Today I visited a variety of classroom blogs, looking for inspiration and information on the good sides – and not so good sides – of having a classroom blog. One of the main things I wanted to explore was how students use the blog; it’s always a good thing for a teacher to post important information online, such as due dates or assignment reminders, but I wanted to see how teachers incorporate the blog into the classroom in a more interactive way. For my class assignment, I was required to look at all levels of classroom blogs, which at first seemed silly (why would I look at elementary school blogs?) but it ended up being a very significant part of the assignment. It also was a welcome break from the sometimes downer attitude of high-schoolers. Elementary school kids are excited about everything!
Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog
Mrs. Yollis is a third-grade teacher in California who uses her blog for a variety of reasons, and encourages her students to be a part of the blogging experience. Most of the postings have to do with significant activities done throughout the school year, documented with photos and videos. Several posts include student work, but others are about visitors to the school. The blog also contains information about blogging for other teachers, as well as instructions for students and parents on how to interact using the blog. They are taught how to make appropriate comments, and there’s even a great little section on using html for postings – for third graders! Mrs. Yollis clearly expects a lot from her students, but it seems that the enthusiasm about posting comes from her enthusiasm about using her own blog. There is also a listing of her students’ personal blogs, which follow the same format as Mrs. Yollis’ blog.
Some of my favorite posts show the students in an exciting environment. Here are some photos from a visit with the Wildlife Experience people. Harris the hawk came to visit, and there are also some links to past posts about various things. One thing to note is at the bottom of each post, Mrs. Yollis offers some questions for her students (and parents) to consider when leaving comments. This post deals with an award won by another blog associated with Mrs. Yollis’ blog; her class participated in an internation blog project called “Our World, Our Stories,” and here she shares the information with her readers. The most interesting part, for me, was to see all the students involved – they are involved through the use of blogs! One of her former students was also given an award for her personal blog (and you can read about her experience here). Another great post shares some really great student work that incorporates multiple types of technology. The class wrote, illustrated, and recorded a story called “Bad News Bev.” If you are having a bad day, this is probably the best thing to watch!
Mrs. McGriff’s Reading Blog
Mrs. McGriff’s blog is a mixture of classroom, personal, and educator blog, which I really enjoy. It’s a little glimpse into the life outside of the classroom for a middle school teacher. There are different sections for each of the different parts, which makes the blog very well organized. One section includes book reviews of the different works of literature at both a middle school and adult level, really just based on her own reading. Another lists the major class assignments broken down by period (which means each class essentially has their own section of the blog). Another still has the documents needed for a complete binder, which is helpful for absences or those students who misplace papers – which never happens. Kidding!
One of the best things about this blog is the website used to create it. That might seem strange, but discovering edublogs.com is a great resource for any future classroom blogging I might want to do. It’s a website designed for classroom/teacher use, and you can create publications, newspapers, post discussion boards, videos, podcasts, and all other types of great technology. Check the Ten Ways to use Edublog page for more information.
Some of the specific postings really made me smile. The first is a post about a really fantastic book called Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, which I read with my 7th graders while I was student teaching! In the post Mrs. McGriff writes a very short review of the book, and then ties it in to her own life (she mentions a comment made by her daughter, and her response is so teacher and hilarious!). She also is constantly trying to make connections to her classroom, which I appreciate. Another great post is about her summer reading and graphic novels. Part of this post really reminds me of my own personal blog, but it really shows students that she is making an effort to enjoy a genre of literature she didn’t initially like. Most students are quick to judge, and as an adult, and as a teacher, it’s important to model behavior that goes against that norm. Mrs. McGriff is also participating in an internet writing workshop for teachers, and shares this work with her students. In this post she actually shares a free write. The best thing about this blog is teacher modeling, which is one of the most important – and undervalued – parts of education.
Miller’s English 10 Classroom Blog
Of the three classroom blogs, this was the one I was most excited to explore (call me selfish, but I teach high school!). Unfortunately, this was the one that disappointed me the most, but that’s also why I wanted to post about it. I think it’s important to explore less-than-stellar-blogs to have a clear concept of what works AND what doesn’t. The blog is designed to expand what happens in the classroom in a prompt and response format. There are also some links with vocabulary and assignment calendars. Some of the links don’t actually contain anything, though, and certain sites are clearly out of date. The discussion prompts are great, but once each student posts his/her response, there is no continued discussion. Students don’t communicate with one another – instead, it seems like a way for him to do some grading from home in a digital format. He doesn’t even respond to the posts, and I assume he must do that in the classroom.
This blog really seems like a technology for the sake of technology blog, as opposed to a really great resource for the class. This is really the only thing I found interesting, and it’s really not even part of the blog. Here, there is student work posted to a publishing section of the high school website. A student, Emma, posted her research online, including links to resources, but the only comment from her teacher was ‘topic approved.’ Again, the lack of true communication makes me question why he uses the blog format. Here he introduces the blog and its purpose for his new students, but again, there is not much communication. Even the comments don’t seem to fit his use. This is essentially how he uses the blog, and when I read student comments, I really expected to see responses from other students, instead of just submitting a short writing assignment online.
So What Did I Learn?
I’ve been very interested in the possibility of using blogs in a classroom setting for some time, and I was glad to explore classroom blogs at both a local and international level. Using blogs with a class, either as a group, or setting up individual blogs, is still something I need to explore. Ideally, I’d find someone to converse with about how they use blogs (instead of just exploring them and winging it!) but since I’ve a big fan of writer’s notebooks, this could be a really interesting alternative for students with more access to technology. I think it might also be helpful for schools to adopt blogs as a means of communication with parents. Many never see paper copies of things sent home, and if someone could update a blog once a week (give or take) it would be an easy way to get information out there. Teachers could have individual blogs, and those could link to the main school blog. All in all, I think blogs can be a significant part of school technology, if used in a meaningful way.
And with that, I need to go update my other blog. I’m so horrible at keeping up with it!