Something New

Good evening! As I returned home, I decided to start playing around with wordpress and see what else it has to offer. I am going to be working on blogging on this topic off of my wordpress blog that is linked below:

Blogging In Your Classroom

Why am I switching blogs? I am really going to do it to try something new. I already have my school blogs set up on edublogs and I will continue to use them, unless I find that wordpress offers something that I cannot do (and really want to try) with my students. I really enjoy trying something new… as you could tell if you were at my presentation today in Mitchell at the Laptop Leaders Conference.

If you want to do the same, go to www.wordpress.com and try it out. All of the terms (dashboard, widget, etc.) are all the same.

Again, if you would like to try something new with me, follow me at http://blogginginyourclassroom.wordpress.com

Blogging Bridges

Yesterday I was able to stop for an orientation meeting at the new Innovation Center on the Campus of my Alma Mater, South Dakota State University, for my upcoming adventure to Turkey. (Not to mention bring my daughter for her first tour of campus!)

I have been accepted as one of six South Dakota teachers to join a cadre of 30 teachers from the Midwest to travel to Turkey July 26- August 7th this summer. This all began after I attended a day-long session back in February in the first new building of the campus of USDSU on East Meets West. A former professor of mine, Dr. April Brooks, was one of the speakers, and my history-buff brain was on overload. I could get a chance to visit THAT place… the one I had been hearing about since I was in Mrs. Boswell’s Fourth Grade Social Studies class. I decided that I was hooked– and had to apply.  When Harriet Swedlund from the South Dakota World Affairs Council contacted me to say I was accepted, I was thrilled!

Part of the purpose of this trip, sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation, is to make the entire world aware of the culture, art, music, literature, poetry, and people of Turkey. The tour is a general survey study of the country that begins in Istanbul and concludes in Ankara. And, besides the cultural sites, we are also visiting three schools in Turkey.  The first is the Bahcasehir Science Technology High School in Istanbul, the second is the Adapazari Enka Schools in Adapazari and the third is a village school called A takoy Ilkogretime Okulu in Karascasu.

Though over the years I had a few opportunities to visit, as well as teach, in overseas classrooms, I am extremely exicted for the possibilities that these school visits may bring to my classroom in Clear Lake next year.

Through the use of blogs (that, as we all know, are accessible worldwide) all students in both my classroom and the Turkish classroom(s) can post on the same topic I initiate. I would like to see what curriculum is taught in the Turkish school’s English classroom. Next year, while communicating with their instructor via email, if they are reading Beowulf and my class is reading Beowulf, perhaps we can do some discussions via my blog to see what the other students are thinking as well. Their perspectives may vary greatly, but on the other hand, they may be exactly the same, too. This could be a great experiment delving into the opinions of teen students across the globe.

I would also like to try this same technique when my students read some of the Turkish folktales or literature that I hope to bring back from my experience. These discussions can be the same with other culture’s literature as well (Native American, Chinese, Norse, etc.). This may be a great way to bridge the often held, preconceived ideas that appear in our many times monochromatic South Dakota classrooms.

Raising the Level of Concern

 Blogging is a unique way to open up your classroom to the rest of the school, the administration, parents, and the entire world. Although many may not yet be familiar with this technology, it is something that soon all people will be familiar with.

A reflective process and/ or journaling has long been proven to aid students in learning and recognition. Here is another teacher who has some ideas on the benefit of the reflective process, except she uses the old paper and folder method. Journaling often is unseen by anybody, but the one teacher. The thoughts in the journal may be insightful, but never showed to the world.

Blogging opens up the reflective process to not only other students, but also parents. Students now know that others will be viewing their comments and this significantly raises the level of concern.

As I have invited all parents, other teachers, administrators, and community members to openly view and comment on the blog, the dynamic of journaling has changed entirely.

In my classroom, I use a wireless projector connection from my computer to display the blog content as it comes through. Until recently, I used to approve comments via the same computer, and just flip back and forth between the  screens. Now I use my iPod touch’s wireless internet connection and monitor student computer usage at the same time. Although all parents are not reading the blogs everyday, many are checking in to see what is happening, and it makes a difference. 

iPod touch image

Getting the Community and Parents Involved

The days of bringing home one printed report card every nine weeks are all but obsolete with parents, teachers, and students all accessing the internet and email. The parent portal on most school’s websites allows parents to see grades as soon as teachers post them.

Technology changes all of the above scenarios— for the better! Putting gradebooks online and, often times, having teachers and parents communicating via email on a daily basis allows parents to become more involved. Blogging is another way you can allow parents to come into your classroom, even with conflicting schedules. Parents can view the comments of the students, as well as see the questions posed by the teacher. Blogging allows parents to see their child’s ideas first-hand.

You can also invite parents or community members to comment on the question posed, if applicable. You are able to moderate the comments via security settings to ensure that content remains applicable to the conversation also.  

What is a blog and why is it relevant?

A blog is a webpage you can create to your design and with the content you choose. It allows for free discourse of comments in an open forum.

Also known as a web-log, online diary, or journal, a blog is putting your personal thoughts into cyberspace for all to see. A blog is instantly published to a website and hosted by a third party (edublogs, blogger, etc.). It is most often published in reverse chronological order, as so your most recent thoughts or comments are posted at the top of the screen. (This can be changed, if you so desire.)

The majority of students are using social networking sites on a daily basis. MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter are even accessible via cell phones, blackberries or iPods. Despite the possibility of harmful effects, these sites are connecting our students to the rest of the world.

Sites such as Facebook have a ‘Wall’ where users of the site are able to write their thoughts and feelings for the day. Friends are able to comment on these thoughts.

Blogs closely resemble this community of friends atmosphere. As the host of the blog, you will be able to post your thoughts, assignments, or objectives, and the readers (your students) will reply in a comment. You also are able to post links to other websites or blogs, post pages of information, post videos and photos of classroom activities.

If you choose, you can also have students set up their own blogs and post their own information to it.

Students are becoming more and more familiar with technology out of ‘teenage social necessity’, and the same concepts that they use to post photos from prom, videos from the bus, and comments about their day are all the same technology that you can use to connect with students by integrating a blog into your classroom.