When I became an educator – in the true academic sense – some eight years ago, I never would have envisioned that technology would have to become such an important part of my educational toolkit. Then, as an elementary school teacher, I taught the basic three Rs; students engaged in basic, developmental learning tasks. And computers? Oh,well, they used them simply to play educational games and activities with the occasional challenge to complete an assignment. Fast forward, and today’s classroom offers a completely different learning experience, providing its students with 21st century skills that will ultimately serve them well in years to come. With both teacher and student expectations leading the way in education reform, not only does technology allow us to meet students where they are digitally, but also positions them to be competitive in a 21st century global economy. I recently took a look at some of the innovative blogs that educators are using to engage students while enhancing classroom teaching and learning.
Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog is the creation of a dedicated, veteran third grade teacher. The winner of the 2012 Edublog Awards in the classroom blogs category, this site is a testament to the fact that it is never too early to encourage students to embrace technology. In 201o, Edublog honored the site with an award for the Most Influential Blog Post which featured Mrs. Yollis’ students demonstrating how to leave a comment on a blog. This age-appropriate blog is superior; Mrs. Yollis’ strategies for connecting students to the learning experience are interactive, and through comprehensive, instructional videos, students engage in learning, by blogging their responses and ideas to the content. To ensure that they understand the ideals of blogging, there are videos featuring the students themselves who instruct on how to create and post blog posts appropriately. Students in this classroom also use Twitter to share their ideas. Additionally, they Skype with their classmates and other students around the world, truly demonstrating that learning can be a fun, enjoyable 24/7 task. For the advanced student, Mrs. Yollis offers “how to” instruction in the use of HTML code. There are also links to student blogs and resources for teachers. Popular posts and a list of educational blogs that the students follow, are featured as well. Clearly, the tech-based learning opportunities in this classroom are preparing students to meet the demands of a digitally driven world. And, as shared by Richardson in his article Footprints, “More than ever before, students have the potential to own their own learning—and we have to help them seize that potential.” (pg. 19). Mrs. Yollis is doing just that. Click here to read more about Mrs. Yollis’ thoughts on the benefits of classroom blogging.
Techie Kids is a space created by a technology teacher for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade. Here, students can create and share projects and ideas, including ebooks, while learning and practicing blogging skills. A finalist in the 2012 Edublog Awards classroom blogs category, Techie Kids links students to websites in a variety of categories, including math, science, research, and internet safety. Techie Kids also create ebooks, giving them an opportunity to have a national and international presence as the blog links to other classroom blogs worldwide. For teachers, Techie Kids offers an opportunity to engage in educational chats with colleagues around the globe. Other resources include access to Google Tools, Free Tools to Try, and information on how to create an Edublog and KidBlog.
As we know, collaboration is the key to success for our students; if we work together, the chances are greater that we can help students achieve their goals. At Pt. Lonsdale Primary School in Australia, where five teachers of students in grades three through six have collaborated to develop Learning Legends @ Lonnie, this appears to be the goal. In this space, students showcase their work (as in the case of this project on Afghanistan), share ideas and engage in learning opportunities in a variety of content areas, including Australian history, literacy, and math. Students are encouraged to post comments about the work of their peers, as well as create their own blogs for classmates to follow. The student blogs are impressive, as well as the worldwide classroom blogs to which they connect. Learning Legends @ Lonnie seems to be a mixture of academic and social endeavors; students share thoughts about a variety of topics, including their personal interests, book reviews, field trip write-ups – and yes, surfing – just to name a few. Another nice feature of the blog is a page for Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) which features a wall where students can post acts of kindness they have performed. A nominee for the 2012 Edublog Award in the Best Class Blog category, this blog get a thumbs-up for the truly collaborative efforts of the educators to move technology usage forward.
At St. Columba’s College, a secondary co-ed boarding and day school in Dublin, Ireland, students and teachers of the English Department have been blogging since 2006. Named first runner-up for Best Use of Audio in the 2010 EduBlog Awards, SCC English is a resourceful site where teachers and students gather to instruct, learn, and showcase their work. The blog’s objectives demonstrate a dedication to using technology to enhance instruction as well as improve and showcase student achievement. An example of a nice feature of instruction is the use the iPad app Show Me to help students analyze complex text, such as in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. A guest book link allows visitors to comment and share. By embracing digital technology that engage 21st century learners – such as tweeting, and podcasting – educators in this department are definitely making the mark.
As a classroom instructor, I am inspired by the efforts of these educators to prepare their students to be college and career ready; they understand that education and technology must partner if students are to be globally competitive. Furthermore, these classroom blogs give students a prime opportunity to be members of a like-minded community who dialogue creatively and intelligently while ensuring that their digital footprints are positive.