My Journey with Global Collaboration

Bright Ideas is a blog by the School Library Association of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria. Rachel from Bright Ideas recently asked if I’d share with readers how I got involved in global collaboration and I was only too happy to help. Hopefully, together we can inspire more teachers to make connections globally and open up whole new worlds for their students.

As I mentioned on the recent Virtual Staffroom podcast, one of things I love most about blogging and using technologies in my classroom is the opportunities for global collaboration.

2008 was the year that I began blogging and also collaborating globally with my students. In the three years that have passed, our experiences of collaboration have become more integrated, frequent and richer.

I created the following diagram to demonstrate how my involvement in global collaboration has progressed (tip: click on image if you want to see it more clearly).

diagram progress global projects

A summary of how I progressed with global collaboration

2008

Christmas Card Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with seven schools around the world and we exchanged Christmas/holiday cards.
PROS – Learning about all the different countries involved and their holiday traditions.
CONS – Lack of “real” connection to the classes and lack of technology used (the contact was slow!).

2009

Teddy Bear Exchange Project organised through iEARN: our class was matched with a class in Canada. We exchanged teddies via snail mail and we “helped” the teddies write weekly emails to each other. We collated all the emails on a page on our class blog.

PROS – We learnt a lot about life in Canada; children learnt about email.
CONS – There wasn’t the chance for a “real” connection to develop between students – it was all through the teddy.

*****

Blogging Buddies: in our second year of blogging we began forming connections with many classes around the world. We would leave comments on our new friends’ blogs and keep track of what they were up to in an informal manner.

PROS – Blogging suddenly become more powerful, interesting and meaningful as we had a real international audience. Students began to learn there was a life outside of their neighbourhood.
CONS – All our interactions and learning was “ad-hoc”.

2010 – first half

Our relationships with our blogging buddies continued and expanded while we looked to more structured, self-organised and personalised projects.

Collaboration Corner http://collaboration-corner.blogspot.com
I created a blog with Linda Yollis in California. Our classes had got to know each other since early 2009 via our class blogs.
We called the blog “Collaboration Corner”. This was a place for the students to work on projects together and have rich discussions through commenting.

We had two main projects in the first half of the year:
•    Lunch Box Project – this complimented our “Food” theme. A child from each class took turns making a post about their lunch. They used a tool like Fotobabble to narrate a picture of their lunch. Some great conversations got going in the comments on healthy eating, food preferences, cultural difference with food, food groups etc.
•    Our School – the students used tools like VoiceThread and video to show their American friends around their school. The students made posts about the play areas, library, office etc. The students were really interested to compare how school is the same and different in Australia and the US.

PROS – The students got to really connect with their blogging buddies and the blog provided a window into their lives. Skype was used to enhance this connection such as our Skype breakfast party. A lot of content was learnt about food, time zones, schools, geography. A lot of reflection and new ideas also arose.
CONS – We were working together and learning a lot but what for?

2010 – second half

Ugandan Global Project http://ugandanglobalproject.blogspot.com
This is an idea I came up with because I loved how my students were learning and connecting with their buddies overseas but I thought something was missing. I knew we could take it further. I wanted my students to be able to use these global connections for a greater good; to raise their social conscience, help others and learn more about the world in which they live.

In this project, we set up another blog and invited some of our blogging buddies to join in. We had two Australian classes, three American classes and one Chinese class involved all working together to help out a school in Uganda.

The students were sponsored by their family and friends and at 10am on Friday 22nd October, all the classes around the world ran/walked for one hour to earn their sponsorship money.

Throughout the project all the classes involved worked on various tasks to learn more about Uganda and put up posts on the blog on topics such as
•    A day in the life of a student in Australia/USA/China/Uganda
•    A traditional song in each country
•    The run/walk event in each location
•    Time zones
•    Currencies

Behind these posts, the commenting was fantastic! The students (all aged 7-9) were involved in some rich conversations.

This project raised $20,000 which is making an enormous difference in the lives of our Ugandan friends.

There are also incredible flow-on effects still happening. A group of Americans who followed our project blog decided to volunteer at the Ugandan school. There are around 20 of them in Uganda at the time of writing and they’re making an invaluable contribution. Additionally, a teacher who read about our project contacted the school founder asking how she can help. The possibilities of these after effects are endless.

I feel that one of the ultimate goals of being a global citizen is to be able to work together for a common good, be understanding of others and have a social conscience. Through blogging, my students are developing as effective global citizens and I’m so proud of what they are achieving! I can’t wait to see where we’ll go next…

What next?

Needless to say, I want my students to be involved in more global collaboration in the future. I think a mix of informal collaboration and more structured projects works well. We’re now at a point where we don’t need to look at projects organised by outside agencies as we are part of a large international blogging community.

When it comes to projects, I like the idea of working on some projects that are simply designed to increase student learning and global awareness, while also aiming for perhaps an annual big project (like the Ugandan Project) where the aims go beyond individual student learning.

How to get started

If you want your class to connect and collaborate globally, I recommend you read this post by Edna Sackson “10 Ways to Create Global Connections

If you want to start in a more structured way like I did, there are many free and paid organisations co-ordinating global collaborative projects.

You might like to try…

http://www.globalschoolnet.org/

http://www.iearn.org.au/

http://www.theteacherscorner.net/penpals/

http://www.epals.com

http://www.ozprojects.edu.au

Good luck!

Leave a comment if you want to share your experiences of global collaboration.

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

The school year began in Victoria, Australia last week. Many teachers have been thinking about the benefits of having a class blog and are keen to start their own class blog.

I’ve been getting lots of questions about the process of starting a blog so I thought I would write a post to help get new bloggers started (note, the views below are all my own).

1. Choose Your Platform

If you are working in a Victorian Government School, I recommend you head straight to Global2. This is the new platform for 2011 and replaces Global Teacher and Global Student. Global2 is an Edublogs Campus Site. That means you get all the best features that Edublogs offers for free! Support for Edublogs Campus subscribers is extensive.

If you are not in a Victorian Government School, you will need to choose another platform. There are many blogging platforms out there but my personal favourites are Blogger and Edublogs.

I have found pros and cons for both.

Edublogs has a free version but to access an ad-free blog with better features and support you will need to pay for a subscription. Click here to find out about costs.

Blogger is Google’s blogging platform (also known as Blogspot) and is totally free. Blogger has a good range of theme templates and sidebar gadgets available however I  have found the overall features to be more simplistic than Edublogs (not necessarily a bad thing for some teachers and students). Specific support is also much more limited than Edublogs although because of its large worldwide usage, there are a lot of Blogger forums, help sites and videos on the web.

One important point to note with Blogger is there is a navigation bar at the top of each blog that allows you to “go to the next blog” among other things. This could potentially cause safety issues for your students if the “next blog” is inappropriate.

Click here to find the instructions on how to remove the navigation bar (I haven’t tried these instructions yet so please leave a comment if you’ve tried them!)

Still not sure what platform to use? Check out these blogs to see the difference

BLOGGER BLOGS

Mrs Yollis’ Classroom Blog

Ugandan Global Project

Open the Door to B4

EDUBLOGS BLOGS

2KM and 2KJ @ Leopold Primary School

Mr Salsich’s Class Blog

Mr Avery’s Classroom Blog

2. Find Support

Whatever platform you choose there are avenues for support. Make the most of these to help you learn about blogging.

General:

  • Twitter (I am @kathleen_morris there are many other fabulous helpful bloggers on Twitter).
  • Read other class blogs for ideas (check out the list on the Edublogger site). *Note: do not directly copy other people’s work. That is a breach of copyright, etiquette and a form of plagiarism.
  • Are there any other teachers interested in blogging at your school? Buddy up with them and learn together.
  • Sign up for the Blogging Teacher Challenge or Student Blogging Challenge, both are free professional development to help you and your students to become better bloggers.

Edublogs:

  • Read the Edublogger Blog by Sue Waters – a mine of information!
  • Visit the Edublogs support page for a extensive range of videos and written tutorials.
  • Follow Edublogs on Twitter (@Edublogs)

Blogger:

  • Visit the Blogger support page for getting started guides and tutorials.
  • Follow Blogger on Twitter (@blogger)

3. Set Your Guidelines

Before you start blogging with your students you need to think about what sort of guidelines you want to have in place. There is no right or wrong answer here. Decide what will work best for you, your students, your parents and your school.

Questions to consider:

•    Will you include photos of the students’ faces?
•    Will you select the option (in Edublogs) to include you blog in public searches like Google?
•    Will you ask parents to not use their surname when they comment so they don’t identify their child?
•    Will you select the option to have all comments sent to your email for approval before appearing on the blog?
•    Will you set up protocols with your class so they know not to reveal too much about themselves on the blog and use courteous language online?
•    Will you read all students’ blog posts before they are published?

Click here to find the 2KM and 2KJ blog guidelines.

*Reminder: it is okay to look at other class blog guidelines but it is not okay to copy them without permission and acknowledgment.

4. Introduce Your Blog to Parents

Parent permission is crucial. Our school has a simple permission form which I accompany with an explanation letter about the blog and blogging.

Blog permission form

2KM and 2KJ Blog Information Note 2011

I also create a  handout to help parents navigate the class blog.

10 Steps to Navigating the 2KM and 2KJ Blog 2011

I include a “Learn About Blogging” set of pages on our class blog.

On the parent information night early in the school year, I talk to the parents about blogging, commenting and answer any of their questions.

Ongoing support for parents is provided via email newsletters throughout the year.

5. Introduce Your Blog to Students

I start the school year by introducing the students to the concept of blogging and familiarising them with the terminology.

Introducing my students to their blogging community is done from Day One. We have established many “blogging buddies” over the three years I have had a class blog and each year my students and I continue these relationships.

It is so important to teach students to write quality comments if you want to improve their literacy skills and help them to engage in meaningful conversations on the blog. Last year I wrote a post about how I teach commenting skills. Find it here.

In my class, students have the opportunity to earn their own blog throughout the year and I make them aware of this early in the school year. Find out more about how I set up student blogs here.

Throughout the year, this is the process I use to introduce students to blogging (note some stages are longer than others ie. commenting is a huge focus where as only a small amount of time may be spent of whole class/individual writing of blog posts).

class blogging progression

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

2011 School Year Begins

Today was the first day back at school for teachers in Victorian Government Schools.

All schools are spending the first three days on professional development and planning.

This year my school is focussing on in-house professional development. Each Monday night teachers will be presenting on Literacy, Numeracy and ICT. I am in charge of ICT professional development.

Last year, I set up a weekly lunch time ICT Drop in Session for teachers to assist them with blogging, IWBs and general ICT questions. I hope to continue with this this year to follow up on my Monday night sessions.

Today I presented to my staff about ICT. My guidelines were broad so I decided to offer my Top Ten Tips to Integrate Technology in the Classroom.

The ideas in the presentation are some of the areas that I will cover in PDs throughout the year. I knew not everything in the presentation would appeal to all teachers however I hoped there was something to inspire everyone.

The highlight of the presentation was skyping with the wonderful Linda Yollis in California, USA. Linda not only spoke about some of the ways she had used Skype in the classroom but demonstrated how Skype is actually used for those teachers who were unfamiliar with this tool.

How does your school structure professional development?

What are you focussing on at the start of the school year?

What would you include in your Top Ten Tips for Technology Integration?

Follow Up: Overcoming Obstacles

In my last post, I wrote about some common obstacles that teachers put forward as to why they don’t blog or use technologies in their classrooms.

I discussed lack of time, lack of equipment, lack of keyboarding skills and internet safety along with possible solutions to these issues.

The comments on this post were very insightful and I enjoyed hearing the viewpoints of others.

The comment that stood out for me most was by Jonah Salsich. I’ve summarised what he said here but go back to the previous post to read his full comment.

I think one of the biggest reasons some teachers are hesitant to blog … is the perceived learning curve. They know how to teach the way they always have … and that way works.
Technology integration requires time investment, learning new skills, and troubleshooting … we are asking teachers to act as students.

I’m beginning to think that working with technology might be a specific type of learning modality. We are familiar with the idea that students learn in different ways – spatially, kin-esthetically, linguistically, etc. It’s no different for teachers, we all have different learning strengths.

… we shouldn’t assume that all teachers can pick up blogging the way many of us have. And I don’t think it has much to do with the whole “digital immigrant/digital native” idea. I’m a digital immigrant (never really used the internet until I started teaching 5 years ago) and I can spend hours tinkering with web applications … (teachers) just may struggle with the type of learning involved.

This made me think, perhaps the unfamiliar learning style/modality is the biggest reason some teachers don’t get into blogging or technology integration?

A visual representation: obstacles to integrating technology in the classroom

I came up with this diagram to explain my thoughts.

Obstacles diagram

Of course, it’s not this linear and exact but it is one way of thinking about the issue.

The unfamiliar learning style could be the biggest obstacle people face when thinking about integrating technology into the classroom. For people like me (and probably you) this is no obstacle. We don’t know everything but we’re prepared to learn. We know that learning won’t be overly difficult.

If the learning style is an obstacle for you, you might stop there. If not, then you can look at the issue of time. I put “perceived” lack of time because, to me, it is a perception. I know people with families and lots of commitments actually do have less time than others, however I’m sure we all know some educators who spend a lot of time chatting and “fluffing around” before/after school and during time release. Or, we know teachers who spend a lot of their time on tasks that could be replaced by blogging/technology.

If you think you can’t find time you might stop there. Otherwise, you can look at the issue of support. School support is crucial however, I have see cases where apprehensive administrative teams or parents can be convinced with education. Often it is fear and lack of understanding that creates negative attitudes. Getting parents to be actively involved in blogs is something I have written about before. Find that post here.

Finding support from like-minded teachers really helps. Sometimes your school isn’t the only place to look for this support. I have found creating a professional learning network (PLN) online to be a fabulous way to become a better teacher. I wrote about how I use Twitter to create a PLN here. There is so much support out there, you just have to find it.

If you can’t generate the support you need, you might stop there. Otherwise, you can look at the issue of equipment. Lack of computers is something I’ve already addressed but as Mrs W pointed out in my last post “Living in rural Australia, at home I can only get wireless broadband and at a low signal strength. Internet comes and goes on and off. Many of my parents have similar issues.” This is very frustrating and difficult to overcome, I know because up until early 2010 our school internet was so slow you could almost not use it! Hopefully the National Broadband Network will provide a solution for our rural classrooms.

Sites being blocked is also frustrating although each school in Victoria can control what they want to block so maybe talk to your school technicians if this is an issue for you. Read my Tech Tools for Teachers about filtering in Victorian government schools for more information.

Finally, if you can get past the issue of equipment and bandwidth there are a multitude of other obstacles that could be important and unique to you such as lack of keyboarding skills and student age. Overcoming these obstacles requires the desire to do so, and a positive and creative approach.

What do we do about this?

After pointing out the unfamiliar learning style as being a major obstacle for many teachers, Jonah Salsich went on to say

However, just as the student who struggles with maths (or literacy, communication, etc.) still needs to learn those skills, teachers need to learn the new skills inherent in tech integration.

Or do they?… Are their colleagues telling them they need to? Are their administrators telling them they need to? Are the parents telling them they need to? If not, then they don’t need to learn it. We would like them to because we see the benefits and we enjoy it, but until they need to learn it many of them won’t. If I didn’t demand that my students who struggle with maths learn it, they certainly wouldn’t do it on their own.

I responded

The thing is, yes there are kids that don’t like maths and there are teachers that don’t like maths but can those teachers get away with not teaching maths? No way.

As you said “Are their colleagues telling them they need to? Are their administrators telling them they need to? Are the parents telling them they need to?”
When it comes to maths, reading, writing, history, geography and every other subject the answer is yes. Colleagues, admin and parents all expect the teacher to be teaching these things.

Why is technology still optional? Such a big issue! There is not only the issue that experienced teachers need to be encouraged, expected and supported to make that change but new teachers training at university need to have technology made a priority. From my experience with unis and student teachers, this is not usually the case.

Another issue is, teachers need to realise that their students are really missing out if they feel they cannot or will not integrate technology into their classrooms. It’s really doing their students a disservice. Maybe they don’t realise or maybe they choose not to think about this?

Sarah Leakey added

The fact that teachers might find it difficult and it may not come easily to them makes it all the more important for it to be taken up by them. What a great message to be sending kids: I find this tough and challenging but I believe it’s important so I’m going to give it a go and try and do the best that I possibly can. That’s the message a lot of us try and pass onto our kids everyday so why not show them that we practice what we preach.

Thank you to everyone else who took the time to comment on the post. I found all the comments incredible insightful and I encourage others to take a look!

I’ve come to realise that I am lucky that technology is a learning modality that I’m comfortable with (if it was music, physics, woodwork or something, I’d struggle to say the least!) I want to help other teachers become more comfortable with this way of learning.

I think it is important that this issue is discussed and personal teacher obstacles acknowledged. I believe the dialogue about solutions needs to be ongoing and support for all teachers to join us “where the grass is oh so green” is crucial.

What do you think about all this?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Overcoming Obstacles

A few days ago I was honoured to be invited on the The Virtual Staffroom podcast. Chris Betcher interviewed Linda Yollis
and me about our classroom blogging and collaboration. Click here to find the podcast or look up “The Virtual Staffroom” in iTunes.

Virtual Staffroom

One of the topics that arose on the podcast was around getting more teachers involved in classroom blogging. In my last post, I highlighted some of the benefits my students and I have gained from having a class blog. If the advantages are clear, why aren’t more teachers using blogs?

Linda Yollis and I are both passionate about encouraging others to get involved in blogging. Often the problem doesn’t lie with starting the blog but maintaining it. I would love to know the percentage of blogs that become dormant within months of starting.

There are many issues that teachers have voiced as obstacles to starting or maintaining a blog, or using technologies in their classroom. I’d like to address a few “obstacles” here with an alternative viewpoint. Please comment with any other obstacles or solutions you’ve come across.

“I already do so much, I don’t have time for something extra.”

There is no denying that blogging (or integrating technologies) takes time. It is a different way of working for many teachers who have been using the same approach for years. If you want to make blogging a part of your classroom, you need to prioritise it. That may mean sacrificing things that were priorities in the past. For Linda, that was making attractive bulletin board displays or creating “paper based” projects for students.

While you will experience a steep learning curve at the beginning, it is worth sticking with it. When you get the hang of blogging or technology integration it is not an add on, it is a seamless way of working more effectively.

“I don’t have enough computers in my classroom.”

I have five (far from new) computers in my classroom and Linda has only two computers in her classroom. It is clear that we didn’t need a 1:1 laptop program or a computer lab to make blogging work for us.

You need to be creative and find out what works for you and your class. Perhaps you could use a projector or IWB to do whole class/small group work, or partner students up and have times when they can rotate their use of the computer.

Use what you’ve got to the best of your ability and you’re off to a great start!

“I want to blog with my class but my young students can’t type.”

The way I like to think of this is, are students going to get any better at typing by not blogging? I have found blogging is a great way to authentically teach keyboarding skills and is an avenue for regular practice.

Last year I was amazed at the progress many students made with their typing through incidental lessons, drill games and regular practice.

Some students are going to take longer than others to develop their keyboarding skills but even if they produce a one sentence comment, that’s a good start. Alternatively, I sometimes get the “better typists” help other students type their thoughts if we’re short on time.

“I’m concerned about internet safety. I don’t want to compromise my students’ safety.”

Internet safety is undoubtedly an important issue. There are many ways to teach about internet safety and in my own experience, blogging has been the ideal avenue to teach my young students about this topic and appropriate online behaviours. Click here to read about how I set up rules and guidelines for my class blog. These guidelines ensure safety is a priority.

Through blogging, all my students know not to publish their surnames or reveal other personal information about themselves including passwords. They know that what they publish on the internet is forever and cannot be taken back. My students are also becoming aware of correct netiquette.

Internet safety has to be taught and I have found it is best to approach the topic when students are young. It is important that we give our students experience using online technologies in a supervised environment. Technology is not going away. Internet safety will always be an issue. We need to address it.


In summary, it is clear that if you really want to  do something you will do it. Apparent obstacles will turn into opportunities for creativity and problem solving.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Can you think of any other obstacles that prevent teachers from blogging and using technologies in their classroom?

What other solutions can you come up with?

A Reflection on the Benefits of Classroom Blogging

I updated this post in March 2013. Click here to find the new post!

Most of you will know how passionate I am about blogging in the classroom. Since I started blogging with my students in 2008, I have come to realise how enormous the benefits are.

The diagram below summarises the most powerful benefits I’ve found from blogging:

  • Improved Literacy Skills: I wrote about the improvement in my students’ literacy skills in this post. Not only were skills improved, but engagement levels increased. Reluctant writers wanted to write for a purpose and students were using blogs to purposefully communicate and converse with others.
  • Authentic Audience: In the traditional classroom, the only audience of student work was the teacher and sometimes classmates and parents. Blogs provide a much larger audience for student work and an avenue for feedback and self-improvement through commenting.
  • Sense of Classroom Community: Creating a class blog requires teamwork and collaboration. Students and teachers learn and share their learning together. A real sense of classroom community can be developed through blogging and establishing a class identity.
  • Global Connections: I have found this to be one of the most exciting benefits of blogging. Blogging can help flatten the classroom walls and we have got to know many classes across five continents who we call our “blogging buddies”. The benefits of these connections are priceless. A sense of understanding and tolerance develops and students can learn a lot about the world in which they live. We’ve used blogs to undertake global collaborative projects such as Collaboration Corner and the Uganadan Global Project.
  • ICT Skills: Blogging assists students to become more ICT literate which is an important 21st century skill. Through blogging, we’re able to incidentally discuss many ICT skills such as keyboard shortcuts, researching online and troubleshooting.
  • Home- School Partnerships: I have received many comments from parents and families who love using the class blog as a “window into our classroom”. Through commenting, families can be a part of what is happening in our classroom and have real time access to their child’s education.
  • Appropriate Online Behaviours: Everyone will agree that teaching students to be safe online is an important issue. You can’t just do one off lessons on cyber safety. Cyber safety is not a separate subject. Through being heavily involved in blogging, my Grade Two class has opportunities almost every day to discuss cyber safety issues and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting.
  • Confidence: I have found that students really take pride in their work that goes on the blog and want to do their best for their impending audience. Students can gain self-confidence from being part of a class blog and demonstrating their achievements.

Overall, blogging is a platform for everything. It is a fantastic place to start for teachers and students who want to learn about technology. Additionally, there are so many wonderful Web 2.0 tools out there which have so much more value when you can embed them in a blog.

Have you witnessed any of these benefits in your classroom?

What other benefits can students and teachers get out of blogging?

Goals for 2011

The school year begins for us in Victoria, Australia in a few weeks time.

2010 was a steep learning curve for me; I started to do a lot of things differently and this has influenced how I plan to approach the 2011 school year.

I am again teaching Grade Two and, like 2010, I will be sharing a large open classroom with Kelly Jordan. We team teach almost every lesson and I find this a very effective and engaging way to teach. We will be greeting our combined 42 students on Friday 4th February and we have a lot planned for them!

2KM 2KJ classroom

In terms of technology integration, these are a few of my goals for 2011:

  • Start blogging on Day One: As I have blogged about numerous times, blogging is a huge part of my classroom and the benefits for my students have been priceless. Before the holidays, I met my new students for an hour and we spent the bulk of the time blogging and skyping our blogging buddy, Mrs Yollis. I sent a letter home to the new families encouraging them to comment on our 2010 class blog over the holidays and many of them have. This year, Kelly and I have decided to have a combined class blog. After all, we do almost everything together and last year we found that we were putting almost identical posts on each of our class blogs!
  • Teach ICT skills incidentally: Last September I blogged about how I try to take every opportunity to teach my students various ICT skills as they arise. I find this a really effective way to truly integrate ICT into the curriculum. With the help of many of my readers, I have compiled a Google Doc that suggests some of the ICT skills that could be taught to students in an incidental manner. Check it out and feel free to add to the list.
  • Increase meaningful global collaboration: Last year, my class was part of some wonderful global connections. The majority of these were informal, however we did set up some more structured projects. We worked on a joint blog with Mrs Yollis’ class called Collaboration Corner where we collaborated on projects about our lunchboxes and schools. The highlight of 2010 was our Ugandan Global Project where we worked with six classes across the world to raise $20,000 for a Ugandan school. My aim for 2011 is to continue with regular informal global collaboration while also structuring some more purposeful formal collaborative projects. Stay tuned!
  • Integrate more inquiry based learning: This method of teaching and learning is something I haven’t had much experience with, however, through learning from my peers such as Edna Sackson, I am gaining an understanding of how valuable an inquiry based approach is. Put simply, I believe students learn best when they make discoveries for themselves and I want to integrate more questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving into my classroom. Technology can be a wonderful avenue for this. At my school, our integrated studies units of work have traditionally been heavily fact-based. I hope to change this in my classroom and learn more about inquiry based learning from my PLN in 2011.

Leave a comment.

What are your goals for the new school year?

Holidays are Here!

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Thank you to all my readers for you support throughout the year.

2010 has seen over EIGHTY posts on this blog!

*****

I have also collaborated on THIRTY Tech Tools for Teachers email newsletters with Simon Collier.

These free weekly e-newsletters for teachers offer instruction on ICT tools and sites that can be used in the classroom.

If you have some spare time over the holidays, why not check out the newsletters which are all in PDF format on this page of my blog.

We plan to continue with Tech Tools for Teachers in 2011, so if you haven’t signed up – here is the link to do so.

*****

Have a safe, happy and relaxing Christmas period and look our for more posts in the new year!

What was your highlight of the 2010 year?

Literacy Skills: How Far They’ve Come!

I am always telling people how much my students’ literacy skills have improved through blogging.

In my seven year teaching career, I have not come close to finding another medium that helps students to refine their reading and writing so well.

Through advice from the amazing, Linda Yollis, I have been able to set very high standards for my students this year and, with support and practice, so many of them have excelled.

I have provided clear guidelines on writing quality comments which my seven and eight year old students didn’t take long to get a clear grasp of. The students in Mrs Yollis’ class were also role models for my students with their writing (12,000 kilometres away!).

Blogging is authentic. Students are reading and writing for a purpose and genuine audience. It is ongoing. Unlike other approaches to teaching literacy, where you may study a genre or style for a few weeks, blogging is a daily occurrence in our classroom.

Throughout the year, we have been able to discuss the the following (and more) in an authentic context.

  • spelling structures
  • paragraphs and organising writing
  • a wide range of punctuation (commas, capital letters, full stops, brackets, exclamation marks etc)
  • planning, proofreading and revising
  • writing voice
  • similies, synonyms and antonyms
  • verbs, nouns and adjectives
  • vocabulary
  • using bold and italics appropriately
  • tenses
  • how to ask quality questions and engage in conversations.

It has been so much more authentic to teach these conventions in the context of writing on the blog rather than as stand-alone, one off lessons. That’s not to say we don’t do regular lessons and units of work on various conventions and genres, it’s just that blogging is always there and the progress the students make with writing on the blog are transferred to other areas.

In her book Radical Reflections, well known children’s author, Mem Fox, states that

“we’re currently wasting a lot of time by giving unreal writing tasks in our classrooms….You and I don’t engage in meaningless writing exercises in real life—we’re far too busy doing the real thing”

If we want our students to be motivated to use their emerging writing skills, we have to make writing purposeful, challenging, and real-to-life. Blogging offers this.

Many of my students have transformed from emergent writers to very independent, competent writers who produce higher quality comments than some adults!

Rather than just talking about the improvements my students have made, I decided to look back at some comments from throughout the year to find evidence of this.

The presentation below shows how three students have progressed with their blog comments throughout the year.

(Tip: Press play then click on the square on the bottom ride hand side of the presentation to view in full screen. Press escape to get out of the presentation)

How do you think blogging improves students literacy skills?

My Blogging Journey

Many people have asked me how I got started with blogging. With my recent Edublog Award nominations, it has been an opportune time to reflect.

In 2008, as part of my Teacher Professional Leave project I visited the DEECD Central Office to get some ideas on how technology was being used in schools.

There I met Kerry who introduced me to blogging. She helped me sign up for my first blog, Leopold TPL, and as soon as I got home I started playing….and didn’t stop!

Not long after, I started a class blog and introduced my Grade Three students to blogging. Here is my first attempt at a class blog.

At the start of 2009, I moved to teaching Grade Two and started the 2KM blog.

I also started this blog, Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom, with the initial goal of sharing ideas and resources. The purpose of this blog is slowly changing from resource sharing to reflection, advice and discussion of issues surrounding technology integration.

Starting this blog involved taking a leap of faith. When I began, I had a handful of readers which has grown exponentially. Many people have mentioned to me that they would like to start a blog but they don’t think anyone would read it. I advise them to take that risk.

I love this quote I read on Twitter today.

The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. -Erica Jong

For me, blogging has been an ongoing journey. When preparing for my Tech Talk Tuesdays Elluminate Session last month, I was able to reflect further on this journey.

The following demonstrates how far I’ve come with my class blog in the last three years.

blogging journey

It’s important to realise that, like everything, you can’t know everything straight away.

If you’re just starting on your blogging journey, don’t be overwhelmed by what others are doing and all the possibilities that are out there. Start small and take it one step at a time. Persevere!

Even though I have come so far in the last three years, I am still learning every day. And I love it!

Leave a comment.

Share your thoughts on your own blogging journey.

What advice would you give to bloggers who are just starting?