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In preparation for our upcoming Voicethread conversation on teaching for tomorrow, I've been doing a bunch of thinking about today's kids----a group that I like to call the iGeneration.
There's so much to do on my blogging site....and I still haven't quite figured out how to change the pictures. Pretty basic move that I need to know. Keep your fingers crossed that I figure this out....to be stumped so quickly isn't the best news for me. But I'll figure it out.
But I'm working on the student side of things today. I want to work with my students in a very controlled environment before I turn them loose on the web. To me it makes sense for them to demonstrate that they have web sense...and I'm trying to define those "absolutes". Absolute #1: Online safety is huge...I'd want it for my own child and I want parents to know I'm doing all I can to help their kids know how to take care of themselves. Absolute #2: Students have to be taught how to write for an online dialog....they don't know how to do this and clearly how they do communicate via IM is not what I'm after.
My first lesson is going to make sure that they understand the difference between Private and Public information. I think this is a huge issue and something many students haven't learned about yet. Heck they are 11 years old, so it's a big deal for me to teach them how to protect themselves. I guess my philosophy is that they are going to surf the web at some in their lives and I need to equip them with tools for being safe. The CyberSmart website has some great tools I'm going to use on this topic. The second lesson I'm going to have them do relates to Power and Responsibility. This is a perfect connection to my social studies class and the idea of citizenship....with rights comes responsibility. Won't it be a great way to demonstrate that this "old" idea from the earliest of civilizations is still applicable today?
I plan on using an idea from Sherry Edward's blog on introducing the process of reading, responding and commenting on a blog. I'm going to use a prompt from my own curriculum....
You are a student helping scholars uncover the remains of an ancient city. One day you happen upon some bits and pieces of a broken jar. Since the potter included art on the outside of the jar, you can see some symbols and pictures. Since you've been in Mrs. Ratzel's class for an entire year, you remember that you've seen these symbols before and that they represent the language of the people that probably lived in this city. You can't believe you've had the good fortune to find this. Now is your chance to put all the studying from 6th grade to work. What might you learn from these ancient writings?
It will be my hope that students will explore the idea that students will connect this prompt with the purpose for studying the past and how historians use many "clues" to understand how people lives years ago.
Students will write their response to this prompt on an index card and we'll do a pass around. As each student reads the index card, they'll respond to the writer by adding their thoughts onto the card with a Post-It. The longer the activity goes on, the long the set of index cards and post-its becomes and the more the receiver has to respond to.
Isn't this a cool idea? It not only teaches them to read and respond, but it gives a fantastic concrete mental picture of the write and respond nature of blogging. Concrete being the operative word for my 6th graders. I also think the power of the this will come as we then hang all these index cards with post-it trails up on the walls and then do a gallery walk. In that gallery walk, it's my intention to have students look for what they think are positives and things to be improved upon. I've even thought it would be important to have students help me create a rubric that we could use to measure our initial posts once we get the blogs up and working.
Two absolutes seem like enough for these little guys. If they can convince me they have these two things mastered, I'm going to issue them a license to their blog!!!! I need to design something to celebrate/honor this.....put that on my To-Do list.
Have you ever done anything like this? How did it work? Are there things that I should include in these first lessons that I've overlooked?
This year is the Year of Student Blogging for me. Every year I pick off one tech tool to get really integrated into my content...and I was told that I'm doing social studies this year so I felt like "THE" tech tool had to be something that used writing and conversations. That's why I picked blogs over wikis and even over Voicethread. I've been using a professional reflection blog since 2003 and read tons of them everyday through my reader. But that's very different from using student blogs with 150 kids...different skills and different instructional style is required.
I wasn't sure where to turn for blogging solutions. My district uses SchoolCenter which has a student blog feature. Last year when my students use them, it was so difficult and I spent hours on the phone trying to get a picture to go the side they wanted...or center the title...and on and on. Our tech person gets how to do all this quickly, but I was frustrated and my kids just plain gave up. Most of my friends can't figure out how to do much...although I think much is possible.
Usability was huge after that experience. Security is always a huge concern. And flexibility.
Given those three parameters, I picked Edublogs. I'm just in the starter stages so I don't have much to report except maybe the most important thing. I have found them to be accessible when I have questions, they give understandable answers and they answer quickly. The documentation is outstanding and, as I make my way slowly through the Getting Started Guide, I find their manuals anticipate what questions I'll probably have. All that bodes well for me....it make me believe that they do what they promise and that I'll be able to concentrate on the social studies content and not making the tech work. What a relief!!!!
Honestly I think many teachers would use more tech if the support was solid. I remember going to something at CoSN years ago and the big message there was how much investment districts needed to make in the support. And I'm not just talking about training, I mean the actual software/hardware part to integrating tech into the classroom. If you don't have good support that makes sense to a teacher, they pretty much give up. I can't blame them...
I'll keep posting...so if you are someone else who is just getting started we can share stories. What have your experiences been? Any landmines that you know I should avoid? I'd love to hear your ideas.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons http://www.flickr.com/photos/alegrya/3671080113/