Random Thoughts

A blog post, a tweet, a connection

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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.

img_33671One 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 to please visit the blog if for no other reason to put a mark on her map that there really are people out there who will read you if you have good writing (Hey, I’m not above a little fake audience to start a conversation with kids that will lead to deeper writing and understanding!).

3. It just so happens that Allanah K (who I had the pleasure of meeting last year) was on Twitter last night and reads my tweet about the students writing. Intrigued by Haley’s blog post Allanah takes the idea to school with her today in New Zealand and asks the students if they would like to try Haley’s experiment. By the time I get to school today Allanah and her class have finished their experiment and have blogged about it on their class blog….of course giving full credit to Haley.

Where to go from here:
Of course at this point my mind is racing. This experiment has to do with teaching variables and just think of all the variables we can now ask as we collect data.

  • What if we share our data with the class in New Zealand?
  • I wonder if longitude and latitude is a variable we need to consider (Social Studies)
  • I wonder if we’ll get the same results? (Science)
  • How can we best represent our data for someone else to read? (Math, Science)
  • Why is writing clear instructions important? (Writing)

Of course there are hundreds of possibilities now that can happen now that these two classes are connected. With a time difference of only 5 hours a Skype call even with students talking about their data and experiments to each other…or more blog posts with more explanations.

Yes this all came about because I am connected…but it’s not about me….it’s about the connections. Miss B is a friend of mine on Facebook and seeing me post the students blogs there….copied and pasted the addresses and sent them out to her Facebook friends. She too is a connected teacher, but up until this point had never thought of using her network of friends and other educators in this way.

There is great power when we put students out there and allow them to share their thinking. These students have had a blog for two weeks now and this is their first major connection as a class. As we continue to learn about blogging, as our writing improves and more importantly our thinking improves, I know we’ll see more connections like this….it’s just to powerful of a learning platform not to.

So to the IT Directors out there that say “It’s to scary.”, “We can’t do it.”, “What’s the point?” I give you this.

That making deep connections only happen when you put yourself out there….sure we can play it safe…but playing it safe has never lead to deeper understanding!

Image Credit: id-iom

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


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  3. I taught a landscaping class last spring where each student designed and poured their own concrete paver. We put them outside and planted flowers.

    I made a blog where each student had a picture of their paver and an explanation of their design process.

    I tweeted it that night and it was re-tweeted by TeachPaperless. I only had around 80 followers, but he had hundreds. By the next day we had over 80 hits from every continent on our clustrmap. It was so powerful to the students to see that this community project had a global audience.

    • What a great story! I think we need to remember that conectiviness that is these social tools. This is a perfect example. You only have 80 followers but those 80 might have 80 more. It doesn’t take long to reach exponential growth through these connections. Being connected is the first step from there you can slowly build up your followers. Of course the quality of those you follow and those who follow you count as well.

  4. @Jeff The Power of the Connection is truly something to behold. The collaboration between your students and those of Allanah K is exactly the type of example that I plan to show to the rest of the staff at my school. As soon as more people say “Wow! I want to do that too!” instead of “Gee, that sounds pretty scary” I have a feeling that walled garden may become a public place.

    • @Clint – I’m wondering if you showed Jeff’s post to your IT director? 😉

      @Jeff – Great post! What a neat chain of events! Our school year starts next week and this will be my first year as truly connected teacher (I started blogging last Nov and Twittering in June). Already I can feel the difference!

    • Glad to hear…..we have to be willing to take some risks in education…that’s how we learn after all. The funny thing is once you take that risk and becomes public, it’s realy not that scary. 🙂

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  6. Hi Jeff,

    I already asked Haley via a reply, bout would it be OK for me to use your post and her blog during a teacher training on blogging with students? Examples of real connections like this are hard to find.

    Great post. Keep the coming! Robin

    • Thanks….it’s the weekend here now but I’ll make sure Haley gets back to you on Monday. This is perfect as our next lesson is on Creative Commons and what that means. Hopefully Haley will release her blog under a creative common license. 🙂

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  8. I know it wasn’t your main point, and it certainly sounds like the IT director in this case earned his casting as the bad guy. But I just wanted to offer that it’s not because he’s an IT director that he took that position – I’m an IT director in a school who has spent the past two years fighting my administration to open up my network and do less filtering, while working directly with teachers as they get more and more excited about sharing their students’ work via blogs.

    The problem in your case was/is with a particular IT person, not with anything it would be fair to generalize about with the role of IT in supporting schools.

    • You are absolutely right. It has nothing to do with IT Directors…..it’s a mind set that we need to change throughout education! It just so happens in Clint’s case it is the IT Director. I’m lucky that I work at a school where everyone from our Head of School to our teachers understands and trust that we as a technology department are doing the right thing. We only block porn at our school. Facebook, Youtube, the Internet is completely open to our students and staff and from there we can teach them to be safe.

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  12. I think that this is a great story about being connected world-wide. I was just thinking about 10 years ago many people were against internet and the world-wide web because of all the “bad things” one could find there. Now, the world is changing and the internet is so accepted. I think it is great the getting connected around the world is finally accepted. It wasn’t long ago that people looked down upon it. I am eager to start my own classroom blog for my Spanish class, so thanks for the encouragement!

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