Prancing on the Blogging Platform and Dipping into Blogging

Blogging is really big in the Elementary school at ISB

Our classroom is already involved in our Grade 1 blog, Smartones.  This is largely a parent communication piece where Grade 1 teachers post pictures and updates to document the learning and the fun that is happening in our grade.  Actually, it was one of the first blogs that was created during our wave of teachers and students using digital tools. (Jeff Utecht , our fabulous and super supportive IT coordinator, writes a blog post about the birth of Smartones.  )  Because we were new to blogging and weary of the time demands the blog would place on classroom teachers, we decided to turn commenting functions off.  We were excited about teaching and learning and sharing this with our parents, but not too keen on spending precious time, personal and professional, on moderating comments.  Certainly, as the IT rep for our grade, I didn’t want this falling on my shoulders either.  We are really proud of our blog and what we are doing with it.  But it is true: we are using Smartones more for the platform than for the purpose of blogging.  The reason for this is the communication is a one-way street.  There is no online dialogue and our students are not the ones posting comments or posts.

Now comfortable with the blogging platform, it was time for me to embrace an old digital tool and use it for its authentic purpose.  I wanted to start a dialogue on (and sharing of) my students’ learning.  And so, isb104.wordpress.com was borne:

Working with Grade 1 students, and with the timelines for my COTAIL course project, I decided to focus the blog around my classroom’s work on our unit of study on insect life cycles.  I was concerned about how much of this blog would be my work and how much would be my students’, a common concern when using digital tools with 6 and 7 year olds.  A lack or limited use of digital tools, typing skills and understanding of the responsibilities of online publishing were concerns that kept students from Smartones.  I did not want this to be the case with our new classroom blog.  I had to find ways that would gradually release the responsibility for adding to the blog. 

In order to monitor what is posted on isb104.wordpress.com, I have not (yet?) given my students an account they can use to write posts on the blog.  Instead, I have energized my students to reflect on, discuss and share their learning by telling them that their learning will be published on the internet!  You won’t believe how this announcement has motivated my students to do their best thinking.  Now my job is to document it, share it and give them opportunites to do the same.

So here is the plan (using the gradual release of responsibility model):

Model:  Our first investigation focuses on the beetle life cycle.  I will use my students reflections, comments and questions gathered during this investigation to create the architecture of the blog.  I will also use this as a sample of how their work will be published to the world.    In addition, my writing on the blog will model a potential future practice that my students will be doing (hopefully…if not this year, then for sure in their not too distant educational career). 

Guided Practice:  I will use different digital tools to help my students use digit tools that will help them consolidate and communicate their learning.  I will upload pictures and videos to the blog and document conversations and learning that take place in the classroom.  We will also use Voicethread as yet another way to publish our thoughts and learning.  Our Grade 4 buddies, who have used Voicethread, will help teach their Grade 1 buddies how to post to our Insect Life Cycle Voicethread.

Independent Practice:  Students will be invited to share their thoughts, questions and ideas on the blog and the Voicethread.  The dialogue will begin.  The conversations will be given room to grow and deepen.

Application:  Students will share their thinking with a global audience.  We will invite parents and possibly another classroom from another part of the world, to join in our investigation of insects and their life cycles.  (This may occur after the completion of my COTAIL course.)

I am excited about using the blogging platform to the fullest with my class.  It will be interesting to see how well they receive the idea and the opportunity to contribute to a discussion that goes beyond our classroom walls.  I am also excited about sharing our learning with my students’ parents in an interactive way.  I hope that this will stimulate a deeper understanding of not just the content, and what is being learned, but also a deeper understanding of how this can be achieved using digital tools. 

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~ by Vu Lam on February 3, 2010.

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