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New blogs for learning

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Today I found out just what a vacation will do to you. I spent 4 hours helping some 34 9th graders start new blogs, and I no longer have a voice.

We’ve run wordpressmu were we have over 600 4th-12th grade students blogging (School of 2900ish K-12). Students only set up blogs once a teacher contacts one of the educational integrators and they decide that the blog is the best avenue for learning.

Today’s meeting was sparked by a science teacher who has been looking for a way to start e-portfolios with his 9th grade science students. We’ve been talking for the past couple of weeks as the teacher and I work out just what he wants the program to do and I add my two cents about what the program can do and at the same time push the teacher to think even deeper about what this blog, and his blog, can offer his students.

The classes were each 80 minutes long…plenty of time to setup a blog, write a short blog post, learn about posts vs. pages, walk through how to manage comments, change themes, update options, change password, and have a discussion on the use of the blog.

I always find it interesting when teachers come to me and are amazed when I tell them we can accomplish all this in a 80 minute class. But these kids…this generation….they just get it…and I love it!

My first question lately has been “How many of you have a Facebook page?”

Of course everyone raises their hand and looks at me like “dah!”

I then continue to compare their new blog to their Facebook page. Explaining things like “Blog posting are like your wall in Facebook, the latest comment is always on top and the rest get pushed down the line.”

They get that, it’s there language

I compare sidebar widgets to all the apps you can add to your Facebook page. Where you can drag and drop them and have some control over the layout of your page….not total control…but some.

The kids of course just go with it. My favorite part is signing them up for their blog. You sign up, get the e-mail, click the link, get the password, log in.

What do I say? “You guys know how this works let me know when you’re finished.”

And off they go setting up their blogs….it got me thinking today that there are not many things standard on the web today, but the process of signing up for most of these online sites…is the same…the whole verifying e-mail thingy…they know it.

After I was done today the teacher (who was in the room the whole time following along and setting up and making changes to his own blog…and for teachers…hearing the same thing three times is just about right 😉  ) and I talked about what was next and how he felt taking it to the next level. We even started talking about other ways he could use the blog other than as a portfolio and showcase for student work.

We talked about having the students find a science video on YouTube or TeacherTube, embedding it in their blog and then writing a reflection on whether or not they followed the scientific process. Why would you do this? Because it engages students! Our students all watch YouTube, so lets watch it with a purpose, and learn something, analyze something, and reflect on the over all video.

We then talked about the teacher embedding a video and having an assignment where the student left comments on his blog discussing some aspect of the video depending on the assignment.

This is the reason why I love blogs, they open up a whole world of opportunities. At a basic level they are easy to manage websites (which is OK). On a higher level they can allow students to create, reflect, analyze, and publish work and content from their classes.

I love blogging software…not only for the sake of blogging but for its ease of use…I think that’s the revolution, that’s the catch, and today we added more student blogs to the blogosphere!

[tags]science, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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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.


  1. Sounds busy. It is amazing how quickly students pick things up related to technology. I like the possibilities that students blogging brings to the classroom. I am looking forward to exploring those more.

  2. Jeff,

    Thank you for posting this! I am about to share it with a private middle school’s faculty here in the US. They could use the encouragement.

    I worked closely this fall with the head of the English department to pilot blogging with 75 8th graders. We got really into the pedagogy and she also allocated three 45 minute class periods to a)set up the blogs, b)learn about hypertext, and blog posting structure (some goals to encourage organization and polished writing), and c)de.icio.us tagging. The kids do get it, and once they get started they soar! It’s wonderful because the technology itself isn’t the issue. You can focus on the learning!

    I just wrote a blog post about Learning 2.0 and how teaching the technology isn’t the issue. It was in response to a prompt from Will R and Sheryl NB in their Powerful Practice model. Love for you to check it out.http://thenetwork.typepad.com/architectureofideas/2008/01/learning-20.html

    PS: I’ll have 300 students blogging in English and Science before the end of the year, and I’ve got a 7th grade of 150 students who are studying Asia in their geography class using wikis and voicethread. Would love to work with you if there is an opportunity!

    Twitter: Deacs84

  3. Hey Jeff,

    My students began seriously blogging for the first time this year. I’d love to have you take a look and tell me what you think. I’m blogging about it right now, but you can check out their work starting at the blog portal for the cluster at http://www.audreyhill.typepad.com.

    I try to build a little excitement by having a blog celebration with links for them to check out different authors, but you can also get to their blogs through the blogroll on the right.

    It’s our first effort at really blogging since my tech director just this year gave the green light. I’m learning a lot about the usefulness of blogging in the classroom from this effort. (learning… not in PD or in a classroom 🙂

  4. Jeff, great ideas (I teach science)! You are very motivating by giving excellent examples that others can follow.

    Your district is lucky to have you. It must be tiring to set up so many but very rewarding to see their excitement.

    I am the only one at my district blogging right now. I have been asked to do a small afternoon workshop. Do you have any suggestions or advice to pique their interest and use?

  5. Jeff,
    If you haven’t checked lately, there are quite a few science experiments on VoiceThread. Many appear to be made by sixth graders. It appears that like a YouTube video, they can embed it in their blog.

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