Classroom blogs: The experiment continues

April 7th, 2010

It’s time to check in again with Amanda Villagomez, who’s been chronicling her adventures with blogs in the classroom. The last time we heard from her in January, she was experimenting with online book clubs. Today she says that despite some bumps in the road, she is more and more excited about using technology in her classroom.

With anything related technology, flexibility and a willingness to experiment are essential. Third quarter was a good reminder of that. At the start I was excited and gearing up to have my students begin their own blogs. Based on feedback from parents, they were more comfortable having their students begin blogging internally. When I realized that I would not be able to make their blogs private without paying a fee on Edublogs, I decided to have my students blog with Blogger. I was also excited about students utilizing Google Docs since they would need a Gmail account to sign up for Blogger.

I thought I had everything planned out. I had a meeting with parents to discuss the new technology and why it would be beneficial, each parent signed a permission slip, and students signed an appropriate use agreement. The big day arrived, but when my 7th graders clicked the button to set up their account most of their hands shot up, and there was an instant buzz, “Mine says…” Aside from a few who were excitedly saying theirs worked, the rest of the class had the message that they did not meet the age requirement. I couldn’t believe I had overlooked that little detail. I had to check in with all of my 6th and 7th graders to let them know that for now the plans were on hold.

Even though I was initially disappointed, it gave me a chance to reflect. The one great part that came out of this roadblock was the discovery of Google Apps Education Edition. Both of the universities that I am associated with have their email via Google, but I had not realized it was free. With this, my students will still have access to everything I had wanted, except Blogger, in a more controlled environment. As far as student blogs go, I am planning on waiting until the 8th grade year when all students will be 13. My 6th and 7th graders will continue to have discussions on my classroom blog, and eventually I will allow them to post comments on the 8th graders’ blogs. I am also exploring other options to give them access to other technologies.

Despite not being able to create their own blogs yet, students were excited to interact more on the classroom blog this quarter. After piloting a book club with a small group second quarter, I had all students participate in an on-line book club. Although I was not able to give as much support as I had initially planned because of less classroom time due to some state testing, at least all students got their feet wet. I will need to continue to scaffold the depth of ideal responses as well as appropriate voice for on-line discussions.

I was, however, very pleased with one of the groups that had a large concentration of students from the initial book club. They had already received additional scaffolding from their previous club and were able to provide a model for the new additions to their group. This made me realize that next year when I introduce on-line book clubs instead of trying to support all students on my own, I would launch with a small group again, but then I would have them lead a small group once the whole class participates.

Technology is such a fascinating field with so much new to learn all the time. At the start of the year I was thrilled to be able to have a classroom blog for the first time. There is still so much more that I am exploring and rethinking with blogging, but I am also considering other technologies to better meet the needs of my students. In the near future I will have the opportunity to integrate iTouches. I also plan on learning more about wikis over the summer in order to use next year. The more I let go and embrace the process of familiarizing myself with new technology, with all its advantages, along with the frustrations of complications, the more ideas I get to prepare my students for the ever increasing emphasis on 21st century literacies, while still making sure that my practices are aligned with my literacy philosophy.

Entry Filed under: Classroom practice

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