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Bringing the classroom to the real worldng tea

August 10, 2009

Lombardi (2007) states, “Learning-by-doing is generally considered the most effective way to learn. The Internet and a variety of emerging communication, visualization, and simulation technologies now make it possible to offer students authentic learning experiences ranging from experimentation to real-world problem solving.”  The act of blogging makes Lombardi’s statement a reality for students who are engaged in the process.

I know, that I know more about web2.0 tools today then I did at the beginning of the course.  With 21 blog posts under my belt, I have had to research, analyze, and create an abundance of information to share with my fellow classmates amongst others.

I received a comment on my blog from Jeff O’Hara the other day. He is one of the co-founders of the website Edmodo.com, a educational micro-blogging site that is designed for use in schools due to its high level of security. I e-mailed Jeff to see how he found my blog and I did not receive a response, but did see in my blog statistics that words used to find my blog included Edmodo and Jeff O’Hara.

I thought it was so amazing that a real live tech person who is responsible for a web2.0 tool communicated with me about something I had written.  I was over the top with excitement, so much so, I showed my wife the comment (she didn’t think it was as cools as I did).  This is but a small example of the impact that a blog can have upon a student.  I can only imagine the thrill that a student would experience receiving a comment or feedback from an expert in a field, an author, or a parent, to share ideas and provide support and encouragement.  To have one’s knowledge and ideas given recognition is an experience of  an ‘academic high’.  I am sure this would be such an encouraging experience that students would be apt to continue the process.

I mentioned earlier that I had created an abundance of information that I shared on my blog.  I must be honest, the creating that took place was done late at night after my three girls were in bed and I was often quite tired, but it was invigorating to be creating something that I knew others would be looking at.  I thoroughly enjoyed looking at my statistics to see how many people had visited my blog and seeing if anyone had commented.  Knowing that I was contributing to a body of knowledge, or at least my opinions on a topic was a riveting experience.

These experiences can take many different forms.  From the insight blogging that my classmates and I were creating in which we discussed the various web2.0 technologies to life blogging where events in the author’s life are shared, there are many different ways or styles to write a blog.  The fact that there is such a variety to the style of and purpose for writing a blog means that individuals who are looking to blog can find a style that is just right for them.

Using a blog in the classroom

There are a couple of ways that I plan on using blogs in my classroom this upcoming school year (which, by my count, is three weeks away, yikes!!!).

  1. I plan to have the blog as a primary tool of communication for my grade 8 students this upcoming year.
  2. I plan to have my students blog about their learning.  Similar to Twitter’s question of “What are you doing?” they will answer via their blog, “What have you learned this week.”

The blog as communication tool

At this point, I have set up a second blog to my WordPress account.  It can be found at http://hrgrade8.wordpress.com.  I have added information to the about section and have made a first post.  In a quick amount of time, I am able to communicate information.  This is much more efficient for parents than waiting for a newsletter from the school or notes home from teachers.

As a teacher, I think this tool could be highly effective.  Parents and students will get information almost instantly and there is an archived record of it.  By including a tag for each day such as mondayaugust31 and including the calendar feature, the parent also has a search feature to help them locate a specific blog posting if they so desire.

At first, I see this blog as a one way method of communication with the information flow from the teacher to the students and parents.  I do envision, however, the comments feature allowing for discussion to begin and the learning and information exchange that happens in the classroom to begin to occur outside of the classroom after the day is done.

The blog as learning tool

I want to make a slight change to the Twitter question: “What are you doing?” and I want to give my students a few more characters than 140 (although some might prefer only 140 characters), perhaps 140 words.  The question I want them to answer is, “What have I learned this week?”

As a method of getting the students to blog, I want to have them answer this question with very little restriction upon them.  Blogging, for me at least, is a free flowing activity where I simply sit at the computer and type.  For this course, I have had to stop and plan a bit more, but I want students to have an opportunity to just write about what they have learned.  The blogs they create can go so many places in answering that question.  Blog entries on learning can vary:

  • Forgetting your lunch is a bad thing
  • Pythagoras’ theorem is …
  • Romeo and Juliet is an awesome love story
  • Mean people suck
  • Lying is never a good thing

With students answering one question a week, they will have an opportunity to develop their writing skills, but also their critical analysis and self reflection skills.

Once students have begin to understand the blog writing process, the topics of writing can become more in-depth and focused.  For example, the blog can be be used for students to discuss their learning in particular subjects.  I would use it in science to have students write out their lab write-ups.  Using the comment feature, students could give each other feedback.  The author could then make changes in order to make it better.  In physical education, a blog could be maintained in order to track eating habits and physical activity levels.  With the inclusion of commentary on the information, the blog would become a very highly reflective piece of work.

Conclusion:

Blogging provides students with an opportunity to share their ideas in a format that is meeting with their 21st century learning style.  They can share and exchange opinions with their classmates in a digital format in any one fo the 24 hours in a day.  For me as the teacher, the blog provides an effective communication tool from the classroom to the parent or student.  The days of, “I didn’t know it was due” will be almost over as students will have the information they require at their finger tips.

Next post: In my next post, I will look at Blogging for the purpose of professional development.

References:

Lombardi, M. (2007). Authentic learning for the 21st century: An overview. Boulder, CO: Educause. Retrieved August 10, 2009, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3009.pdf

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2 comments

  1. Hey, I never got the e-mail you sent 😦 Basically I setup a Google alert to alert me anytime somebody mentions Edmodo on the web and your blog popped up. I try to maintain an open dialogue with users via e-mail, blogs, twitter etc.


  2. Dan,
    Great that you’ve had a substantial someone read & comment on your blog – you should be proud!!!
    Your ideas for implementing blogging with your grade 8’s sounds fantastic and I’m sure they will all be excited to hear all about it when they return to classes – far cry from the student handbooks and journals they have probably been used to doing for the past 4-5 years. Good luck – I’m sure it will be a success!
    Carol =)



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