Students of the 21st century are living in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. School is no longer a place where students can come for seven hours a day and simply absorb information to make them a productive member of society. Teachers and administrators ask students to think deeply, work collaboratively, and communicate in many ways. Classroom blogs are a place students can keep on top of current topics, share their work, and embark on an personalized learning experience catered to their strengths and weakness. Classroom blogs address many of the ISTE Standards expected of teachers to meet these ever-changing and challenging needs of students. (http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-T_PDF.pdf) For example, through blogs and other digital platforms, teachers can supply digital learning experiences, promote positive digital citizenship and examples of work, as well as encourage creativity.
In searching for classroom blogs, I was surprised to find the number of elementary and middle level blogs compared to high school blogs which seemed in shorter supply, at least looking for math classrooms. I also noted the difference in approach to and uses of the blogs. Elementary blogs seemed to be more about sharing work, posting student work, and celebrating successes. Middle level blogs started to build more on content giving students places to practice independently while also sharing student work and experiences. The high school classroom blogs that I found were really much more informative for the student. The teacher used the blog as a digital classroom including homework calendars, links to assignments, and links to content for student reference.
One use and benefit of all classroom blogs was the element of connectivity. Students and teachers have the ability to connect with others in their schools, schools throughout the country, and even schools around the world. What a wonderful way for students to develop the sense of global awareness that sits at the cornerstone of our 21st century learners!
Mr. Geimans Unbounded Classroom – This fourth grade classroom is an awesome example of what can be done with blogging. Mr. Geiman not only uses this site to promote student work, but also created an opening for students to explore the world. There are link on the sidebar to individual student blogs as well as a comment section for anyone to communicate with his class. Just looking through some comments there were students posting from different states and even different countries. What an outstanding way for students to experience the world! In his bio, Geiman professes to not really enjoy writing but being dedicated to working on it through the blog. Not only does he use this platform to work on his own writing, but also to encourage his students to do the same. My favorite section of this was the Student Blog Challenge. Here students were given a weekly challenge such as create an avatar, a Flipboard (digital magazine platform) game, and a week for students to poll classmates and report their findings through a blog. I think this was my favorite part because teachers could customize it to anything they like. It would be a great way to introduce students to blogging as it included many links to quality blogs, videos for learning, and changes to practice the digital citizenship traits.
Everything Pre-Algebra – I chose this middle school (7th grade) site because it was math-related, but also easy to use and full of information. At first glance the site seemed to be more of a classroom clearinghouse of information. There were posts with video links for current topics, explanations to projects or concepts covered in class, a calendar, and a comment section. Reading further though I found examples of student work posted to the site. This was a great way for students to share their ideas with the teacher, classmates, and the community. In education, we want learning to be transparent, available to all. This added an element of authenticity and accountability for students. Some examples are Geometry Collage in which students posted pictures of their work and classmates could vote on their favorite or Percent Applications: Student Created Videos where students uploaded vimeo videos to show their understanding of sales-related percent concepts. Although the posts were dated, going back to 2014, I still found the site to be well-made and applicable since math topics rarely change. I liked the way it was organized.
Mrs. Watson’s Room 102 – This final blog was for a high school social studies class. More clean, simple, and direct than the previous blogs, this teacher used her site to convey information to her students and parents. The posts are based on thought-provoking questions with links for students to find information and develop answers or express their opinions. An example is Opportunity or Exploitation: The Bracero Program. This post gave students links to information about agricultural workers starting many decades ago in the US and still effecting us recently with immigrant workers and how it effects world economies. Not all of the information was clear and familiar to me, but found the idea behind the site interesting – set up a series of challenging open-ended questions, give students links to investigate, and then leave it up to the to formulate solutions or opinions. This would seem to work well with math concepts as well.