Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Using Weblogs as a Resource in My Classroom

In the movie, The Hunt For Red October, the captain of the Soviet submarine, making sure of his defection, recalled a story of when Cortez reached the new world, he burned his ships, and as a result his men were well motived to suceed. I am not ready to start burning ships, or bridges, but moving forward is the only direction.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how versatile and adaptable that weblogs can really be, and took time to reflect on how to utilize them in my classroom. While I appreciate the comments and critiques that can be a big part of blogging, I think that the most productive and largest potential for a class weblog is that of an information repository, growing into an interactive resource.
My intent is to set up and use a weblog in two phases. The first phase is for students to be able to retrieve daily notes, practice assessments, and other information about their mathematics class, grade team, and AVID program. If a student is absent or cannot participate, they can pull up notes and agendas in order to keep up with the class while they were out. This keeps the students as observers and users, similar to the Web 1.0.
Secondly, there will need to be rules and expectations set up, understood, and committed to by the students, fellow teachers, parents, and other users. I want to avoid chaos in the weblog, and absolutely will not accept any form of cyber-bullying as part of the weblog. Students can use this to ask questions, collaborate to get answers and procedures to get answers, and share ideas among all the participants.
There are several potential downsides to the weblog. First and most obvious is making sure that all students have access to the weblog. Given that many students and their families do not have a computer or internet access, there needs to be a venue for these students to gain access and therefore, benefit from the weblog.
Second, there have been incidents where teacher founded weblogs have been used to discuss people in a negative manner, and there have been severe repercussions to these teachers. In some instances, the consequences, in my opinion, were just, and in others there was an over-reaction. The blog will not be used to discuss individuals at any time, thus avoiding these situations.
Lastly, the weblog needs to be able to incorporate fun, which will prompt all kinds of visitors to the site. A problem of the week (or day), common questions about the work in class, quotes from famous people, this day in the history of mathematics, homework solutions, and test help should all be incorporated as well. The weblog needs to be promoted and talked about frequently, so that the users will see it as a real resource and a benefit for their learning.

Stay tuned - this should be fun!

1 comment:

  1. Todd,
    I like your idea about incorporating fun into the weblog. I agree that having a component such as displaying student work (pictures, videos, multi media presentations) would definitely increase parent and student participation in the blog. If students knew that there projects or latest journal response was going to be uploaded that day/week they would be more motivated to share this with people at home.

    I also see the need for explicit instruction on appropriate use of the classroom blog and other social media programs. This year was the first year my middle school students received e-mail accounts. Before I gave any of my students access to this resource I had them participate in an email etiquette webquest and guided reading. We followed up this activity with an in depth discussion on the appropriate way to communicate online. I often find that many of my students respond differently when they are communicating online rather than face to face, so I reinforced how misunderstandings and conflict can easily occur. I then have all my students sign a technology agreement, stating that they will use their e-mail in a safe and ethical manner and provide clear consequences of what may happen if they violate this agreement.

    I plan on blogging with my students this year and plan to incorporate an activity and discussion on the purpose and expectations of all individuals participating in the blog. At the beginning of the year I would set up a blog in which I monitored all comments before publishing. Once students have shown that they understand how to participate in an online community discussion I would then open it up for students to post on their own.

    While I think it is important to review responsibilities on participating in an online community with students, I think it is just as important to review these expectations with parents. I think parent communication and participation is important and would like to use a blog to help communicate with parents and keep them updated on what is going on in the classroom. To ensure parents understand the purpose of the blog and the expectations for their participation, I would review how/why we are using it in the classroom and provide specific examples of how they can comment. Lisa made a comment in my blog about the overactive parent who may use this blog as a personal platform to express views that may not be constructive or pertain to the rest of the audience. If this became an issue I would filter all comments and only post those with specific questions and/or feedback that would be meaningful to everyone. While this may take more time, it would ensure that misunderstandings and “oversharing” do not occur.

    Internet access is also a difficulty in my district and I find that I cannot require students to participate in an online program from home. With the downturn in the economy I have found that many of my student’s families have had to cut down on extras within their homes in order to make ends meet. To accommodate for this I try to provide class time for students to participate in online discussions or activities. While I cannot always get into the computer lab, I do have 3 computers in my classroom where I rotate students throughout the course of the day/week. While that set up is not ideal (it does take a long time complete) at least it provides all students with an equal opportunity.

    It sounds like you have some great ideas for incorporating blogging into your classroom. I look forward to reading more of your posts throughout this course.

    Katie Dorr