Monday, March 16, 2009

Personal Reflections on the Process of Blogging and in Creating Connections

I wonder if a general class email address and password for the students would have worked to enable them to access various tools during our rare computer time that need a person's email to log on. I am thinking about this because some students are not allowed to have their own email address. But how would I control the use of the email after school unless I deleted it daily and created a new one daily!!

There is alot to be considered when wanting to blog as a part of a class's assignments:purpose; identifying short and long term goals; access to hardware and sites; affordability; parental and school permission; opportunity; assessment; teacher/student knowledge and motivation are all key components to consider when deciding to want to blog as a group or as an individual.

I was just introduced to and read part of Vicki Davis's 'CoolCatTeacher Blog' which led me to an ebook she is writing about "7 Steps to Flattening Classrooms" or in other words ,creating a work connection with others on a global level using technology. She said we have to start with Step 1 which is to create an "intraconnection" or talking with our students and between student to student in our own class via synchonous chats like Skype,Video, voice thread , Instant Messaging, and asynchronous communication such as class wikis and "wall garden blogging". Hah, cell phones are banned in our school and MSN and Meebo are off limits! Secondly, we have to create "interconnections" or contacts between schools in our districts via asynchronous methods like wikis, blogs, social networking where students work on the same projects and respond to each other from their own classrooms. Steps 3-7 look at projects managed by teachers then students followed by ethics, choices and creating focus.

It's beginning to look like I did things backwards. I started with trying to reach out to the world before we reached out to each other within the room and teaching tools before we had any real access to hardware or even personal emails!

The few students who have their own email have offered to 'let someone borrow' their email and password... Good time for another lesson on Internet safety. But how do I justify the students 'borrowing' the class email to do their assignments. How is that different?

When we did manage to find some computer time, most students eagerly and patiently waited for our slowpoke computers to load the applications and were able to practice with various tools: VoiceThread, Voki, BubbleShare, Glogster but our troubles continued when our time ran out and our creations were in the midst of development. I didn't see a way to save them midstream so they were disappointed that their work was lost. To try to override this problem , some students were willing to come to my house to work on my laptop. Somehow my computer was 'trained' (lol) to recognize my voice only and wouldn't allow one boy to record his VoiceThread comments orally , so texted comments were used because I didn't have a working headset and neither did anyone in our school!! I discovered that some fun applications like Glogster has users that posted inappropriate messages on their works. In conversations with my students about this issue we chatted about personal and professional ethics which guide our behaviour so even if we find something inappropriate we have a choice to not read it or participate in it. One student said aloud at this moment, "Just ask WWJD?" When I asked what he meant , he smiled and said "What would Jesus do?" Yes, you do have to apply knowledge learned in many different places!

I attributed many of our little problems to my not knowing how to solve them on the spot or even know in advance what might crop up. I am sure if I was really a savvy Twitterbug I could have sent out a few Tweets and had an answer in seconds. That is one obstacle I have created for myself and am trying to dismantle it stick by stick to get comfy with Twitterers/users or strangers as I still see them.
Overall, I see where I should have and could have more student generated material but not really sure how to do it during school with such limited access. I know that student blogs are necessary for recording their ideas and works but what is to be done when personal emails are considered to be too risky by caregivers.

I've been prompted to rethink online work and evaluation after reading Konrad Glogowski's blog article "Thoughts on Assessment" in the Blog of Proximal Development... regarding the 'students' participation and increased knowledge gained'... and especially the 'questions and thoughts I should have around my own involvement in the blogging process'.

Did I engage them in conversation about their ideas and efforts? How did I encourage them to take a learning risk? Where did I offer room to grow or experiment with a tool or an idea for using the tool? What did I teach that students adopted as their own to change into something new and exciting? How do I model a sense of determination for my students when I feel so discouraged at the setbacks we have experienced?

Seems like more questions than answers!

Now I know that I should be an active participant through conversation and engagement in the student's blogging process from the beginning as students receive and interpret their assignment through the "rich discussions" in the middle to the very end of the final written product that they hand in for evaluation.
This is great information for me. Now to solve the problem of having regular and equal access to the blog!


  1. I love your blog, and I wish my students were able to use it. It has much to offer, and you do well keeping it interesting, interactive and informative.

  2. Thanks Becky,
    I sure learned quite abit about what not to do and how to do things differently especially regarding student access by actually participating in this blog .

    I am going to create a different blog for my class for our last block to highlight the last 8 weeks of school. It will show what my class is learning in the core subjects, their work, and it will be a place for parents and administrators to see what we are doing and to comment-give suggestions, feedback.

    First , my students are going to teach their parents/Admin. what a blog is during 1 or 2 sessions that we invite them to. Some parents don't want their kids to have emails and our Admin doesn't allow us hardly any lab time to work so hopefully we will shed some light on the importance of access to Web 2.0 and living and working to be prepared for our technology based future.