Category Archives: Blogging

Why I Blog With my Elementary Students

BloggingEvery student has a passion in one of the core subject areas taught in school. For me, my passion was always math and social studies. For others, it is language arts,such as reading and writing. Not all students will like writing at first or feel confident with writing. However, in writing, every student has the opportunity to be successful given they are presented with a topic or genre that interests them. A digital medium to communicate ideas through writing is blogging, also known as edublogging (educational blogging). Blogging is currently being used with secondary and higher education students. Research has proven that students have much to gain from blogging for educational purposes. Key benefits of blogging include collaborative learning, increased engagement, feedback from a global audience, reflective thinking, improved writing, and development of technology skills.

More specifically:

  • Students benefit from working with their peers through sharing and discussing knowledge rather than working in isolation, which can be the case with paper journaling (Angelaina & Jimouianis, 2012; Chen, Liu, Shih, Wu, & Yuan, 2011; Halic, Lee, Paulus, & Spence, 2010; MacBride & Luehmann, 2008; Wang & Hsua, 2008; Zawilinski, 2009).
  • Blogging tools such as the commenting feature provide additional opportunities for student and teacher feedback (Deng & Yuen, 2009; Fessakis, Tatsis, & Dimitracopoulou, 2008; Manfra & Lee, 2012).
  • Working with an authentic audience motivates students to improve their writing, as students want their work to be understood and read (Fessakis et al., 2008; Howard, 2011; MacBride & Luehmann, 2008; McGrail & Davis, 2011).
  • Students have opportunities for questioning texts and thinking critically about subject matter when blogging activities are designed to respond in this manner (Arena, 2008; Zawilinski, 2009).
  • Students are more engaged with blogging than with writing traditional papers (Armstrong & Retterer, 2008; Ellison & Wu, 2008; Frye, Trathen & Koppenhaver, 2010).
  • The incorporation of visual literacy is often introduced when blogging (Arena, 2008; Drexler, Dawson, & Ferdig, 2007; Richardson, 2010). Students learn how to select media, which is appropriate for their content such as images, videos and sounds.

With the proper instructional design, teachers can incorporate blogging into their classroom, even with elementary students. These four key elements should be considered when designing instruction:

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Even though elementary students may require some support with technical skills, they may also benefit and enjoy student blogging. These are some recommendations on how to blog with younger students:

  • Select a blogging platform, which provides secure access to the site and a limited number of tools.
  • Discuss digital citizenship and blogging expectations to ensure a positive blogging experience for students.
  • Model literacy activities through the use of sample blog posts and provide a rubric to outline blogging requirements.
  • Select activities that meet curriculum outcomes and are relevant to student skills and interests.
  • Allow students to communicate ideas through written or audio blog posts with or without supporting media (photos, animation, videos, hyperlinks) in order to personalize learning.
  • Provide weekly in-class time for blogging activities, such as during computer sessions, centers or during literacy activities. Offer opportunities to blog at home for those students who wish to blog about topics of their choice.
  • Provide ongoing instructional support, guidance and feedback to ensure students are able to achieve bloggging outcomes.
  • Take advantage of the commenting feature as a way to praise and motivate students to continue discussing blog topics.
  • Involve students throughout the blogging process to ensure they are engaged during blogging activities and address any technical or scholarly issues.
  • Encourage students to peer mentor each other to enable mastery and confidence of skills

As an elementary educator, consider blogging activities the next time you need to instruct writing to your students. Your students may becoming even more engaged and interested in the topics you are learning and some will even want to write on the blog during their free time.

Click on this attached Blog Handout for details from this blog


References:

Angelaina, S., & Jimoyiannis, A. (2012). Analysing students’ engagement and learning presence in an educational blog community. Educational Media International, 49(3), 183-200. doi: 10.1080/09523987.2012.738012

Arena, C. (2008). Blogging in the language classroom: It doesn’t “simply happen.” TESL-EJ, 11(4), 1-6. Retrieved from http://tesl-ej.org/ej44/a3.html

Armstrong, K., & Retterer, O. (2008). Blogging as L2 writing: A case study. AACE Journal, 16(3), 233-251.

Chen, Y. L., Liu, E. Z., Shih, R. C., Wu, C. T., & Yuan, S. M. (2011). Use of peer feedback to enhance elementary students’ writing through blogging. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(1), E1-E4. doi:10.1111/j.14678535.2010.01139.x

Deng, L. & Yuen, A. H. K. (2009). Blogs in higher education: Implementation and issues. TechTrends: Linking Research And Practice To Improve Learning, 53(3), 95-98.

Drexler, W., Dawson, K., & Ferdig, R. E. (2007). Collaborative blogging as a means to develop elementary expository writing skills. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, 6, 140-160.

Ellison, N., & Wu, Y. (2008). Blogging in the classroom: A preliminary exploration of student attitudes and impact on comprehension. Journal of Educational multimedia and Hypermedia, 17(1), 99-122.

Fessakis, G., Tatsis, K., & Dimitracopoulou, A. (2008). Supporting “learning by design” activities using group blogs. Educational Technology & Society, 11(4), 199-212.

Frye, E. M., Trathen, W., & Koppenhaver, D. A. (2010). Internet workshop and blog publishing: Meeting student (and teacher) learning needs to achieve best practice in the twenty-first-century social studies classroom. Social Studies, 101(2), 46-53. doi:10.1080/00377990903284070

Halic, O., Lee, D., Paulus, T., & Spence, M. (2010). To blog or not to blog: Student perceptions of blog effectiveness for learning in a college-level course. Internet And Higher Education, 13(4), 206-213. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2010.04.001

Howard, M. (2011). Not an unfeasible “extra”. Science And Children, 49(4), 32-35.

MacBride, R., & Luehmann, A. (2008). Capitalizing on emerging technologies: A case study of classroom blogging. School Science And Mathematics, 108(5), 173-18.

Manfra, M., & Lee, J. K. (2012). “You have to know the past to (blog) the present”: Using an educational blog to engage students in U.S. history. Computers In The Schools, 29(1-2), 118-134. doi: 10.1080/07380569.2012.656543

McGrail, E., & Davis, A. (2011). The influence of classroom blogging on elementary student writing. Journal Of Research In Childhood Education, 25(4), 415-437. doi:10.1080/02568543.2011.605205

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful Web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Wang, S., & Hsua, H. (2008). Reflections on using blogs to expand in-class discussion. Techtrends: Linking Research And Practice To Improve Learning, 52(3), 81-85.

Zawilinski, L. (2009). HOT blogging: A framework for blogging to promote higher order thinking. Reading Teacher, 62(8), 650-661. doi:10.1598/RT.62.8.3

How to Connect (Digitally) with Parents to Communicate Student Learning

Retrieved from newsdaytonabeach.com

Retrieved from newsdaytonabeach.com

As the new school year quickly approaches, educators will need to determine how they would like to best communicate student learning with parents. Traditionally, teachers send out a letter the first day of school welcoming students into their classroom and listing out some of the items and goals for the school year. Throughout the year written letters or emails are sent as a form of keeping parents up to date on student learning. Schools will post monthly digital newsletters and sometimes include an entry ballot parents need to print off for a monthly draw.

With the emergence of social media and mobile learning (New Media Consortium, 2013), and more parents connected to others through tablets/Smartphones, teachers and administrators can consider the utilization of technology tools to stay connected with parents when informing them of student learning. Here are a few tools that could be used to communicate student learning with parents and families:

1) Online surveys/questionnaires

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2) Social Media

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3) Blogging

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4) QR codes

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 When deciding which tool is right for your school or classroom, you will need to:

Understand the demographics of your families: Although many families are connected online, not all families have access to technology. It will be important to know how families prefer to communicate or even providing parents with more than one method of accessing the message such as a Tweet through Twitter and a written agenda message.

Select a tool that communicates learning more effectively: Technology is not an optimal choice for all forms of communications, but can sometimes be a better choice. If teachers rely on email communication or agendas to send reminders about library books (as an example), then the Remind app or even a LMS (learning management system) can be a better option for communication. If the goal is to practice printing while having the student communicate reminders to parents, then written agendas are a better option.

Know your school board’s technology plan and policies: The tools on the list are examples of some of the ways teachers can better engage with parents, but some of these ways may have restricted access within the school board. Make sure you have permission to create and maintain a social media account and always share this site with your administrator. Keep your admin informed and be cautious when posting information online. Even though the intent is to keep parents up-to-date, specific information identifying your students or pictures posted without consent can be very problematic and unethical. When in doubt, leave it out or ask for a second opinion.

Sometimes it’s the little old-fashioned things that start the school year off with positivity and enthusiasm, such as the school postcard we received through mail welcoming us back to a new school year.

Here’s to another fabulous year of learning for both teachers and students alike!

Chelsea


References:

New Media Consortium. (2013). Horizon Report, K-12. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2013-horizon-report-k12.pdf

Providing Scaffolding for Students When Blogging

When deciding to blog with your students, it’s important to determine the purpose of your blog and what blogging activities you would like your students involved in. Educators may use blogging for the following purposes:

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I like to provide my students with a variety of blogging activities. We use our blog site as a group blogging site where we provide literature responses to novels we are reading, explain concepts mastered in class (mirror blog) and provide our opinions on current events/thoughts. We also will post some of our written work with poetry and add an audio component to our writing. I like providing a variety of activities so students are kept interested in blogging. If you need some ideas for blogging with your students, check out the website Write About (Write About, 2015).

Throughout the blogging process, students are supported through modeling on how to write a good blog post and how to respond with an appropriate comment. To assist students with commenting, they are provided with 3 different ways to respond:

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At the moment, I am learning side by side with my students about good teaching practices that will assist with blogging activities. With the help of my students, I plan to develop additional resources that will support students with blogging and provide good modeling/scaffolding of expected outcomes.


References:

Halsey, S. (2007). Embracing emergent technologies and envisioning new ways of using them for literacy learning in the primary classroom. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 6(2), 99-107.

Write About (2015). Ideas. Retrieved from http://www.writeabout.com/ideas/

Zawilinski, L. (2009). HOT blogging: A framework for blogging to promote higher order thinking. Reading Teacher, 62(8), 650-661.

How to Select a Blogging Platform

There are many blogging platforms on the web available for student and/or teacher use. How do educators select a platform for student use? The first thing that must be considered is security of student data and information. Student’s identity and personal information must always be protected from online predators, creditors and anyone else who wish to misuse this information. Ensure that you fully understand the platforms functionality – whether it be public, semi-private or private, and how information is being stored/used by the platform developers. This can be a daunting task, so I suggest consulting your school board to see if they already have a list of approved/unapproved blogging platforms. With the Calgary Board of Education (CBE), they have provided educators and the general public with Web 2.0 guidelines. The guidelines explain how they determine the approval of Web 2.0 tools while considering the ethical and legal implications of using the tool. To see a list of the CBE’s criteria and tools, go to this link: http://www.cbe.ab.ca/learninginnovation/digitalsafety-web2guidelines.asp

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Retrieved from Kidblog.org

The next criteria is determining your student’s skill level. Certain blogging sites are easier to set-up and use than others. From personal experience, I recommend Kidblog for elementary students as it takes about 10 minutes for a teacher to set up their classroom accounts and students have opportunities to personalize their page, in addition to being able to communicate their ideas with media (photographs, audio, links). This site is also on the approved CBE Web 2.0 guidelines which gives me more confidence in using this platform. I recently conducted a survey on blogging use with students and Kidblog was very popular among elementary teachers to date. I will include a poll on this site to see which blog site you prefer for elementary students.

blogger_logo

Retrieved from Blogger.com

For older students, they have more experience with typing and using Internet websites, so they would work best with a blogging site that allows for more personalization. My recommendation for secondary students would be WordPress or Blogger.

Retrieved from wordpress.com

Retrieved from wordpress.com

These sites are more complex and have many more options for student personalization. They may require a lot of support when first used, but the end result is worth it! I actually use WordPress as my professional blog site and enjoy using this platform. Having experience writing my own blogs on this site has given me a better understanding of this platform and of how to blog, which I could also share with my students.

For more details on blogging platforms, read these tips from Dr. Fryer: https://medium.com/@wfryer/tips-for-choosing-a-classroom-blog-f83a441f621

Once you’ve selected your blogging platform, take some time to become familiar with its format and styling. Don’t be afraid to consult other teachers who are blogging or use Twitter to find teachers who blog. This is where I have made many professional connections.

Happy Blogging!


References:

Fryer, W. (2015, August 9). Tips for choosing a classroom blog. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@wfryer/tips-for-choosing-a-classroom-blog-f83a441f621

Blogging Expectations With Elementary Students

Before beginning our grade 3 blogging project each year, we go through a list of blogging expectations with our students. With any online tool, it is important to discuss guidelines with students so they may participate in a safe, secure and caring online environment. Whether students are in elementary school or secondary school, they should understand appropriate netiquette that is involved with this form of digital communication. The guidelines I set with my students have been inspired from samples seen online and from a reading on digital citizenship norms created by Ribble, Bailey, & Ross (2004). They wrote an article discussing the notion of Digital Citizenship and how to address appropriate technology behavior. They go through nine different norms that need to be addressed when working with Web 2.0 tools. If you are not familiar with these norms, I encourage you to read through their article as they are applicable to all online users.

I have included our blogging expectations as an example of how you could set guidelines with your students or children who wish to blog privately or publicly. Our students are blogging privately, meaning that only their classmates, teacher and parents can view their posts.This is why we allow a little more freedom in our blogging environment as their identify and personal information is better protected. As this is my second year blogging with students, I feel more comfortable working in a private blogging site than opening it to the public. As I get more comfortable with blogging, I will consider opening it up to the public based on administrator input and comfort level.

Image* In the blogging website section, I have removed the rest of the hyperlink for privacy reasons, but students have the direct link to click on to access their classroom account

If you are blogging publicly, you may want to consider adding different expectations as their posts can be viewed by anyone and will have less privacy restrictions on names and images. The age of your students will also determine whether you want to review posts or comments before they are published for the class. I find that with first time bloggers, students need a guidance in how to write appropriate responses to their peers.

Reference:

Ribble, M., Bailey, G., & Ross, T. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6-12. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ695788.pdf

Grade 3 End of Year Showcase

I thought it would be fitting to end my pilot blogging project with an end of year showcase. I must admit, I had an idea of where this project would take me, but I didn’t realize to what extend student reflecting skills have improved and how engaged certain students have become. I am still approving student comments on a daily basis by students posting during class time and at home. Although my students have not been fully committed to writing in French, they are passionate to share ideas that matter to them. Thank you for following me on this journey through student blogging. I will be sure to update and share more findings as the next school year begins.

Grade 3 Showcase

Personalized Blog Page Titles

Personalized Blog Page Titles

Explaining the term perimeter (in French) for Math

Explaining the term perimeter (in French) for Math

Free choice writing, Africa

Free choice writing, Africa

Something learned in school - the importance of saving electricity

Something learned in school – the importance of saving electricity

Describing the shape of bridges

Describing the shape of bridges

Literature response for Charlotte's Web novel study

Literature response for Charlotte’s Web novel study

What was learned on our field trip to the Calgary Zoo

What was learned on our field trip to the Calgary Zoo

Free writing post on his favourite book

Free writing post on his favourite book

Free writing on her favourite author

Free writing on her favourite author

Response post on how to protect our environment

Response post on how to protect our environment

Free writing on what he did during Spring Break

Free writing on what he did during Spring Break

Digital Citizenship Discussion

Students are interested in using Web 2.0 Tools. With these tools, one needs to be cognizant of how to conduct oneself online (netiquette). This month I asked my students to describe how they have been good online citizens. Here are some of their responses:

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Example 1

Example 2

Example 3Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 5.40.52 PMWhat I appreciated the most about this assignment was that they brought up some suggestions that were not previously mentioned on our digital citizenship poster (re: How do we become better digital citizens?). We had discussions about:

  • Why Facebook and Twitter asks for your age
  • Why people send spam
  • Why personal information should not be shared with people we don’t know
  • Why we don’t write in ALL CAPS
  • Why we need permission to use images in our work

I can’t stress this enough with my students, that when working online, one needs to be safe and responsible. I strongly encourage students to share their accounts with their parents while they are this young so that way they can learn together how to conduct themselves responsibly while using social media. If they practice these skills with guidance from their teacher or parents, when they are older they will know what to do when they have more privacy with their accounts.