Recently, Wesley Fryer forced me to realize that I am simply "digitizing school 1.0 (as he put it at NECC)". While I thought I was using my classroom blog (www.mrfowler.wordpress.com) in an innovative way, I am pretty much just having my classroom have a conversation with themselves electronically. While this does improve typing skills, it doesn't incorporate conversation with the outside world. For this reason I have a few questions:

1. How do others incorporate blogs into the school day?
2. What type of topics do you blog about?
3. What strategies have been effective in bringing in genuine collaboration between students and professionals in the real world?

I am very anxious to hear what others are doing!

Cheers,
Mitch

Tags: Blogs, Collaboration, Elementary Education, Wesley Fryer, blogging, elementary

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Hey Andrew,
Thanks for the comment. This is so cool... I heard about your site while I was in undergrad at Michigan State University! A lot of my professors commented on your idea. I am going to take a look at it and see what I can come up with.

As for everyone else, thanks a lot for the support and great conversation. It has been great seeing those little e-mail notifications that others have posted here. It has been very encouraging seeing that there are other teachers out there that care about technology and are implementing it so effectively in their classrooms.

Obviously, this conversation has spurred other questions for me:

1. I teach science and am looking into blogs as a means to share observations (we do a really cool unit with aquariums and terrariums). Has anyone out there collaborated with professionals (scientists in this case) via blogs, Skype, or wikis?

2. I have heard that Blogmeister does a good job when you have a classroom full of bloggers. My teach person at school mentioned that kids can have their own account and it really works well. I know that I saw a couple of people on here who are using Blogmeister... what do you think?

3. Any blog AUPs out there? I wanted to put something simple together that informs the parents, but also covers the school.

This is also completely off topic (too lazy to start another thread), but I am curious to hear from people who have used Google Notebook in their class. How has it worked for those of you who have had students create Google accounts? Do parents tend to get worried about this? Just curious...

Hope to hear from everyone soon!
One of the most successful uses of this type of conversation was responding to literature in that I asked that they respond with specific example(s), such as we do in reader's workshop, and address a student by name and agree or disagree with reasons. It also shaped what our reader's workshop conversations and agendas were. It is probably not "blogging" in the true sense. I respect Wesley Fryer and the other ed tech leaders, and I think it fair they ask those of us who are using technology to notch it up a bit. I do sometimes think they lose a little perspective out of the classroom. It's easy to do, despite best efforts otherwise. Just as we ask teachers to start small with technology, we also encourage them to move beyond teaching programs and word processing, but they have to start somewhere. Even "electronic, digitized conversations" we had this year helped students "talk" to each other, respond thoughtfully, address others by first names, and give more thought to responses I posted because the audience was wider and public. We did it on something our district finally provided called "SWIFT" (Simplified Web Interface for Teachers) because it was not something blocked, for a change.

On our SWIFT board, questions at all thinking levels were posed and responded to. It was the best we could do with tools available to us. I was ready to do classroom blogging about two years ago. Since "blogs" - even professional ones - are blocked in our district, I was pretty frustrated. I was able to unlock some of the teacher-to-teacher blogs, so staff could be introduced to them and use them, but even blogmeister, with all of its safety features, was not available. Ironically, SWIFt is open to anybody commenting in an inappropriate way because it is not password protected. It does have teacher approval of responses to prevent those posts, but at least Blogmeister, and I imagine, some others, need passwords to respond. It’s been said before, but it will be nice when schools can trust and be trusted enough to open up Web 2.0 for seamless use in the classroom.
Sounds like my district, since November I have had to ask for 300+ blogs and other sites to be unblocked by the CIPA (Children's Internet Protection Act) district representative. The district, like many districts, decided on a "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach and to block My Space and Facebook, they decided to block everything. If you district has adopted this mega-blocking approach you might try a more assertive approach. Do you research and decide why you want your students to blog. Find a blogging application that is very safe, Blogmeister or Edublogs might work. Then write a letter to the tech higher ups and state your points, giving logical reasons and tell them how you are going to keep your kids safe. If they still say no at least you gave it your best shot. Maybe you'll be the one to change their minds. Good Luck, N.
Thanks Nancy! I will try blogmeister or edublogs. My district is the same way. Everything is blocked and it's been really frustrating trying to help my kids do research on the computer.
Edi and Julie, Teachers (myself included) can whine about stuff and never do anything about it. If you do something at least you're not part of the problem.
Continue to fight, you will eventually gain some converts. N.
I agree with what's been said. Continue to converse with your tech folks. It's the only way to make headway. I had the same problem - and I work for IT as a teacher coach - anything that said 'blog' was automatically blocked by the software. I have developed a relationship with the engineer who is responsible for the software. I have found that just by stating my case over and over, he has finally begun to understand. We were able to have a meeting about my concerns and he has agreed to unblock a number of blogs. When the school system bought into Edublogs it helped a lot also. Anything on Edublogs is allowed now. It's slow, but you'll get there...

Ruth
http://ruthokoye.edublogs.org
Hey Edi,

Thanks for taking a look at the blog. It is slacking a bit during the summer, but I'm trying to get a fw posts in before school starts. As for your question, yes the parents have been part of the process to some degree. At fall conferences I told the majority of the parents about the blog and they seemed pretty excited about it. However, I have only had a few posts from parents and kids. I also send out e-mail reminders (roughly 50% have internet access or know how to use e-mail) and attach a link to the blog.
Hi Mitch, I am joining in rather late in the day as I've just joined this group.
i agree totally with Gordon Brune. Getting an audience is a great start. With wee guys getting comments from other wee folk is quite exciting and can lead to lots of interesting discussion in class. Gordon's bloggers and mine commented back and forth a bit last session.
1. I have a rota with 2 children being the bloggers of the day, they take photos of what is going on and the next day the post to the blog.
2. I also give the children tasks, research on wikipedia, writing or working with paint and they blog the results. I've also used blogs for short term projects were a group of children reports on a time limited activity.
3. I think it might be pretty hard to get professionals to take on long term work of this sort, it is probably easier to organise some peer collaboration between groups. An old project we joined was a poetry project started by a poet, the children were very excited to get comments from a 'real' poet. but it didn't get as far as long term collaboration.
Me again, I was rereading these entries on Elementary Classroom Blogs and I want to share my observations. I set up my blog for students in hopes that it would be a reflection journal with three objectives. 1. Students will learn to be safe and responsible social networkers. 2. They will understand intellectual property and copyright issues. 3. Students will have the opportunity to write real and relevant content which is viewed by an authentic audience I thought originally I would have to pose the question and then wait for the responses but there was no need. Once the kiddos got started the blog took on a life of its own.

1. I post as one of the participants and not as a teacher. I try to model good entries that include images, audio, video, links etc. It's hard not to correct spelling and grammar but the kids know the expectations for formal writing, no chat or IM slang and they do a good job. I read and respond every night.
2. Not everybody blogs. The kids volunteers--sometimes I have to nudge my lazy boys. I see 70 kids a week so there was no trouble getting bloggers.They blog from home and also have time sometimes in class.
3. Parents, classroom teachers and principals have accounts and join in.
4. I go into more detail HERE and HERE
5. RSS feeds come into our blogsite to generate ideas
6. I include creative writing prompts for more ideas
7. The site is set up with Drupel and hosted privately so there is a section for book writing. Students can write books and others can comments on the writing. There have been some collaborative stories started.
8. Several kids are exceptional writers and have become exceptional bloggers. They have raised the bar for the rest of us. Some kids are not good bloggers--there is prodding to keep some from not giving up.
9.. If we want to do a book study we open a separate blog like this. Questions will be posted as we read the book.
10. We've had 1000+ posts and 20 stories written since November. That's a heck of a lot of writing!! If you'd like to see what's going on visit A Really Different Place. Start with Recent Posts or take a look at Chloe, Mattea, Ashley, or Alex's blogs for good examples. I'm not saying this is the right way or the only way to blog with elementary kids--but a blog with a clear purpose has been successful for us. We're hoping to increase our readership in Year 2.
We use yackpack to keep in touch with a school that has a completely different time-zone to us. It means that when my students leave a message, their partners across the other side of the world get a message the next day. When we go to bed, our partners are leaving us a message. It's very exciting to see what's been left for us each morning to listen to! Very powerful, rich and authentic communication - even though it's not "live" , it's the next best thing. We love yackpack!
Very Cool! I am going to take a look at Yackpack today. Also, I have set up a classblogmeister account for this year. However, I am not too impressed with the looks and functionality. I do like the fact that all posts and comments have to run by me first. What I am wondering is if anyone has used Wordpress to host several blogs? My classroom blog www.mrfowler.wordpress.com works great, but I wasn't sure if I could use Wordpress for several blogs. Thanks for the feedback!
Mitch

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