Primary Tech

Archives for Collaboration

Benefits of Blogging by Linda Yollis and Class

My good friend in Los Angeles, Linda Yollis, recently created this excellent video with her second and third grade class about the benefits of blogging.

This video may give you more of an insight into what you could get out of blogging with your students, or you might like to share it with your staff.

It has been my pleasure to discover the benefits of blogging alongside Linda since we both began our class blogs in 2008.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of educational blogging, check out the post I wrote last month.

To learn more about educational blogging, including how to set up class and student blogs, check out the educational blogging page on my site.

Our World, Our Numbers Global Project

My class is currently involved in a wonderful global project called Our World, Our Numbers.

We launched Our World, Our Numbers alongside our blogging buddies on Monday 25th February.  

In late 2011, many of us worked on a global project called Our World, Our StoriesThis latest project is based on a similar format with a mathematical focus.

In late 2011 I reflected on the fabulous outcomes from the Our World, Our Stories project.

Classes involved

The students are all from primary (elementary) classes and are from three different continents and five countries.

Mr Avery’s sixth grade class from Massachusetts, USA

Mrs Monaghan’s 3/4 class, Room with a View, from England

Mrs Morris and Miss Jordan’s grade four class, 4KM and 4KJ, from Victoria, Australia

Mrs McKenzie’s 2/3 class, B4, from New Zealand

Mrs Yollis’ 2/3 class from California, USA

Mr Salsich’s third grade class from Connecticut, USA

Mrs Watson’s K/1/2/3 class from Canada


View Our World, Our Numbers in a larger map

How does the project work?

Students from all classes are connecting and collaborating by sharing their mathematical lives. This is happening through the blog and involves a variety of media.

A different class “leads” a mathematical topic every week or so, publishing posts and replying to comments. The other classes read the posts, possibly publish their own posts, and leave blog comments.

Topics

The topics so far have been:

Our future topics will involve mathematical elements of animals, area/populations and seasons/temperatures.

The learning

Through blog posts, the students teach each other about different aspects of mathematics based on aspects of their own culture.

The learning continues in the commenting section where students, teachers and parents engage in conversations to explore mathematical and cultural topics further.

Students are gaining an understanding of mathematics through the eyes of children in different countries and cultures. They are making comparisons and contrasts between their lives and other students’ lives.

Concluding the project

This project will conclude in mid-May. Stayed tuned for a culminating celebration then!

Our World, Our Numbers is a project we came up with ourselves. If you want some advice on how to start your own global project, read my post “Start Your Own Global Project”.

Developing Blogging Skills: Simple Rubric

I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a blogging scope and sequence for a while. However, something about that idea makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the thought of limiting blogging skills to certain age levels.

For example, a number of my grade two students were sourcing and attributing Creative Commons materials for blog posts, and using HTML in comments. These sorts of skills would probably not appear in the grade two section of any blogging scope and sequence.

I find blogging to be a fantastic avenue for students to work at their own pace, while developing their skills as far as their capabilities and interests allow.

A number of teachers who are introducing blogging into their classrooms have asked me what they should teach their students next. I decided a simple rubric might help blogging teachers and students to gain ideas on how skills can be developed. It could also be used to assess student or class blogs, however that is not the intention.

I have borrowed a couple of ideas from Kim Cofino’s Blogging Scope and Sequence (with permission), while incorporating many of the ideas I have developed through blogging with my students.

Educational Blogging Rubric

If you are having trouble viewing/downloading the rubric, you can access the PDF here K Morris Blogging Rubric November 2012

What would you add to the rubric?

How could you use this document?

Making Educational Blogging Work for You

Originally published as a guest post on Free Technology for Teachers. 

I was introduced to educational blogging in 2008. A twenty minute tutorial by a Department of Education staff member was enough to ignite my interest and, four years on, blogging is something that really works in my classroom.

When I look back at how I first approached blogging, there are few similarities to how my blogging program operates today.

Initially, I saw blogging as a bit of fun. I thought it would be a good way to communicate with parents and archive classroom information. I didn’t realise that there are countless other benefits that blogging can bring when it is working effectively in a classroom.  

I used to think blogging was an add-on. I didn’t realise that it can be seamlessly integrated into the classroom literacy program. I used to feel guilty about taking time away from my reading and writing curriculum.

It was a light bulb moment for me when I realised that blogging is literacy; and an authentic and important style of literacy too. Now a day without blogging as part of my literacy block would be hard to imagine.

I used to think it was about the posts. Back in 2008, I had students writing posts from day one. There was no education or standard. Few comments were written and those we did receive were often limited to “I like your blog!!!” or “Our class is cool!!!”. The students’ writing just wasn’t developing. Working with teachers such as Linda Yollis made me realise the comments are the place to start. This is where everyone can get involved, collaborate, learn and practise their skills.

From the beginning of each school year, I now put the emphasis on writing quality comments. This requires explicit teaching, modelling, practice and feedback. I write the posts until the students develop the skills they need to write an effective post. From there the students can earn their own blog. It is a sequential process which has led to incredible gains in the students’ literacy skills, confidence and 21st century proficiencies.

I used to think participation would just….happen. Unlike traditional websites, the dynamic nature of blogs means people can be having conversations, interacting and learning from each other every day. My blog used to be a fairly dead space. It received a handful of daily visits and maybe one comment per post at best.

Over time I realised that participation cannot be left to chance. If you want parents to get involved you need to educate and encourage them. Parent handouts, videos, e-newsletters, Family Blogging Afternoons, posts for parents and Family Blogging Month competitions have all led to greater family involvement in our blog. Most teachers are well aware of the link between parent participation in schooling and improved student outcomes. Blogs provide a bridge between home and school, however, many families need to be shown the way … just like the students.

I used to think our class blog was just for our class. Little did I realise that an important aspect of blogging is getting involved in the online community. When I first began, I didn’t know any other blogging classes. Now we connect with blogging classes from all corners of the globe on a daily basis.

Global collaboration has led my students to learn alongside their peers and achieve amazing outcomes such as raising $20,000 for a Ugandan school.

Our classroom program is much richer because of our blogging buddies. Blogging partnerships have allowed my students to learn about geography, cultures, time zones, seasons, language, internet safety and more in an authentic way.

This is the fifth year that my class has been involved in blogging. I am constantly learning and tweaking ideas. Implementing a blogging program has certainly been a rewarding journey for both my students and myself.

Through integrating blogging into the curriculum, setting high standards, educating families, and being active in the blogging community, my students now reap the rewards that blogging offers. Yours can too! Not sure where to start? I have written a five step guide to getting started with blogging and many other posts on all aspects of educational blogging. 

What did you used to think about blogging?

ISTE 2012 – What an Experience!

Six weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to win the Victorian Teachers Mutual Bank Outstanding Primary Teacher Award. This award has partially allowed me to attend the ISTE conference in San Diego, California and meet some of my international blogging buddies face to face.

Meeting Mrs Yollis!

When I arrived in the USA, my long term blogging buddy, Linda Yollis, was there to pick me up from the airport. It was truly amazing to meet one of my closest blogging buddies face to face.

2012 is the fourth year that our classes have been collaborating through blogging, Skype and global projects. This relationship has connected eight cohorts of students, and many amazing friendships and learning outcomes have been achieved.

Linda is a very experienced and enthusiastic teacher who has been a mentor to me in many ways. Over the last few years I have adopted so many of her ideas and received some great feedback and advice from my blogging buddy.

Our friendship developed through the internet, although when we met, Linda and I got along like old friends. We spent many late nights discussing education and sharing ideas.

It was wonderful to meet many of the parents and students that I had connected with through blogging. It was also a surreal experience to visit Linda’s school after seeing it so many times in photos, videos and over Skype.

ISTE 2012 

The annual ISTE conference is said to be the world’s biggest ‘ed tech’ convention, and it was certainly far bigger than anything I had ever experienced. This year was the 33rd conference. The host city, San Diego, came alive with enthusiastic teachers who were ready to learn, network and discover new ideas.

The theme of the event was ‘expanding horizons’. I can safely say my horizons were expanded. I attended so many great sessions and had countless enriching conversations with dynamic educators. I left ISTE with many new ideas and deeper friendships within the global education community.

Linda and I presented a session at ISTE called ‘Educational Blogging: Flattening Classroom Walls’. We really appreciated the feedback we got on our session from teachers in the audience. It was great to hear that they enjoyed our story and were encouraged to begin their own journeys with blogging and global collaboration.

It was fabulous to meet up with so many people face to face who I had got to know online over many years. Fantastic friendships can be developed through blogging and Twitter. Meeting those friends face to face is the icing on the cake.

Ronnie Burt, Julie Hembree, me and Linda Yollis

It’s going to take me quite some time to process everything I experienced. Overall, ISTE was a real whirlwind with sessions and events from early in the morning until late at night.

I recommend thinking about attending ISTE 2013 in San Anotonio, Texas!

Read more

As my USA journey continues, I look forward to continue learning and connecting. If you want to read more about my experiences at ISTE and visit with Linda Yollis, there are a few more posts you can check out.

4KM and 4KJ Blog – I wrote a post for my students on my class blog.

Mrs Yollis’ Classroom Blog – Linda wrote a post about my visit on her class blog.

The Edublogger – Linda and I wrote a guest post for the Edublogger blog about our presentation at ISTE.

Students Learning From Their Blogging Buddies

I seem to be continually uncovering more and more benefits to educational blogging. Aside from the advantages that I’ve shared here and here, having your class involved in the educational blogging community allows students to learn from and with their peers from all around the world.

In my class we often use our blogging buddies’ posts as inspiration for classroom activities, and as role models for high standards of work.

One such example was the readers’ theatre activities that we were doing last week as part of our CAFE reading program.

Throughout the week, we read a range of readers’ theatre scripts and used the posts on Mr Salsich’s Classroom Blog and 4T’s Classroom Blog as inspiring models.

We published one of our own performances on our class blog here which hopefully continues the cycle of sharing.

There have been many other instances when my students have learnt from their blogging buddies. Just a few that spring to mind are:

When using ideas from other people’s blogs, we like to acknowledge where our idea came from. I believe this is good blogging etiquette to model to the students.

Being part of the blogging community not only enriches my students’ education but assists me to create authentic and interesting classroom activities. Everyone wins!

How have blog posts inspired your class activities?

Quality over Quantity

I’ve been thinking about how important quality over quantity often is when it comes to effective teaching and learning with blogging, global collaboration and technology.

Here are some thoughts…

It’s not about how many blogging buddies your class has but about having deep and ongoing connections with classes that you can learn with and from.

It’s not about how many Twitter followers you have but about forming connections with educators who inspire you, challenge you, share ideas and are interested in getting to know you.

It’s not about how many different web 2.0 tools you use but about using tools well that meet your students learning needs and your learning intentions.

It’s not about how many student blogs you have but about developing student bloggers who are responsible, supported by families and progressively creating high quality content.

It’s not about how many computers and devices you have in your classroom but about how well you’re using them to amplify your teaching and increase student learning.

It’s not about how many blog comments students write but about how they use comments to reflect, question, offer feedback, make a connection or develop a relationship.

It’s not about keeping up with the plethora of information flying around the internet but about finding the important, reliable and useful information that you need.

Some of these things I have definitely realised over time. Enthusiasm and quantity can sometimes go hand in hand and mask the need for high quality teaching and learning. I have sometimes found that when I take time to reflect I realise the power of quality.

Image: ‘There goes the neighborhood’
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27109792@N00/2475530616

Where else do you think quality over quantity is important in education?

Sometimes quantity has a place too. Can you think of any examples?

Fun and Games

So many rewards can come out of connections made through blogging and global collaboration.

I love watching my students learn about literacy, maths, geography, technology, history and all sorts of things about life around the world with their blogging buddies. It is such an authentic and memorable way to learn.

Last November when we were working on the Our World, Our Stories project, Mrs Yollis’ class shared one of their favourite playground games, Bamboo.

This video below, courtesy of Linda Yollis and her students, explains the game.

Bamboo became an instant hit. As Mrs Yollis’ class describe in this November post, our blogging friends around the world quickly started enjoying this unique game.

Three months on, Bamboo is still extremely popular at our school. Students from my 2011 class have introduced the game to the other students, and every lunchtime and recess the parallel bars are swamped by children of all ages.

I remember being at school and learning new games from students who had come from other schools, or from friends and neighbours who went to other schools. Now children from all over the world can so easily connect for fun and learning!

How can we encourage student centred sharing?

Parents Shining in the Blogging Community

Educational blogging is so much more meaningful and rewarding when it occurs within a blogging community.

It takes time and persistence to establish your own blogging community. When I first started blogging with my class in 2008, we received the odd comment from a student or parent but there was no other audience or interaction. Fast forward four years and my students and I are part of a diverse and large educational blogging community. We learn and interact with people from all over the world every day.

Many teachers wonder how you can get parents involved in a class blog. My best advice is that parent involvement cannot be left to chance. It takes ongoing education and encouragement. This is something I have written about before and you can find some posts here, here and here.

Sometimes there are parents who take involvement to the next level. One such parent is Alma (aka AA), who is the mother of Bianca (aka BB), a student I taught in 2010.

2012 is the third year that AA has been extremely committed to commenting on a wide range of student, class and even teacher blogs.

AA has taken commenting to the next level and has established strong friendships with other teachers, students and parents from many schools around the world. She has learnt so much alongside us in the blogging community and she has reaped her own rewards.

AA and BB have generously sent Australian souvenirs, birthday gifts and Christmas presents to students, families and teachers abroad. They even supported Melbourne teacher-librarian, Kim Yeomans, by sending books to restock her school library after recent flooding. They found out about this cause from Seattle teacher-librarian, Julie Hembree.

AA is a role model parent blogger who demonstrates that the more you put in, the more you get out. AA would be the first one to say that blogging and navigating the internet was very new to her but through persistence, she has shown what is possible.

Recently, AA celebrated her 50th birthday and to commemorate the occasion, a number of blogging classes around the world put together a collaborative blog of birthday wishes http://aabday.edublogs.org/

With the new school year recently beginning, I hope to find other parents who are interested in embracing the world of blogging, even to a small extent of what AA has done.

Everything we do comes down to student learning and as the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development states,

“ It is well known that students with interested and involved parents do better at school.”

With blogs and other online tools acting as windows into classrooms, the ways parents can be involved in their child’s school have been redefined. The possibilities are expanding rapidly and, with the right structures in place, amazing outcomes can be experienced!

Do you know any special community members who have embraced blogging?

What do you do to establish a blogging community and encourage those community members?

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog in 2012

I revised this post in August 2012 to create a nine page, five step guide to beginning a class blog. Feel free to view, print or download the document to help you get started on your blogging journey.

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

If you’re having trouble with the Scribd document, you can access the PDF here Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

Good luck!