please add a comment!)
In the case of this project, students’ used their own blogs to host and share their work. After studying a unit on resource use in Science, these Grade Five students explored the idea of the fourth “R” – Rethink. They posted their work on their blogs. My role as a teacher was to try and create as wide an audience as possible for them using my professional networks. Using Twitter we managed to get as far as Canada and Thailand.
You can see some of the comments below:
The excitement that the class felt each time a new comment came up was thrilling! The students were empowered by the realization that they could have an impact not only on their school, but on the larger global community. It turned out to be a very powerful motivator.
Google Maps in the Classroom
This assignment was designed for students to demonstrate their understanding of location. You can see a complete description the whole assignment here.
Student example: (Click on the screenshot to visit the original blog post)
Google Docs in the Classroom
There are a lot of ways that teachers can utilize Google Docs in the classroom. One very effective approach is that Google Docs provides the teacher with the ability to directly comment on student writing as it happens. Research tells us that the faster students receive feedback the more effective it is. As students begin the drafting step in the writing process they can open a Google Doc, and before they begin to write they share it with their teacher and peers if they choose too. As students begin to write the teacher can open student documents and comment directly on the content. Students can see the suggestions in real time and correct and adjust as necessary.
Have a look at the screenshot below:
As well as providing instant feedback in the drafting phase of the writing process, it also allows for clear effective feedback from the instructor in between each draft. Gone are illegible pencil written drafts that have no room for comments. The revision history is always available to go over with students and parents if necessary. This creates a record of assessment for each piece of writing. Furthermore the document can be shared with parents so they can monitor the process as well. Often I would share a student’s work via Google Docs at parent teacher conferences. It makes assessment much more transparent for parents.
Add voice comments to Google Docs
Some big picture things to think about:
- Information literacy should be a part of classroom curriculum.
- Students and teachers should be aware of and understand how to use Creative Commons licenses for online content.
A couple of blogging resources