Alright, alright. If you saw the title of this post and expected to join me in some eye rolling and lamentations about how much better we were when we were kids, just go away. Because I’m about to get all impressed by some kiddie bloggers out there in cyberland. Today, I’m exploring some of the best student and classroom blogs out there, hoping to get some ideas for how I might incorporate blogging in my English classes as well as how I might use them if I become a media specialist someday. I decided to write about some specific student blogs that are representative of an entire class since the students in one class all seem to complete similar assignments.
Haille’s Happy Blog. Nine year-old Haille lives in Australia and is part of a whole class of bloggers at her school, which is pretty amazing and is giving me all sorts of ideas. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The posts are mostly school-related, and the comments seem to be from teachers, classmates, and Haille’s grandmother. Haille writes about field trips, swim lessons, and the class’s Skype conversation with Jenni, a scientist who works for the National Dinosaur Museum (how cool an experience is that?!) Beyond the overwhelming cuteness of a happy 9 year-old blogger who uses fantastic Australian slang, I love how Haille ends each blog entry with a question or two for her audience. What a great way to invite readers to engage directly with her!
Through the Edublogs web site, I found Huzzah, an entire class of 10 and 11 year-olds who are blogging together. From looking at the class blog page plus several individual student blogs, it seems that there are some common assignments students have been completing, and it’s all giving me some good ideas of ways teachers and librarians can use blogs in the classroom. I’ll use Bekkam’s Blog as an example. First, Bekkam seems to be using the blog as a place to complete surveys for a class inquiry project. Her topic is hockey skates, and she has used Google Docs to create a survey about skates. Bekkam is also trying to start a jewelry-making business and has created another “market research” survey to help her in this endeavor. The blog also includes a post titled “Me as a Reader” which describes her reading habits and preferences, a poem about snow, and info about bald eagles, one of Bekkam’s favorite animals. One thing I really like about this blog is that each post is edited by two classmates; I love the authenticity of having classmates edit work for publication. Though I appreciate that each image the students use in these blogs are linked to the original site from which the image came, I would encourage the teacher to require students to include proper citations when using images. It’s a habit students should begin at a young age.
Simone is a teen who has some great stuff on her blog. This blog is filled with examples of the work Simone is completing for her classes at school in all content areas; it’s giving me many ideas of how I can use Web 2.0 technologies as well as blogs with my student. In effect, Simone is creating an online portfolio of her academic work, something that I would encourage all students to do. I found posts about her favorite movies, a glog and a prezi presentation she made for science class, and public service announcement she created for health class. There’s an entire section devoted to Underground to Canada, a book by Barbara Smucker that Simone read and discussed with a small group of classmates. Again, Simone could use some lessons in respecting copyright, as there are a lot of unattributed or uncited images here. Overall, though, a great student blog to visit.
The Jets Class Blog documents the activities of grade 2 students in Derbyshire, England. The blog is written by teachers, though the students seem to be active commenters. I found pictures from an outing the class took to the park, videos of class performances to explain the water cycle, information (including a BBC Video) about an artist the class studied, and even a collection of poems written by the students. The families of students seem to be the primary audience of this blog, which elicits a lot of comments. It’s a great way for teachers to keep in touch, and also for parents to sit down with children and talk about what they did in school.
In Session: Sentiments from Silveri’s Class is one of the high school blogs I found. It’s interesting and a bit disappointing that high school blogs are harder to find than elementary and middle school blogs. Silveri uses her blog in some good ways to generate online discussion. In one section, titled “With All Deliberate Speed,” she creates a space where her AP Language and AP Literature students can interact and share ideas about the same text. She uses her blog post to introduce the assignment (which includes reading one common document, followed by independent research, followed by responses to specific questions) and resources for it. The “comments” under her entry are where students post answers to the questions and responses to each other. When I checked, there were nearly 100 comments. In addition to using this blog almost like an online discussion board with her classes, I noticed that Silveri’s love for her students comes through constantly, and that she includes spaces for students to discuss some less academic current events, like the death of Whitney Houston.
I started with very few ideas of how I could use blogs in my classroom, and now I have many! Thanks, world! I love the collaboration across disciplines evidenced in Simone’s blog, and think the learning implications are fantastic if teachers from all content areas could work together to have students reflect on what they are learning in all subject areas, emphasizing areas of connection and crossover. It’s a tall order, but exciting to think about.
I can also now see that blogging can be a powerful tool to make a home-school connection, particularly with parents of younger children. If teachers can get parents involved in reading classroom blogs, there are so many possibilities for how that could open up communication between parents and teachers, and between parents and children.
Finally, the blogs I found gave my some great ideas of new ways to use technology in the classroom. I now have ideas of how I could incorporate Google surveys, Skype, and digital video both on classroom blogs and in class. And taking my cue from Haille, I’ll end my blog with some questions:
- What are your thoughts on why great high school class blogs are harder to find?
- Do you have some more examples of innovative class blogs?