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 Montréal, 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.

Wow, Monday was a great day of professional development opportunities.

Monday afternoon I participated in a session with Dr. Cable Green about Open Educational Resources.

Dr. Green discussed the important of open resources for use in schools particularly post-secondary institutions. As he pointed out “when we cooperate and share, we all win, exponentially.” Dr. Green also explained that open educational resources becomes a social justice issue because “everyone has the right to access global knowledge.” Dr. Green discussed George Siemens connectivism theory and the strength of learning networks.

Today I read David Warlick’s blog 2 Cents Worth where he also explained the important of open educational resources and the shift in thinking happening in educational institutions.

“Brought to my attention by Dangeriously Irrelevant’s Scott McLeod, is news that MIT is now repackaging its MIT OpenCourseWare Initiative for secondary teachers and students. In his article, Scott points to an Education Week piece that describes the project and how high school teachers and students are beginning to use it. Launched in 2001, and talked about frequently by Alan November, the OpenCourseWare Initiative features…

…2,600 video and audio clips from faculty lectures, as well as assignments and lecture notes. Some of that material is assembled on the site for specific high school classes, such as Advanced Placement biology, calculus, and physics, which are college-preparatory courses.

There are several site dedicated to open textbooks including make text books affordable

and textbook revolution. As a parent of a university student, a high school student as well as, being a grad student myself I welcome the change in thinking.

Dr. Green also shared a video called “Wanna Work Together?” from Creative Commons, an on-line community ,that seeks to provide protection for creative works while providing a way to share them.

It hit me this morning…I am a blog snob. Now I’m not saying I’m a snob about all blogs but I realized I’m a snob about classroom blogs. An administrator mentioned a teacher’s blog to me today and told me how great it was. I searched for it and had a look. I thought “it’s okay” and looked to see that the teacher had just started it in December , 2007. It was then I realized that I look for some specifics to be included on the blog before I say “wow, it’s great!” First thing I look for that it’s up to date and active. Nothing bothers me more then a classroom blog that has started and, I’m assuming, gotten the students excited about writing on their blogs then the teacher stopped. I also look for the a lot of student writing throughout the week. Next, I want to see that the teacher is writing as often, if not more, than the students. I can’t imagine asking the students to write throughout the week if I’m not writing on my blog as well. I’ve been thinking of dropping one of our classroom blogging partners because the teacher hasn’t written a new post since November, 2007. Sure, the students have been writing but I that think if the teacher can’t bother to write regularly it probably isn’t anyone I would want to collaborate in the future.

So, these are the basics that I look for in a classroom blogging partner. Now to get me really excited I look for the use of Voki, Voicethread, slideshows, movies, podcasts and other applications that are new to me. I love writing to another teacher and asking them “How did you do that?” and having them reply to me. I want the other teachers to be as enthusiastic as I am about their students’ learning and writing.

So when I look on class blogs I’m looking for a teacher who is activitely engaging their students with interesting assignments and activities. I’m also looking for a teacher who is trying new technologies and is sharing them with their students.

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