classblogmeister


This morning I was checking my daily updates from one of my Diigo Groups and I was excited when I checked out this Myths and Legends Story Creator site. I can already imagine how I can use this with my students. In a myths and legends unit or integrate it into some project based learning this would be a fabulous way for the students to create stories. I can think about the discussions and planning that will happen then once the students start using the story creator their stories will come alive.

The site has free membership which is a bonus. Each year I create a class email account for my students to use for sites like this that allows me to create a class account on web sites. It’s so much easier if all of the students are using the same password. Occasionally this creates a problem if the site has difficulty managing so many users on the same account but then we adapt. I would want to see if we could embed the story on our blogs but if not we could probably using screen shots to post the story. I could also envision using the screen shot pictures and using iMovie to create a movie. I think I might be getting ahead of myself here. I’ll have to play around with the site then introduce it to my students. We could have used it for our Solar System unit to tell stories about the constellations, hmmm…maybe I can incorporate it into my current project “Oh, The Places You’ll Go.” I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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I just finished reading Ewan McIntosh’s blog “Personal projects are often worth more than professional ones. What’s stopping you?”.

The post describes how our personal projects outside of work can be the ones we value most.

It’s all too easy to relegate our personal projects to the bottom of the pile until “the day job” is complete. The result? We nearly always end up having to leave creative, fun, new projects behind in the interest of ticking someone else’s boxes, when those same personal projects could be the very innovation that make the difference.”

The post started me thinking about my personal projects and the satisfaction that I gain from them. For me the most satisfying projects are the ones I design that support the curriculum but also reflect who we are as people. The projects that I work on with my students are ones that have me interested and support my learning about the world. I like projects where there is a learning curve for myself and my students that challenges us to think in new ways.

Occasionally, these types of projects can be frustrating because the students’ learning curve isn’t as fast as mine or what seems obvious to me isn’t obvious to them. Sometimes I also forget that this year I’m teaching grade 5&6 and not 6&7. Believe me, there is a difference. My grade fives are not as independent as grade sevens and certainly aren’t as good problem solvers. I’m sure that by the time the school year is over there will be many changes in how they learn.

The projects I work on with my students are what makes my job interesting but the best part is when the students make the projects their own. Once the students take ownership of a project it takes on a new course and begins to reflect who each student is as a learner.

The blog post ends with a this great question “What’s your personal project, and what’s stopping you just getting on with it?”

So…what’s stopping you?

Last week I posted a questionnaire about the use of blogging in the classroom. These questionnaires provide me with an opportunity to reflect on my classroom practices and how I use my classroom blog.

Questionnaire:
1. What grade(s) and subjects do you use your blog with?
Grade 6 & 7: Language Arts, Social Studies & Science
Grade 2 & 3: Language Arts

2. What online tools do you use to support your classroom blog? (Blogger, TypePad, Photobucket, Flickr, etc.)
Classblogmeister, RockYou, VoiceThread, JumpCut, TeacherTube, YouTube, Wikispaces

3. Why did you decide to use a blog as an educational tool? What did you hope it would do for your students and/or for you?
I attended a Middle Years Mini Conference in my school division where classblogmeister was profiled. I hoped that using a blog would encourage my students to become excited about writing and sharing their world.

4. How long have you been using a blog as an educational tool?
I began using a class blog in February 2007.

5. How do you use your classroom blog? (posting student work, information for parents, online writing tool, collaborative projects, etc.)
The students take turns posting a daily writing assignment, on Friday’s we write with a school in a different city then post on our blogs and we use it to post assignments from other subject areas.
I write information about what’s happening in our classroom for students & parents. As well, the students use the blog as a way to stay in touch with myself and each other over weekend and holidays.

6. If you use your blog for student writing, has their writing improved? Please explain?
I noticed a marked improvement in the students when they write on their blogs. The students become aware of their audience and begin to care about the feedback they receive from their comments. Student peers from other schools comment on the content of the blog postings, the effectiveness of the writing and also comment on mechanics. Our Friday writing is a shared writing project with another school in another city. The teacher from that school provides feedback to my students and I comment to his students. The students enjoy hearing from another teacher and appreciate his comments. I also explain to my students that because they have an audience they have a responsibility to write well for their readers

7. Please list 3 positives about using blogs in your teaching.
*Most students are highly motivated to write on their blogs each day.
*Students become aware of an audience and begin to write clearer with more detail.
*Parents are able to read what their children are writing about in class. The parents have a better idea what is happening in our classroom.

8. Please list 3 negatives about using blogs in your teaching.
* This is a tough one. I haven’t had any negatives yet.
*It was harder when I began because I didn’t have access to as many computers however, my school division purchased 10 new Mac laptops per school which made it easier to work online.
* At the beginning I wanted to edit the life out of each student’s writing because we were posting to the blog. I’ve let that go and allow their peers to comment on the writing. If the students don’t put as much effort into their assignment another student will comment on it.
* I needed to make time to approve and check all posts, comments and widgets for the blogs. Now it’s become part of my school day.

9. Please list 3 things you’ve changed in your teaching as a result of using a blog.
*I now think about and plan my teaching on a global scale. I consider our audience in other countries and plan some writing assignments that better explain where we live and our life here.
*I encourage parents to visit the blog frequently to keep them aware of what is happening in our class. I write information about class events and happenings. I don’t need to write notes home.
*I’ve added more Web 2.0 tools to my teaching. My goal is to create a paper reduced classroom by having the students use blogs and wikis for assignments, projects and writing.
10. Please list 3 things that youʼve kept the same.
* Daily writing assignments.
* Using the writing process: brainstorming, planning, writing a draft, editing & revising then the final draft on the blog. My grade sixes were very weak writers when they began the year and weren’t familiar with the writing process. They are beginning to become stronger writers.
*Having written assignments in other subject areas besides Language Arts.

11. If you use your blog with students, in what way(s) do you ensure their safety? (model proper behavior, pen names, no real names of people or places, etc.)
* I begin the year with a CyberSafety unit to discuss internet safety.
* I explain how classblogmeister works and that I, as the moderator, have final approval on everything that is posted.
* I have the students choose blog aliases. I also ask the students to refer to their classmates by their aliases in their writing.

Those are my answers. What would your responses look like? Different or the same? Aspen has offered to send my a copy of her paper when she’s finished. I look forward to reading what other educators are saying about using blogs in their classrooms.

The week prior to Easter I was contacted by a masters student in Minnesota regarding blogging with students. She had been reading my class blog and hoped that I would participate in her research.

Aspen Easterling wrote:

You are invited to participate in a study of educational blogs. Journals and books suggest ways to incorporate blogs in education, but I hope to learn how teachers are actually using blogs as educational tools. You were selected as a possible participant in this study because I found your blog and am curious to find out more about how you use it in your class(es).

 

Questionnaire:

1. What grade(s) and subjects do you use your blog with?

2. What online tools do you use to support your classroom blog? (Blogger, TypePad, Photobucket, Flickr, etc.)

3. Why did you decide to use a blog as an educational tool? What did you hope it would do for your students and/or for you?

4. How long have you been using a blog as an educational tool?

5. How do you use your classroom blog? (posting student work, information for parents, online writing tool, collaborative projects, etc.)

6. If you use your blog for student writing, has their writing improved? Please explain?

7. Please list 3 positives about using blogs in your teaching.

8. Please list 3 negatives about using blogs in your teaching.

9. Please list 3 things you’ve changed in your teaching as a result of using a blog.

10. Please list 3 things that youʼve kept the same.

11. If you use your blog with students, in what way(s) do you ensure their safety? (model proper behavior, pen names, no real names of people or places, etc.)

 

So, now I ask all of you who use blogs with students. What would your answers be? I’m as curious as Aspen to find out the answers to the above questions. I will answering the questions in the next day or two and will post the answers again. I look forward to comparing mine with yours.

 

Thanks for the comments to my last post “One of Those Days” and thanks to David Warlick to responding so quickly to my classblogmeister glitch.

Everything was sorted out and fixed for the grade 2&3 class to begin their blogging adventure the next day. I started with three of the boys and walked them through everything from turning on the MacBooks to working with classblogmeister. Next, seven of my grade sixes acted as mentors working 1 to 1 with the younger students and showing how to post to their blogs. The remainder of the grade 2&3 class came in and I showed them the links I’ve added to their blog page: Mr. Greenberg’s class blog in Connecticut which has a VoiceThread that my grade 6 &7 class contributed to, Kathy Cassidy’s grade one blog, Leah Dewhurst’s class blog, Mr. Mead’s grade twos in Australia, and the grade threes in Beiruit. The students were avid viewers while waiting to take their turn posting to their blog.

The next morning I commented to all of the students that posted. The grade 2&3 teacher has also invited the principal to comment to the students’ writing. The student’s posts were well written and many included a question for their audience to respond to.

On Wednesday afternoon the grade 2&3 teacher asked one of my grade six students to make her blog look fancy. This student decided to give up his phys. ed. class to work on her blog page. He added a glitter text title from Rock You and also added a weather pixie.

On Thursday I asked one of the grade two’s if he had been blogging again. He replied that he was getting the address so that he could write during the Easter holidays. How cool is that? He was also excited to have had 11 readers and 1 “commentary” from me. He told another student had had 27 readers and 1 “commentary.”

I think the moral of the story is that sometimes there are glitches with technology and lessons don’t go as planned. But, I’ve had that happen when I wasn’t using technology and somehow managed to work through a lesson. It was worth the effort to get the grade 2&3 class blogging. I can’t wait to read about the rest of their school year.

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Grade 2&3 Class at Christmas

Today was one of those days with technology. I was introducing classblogmeister to the grade 2&3 class in my school. The teacher is ready to start using Web 2.0 tools with her class and the students were excited. I had already set up the class blog and today was the day to choose student nicknames then write their first post. I’ve been using classblogmeister with my class for just over a year and think it’s a wonderful tool.

I had taken a data projector to show them their blog pages and the links I had added to them. Unfortunately, the data projector “detected no input”. I used the time to speak to the students about online safety, using nicknames and how the blog space worked. I also spoke to them about the idea of audience. Still no input. I introduced their first writing assignment “Who Am I.” We discussed appropriate information to write on their blog and brainstormed ideas.

The students began to write while I retrieved another data projector. Still no input. Now I’m starting to think it’s not the data projectors but my MacBook connection that’s the problem. At this point I decide to put the students’ nicknames in the class roster so that they may begin posting. The names and passwords are all added to the roster but when I click on the grade 2&3 instead of the students’ names appearing the screen flashes and that’s it. Now I still feel optimistic that I can sort all of this out before the students are ready to post. No such luck. The students are writing while the classroom teacher and learning resource teacher are helping to edit. Two students are now finished so I send them to my classroom for another MacBook.

Students arrive with the MacBook. I hook it up to the new data projector. Input detected. But….now what? The screen appearing on the MacBook is very far over to the left of the screen when projected from the data projector. If I move the Internet screen all the way over to the right until it just begins to disappear I can see it from the data projector. Strangest thing I ever saw.

Thank goodness the recess bell rang.

I’ve been trying all night to fix the student roster. I’ve sent out a help message to blogmeister groups and emailed David Warlick. Hopefully I can sort this out tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/labgp/

My last post discussed the questions that a freelance journalist asked my about the use of networking sites in my classroom. The following are my responses to her questions. How do my answers compare to yours. Please add a comment about the comparison or reaction to my responses.

Social Networking in the Classroom

1. I use classblogmeister and wikispaces in my classroom.
2. I use classblogmeister because as the teacher I’m able to moderate blog posts, comments and all content posted on the site. I use wikispaces and as creator of the wiki I am able to control content. Both sites are easy to use and navigate for teachers and students.
3. We use classblogmeister to publish writing, contact other classrooms, share thoughts and ideas with our blog partners. Wikispaces has been used for global collaborative projects, collaborative story writing, curriculum content, weekly math problems and literature circles.
4. Any type of collaborative activity works well using blogs or wikis.
5. Our technology integration support teacher and technology consultant support and encourage the use of online applications for the classroom.
6. By using classblogmeister and wikispaces the content is controlled thus inappropriate postings are eliminated.
7. The benefits include an authentic audience for student writing and work that will provide feedback. Use of wikispaces for collaboration allow for students to work together with others around the globe. Students develop a pride in their work when they know that their work will be viewed by others.
8. I use Twitter frequently to stay in touch with other teachers in my network who integrate technology in their teaching. I use weblogs as a host for my professional blog and use bloglines to subscribe to blogs about the use of technology in the classroom.
9. Wikispaces, YouTube, Facebook, and Yahoo Groups. I find wikispaces easy to use and navigate. Wikispaces are easy for students to use and learn. I use YouTube and TeacherTube for video content that’s relevant to teaching topics.
10. I use pseudonyms for my students on both classblogmeister and wikispaces. I teach my students about digital citizenship and their digital footprint on the net. Most web based applications have teacher subscriptions that don’t have advertising or pop-ups. I’m teaching my students about Creative Commons materials and how to use them in their on-line/off-line assignments.

I hope this helps out,

Kimberly Brown

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