Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Digital Learning Day and KidBlogs!

This morning while I was having my breakfast I was checking my Twitter feed and noticed a few tweets about Digital Learning Day (which is today). Many of the teachers I follow were encouraging each other to try something new with their students using Web 2.0 tools. I thought that this was a great challenge and started thinking about what new technology tool I might share with the kids of Room 9 during our computer lab time at the end of the day today. I thought about putting together a quick FLIP video, or trying out a new tool like Voki or Voicethread, or maybe just taking some time to try out some of the new sites on our wiki. However, during Daily 5 this morning, my plans changed. Here's what happened...

Tristan was working on a piece of writing on one of our laptops and wanted to show me. I sat down with him and read his writing, a detailed piece about himself full of great descriptions and interesting facts. It sounded like the kind of description bloggers post to their blogs to introduce themselve to readers. During our writing conference I shared my reaction with him and asked if having a blog would be something he'd be interested in. He had lots of questions and was pretty excited about the possibility however, he wanted more information before committing to the idea (and I wasn't totally sure I was ready to "let go" of one of my classroom bloggers :) I gave him the option to check out some other student blogs during the next round of Daily 5 so that he could see what other kids in other schools are doing. After a few minutes, he was sold. I set up a KidBlogs account for him within my teacher account and together we posted his first piece.

Little did we know, there were many eyes watching and wondering what we were up to as we moved from laptop to classroom computer. A few students figured out what Tristan and I were doing and word spread through the room like wildfire. For the next few minutes all I heard was:

Can I go next?   I wanna do that!    Is that his own blog?!?    Can I go next?!   Can I go next?!!

As the kids went out for recess, I thought to myself - What have you gotten yourself into now? Setting up individual blogs takes a bit of work, as does moderating all of the posts and comments. But, if a little bit of work on my part will give my students new motivation to write, edit, revise, talk about words and spelling, and to reply to comments and questions about their writing, then I'm sold too. To see an 8 year old boy get excited about writing (of course while playing it very cool) and ask if he can do it at home on the weekend is pretty awesome.

As an educator, I believe that using technology in teaching is no longer an option, it is a necessity. The children in my classroom are "digital natives", meaning they have grown up surrounded by technology and will continue to be no matter what path their lives take. They are "programmed" differently than the adults around them and learn to use technology quickly and efficiently. However, I discovered this morning that using old technology is a different story....

This morning I found some books with cassette tapes in the library and brought them into the classroom for the kids to use during Daily 5. As the first group pulled out their books and the cassette tapes, a discussion ensued (which I assumed was about the book that was chosen) and then one of the members came to me (cassette in hand) and said, "We don't know what to do with this". I showed them how to put the tape in the stereo, and walked away. After about 5 seconds I heard one of them say, "It's not working. It didn't start. It just sounds like shhhhhhh" As I started to walk back toward the group (assuming that there was something wrong with the stereo) one of the kids said "Wait! Now it's going". They of course didn't realize that when you start a tape from the very beginning there is a slight delay as the tape spins to the right place. It doesn't start instantly like a CD or an iPod. That short pause threw them for a bit of a loop. Afterwards when I explained that you could flip the tape over and hear something different, I was met with blank stares. I was not speaking their language. I'm considering bringing in my old record player tomorrow :)

So, I needed to make a decision about who, and how, and when other children would be able to start their blogs. I decided that the best time would be today, while the idea is fresh and their excitement is high. Over the lunch hour I set up KidBlog accounts for all of the kids in our class and decided that we'd try it out in the lab at the end of the day. It went very well with one student, so why not try 25 all at once! As always I was surprised and impressed by my 25. Before I was logged in and had the Smartboard running, most of them had made their way to their blog and had begun posting. They took their job seriously and many decided not to post their piece today as they wanted more time to add to, revise and read over their writing before other people would be able to see it. I think that this makes it all worth the effort. They took their writing seriously and wanted it to be their best work. When the kids write in their notebooks their audience is me and maybe a couple of classmates. Blogging broadens their audience and has motivated many of the children think about the quality of their writing, spelling and word choice, and interest level in just one day... I think that's pretty awesome too.

So here it is... the link to our KidBlogs. Please read them, write a comment for someone, and keep checking back for more! If you leave a comment, here is our criteria :)

A note about KidBlogs...
KidBlogs is a blogging platform that allows teachers to set up accounts for their students under the umbrella of a classroom account. This means that I have complete control over what is posted to each blog. Before any post or comment appears online, I receive an email and then have the option to approve, deny, or edit the post or comment. If the post or comment meets our criteria, I approve it and then it can been seen by others. I moderate everything and choose what goes live.


Anonymous said...

WOW!!! What else can we say??? This is totally AWESOME Mrs. Malkoske!!!

Alexander came home so excited talking about his very own blog ... I think he's 'hooked'!

Can't wait to read his posts!
Colin and Susanne Angus

JH said...

Great job! As usual, you have me thinking "If she can do this with her Grade 1's and 2's, I guess I don't have a valid excuse to not have my Grade 3's do this!"... so thanks a lot!

Seriously, though... it's great to see how quickly and enthusiastically your students have taken to whatever technology you've introduced to them - this will serve them well as they continue to move through life...

As far as introducing them to old techologies, I've got an 8-track player and about 60 8-track tapes in my collection, if you're interested... ;)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the time and effort that you put in to this. Rhianna was thrilled to tell us all about it yesterday and came home asking to post again!
What a great experience for them.