Technify Your Teaching in 2013: PD Opportunity

As well as this blog and my class blog, I write Tech Tools for Teachers. This is a collaborative effort with my colleagues, Matt Limb and Simon Collier. Each fortnight we review an online tool and provide step-by-step instructions on its use.

In January of this year we ran a professional development day called Technify Your Teaching in 2012. 

We are now organising Technify Your Teaching in 2013. This one day PD will be held on Thursday 24th January at Leopold Primary School near Geelong in Victoria.

Kelly Jordan and I will be running sessions on educational blogging, while Matt and Simon will be conducting workshops on Google tools, YouTube, Evernote, iDevices and web 2.0 tools.

If you are interested in signing up for the PD or finding out more, visit the TeachinGeneratioNow blog.

 There are limited places so get in quickly if you’d like to attend!

Page Updated: Web 2.0 Tools to Embed on Your Blog

I have just updated my page about web 2.0 tools to embed on your blog.

Here you will find:

  • Tips for using and embedding web 2.0 tools.
  • A list of tried and tested tools from slideshows to videos and polls.
  • An embedded example of each tool so you can see what it looks like.

Please visit the page and leave a comment if you have any feedback or suggestions.

Instructions for Using Creative Commons Images in Blog Posts

Many bloggers are not aware that you can’t just use any images off the internet in your blog posts. Not only is this ethically incorrect but you could leave yourself open to copyright infringement.

I teach my student bloggers to “do the right thing” by using their own images or Creative Commons images in their blog posts.

Wanting to make this process clear to my student bloggers, I created a document explaining copyright, copyright infringement and Creative Commons. The guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to use FlickrCC and Wikimedia Commons to upload and attribute images in blog posts. Obviously, there is more than one way to do this, however, I wanted to keep the instructions as straightforward as posssible for my students.

I have embedded this document below. Feel free to use it with your students to teach them about these important blogging habits.

Using Creative Commons Images From FlickrCC and Wikimedia Commons in Blog Posts

If you are having trouble viewing the document, you can download it here as a PDF. Using Creative Commons Images from FlickrCC and Wikimedia Commons in Blog Posts

More detailed advice on using Creative Commons images in blog posts can be found in the Teacher Challenge guide by Sue Waters.

How do you go about using Creative Commons images?

Do you have any more advice?

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

I have revised the posts I have written in the past 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!

Tips and Topics for Student Bloggers

Recently, I wrote two posts about quality student blogs. You can find them here and here. I have also written a guide to setting up student blogs here.

A new group of students in my class are almost ready to earn their own blogs. I wanted to compile the tips I offer my students in one document for my new bloggers.

Below is a poster with tips for student bloggers. Feel free to download it if it will be helpful in your own classroom (Tip – click on the Scribd button to download or print).

I have also made a document with 20 ideas for blog post topics. I’ve found after a few posts, many students get “bloggers block” and need new inspiration. Hopefully this document will help my students and yours.

Do you have any tips to add to the poster?

What other ideas for student blog post topics could you offer?

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.

Quality Student Blogs Part Two – Post Topics

Last week I wrote about how students with their own blogs can be guided to create quality posts.

After I published my post, I showed my class the less ideal post example I used about dogs. It was so interesting to get their opinions on the fictional post. Seeing their “shock” at the lack of proofreading, lack of content and the use of multiple exclamation marks etc. was quite amusing! It made me realise that we have created a classroom culture where students aim for high standards.

When students in my class earn their own blog, I generally have a chat to them about the sort of posts they’d like to write about. Some students like to make blogs with a particular theme, such as cooking or sport. More often than not, students like to create blogs with a variety of post topics.

A common pattern

Without guidance or discussion, I have found that students can get into the habit of writing blog posts such as

  • My family
  • My pets
  • My friends
  • My favourite sports
  • My favourite animals
  • My favourite books
  • My favourite foods….

The “My Favourite…” theme can go on and on!

I saw this pattern emerge many times before realising the students could be encourage to “think outside the square”.

Be observant 

Linda Yollis recently gave one of my new student bloggers some excellent advice, “You mentioned that you are thinking about future topics…. I also recommend just being observant. Sometimes posts come from something you notice in your backyard or on a drive somewhere. For example, I sometimes do posts about plants in my backyard or something new I noticed in my neighborhood. Hobbies are also a wonderful topic.”

I think writing about what you observe is a wonderful tip for student bloggers. Encouraging curiosity and the exploration of something new could help a student grow in so many ways.

Think about your audience

Another element that is important for student bloggers to understand is that your blog is not only about you and what you like, but about your readers too. Readers = comments = interaction = learning and growth!

Blogging is different from traditional writing or journalling; you are writing for an authentic audience.

Students need to think about whether their post topics are interesting for themselves and their readers. They also need to provide enough background information to help their reader understand the context of the post.

Fresh ideas

I recently helped a student think of some ideas for post topics. Here are some of the ideas that we came up with….

  • A recipe with photos and instructions that others could follow
  • A movie or book review
  • A restaurant, hotel or tourist attraction review
  • A poem or short story
  • Instructions to do …. anything
  • A discussion on what you’re learning at school
  • List of some of your favourite websites with details
  • A family tradition
  • What makes you happy/angry/laugh….
  • My dream holiday
  • Make a poll where readers vote on your next post topic

Role models

It’s great for students to look to other students as role models. Just a few examples include:

Bianca – 2012 is Bianca’s third year of blogging after starting in my grade two class in 2010. She is a regular poster who has formed some strong connections with teachers, students and parents overseas.

Jarrod – this student was in my grade two class in 2011. He continues to blog in a non-blogging class and uses a wide variety of tools.

Miriam – this student established her blog when she was in Linda Yollis’ class. She continues to create regular posts that are very interesting and well written. Continuing the family tradition, Miriam’s younger sister, Sarah, also blogs.

Royce – this boy also earnt his blog while in Linda Yollis’ class. Every couple of weeks, he creates a new post with interesting information or observations.

'Rosie the Blogger' www.flickr.com/photos/9106303@N05/2493066577

What ideas or advice do you have for student blog posts?

Quality Student Blogs Part One – Posts

As I have written about before, I have a system in my classroom where students can earn their own blog. Adapted from Linda Yollis’ idea, I have found the system to work well in both my grade two and grade four classes.

Recently, six 4KM and 4KJ students were the first to earn their own blogs for 2012. They join a couple of student bloggers in our class who were in 2KM or 2KJ in 2010.

Teaching about and encouraging quality comments is a big part of our classroom blogging program. It is the first blogging skill we teach students and we invest a lot of time in this process. I have found that quality commenting allows the students to improve their literacy skills and engage in meaningful conversations on the blog.

Teaching students about creating quality blogs and writing quality blog posts is another area that needs explicit teaching and ongoing feedback. 

Over a series of blog posts, I will look at aspects of quality student blogging.

What makes a quality student blog post?

Over the years, I have discovered my own definition of quality by working with my student bloggers.

Left to their own devices, I have seen many students create posts like this.

While enthusiasm is high, this is not the sort of work I’d like my students to aim for. I believe the following areas need attention.

  • Overuse of glitter text – very tempting for young bloggers!
  • Unnecessary post introduction. I find many student bloggers want to start each post with “Today I am going to talk about…”
  • Lack of content. I would encourage this student to either research some information about dogs or write a personal reflection on their dog.
  • Lack of proofreading and overuse of exclamation marks.
  • Use of unattributed, copyright image from Google Images.
  • Limited interaction with reader (ie. they could end the post with some questions).
By contrast, below is a post by Jarrod who is still blogging (in a non-blogging class) after being in my grade two class in 2011.

Jarrod has
  • Written about a topic that interests him, and would also be useful to others (game review).
  • Used text and images without overdoing coloured fonts or glitter text.
  • Proofread his work with an adult and corrected most errors.
  • Included a link to the game he was reviewing.
  • Ended his post with questions for his readers. Not surprisingly, Jarrod received 29 comments on this post.

Tips for writing quality posts

Helping students to create high quality blog posts is an ongoing process. I don’t teach them about every aspect of quality blogging as soon as they begin. Teachable moments often occur as students travel along their blogging journey.

Some of the tips I give student bloggers include:

  • Write posts semi-regularly such as every week or two. People might not have a chance to read posts that are published too close together. Readers might forget about your blog if you leave too long of a gap between posts.
  • Write about something that you are interested in but also something that will interest others. I will write more about chosing post topics in an upcoming post.
  • Reply to all/most of your commenters. Readers will be encouraged to comment again if their comment is acknowledged or if they engaged in a conversation.
  • Don’t overdo glitter text and keep fonts consistent and easy to read. Yellows and fluro colours are generally very hard to read.
  • If you want to use images, use creative commons images, screenshots or your own photos/artwork. I have written about teaching students to use creative commons images here.
  • Make posts easy to read. Left aligning text, using paragraphs, subheadings and/or dot points all helps the reader take in your post more easily.
  • Experiment with web 2.0 tools to make your posts interactive and engaging. In the past, I have explicitly taught students about some tools and also encouraged them to find their own new tools that meet their needs.
  • End posts with questions to provide readers with commenting prompts. Formulating questions that a variety of readers could answer is a skill that we like to help our students develop.
  • Proofread and check your facts before publishing. One of my student bloggers recently wrote a post about my upcoming visit to the USA without checking his facts. He wrote that I was going to stay at one of Linda Yollis‘ student’s houses! This was definitely a teachable moment.

What tips would you give to help student bloggers construct quality posts?

Look out for my next post about quality student blogs!

Student Centred Blogging

Student centred learning is an theory that seems to have gained popularity in education communities over the years.

Wikipedia defines this type of learning as “putting students first … focused on the student’s needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles with the teacher as a facilitator of learning. Teacher-centred learning has the teacher at its centre in an active role and students in a passive, receptive role. Student-centred learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their own learning.”

I would describe the blogging program that occurs in my classroom as largely student centred. Many students are very active on the 4KM and 4KJ blog both at home and school. Their enthusiasm for learning and connecting through the class blog is high.

I’ve had many teachers comment on the way that the students in my class respond to blogging. I’ve also seen many teachers set up class blogs assuming that the blog will motivate students to become active participants in their own learning. Some teachers believe that they can set up a blog and the students will drive it to success. This is not the case.

I believe the success I have with student centred blogging occurs because our program begins as teacher centred.

Kelly Jordan and I team teach. From Day One we are blogging cheerleaders. A day doesn’t go by when we’re not exploring blogs and celebrating the wonderful connections and learning that can occur through blogging. We present ourselves as role models in the blogging community; demonstrating quality commenting and safe internet use. We acknowledge and promote students as they too generate excitement for blogging by commenting and getting to know their blogging buddies.

When we were teaching Grade Two, Kelly and I exhausted ourselves by replying to all the comments on the class blog for the first few weeks of the school year. It didn’t take long, however, until we were no longer needed. Students began replying to comments without being asked and from then on, we could let them take charge of that aspect of our class blog.

I see my role as a teacher to get the wheel spinning. Slowly the students can jump on the wheel and, as they generate momentum, I can begin to decrease my central role. I’ll always be a cheerleader but I can steer the blog from more of a distance while making way for students.

Many of the successful blogs that I follow also adopt this approach. I’m yet to find a regularly maintained blog with a large community of followers and high quality posts and comments that doesn’t have an enthusiastic teacher behind it. That teacher may now be in the back seat somewhat, but they were certainly in the driver’s seat to get the blog going.

What do you think?

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?