voice thread

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.

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.

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.


Grade 2&3 Class at Christmas