Building learning communities through blogging

blog wordSomething exciting is happening here! VPAA teachers and students are venturing into blogging for the very first time this year, and boy are they excited!Why? Because blogging is a great way to build a learning community beyond the classroom. Learning communities are groups of people who are “actively engaged in learning together”.

What is a blog? A blog is a website where a person (or class) posts articles and other people can comment on those articles. It is different from a web page because a blog invites two-way or multi-way conversation. The word “blog” is an abbreviation for “web log” – a type of journal published on the World Wide Web. Here is a great 3-minute video by CommonCraft called “Blogs in Plain English“.

Why use blogs in school? Blogs provide a public forum where students can share what they are learning, which gives them an authentic audience for their work and invites others to help them learn. Blogging provides motivation to learn more, communicate more effectively, and share what they know and can do.

Using blogging in school helps students to:

  • “Own their own learning”
  • grow with their peers
  • reflect on their thinking
  • learn to collaborate
  • improve their writing and digital literacy skills
  • understand that there are other people in the world who can help them learn even more
  • become part of something bigger than their classroom or their progress report
  • learn how to use digital tools safely and appropriately
  • begin to create a positive digital footprint that they will be proud to share as they get older

Many of these skills and dispositions are included in the AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners as skills we are expected to teach 21st century students.

Who’s Blogging?

Mrs. Tew’s 6th grade science classes have begun blogging about their science experiments at Thoughts From the Lab Bench. After several lessons on “Powerful and Safe Blogging”, the students wrote reflections about an experiment. We then sent a tweet out on Twitter to let our professional learning network of teachers around the world know about the kids’ new blog.

Within a few days the kids had gotten responses from students and teachers all over the United States, and people in Europe and Australia had read their blog. They could tell that because they watched red dots appear on their blog’s ClustrMap. Talk about motivation!

The students have now engaged in conversations with students in Oregon by exchanging comments on each others’ blogs, asking questions, providing new ideas, encouraging each other to continue their  learning – extending their learning well beyond their own classroom. These students are more excited and ready to learn than ever before. Their learning communities are expanding, and along with it, their opportunities to learn – like thousands of other kids across the planet 🙂

Several other classes are beginning blogs during 2nd quarter…we’ll keep you posted here so you can see their progress.

VoiceThread – a new way to teach and learn?

I came across this amazingly simple web tool today that could be used for all kinds of cool learning experiences at school. We know that learning and making meaning of things is a social endeavor. Imagine a student posting an image of a paragraph he wrote. Then each student in his group or class could log on and read the paragraph, making comments on it (e.g. “You capitalized all your proper nouns – good job!” or “Try adding another supporting statement.”). A teacher could upload an image of a picture or object and have students write or record a paragraph or sentence about the image or object. The beauty of this is that students can access it more than once, can interact with school assignments at home, and can involve parents in their learning as well. What do you think? What other ways could VoiceThread be used to teach our standards at school?

Transforming Learning Through use of Technology

I’m going to deviate from my usual posts about books, Sunshine State Readers, Guys Read, and other things going on in our libraries this week. I want to start a conversation or, at least, some thinking among our students and staff about how we can can transform learning at VPAA using common technology tools often referred to as Web 2.0 tools…. read this post from CNN.com’s DigitalBiz page and tell me what you think about it… Can we do this at VPAA? Should we? What would school be like if we did?

Web 2.0-savvy teachers testing old assumptions

… “There is a growing perception that student communication and online collaboration are important 21st-century skills,” says Jeff Patterson, president of Gaggle.net, a company offering safe email for students.”…