Parent Connect Parent Connect

8Mar/130

The Possibilities of Student Blogging

Andrea, Silvia and some students reflect on student blogging.

This video will be used as part of a free, online course for teachers.

5Feb/130

Learning in the Modern Classroom

I have seen learning in the 21st Century modern classroom!

The learning just oozes through the cracks of the physical classroom walls.

Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.

It all started out with a conversation between Mike Fisher and me. He had written over 40 children poems and was in the process of wondering what to do with them? I was looking for an authentic task for 9-11 year old students. We felt we had a perfect match! How about getting the students Language Arts and Art teacher involved? The initial idea was to make a unit of poetry come alive, study Mike's poems and visualize the poems by creating illustrations.

Great plan... it snowballed from there...

A quick Skype call between Mike and the teachers, helped flesh out each of our expectations and a timeline for the "project". A critical component was the participants' willingness to be flexible and see where the students would take "the project".

What if...

  • ...Mike allowed students to alter his original poems if they felt inspired to remix them, making the creation process fluid and embedding new ways of looking at forms of copyright?
  • ... Mike offered to write a new poem to additionally created illustrations by students, flipping the collaboration roles?
  • ...we published a poetry book on various platforms? (hard cover/eBook)
  • ...we had student run a marketing and advertisement campaign?
  • ...we involved the Math teacher to support students in calculating how much the book should cost, what would the profit be, how would a profit be split?
  • ...allowed the class to handle the entire business venture?
  • ...we incorporated Alan November's concept of the Digital Learning Farm and leaving a legacy?

Each student was "given" a poem from Mike to be responsible for. We set up a first Skype call with Mike, the author, for students to meet him, ask questions about "their" poem.

skype

Part of our job as teachers was to observe students as they were taking on the roles outlined in the Digital Learning Farm. We were/are looking to identify NEW FORMS of assessment, since our "project" was not to be an add-on to traditional assessment tools.

The Digital Learning Farm

 

As I was watching students talk to Mike Fisher via Skype, Will Richardson's call for Thinking Differently About Learning, which includes Learning to Talk to Strangers came to mind. As students interacted, I was watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction. Stay tuned for the publication of a Taxonomy of Skype Conversation to facilitate assessment of video conferencing.

skype-taxonomy

As the Skype conversation was happening in the foreground, other students were busy documenting and collaborating in backchannels. A Google Doc was opened and shared among all students, teachers and Mike Fisher. The multi-tasker Mike is, allowed students to Google Chat at the same time as he was talking to students via Skype.

googledoc

Other students had taken on the task to tweet the Skype call

twitter

Take a look at the 4th and 5th grade Twitter feed, documenting the skype call. Students are exhibiting understanding of Twitter grammar, syntax and etiquette. They are showing progression by starting to add value, links, citations and they own thoughts. They are summarizing and articulating thoughts in 140 characters or less. They are directly communicating, disseminating, collaborating and connecting via social networking. We are using Twitter and HOTS as a way to assess these skills.

4th-twitter-2

4th-twitter-1

4th-twitter

5thmjgds-twitter

5thmjgds-twitter-1

5thmjgds-twitter-2

5thmjgds-twitter-3

5thmjgds-twitter-4

We had other students use different tools to take notes too. The notes app on their iPad or traditional paper and pen

notes

notes2

One student chose to summarize what he heard during the Skype call by mindmap doodling. He was able to re-tell the different poems that were discussed between his classmates and the author.

mindmapping

mindmap

Take a few minutes to peek into the classroom as students were debriefing from the Skype experience.

Poetry Book Skype from langwitches on Vimeo.

So, where do we go from here? The students are very excited and are taking ownership. There is no talk about what kind of grade they will be receiving for their work. An authentic audience will decide if they were successful. Students will volunteer to take on different roles in the publishing, marketing, finance, communication department. We will allow them to take the lead, consulting, coaching and modeling if needed.

Stay tuned as this "school project" unfolds.

.

 

1Nov/120

Thinking About Learning Differently- Talking to Strangers

Our third graders are learning about different communities.They have spoken via Skype with classes from a suburb of Los Angeles, CA , an rural community in Missouri and a city, Weatherford, TX. The latest connection was with Anna Faridaku, a teacher and children's book author from Indonesia. Students took turns speaking with Anna, who was just amazing in connecting (via the screen) to the kids, answering and asking questions. She engaged them and pushed them to deeper thinking about similarities and differences about our communities.

Will Richardson talks about Three starting points to think differently about "Learning. In addition to "Thinning the Classroom Wall" and "Being Transparent", he lists "Talking to Strangers" as one of the starting point!

Being able to connect and learn with strangers is an important skill for all of us, and especially for a generation that will be learning online for the rest of their lives.

The above image visualizes how we are taking learning about a country from only looking at a map and reading about it in a book to talking to a "stranger "who lives in that country. We still used the map and books for background knowledge and preparation, but information is amplified:

  • Information comes from a primary source
  • Information is fluid, not rigid, it will adjust to the questions the students have (a book will only hold the information that editors have decided on including and will not magically switch in front of your eyes :))
  • Information can take on directions, tailored to your students' interests
  • Information can

"Talking to Strangers" is a critical skill to possess. It contributes to information fluency. It so dramatically contrasts the drill we heard over and over again from our parents. We used to be taught "DON'T talk to strangers" and now need the skills to do precisely that.

Disclaimer: I am not talking about talking to a stranger in a dark alley at night! :)

29Oct/120

Writing a Commenting Policy for Your Blog

Assessments come in many forms and should be ongoing. As students develop knowledge and skills and build their schemas about the world, they are better able to articulate their understanding of complex ideas. One goal of student blogfolios is to help students recognize quality work- both their own and others. Our 4th and 5th graders have been working with the idea of quality blog commenting for three years. As teachers, one way we help our students understand quality is to provide rubrics or other guidelines and expectations. One way to assess understanding of quality comments is to have them provide guidelines for others. We did this by having each 4th and 5th grade student create a commenting policy for his or her blog.

First we discussed the concept- what is a commenting policy? Why have one on your blog? 5th grade had a lively debate on whether a commenting policy would hold people back from leaving a comment at all. This sparked a discussion about quality vs. quantity (is it better to have a lot of "junky" comments on your blog or less comments in number but more thoughtful in content?) as well as a great discussion about word choice or media and tone of message matters (inviting vs. bossy).
Here are some notes from the discussion with 4th graders:

What is a policy?
A policy is guidelines or rules you have to follow in order to do something. -Ayden
Why write a commenting policy?
-to limit the junky comments-you're helping people who might want to leave a comment

-to tell people what you want to expect from a comment

-you can help people be better at writing comments

-to show that you want quality comments on your blog

How will you prepare to write your commenting policy?
First look at a few examples. Here are some student blogs with written guidelines for commenting. Take a few minutes to read (or watch) them carefully. As you are reading (or watching) pay attention to what works or doesn't work for you. Start to form ideas of what you will include in your commenting policy and how you create it.
Dawso's Blog
Guess What?'s Blog This one uses an animated video to share commenting guidelines
Alexandra's Blog
•Make a new page for your commenting policy.
The students embraced the process and were given their choice of tools. The products show each student's understanding of and ability to communicate the idea of quality comments.
Ariella's Commenting Policy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia's Commenting Policy

Julia's Quality Commenting Policy from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.

Jonah's Commenting Policy

Itamar's Commenting Policy

10Oct/120

State of the Blogging School Address

State of our School Address (regarding Blogging)

3 years ago, we created blogs (WordPress platform) for ALL classroom teachers and resources. There was an expectation for teachers to be at least on the first step of the blogging ladder, illustrated in the image below. Their classroom blog needed to be, as a minimum,  a replacement of a weekly folder filled with parent-school communication and homework assignments. Teachers were expected to learn how to update their blogs (at least on a weekly basis), insert images and videos and categorize their blog posts. (Getting to Know your Blog- A Beginner’s How To Guide)

This was a steep learning curve for some teachers. In addition,  it was extra time consuming, as it was taking teachers longer time to learn and be comfortable with uploading and inserting images, creating photo galleries, creating links, posting, etc.

Then the question shifted from How to We Did it… We Built It…Will They Come? Some teachers continued to email parents weekly, pointing them to the blog to look at images and news, others resorted to “bribing” students with extra credit if their parents went on the blog, yet another class created a  Blog Tutorial for Parents & Grandparents video.

In preparation for our students to become actively involved in contributing on the classroom blogs, as a school, we needed to Update & Upgrade Our School’s Media & Publishing Release in order to reflect the shift from students as consumers to students as producers.

Some teachers felt ready sooner than others, to climb the next step on the ladder. They opened their classroom blog up for comments to their students. They started to shift from merely pushing out information to parents and students to see the opportunity for a conversation. Teachers were learning to, not only post information, but posing questions for students, encouraging them to think and to participate in a virtual conversation. – Preparing Students for Commenting with Wall Blogging.

Once students were well on their way to begin. They were comfortable in logging into their accounts, reading posts and submitting a commenting, the next step was to focus on the QUALITY of their writing. What constitutes a quality comment? One class answered this question by creating a newscast- Quality Commenting Video by Third Graders

The next step on the classroom blogging ladder was for not only the teacher to produce content/posts, but for students to take ownership. For one teacher, it meant the realization that her classroom job list was in need of a 21st century update What is… What Will Be Obsolete…in Second Grade?

Some teachers:

  • had daily  student “bloggers”,  who were in charge of updating the classroom blog, being the Official Scribe of the day.
  • had students take (handwritten notes) summarizing the daily learning during each subject area, to be then typed and uploaded on Friday to the blog (younger grades).
  • highlighted best work from students as it was produced.
  • put students in charge of photographing classroom/resource activities and learning taking place during the day, the class discussed and voted on the final images to be uploaded at the end of the day and write a short blurb to each image. – Let’s Ask the Kids: 2nd Grade Bloggers

Some classroom blogs were growing beyond homework assignment, as teachers found opportunities to amplify the use of their virtual spaces to get kids involved and engaged in conversation

As commenting and posting to the classroom blog became the routine, especially in the upper elementary grades, students were eager to “earn” their own blogs. It was up to the teacher to set the criteria for students to earn them (ex.5 quality posts moderated and published on the classroom blog).

Once having earned that promotion, students became administrators of their own blogfolio , a combination of an online portfolio and a learning blog. Students were able to choose their own theme from a variety of pre-approved themes available. They chose their own title and tagline, and wrote their About Page.

It takes time for the faculty to see that the students’ blogfolios are NOT a project from/for the Language Arts class. We are not there yet.Teachers, still need to take advantage of pulling in resource teachers and student experiences. Non-Language Arts teachers still need to realize that the blog is a platform for learning for THEIR students too. All this is a process for teachers and students to work through.

We had Professional Development workshops helping teachers subscribe to RSS feeds (Subscribing via RSS & Google Reader to Classroom Blogs) in order to streamline the process of reading AND giving feedback to all their students. This is a daunting task for many teachers, as they are feeling overwhelmed. I have met too many teachers (at other schools) who, precisely for that reason, gave up blogging with their students. It was simply too much work to read and sift through all the writing and commenting (!!). We are committed to working through this at our school though. We are concentrating on finding new ways to embed the reading, the writing, the commenting, the conversation into the “way we do things”, not something we do in addition.

I created the following infographic to demonstrate the flow of blogging in the classroom. The hope is to deflect from the emphasis on technology and the “translation” from analog work to digital work during the blogging process.

You can download the infographic as a pdf file.

There is so much to consider when blogging with your students. You will be able to read about some, some you will hear from teaches who are already blogging and some things you will just have to experience and go through for yourself in order to make it work for you and your students. What we do know, is that no teacher can attend a 3 hour workshop on blogging and is ready to blog with their students the following Monday. I wrote extensively about the process for Stepping it Up- Learning About Blogs FOR your Student as a guide for teachers who want to see blogging as a platform for their own professional development and as a medium for student learning.

Ann Davis, on her blog wrote a post titled “Rationale for Educational Blogging“, an article (and the following comments) worth reading! David Jakes responds in the comment section speaking directly to the teachers “who have kids write for the refrigerator”.

Ann Davis’ quote of “It is not just a matter of transferring classroom writing into digital spaces”, resonates deeply with me. It is a challenge, that we are continuously reflecting on in school, as learning and literacy coaches, but need to do a better job in helping faculty work through this as well. Tough questions need to bubble up  to the surface:

  •  Where it the Authentic Audience?  by Andrea Hernandez
  • What does it mean when students, teachers, parents feel “blogged out”?
  • How do we prevent student blogfolios from becoming an accumulation of “Homework for Thursday”, “Homework for Friday” posts?

Where do we go from here?

We will continue to seek the following through our blogs:

  • quality writing and commenting
  • documentation of the learning process
  • hub for learning artifacts
  • reflections
  • meaningful discussion
  • metacognition
  • authentic feedback
  • global awareness and connectedness

We will encourage, support and participate in activities that will foster the above goals.

Examples:

  • quad-blogging
  • commenting mentor program
  • blogging buddies
  • professional blogs for our educators to build reflective teaching practices, connections to a global network of educators and building a personal brand

23Sep/120

Tweeting with 4th & 5th Graders

Guest post by Stephanie Teitelbaum, our 4th & 5th grade Language Arts teacher.

You can follow @4thmjgds & @5thmjgds on Twitter.

Students have been enjoying tweeting weekly in class.  Mrs.Tolisano has been coming in each week to teach the process of tweeting.  She developed this info-graphic for us to follow.

We are developing a routine in class so that students are able to tweet on a regular basis.  We start with a “paper tweet”.  Students write down their tweetable moments on an index card.  We check our followers (3 times a week), then we check who has mentioned us.  If we have a question, we answer it, and then, finally, we write the tweetable moments.  We have twitter directors in class, and it is their job to type in the tweets.  We have to be sure our tweet  is 140 characters.  It is a new way of writing, and the students are improving each week.  We are working on developing tweets that target a global audience.  We have discussions in class to determine if the tweet is geared to our audience.  Recently, we tweeted a teacher in Singapore who will hopefully make it possible for us to tweet students regularly in Asia.  The students have been intrigued and motivated to connect with other classes globally.

2Sep/120

Twitter Policy and Rationale

We want to keep our parents in the loop about Social Media use in the classroom and are posting the following Twitter Policy and Rational.

Twitter Policy and Rationale

Several classrooms at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School are tweeting!
We wanted to be transparent in our rationale for using Twitter as a platform with our students for academic learning.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a social media platform, a micro-blogging service. Every tweet is limited to 140 characters or less. Twitter is surfacing everywhere in our daily lives, from your favorite restaurant chain to your rabbi, politicians, celebrities, sports team and TV shows. What is less known about Twitter is the academic value of learning with and from other educators and students, experts, authors, organizations, companies from around the world that support 21st century learning. By tweeting with our students, we expose them to social networking strategies, support their growth as global digital citizens and model focused, clear writing.

Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety

Our students DO NOT tweet on personal accounts. The tweeting classrooms are using a classroom Twitter account, set up and managed by the classroom teachers and the 21st century learning team. We monitor and choose carefully, who is allowed to follow the classroom Twitter stream and who we follow on Twitter. Netiquette, Internet safety, digital citizenship including copyright lessons are interwoven throughout the year and continuously discussed and reinforced. Netiquette is defined as the "acceptable" way how to communicate on the Internet. Learning acceptable behavior is part of digital Citizenship, one of the core literacies of the 21st century. We remind students of  our classroom rules and emphasize that "real world" etiquette,  rules and consequences transfer to online behavior as well.

The use of Twitter in the classroom follows the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School's guidelines for Media and Publishing release. Tweets will occasionally mention students’ first name, but never their last name. We will also be sharing classroom images, video or audio, directly related to student learning.

Twitter as a Tool for Learning

We want students to produce and contribute developmentally and age appropriate quality content. This is a process that can only be internalized by “doing”. The focus of Twitter in our classrooms is always learning. We connect, share and reflect on our learning experiences at school as well as tap into and link to individual student background knowledge.  Younger students will tweet  and document experiences they have through observation. Older students will be “thinking” about their learning on a deeper level and learn to articulate their metacognitive process of reflection.

The classroom teacher and 21st century learning team will actively search for and connect classrooms with same grade level twitter buddies and pre-approved mentors, to give students an authentic audience for their writing, with whom students can share their learning, ask questions and gain perspective.

...First graders might read a story with another first grade class from Canada and collaboratively tweet a summary of the story or describe the main characters. They might even share, via Twitter, a link to artwork they created illustrating the story’s setting.

...Fifth graders might tweet with a High School history teacher from Boston about their studies of the American Revolution and might receive images of historic sites.

We will be continuously modeling quality during the process. Before we click the "tweet" button, the class will ask if their tweet:

* is Informative?
* documents their learning?
* asks questions?
* responds to someone else's question?
* curates information for specific audience?
* links to quality resources?
*adds Value to any links re-tweeted?
* states its intent clearly?
* is globally conscious?
* is grammatically correct?
* is spelled correctly?

As students tweet, they learn about word choices, clarity, the writing process (write/revise/edit/publish), networking skills, research skills, summarizing skills, global awareness and connections.

21at Century Skills & Literacies

Twitter is not the only tool that our classroom and students use to connect globally. We use a variety of platforms, such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and Skype to allow our students to practice skills such as communicating, collaborating, connecting, creating and critical thinking skills. These tools also expose them to and support  emerging 21st century literacies (global literacy, network literacy, media literacy, information literacy) in addition to basic literacy skills (reading and writing)

We encourage our parents to follow our classroom Twitter feed to join their students' learning journey.

http://www.twitter.com/1stmjgds
http://www.twitter.com/4thmjgds
http://www.twitter.com/5thmjgds

We will be adding links to more Twitter classroom accounts from school as they become active on Twitter.

You can follow also our head of school, Jon Mitzmacher, Admission's Director, Talie Zaifert, 21st Century Learning Specialists, Andrea Hernandez & Silvia Tolisano, librarian, Karin Hallett and the following classroom teachers on Twitter: Shelly Zavon, Stephanie Teitelbaum, Deb Kuhr, Amy Stein, Seth Carpenter, Pamela Lewis, Sara Luetchau.

5Oct/110

Blog-folios

Last year we began working with students in grades K, 5 and 8 to create digital portfolios. We used WordPress blogs (like the one you are reading now) as the platform for the portfolios. Portfolios are a digital collection of a student's best work  with a reflective component. This type of reflective practice is new for most of our students and is a process which will take time. As we began the process, we realized that it was almost a tease giving students a versatile, customizable, blogging platform and then not allowing them to freely blog. So the "blog-folio" was created-- part blog, part reflective portfolio.

Portfolios give students a chance to develop metacognition, set goals and internalize what "good work" looks like. Blogs offer a platform for creativity, communication, connection and the practice of digital citizenship. "Blog-folios" are the best of both worlds- using a blogging platform to develop writing skills, provide opportunities to connect with an authentic audience and increase reflective practices. Instead of using the entire site as a portfolio, students will use the category "portfolio" to designate those selections that represent high-quality work and reflection.

Blogs are Transformative:

As educators, we are in the business of helping each child bloom into the flower that he or she is meant to be. The goal is to help students reach high academic standards while developing their unique selves, growing at their own rates and discovering their personal passions. Blogs are a space for sharing ideas in almost any format, a place for self-expression, connection, and reflection- literally a platform to explore, document and record the growth of the learner. The tool (blog) is transformative in that it allows instant publishing and the possibility of an authentic audience, as well as bringing in multimedia communication and creation. It is also transformative in that, unlike many school assignments or projects, blogging is a long-term "project" that incorporates many different "subjects" and skills.

   
Student Blogging Challenge:
We have started  this year by introducing the blog-folios to our 5th graders through participation in the Student Blogging Challenge. This activity has approximately 300 participants from around the world.  Students are enjoying the opportunity to customize the look of their blogs, write about areas of interest and interact with other student bloggers. As teachers, the blogs enable us to get to know our students better, to model good writing through our comments and to target instruction. Blogging is, by definition, differentiated instruction.

Blogging challenge checklist

Comments!

Part of the joy of blogging is knowing that someone is reading what you've written. All of our student blogs are open to receive comments, and all comments will be moderated (by the students) before being published on the blog. We invite you to read and comment on any of the 5th grade blogs listed here.  The big idea is to engage students in the act of writing as communication. Please encourage students by responding to their content, not correcting their mistakes. By leaving a comment, you can model good writing skills. Know that the blog-folios are a work in progress and a long-term record of a student's growth. Each child's writing and thinking will show growth over the year(s).

A student's notes to himself about blog topics.

17Feb/110

Parent Chocolate Talk- Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying does NOT happen because of Technology.

Cyberbullying violates ethical principles of personal integrity, compassion, and responsible behavior.

Let's start a conversation how schools and parents can best work together to raise responsible digital citizens.

Join us for our monthly Parent Chocolate Talks

Links:

http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/
http://www.safetyweb.com/
http://www.wiredsafety.org/

Videos we watched:

15Feb/100

Parent Coffee Talk: Facebook and your Children

Andrea Hernandez and I hosted another successful Parent Coffee Talk in the month of February. This month's topic was Facebook and your Children. We had a wonderful group of parents join us on a Tuesday morning to exchange and discuss our experiences, concerns and questions about Facebook.

We watched the video clip "Social Networking in Plain English"

We walked through and explained step by step common terms and lingo of facebook, such as:

  • Profile
  • Tags (tagging)
  • Wall
  • Status
  • Friend Request
  • Groups

Consensus among participants of our Coffee Talk was that allowing (or not) of our young students (Age limit to have a facebook account is 13 years!) is a family decision. The most important aspect is to continue talking to your children about your family's values and how they relate to the online world. Keeping lines of communication open and be involved by monitoring your child's social network activities.

Resources: