Recently I presented a workshop session on blogging at the GaETC conference. I had a Skype call with Darren Kuropatwa. I wanted him to share the positive aspects of blogging that he had experienced with his class. Some amazing things came out of that call. First, Darren shared how his students summarize what they are learning through the scribe posts on the class blog. He explains it so well on the podcast. He uses a paradigm he borrowed from med school – watch it, do it, teach it. His students are writng the textbook for the class. The examples he shared were fantastic. He shared how he uses the chat box so his students have homework help 24-7. The students use delicious to create a resource file to help each class member. Then the wiki solutions manual is the space where students solve, annotate, and correct each others’ work. Listen to the podcast to get his explanations. What is so impressive to me is that Darren has truly put this in the hands of his students. They have ownership of their learning. They work as a team. It is the best use of blogging that I’ve seen in a classroom.

Then another story developed as we were skyping. I commented on the first time that I had seen Darren’s blog and how it blew me away. I am not and have never been a good math student but as I was reading his blog I got so excited because it made me feel that I could still learn these math concepts that had alluded me in the past. See my post here: A Math Weblog to Note. I can still remember that day and how I explored his blog in depth. It was exciting. Now the neat thing here is I heard the other side of that story, as did my workshop participants. Darren recalled how how intense the feeling was for him hearing how someone a half a continent away had been impacted by the work he was doing. Now here’s the best part of the story. Darren said his first reaction was “My students need to feel this.” His first thoughts were how to give that to his students. A true teacher! Now that’s a feeling that many of us have had and have seen firsthand when students blog. I’ve had many moments to share with students when they were just blown away that someone thought something they wrote was good or someone added to the conversation about something they were blogging about in class. Darren said in the skype call that this was what blogging is all about, that motivation from an authentic audience. I thought it would be good to share this piece because it could be used to share with administrators and others to get an idea of what blogging can be all about. Teachers need to set the stage and guide it. No one does that better than Darren.
I’ve thought about it a lot since the workshop and I’ve also thought about how Darren has captured the essence of blogging and then gone that extra step to share it all with others. Then each year he has built on the pedagogy and shaped and reshaped his learning and teaching. Darren is not just a math teacher. He is an incredible writing teacher as well. He knows how to use writing, blogging, and the Internet to learn. He guides his class and steps aside to let them own it. Just check out Living in Whoville and you’ll see. It gives me chills.This digital story is a class project. You can see links to some of the other projects that tell the story of what his kids have accomplished. It is awesome.
Now listen to the podcast, DarrenAnne.mp3, and listen to the two sides of the story. Just think what could lie ahead for our students! It is inspiring. He is really empowering the student in a way that totally focuses on the pedagogy – no small task. Plus the work is in the hands of the students. They own it! It is a model to follow. I can’t wait to cast my vote this year in the EduBlog Awards 2006.