February 2008

I have been part of many conversations in the past week that involve the power of audience in blogging. Today I was part of a ustream presentation where Dean Shareski discussed the question of “Why is audience important?” I look at audience being the icing on the cake, the motivation to keep writing and the way to connect with the world outside our classroom. The thrill of getting comments to my blog posts never diminishes. I’m as excited to get comments today as I was to receive my first comment a year ago. I feel a bit like Sally Field at The Academy Awards when she cried out “You really like me!” It’s sad but true.vm_cr00309309_ss100_.jpg

Today I listened to other educators question Dean about the value of using technology in their classroom. I keep asking why do we need to convince teachers about the value of writing? Oh, I mean blogging.

Tonight after my EC&I 831 class where we were fortunate to have Dean as the presenter I started thinking about the value of audience again. After the class I checked my email and found this wonderful comment from one of my parents to her daughter.

View As Web Page Kimberly.Brown, A comment has been posted to darf’s blog entitled, Future

The comment is:

Hey Cutie, excellent writing skills. You have come such a long way in
your talent. I’m so proud of you and the way you express yourself. Your
writing makes me want to keep reading. AWESOME!!!! I love the idea of
being a “coroner”, you love to solve mysteries. I love you. Keep
writing,experiencing,following your ambitions and sharing everything.

This was such a powerful comment to read from a parent. This comment motivates her daughter to write, share and experience. The comment motivates me to continue on my quest to integrate technology in my classroom. This one comment from our audience validated a year of using my class blog.

I was reading Todd Volk’s blog about Sharon Peters and social networking. He mentioned my projects and that I’m becoming a social networking guru. (Thanks Todd). I’ve been using my classroom blog for a year and like you, prior to that I thought of myself as a techie. Imagine my surprise to find out that I was a user of hardware and not a utilizer of technology. Once I started blogging with my class I realized all of the learning oppportunities there were for my class and myself. I felt so far behind and wanted to catch up, fast. I began to look for opportunities for my students and myself to communiticate with other classes. I enjoy the dialogue with other students and teachers while we’re working on a project. I love that students from other schools and countries email me calling me Ms B. Creating a dialogue is the huge bonus that I didn’t expect when I started this. I count people I’ve never met as collaborators and friends. I think the trick of social networking is to look for opportunities to work with other educators and be open to invitations that come your way.

Last week I was fortunate to be able to partcipate in two on-line sessions with Sharon Peters. One was through the Prairie South School Division which sponsored “PD in Pajamas” with the theme of “Going Global.” The other was with my EC&I 831 class where Alec wrote “Sharon has received awards for her global collaborative projects, and the topic will relate to these types of classroom activities. There will be much to learn from her experience, and I am really looking forward to her presentation.” In both sessions Sharon spoke of the value of planning global collaborative projects for students and their value to student learning. This is an example of on Sharon’s projects: This is the wikispace of three schools collaborating together to create superhero stories for a GVC web design contest.
The schools involved in the project where Santan Junior High School in Chandler, AZ, Percy Julian Middle School in Oak Park, IL, and Lower Canada College in MontrĂ©al, QC. Another example is her project with a school in Jerusaelm which was about international literature. I found Sharon’s reflections on her projects good learning lessons as I am currently involved in my first global project with three other classrooms learning about and following the Iditarod Trail Dog Race in Alaska.

Sharon left me feeling inspired to plan more global projects and reach out to other classrooms around the world. One way I’m continuing this is by working with the 1001 Tales teachers planning a global writing project for our students which will begin in March, 2008. Drop in to either the Iditarod or the 1001 Tales project to follow what students can do when they work together.

“You’re writing for the world” is a phrase that I often use when I talk to my students about posting on their blogs. When my students write I’m not their only audience and they only have to check their blog postings to see how many people are reading what they’re writing. And isn’t the importance of writing for your audience something we stress to our students? My favourite story is about an educator who was going to a technology workshop at a high school (if this is your story please forgive me any forgotten or mixed up details) and told his daughter. His 15 year old daughter told him she was working on an on-line writing site and her favourite writer was a student at the school. The educator spoke to a teacher at the school and asked about the student writer. He was told that she rarely handed in work and wasn’t a good student. He was surprised because his daughter spoke so highly of the writer. He found the student and explained what he’d heard about her. She replied that she only had so much time to write and had to choose between writing for her teacher or on her blog. Her choice was to write on her blog because on her blog she was writing for the world.

This term I am blessed to have a wonderful intern from the University of Regina. Brianne is a SUNTEP student and is in her last semester of her education degree. When Brianne finishes working with me on April 25th she will complete her degree requirements and be available for employment. (Any administrators reading this please take this as a hint because she will be a wonderful addition to any staff.)

Having Brianne in my classroom has given me more opportunities to optimize the use of technology in my teaching. I have an extra pair of hands to show students how to log in, edit and save work on our wikis that we’re using for our Iditarod project. Brianne has begun to take over our Friday writing project with Jim Ellis in North Battleford. In fact, she made her first slide show in jumpcut two weeks ago. Brianne shares my excitement when I find a new collaborative project to work on such as 1001 Tales. Together we talk about the potential learning benefits for our students and for us. I’m not sure she knew what she was in store for when I told her I was a tech geek and loved using technology with the students but I think she gets the picture now.

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