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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5 thoughts on “Classroom Blogs: Sharing, Personalizing, and Keeping Learning Current

  1. I found it interesting that it seemed like the elementary blogs you found had more student interaction than the middle and high school blogs. You would think it would be just the opposite. Maybe this is because it is such a new thing for the younger students that they are excited about being connected to others whereas the high school students are so used to being connected that they don’t find it as intriguing. On the other hand it could be that the younger students have no inhibitions about sharing their thoughts with others where older students are starting to limit what they say for fear of what others may think of them.

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  2. I really enjoyed digging through Mr. Geiman’s class blogs. The first thing that I loved was that he had the “Blogging Expectations” page available for everyone to see. This ensures that anyone who blogs or comments has access to the expectations, and would probably put at ease any parents concerned about their children blogging. It’s also apparent that he is very mindful of what students post and monitors it closely. I think this is a requirement if you’re an elementary school teacher and you’re going to allow students to blog. The other thing I loved about it is the clear ownership that the students have taken with regard to blogging. The blogs are neatly decorated based on student likes/interests, and they’ve clearly spent a lot of time creating and perfecting them. It isn’t just something for them to do in their spare time – he actively works to make it part of his classroom environment and student’s learning. In looking at classroom blogs online, there’s a clear difference between teachers and students who blog in their spare time, and those who make it a part of the learning in the classroom. If I were to create a blog in my fifth grade classroom, this would be a perfect model of what I’d want it to look like. As I prepare to possibly try this with my students, I will follow his blog and possibly contact him to find out ways that he integrates blogging into what I’m sure is a busy schedule. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Andrea,
    Your reviews brought up some great topics. If you are a Math teacher, how likely are you to use blogging and other pieces of technology to teach your concepts? I know that some of the Math teachers at my school are hesitant to use technology as the first instruction (before doing practice on paper). Maybe it is because Math concepts don’t change much, so the teachers haven’t found enough applications to teach them?

    Either way, I love the blogs that you found because they show students using technology in many different ways! I love your last thought about posting open-ended Math problems or concepts and having students respond to them online before showing them how to do it.

    Lastly, I think that starting off slowly with students is a good way to begin. Geiman’s blog was a good example of how to give kids a small challenge to get them to participate in the blog. This would be a fun way to encourage students to try something new and then post online about it. Hopefully, this could lead to more conversations online and in class about the Math concepts and students’ work.

    Bridget 🙂

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    1. I struggle with whether or not to blog also. We are so encouraged to “go paperless” in my district, but I think there is something to be said for putting pencil to paper to work out math problems. I don’t think that will ever change (hopefully)! I might just try little things at first, challenge questions, links to tutorials, student work-submission, etc. We’re at at a point where we given the thumbs up to try things this year…so why not!!

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  4. I impressed by the blogs you were able to find. I found high school blogs almost non-existent so I am looking forward to checking out that blog. I found quite a few blogs centered around math and I am wondering why that is. I know in middle school math tends to give the most homework, so students can practice at home. Science and social studies do not lend themselves as nicely to ‘”practice at home.” I wonder if plays a part in a teacher decision to blog or not to blog.

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