Having previously been in the classroom for a little more than a decade now (I can’t believe I just wrote that!), I found myself drawn to a number of classroom blogs that a) made me a little envious of what I could have done in my own class and b) showed me what I can likely still do in my library and/or for professional development at my school. Although I found a lot of information about Ditching Dewey in my previous post, I discovered a lot about blog formatting from visiting many classroom blogs. There isn’t really a one size fits all. I basically thought a blog was a blog was a blog – a simple (although hopefully beautiful) website that people post their thoughts on similar to a diary. Well it is, I guess, but the great blogs offer so much more too.
As PARCC and future standardized assessments are demonstrating, education needs to hit the traditional academic standards AND current trends in digital literacy. From my own experience in the classroom and current collaborative efforts with teachers, it is clear that (in AACPS at least) digital literacy takes a back seat to making sure students meet those academic standards. The problem lies when students know the material but are unable to effectively connect their knowledge with 21st century modes of communication. Utilizing classroom blogs is the perfect means to bridge this gap. Teachers are able to use blogs to post assignments and share what is being covered/done in class. Students can collaborate, write, and/or produce in a way more relevant to their world. Students are able to take greater ownership of their learning, pride in their work, when publishing it on the web for others (classmates, parents, or the world) to view and comment on. Even better, blogging for students focuses students on typing, formatting, linking skills across a variety of modes of expression.
I would love to share the blogs below with the staff at my school and the students as well. By demonstrating the effectiveness (as well as the dos and don’ts) of classroom blogging, by showing teacher-centered sites, student-centered sites, and those in-between, teachers can utilize blogs in ways that are most comfortable and natural to them and their teaching styles. I would love to have the opportunity to simply have teachers and students explore these blogs (and others) to collaborate on how they can mirror or improve their own classroom blogs. Blogs are personal and unique to the user(s). No two classroom blogs within the same school may look or operate the same. Some may simply be basic posts by the teacher to keep students and families informed while others may be completely run by students to demonstrate what they know or for a student club/organization to communicate with the rest of the world. Possibilities are truly endless.
It has been very interesting and eye-opening to see what students of any grade and teachers of any level can create after reading the following three blogs. From these readings, I decided to create this blog to be more of an interactive site – one that visitors of any age or ability can come to for valuable links and information, to keep up with current library trends and book reviews, and (fingers crossed) in the near future to have students take ownership of the blog and take it places I could never have even thought of. As always, after reading my thoughts on these blogs, I encourage you to check them out yourself and tell me your thoughts in the comments below.
Elementary School Classroom Blog: Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog
From Spaghetti Challenges to teach third graders how to comment online to Student Blogging Challenges, one thing is definitely clear – Mrs. Yollis has her students engaged and developing to become responsible digital citizens. While this blog is, in part, Mrs. Yollis describing, explaining, and showing what is being done in class, she models her online voice for her students to have their voice heard through similar modes of communication. Students incorporate tons of pictures, links, videos, and more to make their posts interactive and practice digital literacy skills. Because the majority of the posts have been created, edited, and/or posted by young students, they often are pretty long-winded. *No offence little students
Middle School Classroom Blog: The Living Textbook
Straight from their own About page, students use “writing, photography, video and audio to tell the stories of the people and events in their lives and around them… this bridge will lead them to a future in which their voices and the voices of their generation are heard.” Think of this blog as middle school online journalism. Posts cover academics, family life/drama, current issues, opinion pieces, and more. Although this blog hasn’t been updated since 2014, it serves as a great model example for what students can produce if given the means and opportunity. Being a middle school librarian myself, I can see using a similar template for students to actually form a journalism club, branch off their televised announcements, or simply show students/teachers this blog so they can model a more interactive way of demonstrating knowledge and collaboration. The way this blog is set up (clean, clear, professional, etc.) would also be an excellent tool for the school itself to use as its own website: teachers can post exciting events in class and around the school; students can show off what they are learning; parents and families can interact and communicate with each other and school staff; this mode of communication also seems to be more constant than the ever changing fads of social media… the list can go on and on. And on and on.
High School Classroom Blog: Head Outta the Book
You can definitely teach an old dog new tricks and discuss/analyze/evaluate/collaborate on “old” literature with new technology. Although posts are a little hard to find and follow as an outsider to this blog, Head Outta the Book is more of a class site – from 1984 to Lord of the Flies, from setting up blogs to homework posts, or from Miss Harris’ own SLO scores to what she is currently reading. The teacher, Miss Harris, will publish brief posts on assignments, readings, or about other links pertinent to class. The blogging itself really falls on the responsibility of her students. As Miss Harris commented at one point, “My students upload their essays on turnitin.com and do poetry analysis on Windows Movie Maker. And now, we’re all blogging. One of my students wrote that “blogging doesn’t feel like doing homework.”” That’s really the goal of Head Outta the Book – whether it feels like actual “work” or not, students are using skills and techniques that are relevant to their lives and futures in ways that many classes throughout countless schools in our county simply are not doing. Additionally, many of the posts (from Miss Harris or past students/classes) are still easily available to read to give future students models for appropriate postings and to add to older discussions so that nothing ever gets stale within this blog. The only downside to this is that clearly some posts are kept up to date while others haven’t been touched since 2010. Nonetheless, they all demonstrate what it is to be a strong writer in a digital world.