Posts Tagged 'edublogs'

Featured student blog: meet Ann

Cross-posted at Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Many teachers shy away from contemporary music. Why? It could be because their own teachers did the same.

That quote comes from Ann, an aspiring music educator at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She and 14 other pre-service teachers are enrolled in a section of IT486, Intro to Instructional Computing, that I am teaching this summer. The course examines how to use technology to support teaching and learning and is designed to prepare novice teachers to integrate a variety of computer-based technologies.

One aspect of the course design that I really enjoy and value is the blog for reflective journaling. This is a required component. During the first week of the course, each student signed up for a blog at Google’s Blogger. They were given a certain amount of license in the look and feel of the blog, but the overarching rationale for the pre-service teacher blog is the same: to develop and practice the reflective process. (More on that later.)

But why blend an introspective mode of writing such as journal writing with a public medium such as blogs?

As Christopher Sessums maintains:

Collaborative weblogs promote the idea of learners as creators of knowledge, not merely consumers of information. A collaborative environment like the one I’m suggesting can allow peers to be seen as valuable sources of knowledge and ideas; a connection that participants can rely on beyond any formal classroom structure, i.e., collaboration leading to a community of interest.

So to that end, I have been making readerly comments on each pre-service teacher’s blog, and I am encouraging the class to follow, read, and comment on each others’ blogs.

And now, to go a step further, I seek to shine a spotlight (or, in the case of our music major, “sound a trumpet”) on some provocative posts in hopes of inducting our novice edubloggers into some of the wonderfully generous and nurturing networks of teacher/learners that have supported me in the past — communities such as Fireside Learning and Classroom 2.0.

Ann’s commentary on the state of music education strikes a chord because she describes a phenomenon that transcends content area and grade level: teachers tend to teach in the manner in which they were taught. Why is this so? How do we press forward into new realms of teaching and learning and resist falling back on tired and familiar practices that have outlived their effectiveness for today’s learners?

What do you think? I invite you to visit Ann’s blog and share your thoughts and feedback with her.


YA literature and blogs

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Classroom 2.0.

This is the second in a series of posts about Support Teen Literature Day 2008, which is April 17.

Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA), teen lit day is intended to support librarians in their efforts to raise public awareness about the value of young-adult (YA) fiction, but I think any YA fan will find inspiration among the more than 30 ideas for supporting teen literature listed at YALSA’s wiki.

Suggestion #7 deals with book talks, a topic I took up in yesterday’s post.

I also am intrigued about the tremendous potential behind idea #27: create a YA book discussion blog.

I recently completed a review of the literature on web-based and social media in the secondary language arts classroom. One theme I explored was the pedagogical benefits of using blogs to enhance traditional practices such as writing instruction and literature discussion circles.

There is ample research evidence to suggest that blogs and other web-based media can breathe new life into that tired, old classroom staple known as the book discussion. In a 2003 English Journal article Will Richardson documented his first foray into classroom blogs, which involved students in his Modern American Literature course who were studying a best-selling, contemporary novel The Secret Life of Bees.

Richardson wanted to extend discussions of the novel by giving students time to reflect and comment on classroom activities. To that end, he set up a centralized class blog and asked students to post reflections and add quality comments to others’ reflections as well.

During the project he observed increased motivation and improved close reading of the text by students. The blog provided another dimension of assessment by allowing Richardson to see the extent to which students were following along with oral discussions in class. Ordinarily reticent students opened up and articulated thoughts more easily on the blog.

In a notable departure from literature discussions held in real time and space, blogs make it possible for real-world, authentic audiences to join students in conversation.

Using web space provided by the National Writing Project, Shelbie Witte devised the “Talkback Project,” a collaborative blog in which preservice English teachers and middle school students discussed young adult novels. (See Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, October 2007.)

After a few refinements, the Talkback Project flourished in its second semester, with student effort and collaboration exceeding Witte’s expectations: “The middle school students appreciated the preservice teachers’ thoroughness and the time they were spending to respond to their questions and reflections about the texts.” Word about the program quickly spread, and a father stationed in Iraq began reading the novels and contributing to his son’s weekly blog discussions.

Richardson also reported on the ease with which others outside his Modern American Literature class could engage in conversation with his students. Parents and even the author, Sue Monk Kidd, contributed to the discussions and enriched students’ understanding of the novel. Richardson wrote, “In many ways, the Web logs allowed them to see the work in a real-world context, not just as a classroom exercise.”

Authors and publishers are getting in on the act as well, harnessing Web 2.0 tools and platforms to create interactive environments for YA fans. More on this trend in my next post.

What do you think of supporting literature discussions with blogs?

21st century mentoring

I just completed an independent inquiry on the implications of Web 2.0 on mentoring and induction of new and novice teachers. The project spanned two semesters, and I learned a lot.

I am posting the final report in PDF. I also have a companion wiki, which is still in development. Stop by for a visit and tell me what you think!

International Edubloggers Directory

The International Edubloggers Directory launched last month, and I am member #25! The site is intended as a way for educators to connect and share their blogs. It was created by Patricia Donaghy, an Irish educator and tech coordinator.
Edublogger’s Directory Badge
The directory is searchable by country, content area, and grade level (primary. k-12, secondary, etc.), or visitors can just browse the terrific tag cloud. The site includes links to other resources and educator networks as well as a cool live traffic feed in the sidebar, which allows you to see who is currently visiting the directory and from where. Scroll down to view the membership statistics which show the site is truly international in flavor, and, no surprise, male members outnumber female members by 2 to 1.

If you author an edublog, won’t you consider adding your name to the directory? Joining is easy. Just click on the “add” tab at the top of the homepage.

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How do blogs support online learning?

If you are still trying to wrap your brain around blogs and how they integrate with online learning and personalized learning networks (as am I), then read Will Richardson’s nice reflection on the issue. How can a highly personal and expressive medium such as a blog support meaningful, socially connected learning? Richardson writes:

Additionally, while I am absolutely “writing to be read” here, meaning that I am conscious and on some level hopeful that others will read and engage in these ideas, I’m not reflecting on these ideas with the direct purpose of advancing the the conversation among a group of others that are connected in our study of this topic. If no one responds or engages, that’s ok. More than anything, blogging, in essence writing is a way for me to cement my thoughts into my brain, a purely selfish act.

I absolutely see my blog as an essential node in my online learning network.

The challenge for me has less to do with making my blog relevant to others and cultivating an audience. While having an engaged and consistent readership would be lovely and motivating, my challenge as a teacher/learner is striking a balance between contributing to networks of learners, such as Classroom 2.0, and cultivating the habit of thoughtful, reflective posting.

What do you think?

My 2007 Edublog Award nominations

Nominations for the 2007 Edublog Awards will be accepted through Nov. 20.  Voting should begin around Nov. 24.  Here are my picks for some, not all, categories:

  • Best individual blog Dangerously Irrelevant by Dr. Scott McCleod
    Dr. McCleod is a generous, selfless, and responsive member of the edublogosphere who deserves the recognition.
  • Best group blog Leader Talk sponsored by CASTLE (Center for Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education)
    What a treat it is for me (a teacher/learner) to read the perspectives of education administrators who also struggle with the theory and practice of technology infusion.
  • Best new blog ThinkTime by Jennifer Lubke
  • Best designed blog Newly Ancient by Arthus
    a beautiful blog written from a student perspective
  • Most influential blog post The Ripe Environment at Discourse about Discourse by Ben Wilkoff
    Without question this award will go to Did You Know/Shift Happens, the slideshow by Karl Fisch that went viral last spring. It was phenomenal and deserves credit for the impact it made within edtech circles and way beyond.
    Nonetheless, I have referred to Wilkoff’s post on a number of occasions here at ThinkTime, and I have cited Wilkoff in my independent inquiry about Web 2.0 and new teacher induction. “The Ripe Environment” combined with George Siemens’ powerful post It’s not about tools. It’s about change, have served as guideposts for me this semester.
  • Best teacher blog Remote Access by Clarence Fisher
  • Best librarian/library blog The Unquiet Library by Buffy Hamilton, “unquiet librarian” and media specialist at Creekview High School, Georgia, USA
  • Best educational wiki Interactive Web Applications by the American Library Association
  • Best educational use of a social networking service Classroom 2.0 founded by Steve Hargadon on the Ning platform
    My first foray into social networking has been a wholly positive experience because of this amazing virtual professional development community nurtured and maintained by Hargadon and a host of volunteer moderators.

Pardon my ethnocentrism!

I think it’s time to have my ethnocentrism surgically removed. It is getting in the way of my ability to communicate effectively!

Actually, I’ve recently had two pleasantly humbling experiences that serve to remind what it means to be a digital citizen in this postmodern world. My new virtual stomping grounds are truly global. (Click on the link for an explanation of the English idiom. You see, I’m learning!)

First, I experienced some confusion playing with the Tapped In calendar. (Tapped In is an international online community for learning and networking between educators and their students.) I had the calendar open in two windows in my browser, and for some inexplicable reason the same event appeared to be on two different days, depending on which window I viewed. So, I shot off an email to the event facilitator asking her to clarify the date. The facilitator explained that the date depended on where I lived. It is on Thursday for those who live in my time zone; it is on Friday for her, as she lives in Australia.

Lesson: always check to see if the time converter at the top of the Tapped In calendar is set to your time zone!

Along those same lines, my new favorite web gizmo is the time converter at, which is integrated into the K-12 Online Conference schedule. I love how each time I open the time converter to check on a conference event, a different international location appears in the drop-down menu — Lesotho; Bahia, Brazil; Novgorod, Russia; and so on. It’s fun to scroll through the menu looking for East Tennessee among all the world locales.

My next encounter occurred only yesterday when a new contact at the Ning in Education network asked me to clarify a reference I made to a friend in Georgia. You see, he is based in Istanbul and has friends in Georgia, Eastern Europe. To which “Georgia” was I referring?

Oh. My.

It’s good to be jolted out of my U.S-centered stupor! Now, on to learning all those pesky international spellings!

And that’s what I think.

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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn

"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

Train of thought:

These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy