Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure
Web URL: http://tinyurl.com/yofz7d
To get you started, I’ve prepared a short audio welcome! You can find it online at the EduBlog I created for you to share your ideas!
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Why don’t you type up your writing assignment like you do your stories?” I asked my 13 year old daughter a few weeks ago. Her response shocked me. “I have to write it up at school by hand, so why use the computer?” she replied. My daughter publishes her stories and poems online via a wiki, but has given up trying to turn her assignments in via a blog or wiki…her teacher won’t accept them.
A recent Pew Research study showed that twelve to seventeen year olds share what they think and do online, while one in five teens remix content from a variety of sources, synthesizing and making new creations. Yet, when these children get to school, they are forced to engage in irrelevant activities with no real audience, without the technology they have learned to use and without appropriate role models.
The study also found that 56 per cent of young people in America were using computers for “creative activities, writing and posting of the internet, mixing and constructing multimedia and developing their own content.” Research and technology are driving profound changes in expectations for the use of technology in schools. These are embodied in the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) National Education Technology Standards (NETS) for students AND teachers.
Schools are expected to overcome obstacles and help children develop skills required in a digital world to “produce and innovate” using technology. The revised standards are organized into six categories: creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information retrieval; critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making; digital citizenship; and technology operations and concepts.
Under communication and collaboration, you will find:
(A)collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and others employing a variety of digital media and formats
Example: Expert Voices - http://expertvoices.wikispaces.com/
(B)communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences utilizing a variety of media and formats
Example: Flat Classroom Project - http://flatclassroomproject.wikispaces.com/
(C)develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
Example: International Teen Life - http://internationalteenlife.pbwiki.com/
(D)contribute to project teams to produce original works
Example: 1001 Flat World Tales Project - https://burell9english.wikispaces.com/
This is work that is done, not in isolation, but in collaboration with others outside of school. Click on the links above to see examples of each.
“These teens,” shares Lee Raine, “were born into a digital world where they expect to be able to create, consume, remix, and share material with each other and lots of strangers.” What should schools be doing? Should they ban the technologies children use at home in school, or model appropriate use in school? And, what does modeling mean for us as educators?
“Last week, I heard Stephen Krashen (author of Power of Reading) and Larry Cuban (author of Oversold and UnderUsed: Computers in the Classroom)speak at two different conferences,” I shared with a colleague.
“When did you go to TWO different conferences?” she asked in a shocked voice. “How can you afford to go to conferences and at the beginning of the year with all the budget cuts?”
“I didn’t physically go to the conference,” I replied. “I listened to a podcast, or audio recording, of their presentations. If that’s impressive, I also listened to Mike Huffman from Indiana Schools talk about his state-wide, 200,000 desktop computer deployment—all 200,000 computers are running free software on Linux (which replaces Windows). It’s mind-blowing to be able to listen to people that I never would have heard before!”
And, I had to add, “Later this month, there will be a K-12 Online Learning Conference for educators—and it will take place entirely online. Imagine doing an online conference for a District our size without having to bring everyone together in one place!”
Often, we’re expected to model best practices in training that we do, but have no idea what best practices look like outside of our experiences in the District. As a district administrator, I’m thrilled to observe classroom teachers working to publish student writing online through the use of blogs (View Example). However, both teachers and administrators can engage in reflection on the work they are about through the use of blogs.
In July of 2005, I embarked as a edu-blogger, or an educator that blogs about education topics. It has fostered wonderful dialogue, reflection on my own practices, and allowed me to construct a personal learning network that has brought me in contact with others across the Nation. Since information and events are moving so rapidly, the only way to stay up to date is to engage what is going on. A way to process this is to write in a blog.
Administrators are beginning to blog, but here are three of five reasons Scott McLeod (Dangerously Irrelevant) shares:
We sometimes find ourselves inundated by a flood of new ideas, projects and activities. Reflecting on our reactions to these ideas, as well as how ideas impact teaching, learning and leadership in our specific concepts can enable us to take risks. Better informed with a deeper knowledge of what we’re about, reflective blogging can transform our experience as mice in a treadmill to knowing how to find new sources of cheese for the children and the organization we serve.
Interested in getting started? Contact Miguel via email at “firstname.lastname@example.org”
Blogs as Webs of Connected Learning
“It’s as if there’s a layer of conversation lying on top of the regular web,” shared David Warlick at the TechForum Tx that took place on November 10, 2005. At the same time, he introduced the concept of a personal learning network. Facilitated by blogs and RSS Feeds, the purpose of the PLN is professional development within his area of interest.
This idea of building your own professional development network—where you find who you can learn from, ask questions of them, comment on their thoughts and links, and have them do the same for you—is one of the major benefits of blogging and podcasting. It is the art of conversation captured in digital format. This article shares how blogs enable both adult learners and students to create their own personal learning networks. It also examines possible solutions to address unintended consequences among student blog use.
Digital conversations are taking place in the blogosphere…but are you a participant? I recently asked technology directors on the Technology Education Coordinators’ Special Interest Group email list (TEC-SIG) if they were having the types of conversations that others were having. I was struggling with the use of blogs in education, and I wanted other Texas Ed-Tech directors to discuss it with me. Email lists are no longer part of the “inner circle” where the best conversations take place.
Instead, those conversations are taking place in spaces like Blogger.com, MySpace.com, and the millions of blogs available on the Web and the comments people leave on them. As the masses of India and China find their own voices online, build their own personal learning networks drawing upon many more people than we have access to in the United States, know that isolationism just will not work, either for you, your children or your students.
If you’re not a part of the conversations, you aren’t aware of the issues until they hit home—like the problems with MySpace.com and the use of this online space by students at a high school in a San Antonio, Tx school district. By now, the inappropriate use of MySpace.com has been discussed across the Blogosphere, but if you aren’t a blogger, and you did not “catch the news,” then you missed the opportunity to learn. However, if you are a part of the conversation, you can learn, contribute and perhaps, learn as others learn. And, learning with others makes the difference since learning is a social process…and has now gone online with blogs. Learning with others means you take control of the flood of information and data coming into your life.
There are three aspects to using blogs, podcasts and the RSS feeds that tap into this digital conversation, 3 incentives for building virtual personal learning networks; these are explored briefly below.
1) BLOGS ENABLE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT NETWORKS Anne, a blogging teacher, describes the benefits of a blog-based personal learning network. This type of network—taking advantage of blogs and RSS feeds—allows us to tap into people that we would not otherwise have contact with. In a blog entry, Anne writes about how a librarian’s blog—The Shifted Librarian—allows her to learn about a conference she could not attend. She writes, “Those learnings led me to even more learning on the blogs of those who had presented. Talk about professional development” (Source: http://anne.teachesme.com/2005/10/26#a4497).
Personal learning networks give us access to varied information sources, and, more importantly, to people whom we can ask questions of, provide us with coaching and mentoring, as well as challenge or extend our thinking (Source: David Tobin at http://www.tobincls.com/learningnetwork.htm). In the connected world that we now live in (note that I did not write “going to live in” or in the “21st century”), NOT creating your own personal learning network cuts you off from what you need to survive and thrive in a “flattened world” (as Thomas Friedman describes in his book, The World is Flat). Using RSS feeds, we are able to process a greater amount of information than was previously possible by surfing to different web pages. In a moment, we can get the pulse of conversations, then dig deeper as we need to so as to discover what is of merit.
2) BLOGS ENABLE DIGITAL CONVERSATIONS At David Warlick’s presentation at TechForum Tx, one of the presentation slides showed how David was making connections between blogs, building his own personal learning network. For example, he started reading Steve Dembo’s blog (http://Teach42.com), and something mentioned in that blog made him explore another.
Like David, I started out in the same way. I began simply with one or two education-related blogs (e.g. Bud the Teacher and http://SpeedofCreativity.org) and then added blogs as I went. But adding blog feeds my RSS Aggregator is not what digital conversations are about. It’s not enough to read, it’s also important to write.
To accomplish that, I started leaving comments relevant to the blog entries posted on other’s blogs. As I posted each comment, I included a link back to my blog (http://www.mguhlin.net). On my blog, I would expand on the conversation in a way that I only hinted at in the comment. In this way, I invited other bloggers to visit my blog and, in turn, leave comments on my web site. The nature of the comments left on my site has been very helpful. They are helpful because they give me information and advice that I wouldn’t have had if I depended on my “traditional” personal learning network. That is, people I interact with every day where I live and work. In a way that email lists could never do—because not everyone can be subscribed to every email list I work on—blogs enable me to learn from strangers.
3) BLOGS FOSTER TRANSPARENCY Blogs enable us to see what others are thinking—or lack of thinking—as they build a web of connected learning. Most adults automatically protect themselves—although there are ample examples of those who have not—when using virtual spaces like Blogger.com and MySpace.com. It is alright for them to encounter adult content that is considered inappropriate for use in K-12 settings. However, school policy dictates that participating in these adult sites—adult, not because they have XXX content perhaps but because they deal with adult content including pictures—requires approval. Most teachers and administrators who blog are aware of the lines they must not cross.
Blogs and podcasts add a level of transparency that only a few are comfortable with. To be honest, some people don’t want to make their thinking known to others. Or, sadly, they do not believe their thinking is worthy of being shared.
Unfortunately, most students are not sophisticated enough to allow only some of their thinking—and feelings—to be transparent. For some, the inappropriateness of being transparent in certain areas adds a titillating effect that is difficult for them to overcome. This inappropriate use…this misappropriation of adult spaces by children has resulted in a whole new conversation.
This conversation has profound implications for blogging in classrooms and school districts. Blogging teachers are advocating that commercial blogging sites not be filtered out of the school’s network. However, virtual spaces like MySpaces.com—as wonderful as they are in connecting people—can be places where cyber-predators abide. As such, they are blocked by default through various content filtering systems. Before we discuss the alternatives, we need to ask ourselves some questions.
QUESTIONS WE MUST ASK AS EDUCATORS Sitting in a meeting with campus administrators in mid-November, 2005, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions. Unfortunately, most had not heard of virtual spaces like MySpace.com. But after we discussed the benefits, the question they had was, “Can we guarantee that all teachers will supervise students appropriately? Can we prevent teachers from letting students use these resources inappropriately?” The answer, evident to all present, was “No.” With that conversation in mind, and as a result of a podcast posted by Bud the Teacher where he challenges the idea of filtering out commercial blogging sites, I have a few questions to ask as well:
As a parent, I want to sign-off on any use of virtual spaces that my sixth grader engages in. She is a budding flower, and like any dad, I’m worried and want to protect her. The fact is that she has an naivety and innocence to her interactions with others. It is difficult to impress upon her the dangers of real people as sexual predators, much less virtual predators she will not see coming until it is too late.
The art of digital conversation, of building personal learning networks, is more about knowing when we need information, as well as knowing how to identify, locate and evaluate it. And, then, as if that weren’t enough, real life forces us to effectively use that information to solve real life problems. In short, blogging can help us—as well as our students—develop information literacy. It is our role as educators to scaffold blogging activities and efforts.
The SCRIBE Initiative features students writing in weblogs, a.k.a. blogs. Instructional Technology can help you get started blogging in your classroom with your students.
Weblogs as personal knowledge publishing parallels Susan McLeod’s description of journals as a way to…
Blogs can be used in classrooms in the following way with blog entries including:
Students “take real-world writing more seriously when it is done on the web, where it might actually be seen and used” (2000, p. 241). Many students today regularly email friends and family, converse via instant message daily, participate in multiplayer online games with people from around the web, and surf Internet sites much as earlier generations read magazines and newspapers. Students see the web as a public, playful place different from the writing spaces they typically work in within the classroom. Recognizing this, some composition teachers now assign individual hypertexts or group hypertext projects such as webzines, hoping to tap into the students’ sense of play and familiarity with online environments in order to stimulate investment in and engagement with their writing.
Excerpt from article available online by Charles Lowe. Read the article in its entirety.
In December, 2005, the Office of Instructional Technology experimented with different blog platforms, including Wordpress, Blojsom, Multi-User Word Press, b2Evolution and others. Criteria for selecting a blog platform included the following criteria:
There were other criteria as well. The District began using b2Evolution and has found it a robust, community-supported tool.
CONTENT AREA: Writing
GRADE LEVEL: 2
UNIT TOPIC: Writing about a real or imaginary trip
From TEKS Grade 2
2. Internet access
3. Class Blogmeister Accounts
Some background info: The idea for I wish poems comes from Kenneth Koch’s Wishes, Lies, and Dreams.
Day 1 - MiniLesson: Pre-Writing
4. Share the Being an Animal slide show with students and ask them to make a word map to describe a picture they choose. You might want to print out black-n-whites of the animal slides and let them do the word map next to the picture. You could also brainstorm words that describe, as well as feeling words, and list those on a whiteboard/blackboard so that students have a list to choose from when describing their animal of choice.
5. At the end of class, collect the graphic organizers students have made for next time.
Day 2: Writing the Poem
Day 3: Publishing the Poems
Day 4: Commenting on Other Class’ Poems
1. Ask students in another class to assess the poems. They might .use this simple rubric (under development).
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