Classroom Blogs: Sharing, Personalizing, and Keeping Learning Current

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.

 

 

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Educator Blogs: Opening the World for Learning and Sharing

Teacher blogs are abundant on the web, some great and some no-so-great!  Educators blogs are an amazing way to share ideas.  Just as students are expected to share assignments, teachers should be expected to share what’s working in their classrooms, building a positive digital footprint.  Time is so often an issue with teachers, specifically not having enough of it.  With blogs, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  Doing a simple search, educators can easily use blogs to find what is working in schools from anywhere in the world.   In my schools, we focus on student sharing and collaboration as 21st century skills of learning.  Why shouldn’t teachers be striving to share and collaborate as well?

Simply googling “educator blogs in math” brought pages and pages to my attention.  For my search, I decided to focus on blog sites that could directly impact my teaching and current learning environment of my school.  I wanted to find sources I would actually use or find helpful. I found many quality teacher blogs with information to share on teaching math and using technology, and often the two intertwined.

EduTech for Teachers – This beautifully designed blog site is easy to navigate and full of information. Not as much a math site as the other blogs I found,  it is loaded with ideas and tech for teachers, both experienced and novice. Going back to posts 2012, I enjoyed exploring the changes of tech uses in education from then until the present.  Although I could have read this blog site for hours, a current article caught my attention.  “Math Madness: Digital Tools for Every Concept”was outstanding!   This link presented so many apps and programs for use in the classroom  Some I was familiar with and some totally new.  It is such a comprehensive list of apps and programs that can be used for assessment, learning, and differentiating, I will definitely be using this in my future planning.

dy/dan – This is the anti-textbook blog.  Written by Dan Meyer, the site and author take a backwards look at teaching math. With a background in various context from from teaching math  to reluctant students to speaking on a national stage about this topic, Mr. Meyer is knowledgeable and experienced with this topic.  Many of the posts deal with not only what is wrong with traditional math textbooks and  approaches to learning, but also give insightful, inventive suggestions for improving it, making the learning more rigorous and challenging. In other words, he is focusing on and promoting 21st century skills as discussed in Leading 21st Century Schools by Lynne Schrum and Barbara Levin. In this book one of the 4 goals of successful students is an increase of creativity and problem-solving skills. Many of Meyer’s posts offer substantial rigor and challenge in the problems.   Teachers often struggle with a balance between teaching core content and student engagement.  This blog takes an interesting perspective on this very topic.  Again, I found myself absorbed in the posts, wanting to incorporate ideas into my lesson plans.  One specifically, “[Makeover] Systems of Equations looked promising.  Here Mr. Meyer takes the traditional type of question and spices it up, changing the verbs and making students think deeper about the relationships between quantities, not just the formal solving procedure.  I found most posts thought-provoking and able to alter the way I viewed teaching concepts.

wwwatanabe – This final blog site took a different path than the math and tech sites I focused on finding.  Written by Tracy Watanabe, this site is very clearly organized with easy access to a myriad of topics, specifically the 21st century learning skills and approaches that have become the catchphrases of the year. What stood out to me was the graphic organizer on the side, like an organized “wordle” or dynamic word map.  This included so many current topics that I had to take a look.  The site was timely and engaging with information that was applicable to my present teaching environment.  For example, clicking on “PBL” brought up posts with this topic at least 25 different times.   One in particular was “STEM, PBL, Common Core, and 21st Century Learning”.  These are all topics my school is looking to employ in the upcoming few years.  This post included embedded videos by students, examples of work, and the take-away from a student perspective.  It was well worth the read.

Print Resource:

Schrum, Lynne, and Barbara B. Levin. Leading 21st Century Schools: Harnessing Technology for Engagement and Achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2015. Print.