Monday, December 19, 2011

To Blog or not to Blog...Is that the question?

Blogging.  Kind of a hot topic in the world of tech these days.  One that I was not really in tune with until recently.  Bu the question is still on the table...to Blog or not to Blog?  Truthfully, there is only one answer.  Absolutely!

Now we could spend the next few minutes citing research as to the benefits of blogging, where to blog, how to blog, the audience, etc...(and by the way, all good future topics), but the question that teachers need to ask themselves about blogging, is why the heck are they not doing it in their classroom now?

Ask any good teacher about best practices, and inevitably the discussion will include to student self-reflection, connecting to the world and real life experiences, and freedom of expression.  Research needed here?  Blogging incorporates all of these and so much more.

To this Tech coach, trying to get teachers on board with blogging is way more difficult than it needs to be.  If a teacher would like their students to reflect on the aspects of a certain character in a story, or make predictions about what will happen next - have your students blog!  Should the objective be about making a connection to a character as it would apply to their classroom - write a blog!

Not into Language Arts, no worries.  Imagine a science class discussing the scientific method - steps in a process - write a blog.  Form a hypothesis based on data - blog.  Math?  Sure.  Explaining properties and how they work would be an awesome blog.  Wait!  How about a peer read the blog to see if the property is correctly explained - reflected on in another blog!  Really - a blog on a blog?!

One of the best things about teaching social studies was getting kids to somehow begin to form opinions about certain topics, based on some type of fact.  What better place for them to express their opinion than in a blog.  Pick the topics, pick a side, then blog. 

Regardless of the subject, students should be blogging.  Regardless of the age, students should be blogging. (Actually witenessed second graders blogging on kidblog.org last week).  Regardless of the time constraints, students should be blogging.  So why aren't more teachers using this electronic form of journaling?  Might be the boss?

My guess is that teachers are not blogging for one of a few reasons.  First, teachers may feel the need to read and grade all students entries.  Totally not necessary.  Peer editing is a great tool.  Second is equipment.  "It takes too long to log on", "We can never get into the computer lab", "My kids don't know how to type"  Want to guess how a tech coach would repsond to these claims?  Finally, 'We just don't have time"  Really?  Somehow time has to be made.

To Blog or not to Blog...ask the principal.  Seriously, unitl it becomes important from the top, the status quo will remain.  Unitl administrators see the great value in having blogs written by each and every student, it won't gain the weight that it deserves,.  Heck, I even have a gym teacher getting ready to blog with his PE classes!  Why?  Because he sees the worth in having kids take the 5-10 minutes to refelct on why team building is so important.

Stop, take a minute and think as to how you could get your students to blog on a regular basis.  Many websites allow for free blogging and sign up is quick and easy.  kidblog.org,, EdModo, Moodle, and even a wiki could be used to blog.  Forget journaling....21st century students BLOG!  Not have enough time, you really don't have time not to get started.

So, to Blog or not to Blog...not even a question.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Twitter...in the classroom?

Twitter.  Twitter?  Twitter!

The name sounds kind of funny, but the potential is amazing!  If you thought Facebook was all the rage, tapping into the potential that exist with Twitter makes Facebook seem archaic.  So let's take a look at how Twitter might actually be used in the classroom.

For this blog, I actually googled 'Twitter in the classroom'.  In 0.23 seconds, 18,700,000 hits appeared.  Funny how that works.  One article that I found interesting was written by Mark Sample on December 1, 2011.  Mark writes a blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education titled 'Prof Hacker - Tips about teaching, technology, and productivity'.  This particular blog outlined some of his uses for Twitter in his Science Fiction class at the college level.  For example giving a structured Twitter assignment to students while they are watching a video, or reading a particular passage or book.  This got me to thinking how Twitter might actually be used in the high school, maybe even middle school, and dare I say, the elementary classroom?!

Twitter in the classroom.  Granted, there have probably been volumes and volumes of articles, books, and even doctoral dissertations about the topic, but here is one lonely AIC throwing out his take on the application, perhaps even from a sixth grade teacher perspective.  Structured Twitter assignments.  I love it.  Imagine a classroom of middle schoolers engaged in a live Twitter discussion about a book they need to read for an English class.  The discussion is actually taking place over the Holiday break at 7 pm on Christmas night!  Talk about engaged!  I have actually seen the same type of phenomenon happen with my Moodle site.  Kids chatting in a forum about upcoming events they were excited about. 
Picture students in a fifth grade classroom responding in a literature circle about how they can relate to the struggles that a certain character in a book is dealing with.   A Twitter assignment in an AP government class that is a debate on the implementation of a particular policy about to be started.   A ninth grade science class following a scientist working on a certain experiment and then using those Tweets as a source for their research paper.  The possibilities are endless.  As any good educator knows, student engagement is what it's all about.  Get kids involved and the learning is increased dramatically.

I must admit, I have only just started to Tweet, but have found it to be an amazing source of information, collaboration, and at times amusement (Alec Baldwin).  The concept is easy - getting liked minded individuals to chat and share about what they have a passion for.  Simple.  Getting it to actually happen...another story.

Twitter in the classroom.  A novel concept, but not one that I am not sure will actually take off based on a few roadblocks.  One, would be the level playing field that all students may not have the latest IPhone or Droid with an app for Twitter.  However at some point a school device might be made available.  Second, is the filter,  I cannot even access my Twitter account at school for whatever reason, but that's enough fodder for another whole blog! Third, is perhaps the perception that somehow students will be constantly using it for inappropriate reasons during the school day.  In fact, a recent article (December 6, 2011) from eSchool News reports that 1 in 100 students age 10-17 have actually engaged in so called sexting.  A statistic that perhaps disputes the notion that kids are using social media devices for the wrong reasons.

Can these obstacles (and others I have not foreseen) be overcome?  Absolutely.  Will they be solved in a timely manner so students can participate and benefit from Twitter.  Probably not,  Seems like we run scared around here and fret about the idea of something horrific happening, instead of taking the opportunity to teach kids how to use the technology appropriately.  Was that a Blog in a blog?

Finally,. let me just give a shout out to Joe Mazza, principal at Knapp elementary. Joe is a twitter fiend! He Tweets and average - 5-8 times per day about all of the great things that are happening at his school. In addition, he Tweets feverishly about engaging parents using various forms of technology...everything from Twitter to live Home & School meetings. Joe got me into Twitter and I am not sure whether to thank him or not?!

Twitter.  Check it out.  I look forward to following you soon!