Reflections on 7 Days to a Better Edublog

7 Days to a Better EduBlog run by Stephanie Sandifer at Change Agency has just ended and I wanted to take a few minutes to:

  1. Finish the Day 7 assignment which I have been thinking about for the last day & a half
  2. Reflect on the process & what I learned
  3. Thank Stephanie for all the work she put into her mini course.

Day 7: Setting Up A Blogging Schedule

I have always been a when the mood hits me kind of blogger. I have come to realize that if I really do want to build an audience for this blog I do need some kind of schedule so people have a reason to come back. I’m just not ready to commit to blogging every day. I may get there but I know if that’s the schedule I try to set that I won’t do it and I’ll just feel guilty about it. I have decided that I am going to try to blog at least once a week. During the school year, I will post what worked and what didn’t that week in the lab. I also plan to post at least some detailed information about projects as each one ends. I can’t put a time on that because it will vary but I can post something every week. During holidays and summer vacation, I know I can find something to blog about every week and I intend to do it. I’m not sure which day will be best for this – I’m leaning toward Mondays – but I’m not making that decision  just yet. Once school has started again and I see what my schedule is going to be like – not only for school but for my mom duties too since my youngest daughter is starting high school this year – then I can decide which day of the week the blog will definitely be updated.

Final Thoughts on 7 Days to a Better Edublog

  1. How did I model these best practices in this mini-course?
    Some of the assignments were not really natural to me at least as a required exercise. Looking back at my previous blog posts, I see that I already do a lot of what was discussed during the course. I do think all of the assignments have value and they all add interest to a blog, but I had to stretch to actually do the assignment sometimes. Like I said I’ve been a when the mood strikes me kind of blogger so it was good thing to stretch and create a post even when the mood wasn’t really striking me. Things like setting and keeping a blogging schedule and engaging with media and discussion questions will help to draw in readers for my blog. I need to remember that I shouldn’t be a sage on a stage here any more than in the classroom!
  2. What strategies did I incorporate to encourage participation and a more social (engaged) learning environment?
    I tried to do incorporate all of the suggestions (except new pages since I already had the ones I wanted) as they were made but doing them once won’t suddenly make my blog more engaging or encourage better participation. I think for me the biggest strategy that I need to incorporate is blogging on a regular basis. I also need to make sure to not only read other blogs (you should see my reader – it’s out of control!) but to comment on them too.
  3. How might you incorporate everything you have learned in this mini-course in your own edublog — whether your audience includes students or other educators?
    My plan is to start NOW and to blog consistently once a week about something related to technology in education and to make it a point to comment on at least one other blog a week. During the school year, there really is plenty to blog about – then it’s about making the time to do it. During the summer, I can spend more time finding current events and things that I think will be interesting to use as subject matter for my blog.

And finally, thanks to Stephanie for putting this together – it got me to blog regularly at least for 7 days and it made me think about the things I should be doing.

Building Digital Citizens

All of my students from Kindergarten through 8th Grade have a series of lessons and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship. I try to build on knowledge from each previous year and use a variety of different web sites to create lessons and engage my students. Some that I’ve used in the past and that I plan to continue to use include:

I have also found some additional resources that I am reviewing this summer and may incorporate in to some of the grades. My goal is not only to stress safety but to teach my students how to establish a positive digital footprint and how to be good digital citizens. I wonder if I am doing all that I should in this effort – this is where my dilemma comes in.

At school, my students are not allowed to use their full names on anything they post online and they can never post pictures of themselves or other students at the school. We also do not post student pictures on our school Facebook page to insure that students are not tagged in photos. This all seems logical to keep our students safe. However, these same students are going home and joining social networking sites using their real names and uploading photos of themselves and their friends. This means that their digital footprint is being established from their Facebook account or their YouTube account or other social networking accounts and not from the work they are doing and posting online for school. We all know that some employers and colleges look up students online. My students typically apply to private high schools. I wonder when the high schools will start looking up their applicants online or if they already are.

In this video, a teacher explains the guidelines that her school has established for online sharing by students which look very similar to our guidelines for our Elementary and Middle School students.

As you can tell from the video, at this school, students can start identifying themselves online by their real name in the 11th grade. I wonder if this is too late. My students already have an online presence in Middle School (and some even earlier) but it does not include schoolwork. What do you think? Are the guidelines in the video appropriate? When should we allow our students to showcase their online work for school as part of their digital footprint?

Exploding Head #1

This week one of the things I am trying to complete is the Week 2 assignment for PBL Camp. Part of my problem has been trying to nail down where I want my students to be at the end of this project.

  • What do I want them to know about the oil spill?
  • What do I want them to know about their own use of oil?
  • What kind of project or action plan do I want them to have to show what they’ve learned?

So, I have set up a page on the PBL Camp Wiki using the PBL planning form developed by the Buck Institute for Education. We’re supposed to be concentrating on page 1 of this form this week but of course I had to look ahead. The Assessment section bothers me because under Summative Assessments section two of the selections are Multiple Choice/Short Answer Test and Essay Test. Why are those there? Isn’t this Project Based Learning? If it is then shouldn’t the Summative Assessment be the project?

I have heard Chris Lehmann speak both online and in person and one thing that he stresses is that you are not truly teaching with Project Based Learning if your final assessment is a test. The student’s own work should be the most important work in Project Based Learning. If you don’t know who Chris is, check out his presentation at NECC 2009 on School 2.0: Progressive Pedagogy and 21st-Century Tools. This is fairly long and if you want a shorter introduction to Chris, try his TeDxNYED talk.

What do you think?
Should a test be used as a final assessment in a PBL unit? Should a test ever be the final assessment?
Why or why not?

0910 Reflections: Middle School

Middle School – ah, Middle School. This is such a fun and challenging age group. My goal when I took the job as the Computer Teacher at my school was to have students graduate from our school who could test out of the required Computer Applications class in High School. I don’t know if my students can because none of them have bothered trying but I do know that they very easily get an “A” in the class. The main areas covered during the year for my Middle School students included: Microsoft Office & Google Docs, Keyboarding, Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship.

Online Collaborations

6th Grade did not participate in any online collaborative projects this year. So much of their time in 5th Grade had been spent unsuccessfully (as I blogged about last year) on the Time Zone Experiences project and I just didn’t find a project that was a good fit for them. They did help 7th Grade with a survey project they ran and voted for their favorite Internet Safety videos made by 8th Grade but there were no outside of our school collaborations for 6th Grade.  Both 7th & 8th Grade contributed to a Voice Thread about their goals for the school year after listening to President Obama’s Message for American Students.

7th Grade also conducted and analyzed surveys which had participation from our school’s 4th-8th grade students and from some other educators and students outside of our school.

Lessons I Learned

  • Just because students say they REALLY want to do something doesn’t mean they really understand the work involved in doing it. Some of the 7th graders this year really, really, really wanted to create a newspaper so instead of teaching what I had planned, I created a series of lessons on journalism and journalistic ethics which 7th grade completed and they learned how to use Microsoft Publisher (which we don’t usually use because it’s not installed on all of the computers in the lab) and they produced an issue the paper. Yes, one issue – after that they didn’t want to do all the work involved in creating a newspaper anymore.
  • Students will tell you want you want to hear. I am very concerned about our Middle School students and the digital footprints they are creating. As they go through lessons and activities and projects about Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship, they’ll tell you all the things that adults say they should do to be safe online: No full names, No pictures, Keep online spaces private, Don’t share your password with anyone, etc. They’ll even “pledge” to follow these online rules but most of them are on social networking sites using their full names and pictures and videos, quite a few of them have public pages, they joke about being “bullied” online, they tell stories of how they told their best friend their password and what that friend did, etc. How can I help them to match their behavior to their knowledge?
  • Middle School students work best collaboratively. The most successful activities and projects in the lab have been the ones where students can work together. Middle School students are social – they just are and I need to remember to take advantage of that.

Things I’ll Definitely Repeat Next Year

  • Digital Citizenship Lessons & Activities – This needs to be a primary focus in Middle School, in my opinion!
  • Keyboarding – They really do need to have this skill in High School to get that “A” in the Computer Applications class but also because they are required to type a lot of what they turn in.

What technology rich projects or activities do your Middle School students do? Is there an engaging online collaborative project that you have found for this age group?