Sunday, October 5, 2014

Blogging on Blogging

Blog Microphone by Travelin
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Travelin' Librarian 

One of the aspects of my major integrative project is curating resources and guides for teachers on blogging. This week I spent a day working with teachers on setting up their classroom and student blogs. While I was working with teachers on creating their classroom blogs, many asked, "Why is this worth my time?" or "Do I have to do this?" Others suggested that in their community there didn't seem to be the parent buy-in to technology integration, so why should they put in the effort?

Why is it worth the effort?  Why is it worth it for educators move or evolve from the classroom email to communication via a blog? Why is it worth the time to set up a blog and post to it regularly?

Well I think it comes down this somewhat cliché, popular quote, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always gotten."  One can immediately see the connections to personal improvement... but what does it have to do with blogging?

One of the most important cornerstones to ensuring student success is effective communication between the students home and school. How does blogging help to strengthen this cornerstone, more so than daily or weekly emails? Blogging offers more information than just words on a page. Rather than just reporting what's for homework and special events or field trips, the blog can offer a greater window into what is being learned in the classroom. Of course if the teacher goes beyond just reporting the daily homework and special events. With a blog, teachers can post the lessons, assignments and expected outcomes for learning. Any assignment that students would receive could be linked on the blog. Videos and links to resource-based learning websites could be based on the classroom blog. Basically, as long as the student knows how the address for their teachers' blog (and if they are too young to type in the address - QR code "station posters" could be used) they can access many of the necessary learning resources or information for the day. I know that this might be more relegated to older students, as younger students might be somewhat limited by reading ability, having a "one stop shop" for learning can be a huge timesaver for students, teachers and parents.

In my own experience, by posting outcomes, assignments and resources to my blog, parents and students were able to explore the units that we were studying, as well as catch up on any missed assignments. I was never so organized as to "flip" my class by having pre-recorded lessons for all my subjects, I have spoken to a teacher who records himself with some success with a wireless-mic with Mimio studio and uploads his videos to his blog for students to explore what was learned. Thereby allowing for a quick review or opportunities to catch up if a student was absent. With more school resources being available digitally, such as math textbooks, students can easily do the assignments even if they "forgot" their homework at school. The blog can become a "hub" of learning in the classroom, that allows for parents to see exactly what their child is learning, as well as children a "launching point" to further discuss with parents their own insights. Without going on and on  regarding the benefits of classroom blogging (as I'm sure you already learned that with our discussion with Sue Waters), I want to explore one "criticism" of blogging.

Keep up and blog on by futureshape, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  futureshape 
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, one teacher that I worked with stated that her parent community preferred getting the weekly email and that the community probably would not be very receptive to blogging. How did I answer that? You could say it's the whole, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Just because the regular classroom email is "effective enough" and parents like this "old" way of communicating, doesn't mean that teachers should not extend themselves further. If parents like receiving that reminder in their inbox to check out what's happening at school, then perhaps teachers could send out the regular weekly update in the form of a link that states, "click here to check out upcoming events and what we're learning in our classroom" or... not to get too crazy, but teach parents how to subscribe to your blog. Or you could get even crazier... use Remind to give reminders right to parent/student cell phones in combination with a blog. Say what?!? I know of an administrator in a community school who has found huge success in using Remind with their community - and this would be a community that would be perceived as having a great number of socio-economic needs.

This takes me to another issue that is very important, and that it the role of teachers in promoting literacy... that is digital literacy. Yes, as teachers our plate is full with teaching literacy, numeracy, communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, promoting positive social behaviours - while helping kids to become confident, strong individuals... But we also have the responsibility of teaching digital transversal competencies, so that all kids, regardless of background can tackle the challenges that may lay ahead in their future. Perhaps teachers who work with students of lower socio-economic status have the greatest responsibility in with using digital tools in the classroom. School might be the only place where these students are exposed to this type of learning. And therefore for kids to develop digital literacy and digital fluency - they need opportunity to explore or exposure to learning with these tools. One can't help but wonder, what role do divisions have in ensuring that all kids have access? Do school divisions also hold responsibility for providing the infrastructure so that those kids who have little access at home, have more access at school? Perhaps technology plans have to be created so that in order to be fair for all, we need to be a little unfair in who gets more support.

I apologize.  I have totally and fully digressed away from the whole blogging concept and the point of this post. Perhaps we should look at it this way, as teachers we need to be role models of how to adapt. Even if the old way was working just fine, we need to move with our current time. This does not mean use a digital device in place of a pencil and paper... but instead be a role model of one who uses digital tools to extend and bring us further than where we were... This can be in the way we communicate, collaborate, critically think and problem solve. With classroom blogging, there is an immediate example that students and parents can see to how a teacher is integrating technology into the classroom. In addition to this, there is also an invitation to engage and collaborate in the learning; an invitation that as educators we hope both students and their parents want to accept!

 We can no longer teach the same way we always have, with the same tools - as the skills our students need for their future will be vastly different than the workplace of the past.


  1. Hi Jenn

    Thanks for sharing your blogging reflection.

    Interesting feedback about the weekly newsletter. Schools vary considerably around the World, and within countries, as to if they send home weekly newsletters and if it is paper based or electronic, and if it is for the class only or for the entire school.

    In terms of the email notification you are able to set the post notification to send a weekly digest of posts rather than an email each time a new post is published. However, on blogs that are used for school websites it is quite common to see regular posts published and a link to their newsletter included in a post.

    Sue @suewaters

  2. Great post Jenn. I am struck by the idea that parents don't necessarily need the blog when they've got email or twitter or remind. I was almost thinking that way myself but have realized that (as you've said) blogging offers a venue to write longer posts and that it helps address digital literacy. I think another important point is that aside from communicating with parents, it allows students a global avenue to learning. How powerful is that?!:)