Monday, February 21, 2011

Reflecting on My Class Blog

Mike, a student at SUNY Potsdam left a comment on my class blog. I decided that instead of writing a very long comment on that post, I would just go ahead and answer the questions here where it might be seen by more people.

How do you feel this blog improves classroom instruction?

I use my class blog to deliver instructions to my students. Because the words are static, I don't have to worry about inconsistencies in my delivery. The instructions stay on the blog and can be accessed by the students or their parents at any time. There is the added benefit of having tools right there that can be used by the student for purposes of clarification. For example the student can read the text or have it read to them by clicking a button on the post using Odiogo. If the student does not know a word, they can double click it and it will bring up a definition from . There is the Google translator widget on the side for students or parents that need the post translated as well. You can find my contact information easily on the site too.

Not only do these tools allow students the ability to work on their own, it also allows students to have choice in how they want the content delivered to them. See this post on the Toolbelt Theory for more clarification. 

Have you seen an improvement in classroom participation and interest with the creation of this blog?  

The blog is a little over four years old. The students I have in eighth grade now were in my classroom when I started it. It is not a new thing to them. What I have seen is that students of varying levels of ability and interest seem to like being able to work at their own pace using the instructions from the blog. I have students that come in, sit down, and get to work very quickly. Some students take more time to process. One major benefit is I don't have to repeat instructions often. They are already there on the blog. 

I don't think interest is sustainable by taking something and making it digital. The process is pretty much the same. Good lesson design and working toward relevancy for the students is much more important than whether or not you use tech tools.

Have you found any difficulties in using a classroom blog for students?

Creating posts that are not wordy, but still get the directions across can be difficult to master. If the students don't have access to tools like I have listed above, there can be a real barrier to learning. Some students don't like using technology (not unlike some adults) so they are maybe less motivated than they would be. The biggest problem I have found is when the hardware or the internet is not working properly. It is very important that you have a back up plan whenever you are using technology, just in case.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Reflection on METC: 10 Random Thoughts

  1. Social media may be the catalyst to creating relationships, but it isn't as valuable as being face to face with each other. Yes, I know this is me being a broken record, but it still is true. :)
  2. Seeing people I recognize (who also recognize me) shrinks the size of even large crowds. Just a nod or smile as we pass makes me feel much more comfortable in a strange situation.
  3. There are many unbelievable people that work very hard to put on the conference. I would list them, but I know I would miss some and that would not be good. You know who you are. :)
  4. Our community is not growing as quickly as I think it should. There are approximately 4 million k-12 teachers in the United States, but only a small fraction of a percent are connecting through social media. Are there other places where reform issues are being discussed by a larger group?
  5. Students making connections seems to becoming a real theme among many speakers at these conferences. 
  6. I'm not sure that this is the message most attendees are hearing though.There still seems to be too much focus on tools, not on why we use them. The message isn't being picked up quickly enough by "normal" teachers.
  7. Teachers know how to have fun
  8. The Embassy Suites in St. Charles is a pretty cool place to stay. If you stayed there you know why. ;)
  9. I didn't see any students at this conference. I may have missed them, but maybe we should think about including them more in our presentations.
  10. I know there were pre-service teachers in attendance. I think that there needs to be some presentations  specifically geared to them. While all the workshops are appropriate, they might feel a bigger sense of community if they have a few that address their specific needs. Perhaps a social networking class for them so they can learn more about being an online professional or how to develop a learning network using Twitter or Plurk. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Posting and Commenting Are Only the Beginning

I have been stressing over my METC presentation for next Tuesday. It is supposed to be about how to use the blog and hash tag Comments4Kids to get comments on student and teacher blogs. Think of it as Beginning Conversations 101. The problem is I don't find this conversation very satisfying anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I do think that posting and commenting are important first steps, but I really believe that these are imperfect. I want my students to develop real thinking, express that transparently, and defend it (or change it) as they encounter push back. A great example is happening now on Jabiz Raisdana's blog Intrepid Teacher.

What will it take to get my students to be as transparent and reflective as Jabiz? I don't know. I don't even believe that most of them will. But I believe the journey to get there is really useful for those than don't, almost as much as those that do. The process of thinking, writing, responding, reflecting, defending, and growing may be the most important thing we ask our students to do.

How do I move past the process of posting/commenting to something more in depth? How do walk into my presentation and talk about baby steps when they have been so unfulfilling?