Discussing Blog Design in 5th Grade

I had a great day today. I got to talk about web design with 5th grade students. Ms. Bulsza invited me in to talk to the class about their blogs. Over the past couple of weeks someone (OK…maybe me) taught them how to install embedded widgets on their blogs sidebars. What I found interesting is that I taught one girl in one class how to do it….two weeks later every kid in 5th grade has the most outrageous sidebar widgets on their blogs. Things that had nothing to do with education, their learning, or 5th grade…..the purpose of the blogs. Now there are two ways to handle this situation. 1) You can stand up as a teacher and say, “OK, that’s it, no more chirping birds, or iPods playing songs, or games that make noises on your blog.” Or you could say 2) “Let’s have a discussion about web design.” Now I’m not sure if Ms. Bulsza was expecting my approach, but the last thing I want to do is tell kids that they can’t make their blog….their blog. However, it is an opportunity to have a conversation about website design, as this blog/website belongs to them. So here’s the lesson I did in about an hour today. 1) I want you to go to your favorite website. Once there I want you just sit and look at the page and think about what makes this site, this page your favorite. Look at it like art work. What catches your eye? Why do you come back here time and time again. 2) Ask for volunteers to come up, plug their laptops into the projector and show the website they choose. Then have then talk about why this is their favorite website, and open it up to the class as well. Here’s where we ended up today. Youtube: What we liked about YouTube was that the best videos were right there for you to click on. They were little thumbnail images and you could easily see the title, how many people had watched them, and you knew where to click, as we talked about that blue is the color of links on the web. Club Penguin: We likes that it was simple, that you could easily tell that it was a site you had to join do to the “membership” button at the top. We liked that it had moving...

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ISB Round Up: Google Earth, YouTube, and Blogs

There are so many great things happening at our school right now that I find I don’t have time to blog about one before I’m deep into another project with another teacher. All that I know is we’re having some fun! Let’s start in Mr. Jessee’s room where I wanted to share a great Google Earth project that the third grade team has been working on for the past month or so. I talked about this in an earlier post so won’t go into all the back ground here. But you can visit Mr. Jessee’s class blog and download Google Earth tours. This time the students created video tours using Google Earth and take you to landforms around the world. Of course the trip starts off from school and then you’re swept away learning about landforms and some pretty cool facts. As usual, if you download and listen to the Google Earth files, we’d appreciate a comment on the blog. Let us know what you learned or if you have a landform to share, please push our thinking. 😉 In Ms. Tulli’s 3rd Grade class they’ve been deep into some science research learning how to analyze data. Ms. Tulli wanted to capture what the students were learning so grabbed a flip camera and simply asked: What have you learned about graphs and analyzing data? Pretty cool! If you get a moment to watch the video they’d love a comment on their class blog as well. 😉 And finally to round it all off is our whole 5th grade team and their amazing adventure into blogging for learning and as e-portfolios with their students. They are all continuing to build their own skills as well as finding ways to incorporate blogging into just what they do. As teachers start to wrap their heads around it and as students get better and faster at blogging, they are becoming just a part of what is done in 5th grade. I walked into Mr. Armitage’s room yesterday and before I had a chance to say hi to the class Collin approaches me and says: “I’m getting a lot of views on my blog” “Really? Why do you think that is?” “Because I’ve been blogging a lot?” “Cool! About school?” “No, about my trip to Beijing over break!” So…here’s a 5th grader who on his break could have taken his thoughts, his feelings, and...

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A blog post, a tweet, a connection

I have to share this story with you if for no other reason….I’ve shared it with anyone that would listen to me at school today. I believe this story shows the power of: 1. What can happen when we allow students to be “out there”.2. What happens when our teachers become networked and can bring that network to their students.3. That through connections educational possibilities are endless! This couldn’t have come at a better time with Clint H leaving a comment on my last post about a conversation he had with his IT Director: He has some very persuasive arguments for his ‘walled garden’ approach (including “nobody ever reads public blogs anyway so what’s the difference?”) Really….nobody reads public blogs anymore……..please read on! So here’s how the story of connections played out last night. 1. I do a lesson in one of our 5th grade classrooms where we have a great discussion around what it means to blog, what good blogging looks like, and the difference between leaving a comment and a compliment. We also learn how to add an image to our post and how to add a link. Following the teachers lead based on this blog post, the students homework is to write a reflective blog post about the science experiment they did and what they learned. I leave the room with this challenge: I will read all your blog posts tonight and the best ones I’ll send out for the world to read. Of course they no nothing of the 4700+ Twitter followers I have or the 400+ Facebook friends. Nor should they care…what is important here is that their teacher is connected into a wider community to help foster a global audience. 2. Late last night I visited the classes netvibes page and started going through the student’s blog posts leaving comments on everyone of them. I was proud to see that most everyone’s blogging had improved from before our lesson and some students had really taken the time to sit down and write out their thoughts. One such student was Haley who wrote out the experiment that the students had done in class. A great little bit of procedural writing (writing connection). I decided that this was one of the top 5 posts in the class and sent a link to her blog post out on Twitter and to my Facebook Friends asking them...

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Starting the school year off with a blog!

3 1/2 weeks into the school year and we’ve already set up 691 student blogs at http://blogs.isb.ac.th and 151 teacher blogs at http://inside.isb.ac.th. This could be remembered as the “Year of the Blog” at ISB. The Technical Part: Behind the scene these two sites are located on school linux servers. Both sites are running WordPressMU. Inside ISB: We create the teacher accounts/blogs as they ask for them. This way we know who is blogging and can support them as they get started. Blogs @ ISB: We uploaded all the students using the Dagon Design Import Users Plugin. Once all the students are in the system Dennis, Kim and I can then walk classrooms of students through the process in about 45 minutes (30 minutes for older grades). We sign students up on a teacher/team request base. So yes, our pre-k students have an account….are they blogging yet….nope, but if and when they are ready we’ll be ready! The Educational Part: There is a lot of credit to go around on how we got to this place so know the following story is not just me…but a team of educational focused people who have a common vision on why blogging is important for students. It’s not the blogging we feel is important of course, it’s the power that publishing to a wider audience that in 2010 will surpass 2 Billion Internet connected people. Not only is there engagement power in publishing to this audience but also authentic power as students realize they are writing for someone larger than their teacher. That an assignment is not just an assignment but an idea to be shared with others. Over half of the 5th graders who I have helped to set blogs up with over the last two weeks have a Facebook page. No our 5th graders are not 13 but that hasn’t stopped them from creating the accounts and being in that space. If we are going to teach students to be safe in this new digital socially connected world than we need to have systems and programs in place that allow us to teach them to be safe. We can not teach Internet safety behind a filter as scary as it is….we need to put them out there. Heck they’re already out there, but now we’re choosing to put them out there on our terms, on our system, where we can...

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A Great Day in St. Louis

A big thank you to Elizabeth Helfant for inviting me into St. Louis for a chance to spend a day with the staff of Mary Institute Country Day School. I was the last in a string of one day workshops that Elizabeth put together for her staff. Being the last of the summer was nice as it allowed us to talk about how tools such as Google Earth, Blogs, and Wikis can be used in the classroom. We spent the first part of our time not talking about the tools but looking at examples of how they are being used in the classroom. We spent some time searching and exploring the Google Earth in Education section. Where teachers can download some amazing layers into Google Earth to teach with. From there we looked at some high school examples of how wikis and blogs are being used in different high school classrooms. We spent some time discussing Welker’s Wikinomics still one of my favorite class based wikis. What’s great is that Jason Welker freely shares his rubric for grading the wiki and his rules of conduct for students. Teachers appreciate seeing exactly what the student expectations are for such a site. From there we talked about WikiBooks.org and how teachers could use this site to not only study, but create the textbook of the future with students. I’ve yet to hear of a teacher actually doing this…but still feel it has some potential in the classroom. Next we looked at some examples of blogs. My two favorite student blogs Theory of Knowledge and Chemical Paradigms where perfect examples of just how introspective high school students can be. Teachers were shocked at how personal and in-depth some of the posts from students were. How they took pride in their work and how having an authentic audience engaged the students in meaningful ways. After spending the first half of the day discussing how these different tools might fit into their classes we took the second half of the day and just allow teachers to start and build their wiki or blog or play with Google Earth. The history department got together and laid out some ground work for a wiki they want to use this year. Others explored the use of Nings from previous presenters in the summer. In the end we just gave them time to work….the kind of time teachers...

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