Teachers as blogging models

I held a professional development session after school back in October around my K12online conference presentation Sustaining Blogging in the Classroom. I only had two teachers show up. Two teachers who have started blogging this year and were interested in taking it deeper and really making it meaningful to student learning.

Basically I told the teachers that you must model good blogging for your students. You to must read blogs, reflect on what you are learning, and link to other sources. That as a blogger your actions speak louder than words.

It has been fun to watch these two teachers grow into blogging with their students this year. I’ve popped in on them to look at how their blogs are coming along, how they are using them with students, and if blogs can change learning (or is all of this a big load of you know what).

Simon Power is on of our 7th Grade Humanities teachers who has taken his blog and his students to new heights this year. On his blog he does not just give assignments but also models good blogging by reflecting on things he read, adding pictures, and “thinking out loud” as he too learns (modeling how to learn…there’s a concept!).

The other day I stopped by to see what was new on the blog (and there is always something new) and he had an assignment for his students about using a program I’d never hear of called Bubbl.us. He even has pictures that take the students through how to use the site. Simon says:

This program is similar to inspiration but better!!!!!!!!!

My favorite part about the post is the very first comment a student left to the blog about his assignment.

Mr Power I posted my homework in my blog because I couldn’t print mine out…

How cool is that! Two things here that have my mind spinning.

1. Blogging for this teacher is “Just what he does” it has become part of his class. It is not something extra that he does and if you asked him if he could run his class tomorrow without it, he’d probably say no. It’s his communication vehicle with his students. He has knocked down the classroom walls and expanded this classroom to encompass global learning.

2. This student, who has been blogging now for almost 6 months, also understands that his blog is a way to communicate. He couldn’t print off his homework assignment, but knows that he could turn it in via his blog! His blog has become part of the classroom. I know Simon has had the students do assignments on their blogs and I’m sure has a reason why he wanted this assignment printed off. But the student obviously could not or did not have a printer where he was working but found a solution to turn in his work. Once it’s on his blog he can come to school and print it off if he needs to, or maybe the blog post was all he needed. The point is the student realized that the blog was a way to communicate, was part of the class, and it was an acceptable way to turn in assignments.

I’m not sure how many times I say it in my k12online conference presentation, but if you want blogging to work in your classroom…I mean really change the way business is done. It can not be “one more thing you do” it has to be what you do. It has to replace the way you write, communicate, and give and accept assignments. It needs to be a place that both the teacher and the student can look to and understand that this is a learning vehicle. Both the student and the teacher must take part in the learning that a blog can offer.

There is power to be had in these tools. But only when we commit ourselves to learning them, think about them on a deeper level for learning, and take ownership in the learning ourselves, will they have a real affect on our educational system.

Great work 7th grade! Your blogs are something to be proud of!

[tags]Blogging[/tags]

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7 Comments

  1. Hi Jeff,

    I was just wondering if you had any links to the student blogs? What blogging service are they using? Have you found one to be easier to use than others?

    Thanks,
    Jamie

  2. I woudl be wary of the strong use of the word “replace”. Replacing too many things with blogging will result in blogging becoming like posters are now at our boys’ school. Every-flipping-thing must be represented in a poster! There’s an expression that, when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. I would say that, while blogging needs to become an integral, indistinguishable and unremarkable part of what you do, it’s probably not a good plan to try to turn it into that all-purpose hammer.

  3. I understand about the all-pupose hammer concern, but in middle school, that’s exactly what is needed sometimes. Repetition, repetition, repetition…. Why am I having such a hard time transitioning from “one more thing I do” to “Just the way I do it”?

    Thinking locally and linking globally is what my students will need to know as they mature in an ever-changing social arena.

  4. Karyn,

    Yes we do need to be careful about using the word replace. But we also have to allow the tools to change the way we teach and allow them to replace old practices. It cannot be an add on in the classroom. Not everything should be turned in via the blog, and the blog is not the only thing one should use.

    This teacher has allowed the blogs to replace some of the things he does in his classroom. He has also allowed them to create new ways to communicate and learn. It’s not all about replacement. We need to move beyond “Doing old things in new ways” which is what replacement is. But it is a start. From there teachers start to understand blogging and it does change the way they teach and students learn. There is no “killer app” in education. Not when every child is different, and we are focused on meeting the needs of every child. Blogs, if used correctly, can be another tool in which both teachers and students use to learn.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  5. Thanks for sending up that blogging example. I see a lot of good writing on board, which is what it is about. Wish you’d take a look at the blogs I’m doing in my 7th grade classroom this year! http://www.audreyhill.typepad.com It’s our first year of blogging. We are a diverse student body, both socio-economically and ethnically, which provides some special challenges, as some of our students don’t have computer access at home, and so have to do everything in school. It’s a pleasure to watch them take over the computers in the library so that they can publish in their blogs. We spend one day a week blogging in the labs, but a lot of work is expected to be done at home. I agree that there absolutely has to be a commitment to blogging as a regular activity. I have students blog once a week (3 out of 4 weeks they write on topics of their choice, once a month I choose the topics)

  6. It’s refreshing to see a class blog that is more than just a place for the teacher to post assignments and for the students to post reflections. Simon Power and his students are doing some inspiring things and really getting the most out of blogs.

  7. If what we wish to do is empower students to learn, then blogs are just one of those tools. I agree that when first learning, a class may have to do blogs repetitively for a while to get it. But after that they could become part of the options, just like bubbl.us, Google docs, Voicethread…the list goes on. As we use many new tools to engage our students in rich content, they can be given more choices when we open up the options to them. My students turn in work using all of these options, including a grid lined, bound notebook. When they ask how I want something I usually say, “whatever works best for you”.

    Great blog examples too!

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