This term I decided to start blogging with my Social 9 class for my digital learning project. I have had several posts throughout the term about my trials, tribulations, and successes with the project:
I would also like to show off my classroom blog. My posts are pretty boring as they mostly constitute the assignments for the class but some of my students did a really good job and really embraced the process.
I have had an amazing time with this project and intend to continue its use. I feel that, at times, I was really pushing my students to work on the blog in an inorganic way so that I could talk about what we were doing in class for this project. I look forward to being a little less pushy moving forward, using it more as an option for how to submit assignments as opposed to a “YOU MUST DO THIS” as I had a few students who really did not enjoy the process.
I made blogging with this class a part of my Professional Goals I submitted to my division so that I am encouraged (and feel obligated) to continue the project throughout the year. I can’t wait to see where this takes me as I have wanted to start blogging with a class for a long time but could never actually get to the point where it was set up and ready to go.
This week on our blogs, we learned about inserting pictures, giving attribution, and we had a work period to catch up on posts and write an optional “free write post” for those that are all caught up.
We started our pictures lesson with a discussion about copyright and the creative commons. We talked about how everything is copyright by default and discussed why this is the way our society worked. We discussed Napster and I realized how long it has been since Napster was a thing as none of my Grade 9s had even heard of the file-sharing site! We watched the first few minutes of the video of Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich speaking at the Senate Committee and discussed why he felt so passionately about his stance.
Once we had a good idea of copyright and the rules around it, we talked about copyleft and the creative commons. I showed them the different licenses that the creative commons website can help users hold and what each of the different parts means (such as non-commercial, attribution, share-alike) and why some internet users decide to allow others to use their materials. We then went looking for pictures to post!
I had all of my students use Compfight for their images and we learned out to insert an image of their choice into a blog post and use the caption area of the image to put in the photo credit. I also had students define copyright and copyleft on their posts so that I could check for understanding. When I was going over their submitted posts to publish them, however, I found that some had “copy and pasted” a definition of each of these two words into their post….I am going to have to have another conversation about using one’s own work next week, and not copying off of others.
I also briefly showed my students the search tools on Google Images. On this, you can search for different usage rights on images. I have used this in the past when I find that Compfight is not bringing up what I am looking for but I did stress that Compfight is a little easier as it is better stream-lined (in my opinion) and relatively user-friendly.
Once we were done images, students were able to work on their Current Event, catch up on other posts, or write about something that they were interested in. This gave me time to go around and help some students more one-on-one with using the Edublogs platform and fix up any posts that they either hadn’t submitted or that I would like them to make some edits to. I encouraged my student that, now that we know how to link to other websites and insert pictures with attribution, they should be integrating these skills into their future posts.
This week was very exciting in my Social 9 class and for my Learning Project. We have been working on making some handouts in a jigsaw activity and this week students shared them on their blogs (except one group…more on that a little later), we linked our group members’ blogs to our own, and we had a small reflection that was to be posted. I modeled how to link, and how to attach our handouts on my SMART Board and some of my students helped to support their peers one-on-one. Some of my students, such as Sydney, did an amazing job by already linking her summary to various other information in her post, some were still at a beginners level. I shared my reflection on our progress so far to Twitter and the magic happened!
Have left some comments on their first true posts – not the welcome one. Interesting topic re First Nations
I would like to send a HUGE thank you to Sue Wyatt who runs the Student Blogging Challenge on Edublogs as she went in and commented on many of my students’ blogs. Not only that, she asked questions and provided some additional information via links or videos, and she related our knowledge of First Nations culture and history in Canada with that of her home country, Australia. I am honestly not sure who was more excited, my students or myself. This was what I had hoped for when starting blogging with my students and it was happening, and a lot sooner than I had hoped for!
So this week, we replied to comments on our blogs (after a conversation that went Students: “But what do I do if someone asked me a question?”, Me: “Answer it!”), we finished up our first “true posts”, and we started our Current Events assignment for November, which I will be requiring to be posted on the blogs by November 30 (our regular due date). This upcoming week, we will be completing a Location Research Project and learning how to cite our sources for information and for images when blogging as it is different than if they are sourcing in print. We will also be commenting on our peers’ blog posts for this assignment.
I learned a few different things about using Edublogs this week that I wanted to share as well:
Once I have reviewed and published each post, students cannot go back in and edit it. I have the security setting set so that I have to approve all posts and comments before they are “live” and one of my groups was not quite done their handout when I published some of their posts. This is something I will have to keep in mind for the future and will be looking into maybe I just didn’t find the correct button to allow this.
Once I have approved a comment, students were able to respond to comments and they were published without my approval. This is something I am okay with but I will have to ensure I watch the comments while we are still learning how to be appropriate online.
I am so excited with how well this project is going and I am hoping to continue it for the entirety of the year with my class and continue into future years. Outside of my next few planned assignments, I hope to find another class that we can start to interact with. Has anyone done pen pals or blog pals? Is there a specific site that helped you find a buddy-class or do you have any suggestions on how I can get started?
“Mrs. Taylor….I don’t see that…I get this message…it tells me I don’t have permission to access the page…I don’t have permission to edit this page…”
Ugh. I went into my “teacher side” of Edublogs and tried to see what was different for those students than the others that were able to log on, I couldn’t figure it out. I started to get stressed, this is why teachers are afraid to do things online in class: what happens if it doesn’t work? Then what? After fiddling with the system for a few minutes (and luckily the rest of my class were busy picking a theme, a very important task) I gave up and decided to email the Edublogs support team for help.
“Okay, I sent an email for help from the company, hopefully, we will be able to get you online tomorrow or later this week, I just can’t seem to figure this out. If you can’t log in, please find someone who could and follow along so that you can see how the blog works. “
I am a big fan of letting students know that teachers are not perfect and that sometimes we struggle with content or in completing things just as they do. I find that it helps students relate to the teacher and know that it is okay to not be successful the first time, that is how we learn. I am a big fan of teaching and being aware of mindset in the classroom.
Now, I have emailed support for various things on various websites in the past. It is not always the most useful approach and I had the intent of calling after class to see if I could talk to someone who might “fix” my issue a little more immediately. I was happily surprised that Edublogs emailed me back in four minutes. FOUR MINUTES. That has to be an all-time record for me!
As you can see, I had tried to delete and re-add the student accounts. That was not successful. I couldn’t believe how fast I received a response. I quickly sent back the usernames and, even though it was the end of class and 1/3 of my students hadn’t been able to log on, I felt it had been a definite win.
Later that day, I received the following email from Sue Waters:
Screenshot of email
I was thrilled. Not only was I able to receive support, it took less than 12 hours to have my issue fixed for me along with the tools to fix it myself if it happened again. I must say, I am happy I chose Edublogs as my platform with this service!
My next class with my Grade 9’s, we were able to all log on (yay!!!), change our blog titles, add category and tag cloud widgets, and make our first post. I modeled the post on my SMARTBoard and all students wrote the same thing but they were excited to get out there and make a post. We even embedded a link to the Saskatchewan Grade 9 Social Studies curriculum page and my students thought it was amazing. (“You can do that? Wow! This is awesome!) This week, I hope to have them finish up the jigsaw activity they have been working on and post their student-made summaries on their blogs.
I also put out a challenge for my students. Each month we complete a current event. I find several new stories and have them answer some questions on the story as a way of interacting with the current headlines and world issues. I have challenged them to complete their Current Event on their blog this month. A few students looked excited so I hope to see some online events!
If you have a moment, check out their blogs, maybe welcome some of my students to the blogging world on their posts or mine, not only will it likely blow their minds someone outside of our classroom commented but I would very much appreciate it!
This week, I have been up to a few things for my digital learning project. I started with creating a few documents to help organize my students for their upcoming units, have been working on a “Getting Started with Blogging” cheat sheet (I will post this once I have it fully tweaked the way I would like it), and have made my first post on the classroom blog.
I have decided that I will model how to use a blog with my students for a unit before letting them go free and have them put basic, fairly common posts initially so that they can become comfortable with the platform. I am also waiting on permission forms to come in so I cannot get rolling too fast with having them posting away until I receive a form from each student.
Today, I sat down and created blogs for each of the students in my class. It was a little of a tedious task as I had to create a username and blog URL for each student. Thankfully Edublogs has a great support page on Choosing Student Usernames, Blog URLs and Blog Titles and, with a little planning and thought on how to maintain the privacy of my students but have unique usernames, I was off! For now, if you are looking at my page, you will see their usernames/URLs on the right side bar of the post but, as we log in this upcoming week and name our blogs, this should change to be [Student name]’s Blog or Learning, that I have not quite decided upon yet. What do you think? Should this be uniform or should I allow the students to choose?
We started a jigsaw activity last week on cultural aspects of various First Nations’ groups based on their geography and students are to create a handout on their region in our next class. Once these are complete, they will be posted on the classroom blog, I can’t wait to see how they do, they were already excited and talking about how their product will look!
I would love to hear your thoughts on the theme I chose, the layout, or anything else!
So I have been spending some time plotting the implementation of my major project. I started by looking at my goals and then seeing what tools I have available through the software on my school computers. We have access to laptops, desktops, and iPads and, in looking at the programs installed, I have access to various web browsers and Zoom to help my students contact experts. I have also found an expert. I still need to organize and arrange but, at a meeting I attended as Career Counsellor, an anthropology professor stated he would love to talk to high school students. I want to figure out more of a timeline before I contact him about “Zoom”-ing into our class but I hope to arrange a conversation.
I have also started to set up blog accounts. I decided to go with Edublogs as it is based on WordPress but allows me to approve all comments, at least until my students get the hang of things. I have also sent home a parent information letter explaining how I will be using blogs in the classroom. I can’t wait until I can start setting up the blogs!
This past week I have been thinking about my learning project. I had asked Alec about creating an open-source textbook and how that would work into the project and spent some time mulling over how I would like it to work. The more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t so sure that it was what I wanted to do. Trash can for Idea #1.
I looked into different things I could learn. I asked my students, I asked my brother. Ideas of Spanish (we recently had three students who speak minimal English join our school, so it would be practical), sewing (similar to Shelby and Ashley, I love Hallowe’en and enjoy make elaborate costumes so sewing could be a handy skill), and my brother was excited to suggest coding (being the electrical engineer that he is) and even offered me his Arduino to learn and practice with . And yet with all of these great ideas, my heart was just not into any of them. Trash can for Idea #2.
AND THEN….our school became a little crazy. With newly added staffing of 0.5 FTE, new timetables for all grades 7-12 (and minor changes in PreK-6), and transitioning students to new teachers, my learning project took a rest in the back of my brain to simmer until the hectic was (mostly) over. After things had slowed down, I realized exactly what I wanted to do for my learning project, something I had wanted to do for a long time but had just never been able to get going properly: having my students blog as part of their course.
So social media and open education implementation it is! It may sound like this was a last resort, but to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I have been getting excited about it. I have decided that I will implement blogging with my Social 9 class. I have already decided that I would allow my students more choice in the societies we study this year, developing units as inquiry and independent learning tasks with various supported activities. Using blogs for students to share their learning and interact with the public world, seemed like an easy and authentic fit for blogging! Last step before starting down the planning stages: clear with my administration, which was received very well (and with some personal anecdotes of their experiences).
And so we begin! I am still looking for what platform I will use, I want to play around with a couple before starting, the biggest annoyance for me when integrating something new is not liking the platform or program I choose and finding one WAY better suited to my needs a couple days after I have rolled it out. This may still happen but I want to try to eliminate the majority of the disappointment of missing out on a great platform. I like using WordPress for my personal blog but I’m not sure if that is the best option to use with my students, I know some use Edublogs but I don’t have personal experience using that platform.
Goals for my project:
Set up individual student blogs
Teach my students about blogging, integrating images and videos, and commenting on others’ posts
Create a unit plan that requires blogging about their progress through the unit as well as reflection questions and requirements around embedding videos, linking to websites, and sharing their sources they use.
Encourage students to use Twitter to interact with experts. I’m not sure if this will be done through their personal Twitter accounts or if I will use my account to tweet on their behalf. If you have suggestions around this, please share!
Encourage parent interaction with their child’s blog so they can see what is going on in class.
My Idealistic Product
I would love for my students to Skype or instant message an expert in the field they are studying, or maybe even just someone who has been to one of the sites they will study but I am not positive that I will be able to make this happen. I am definitely going to try but don’t want to set the bar so high I will never attain it! (On a side note, the first societies we will look at are Egypt and Mesopotamia, if you know or are an expert, lets chat!)
On my way
The plotting…. I mean planning… begins. I have a bit of time as we have just started a unit that I would like to finish before implementing this project but the learning about blogging will likely start sooner than our actual unit of study.
Have you used blogs in your classroom? Where did you host them? Do you have any suggestions or know of any “experts”? Let me know in the comments!