I really enjoyed reading Dean’s Reflections of Online Teaching/Learning. Then I traveled over to his student blogs and found some great reflections from the students themselves. I have commented on a few and hope to get back to comment some more. As Dean says,
The classroom teacher who participated in the research with us this past school year emailed me and she may start blogging with 3 classes this year! Wow! Usually there are four teachers in the fifth grade but this year there will just be three. They are working out blocks of time to meet every three days for an hour and a half. One will teach Science, one Social Studies, and the classroom teacher will be able to get all three classes blogging! I call that success, logging having a slot right up there!
Steve Dembo recently posted about the Dragon software that I am using to transcribe. I’ve had the same frustrations he mentioned. Now the CastingWords site fascinates me to but adding up what it would cost me is astronomical. No way could I afford that! Sigh….Â It is slow going and I am still doing that as I can.
Ewa and I have sat down and we’re in the process of working on the first piece. This body of information that we have collected lends itself to quite a bit of publishing. We have a lot of choices and that is always difficult. I don’t like leaving parts out.
We also have a lot of digging down into it and studying different aspects that again requires thought and time. I haven’t blogged much this past year due to all this and I have to say that that part of research drives me up the wall. I realize the worth of it but I love the way we can just put it out there when we blog. There’s much value in that too. Hmmm, maybe that’s what we need to research. We do hope to write a piece on the research process itself and the difficulties of having to be quiet or at least we felt we had to be so careful so we would not do anything to hurt the research but the best part of blogging is the feedback and that was missing for me.
Right now Ewa is in Poland visiting her family so early August we will be setting up a schedule that makes all this a top priority. The time it takes is mind boggling.
But just think 3 classes blogging is part of what came out of the year long process. I call that success of the highest level!! I’ll keep up with them and let you know when they get going. I’m soaring again!
The Alliance for Excellent Education has produced the Writing Next Report. It is written by Steve Graham and Delores Perin. The report identified 11 elements of current writing instruction that are supported by rigorous research that are effective to help students in grades 4-12 learn to write well and to use writing as a tool for learning. They then note that even when these elements are used together, they do not constitute a full writing program.
- Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their compositions.
- Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts.
- Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their compositions.
- Specific Product Goals, which assigns students specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete.
- Word processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for writing assignments
- Sentence Combining, which involves teaching students to construct more complex, sophisticated sentences
- Prewriting, which engages students in activities designed to help them generate or organize ideas for their composition.
- Inquiry Activities, which engages students in analyzing immediate, concrete data to help them develop ideas and content for a particular writing task
- Process Writing Approach, which interweaves a number of writing instructional activities in a workshop environment that stresses extended writing opportunities, writing for authentic audiences, personalized instruction, and cycles of writing.
- Study of Models, which provides students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing.
- Writing for Content Learning, which uses writing as a tool for learning content material.
I was struck by how many of these elements could be weaved right into blogging with our students. These are the things we need to point out to teachers and administrators. We need to emphasize the importance of our students developing the ability to write in online environments. Point out how blogging engages the students in a way that can let them take ownership of their own learning. Students learn about writing as they are participating in real writing situations. We need to start asking “Why aren’t our students blogging?” We need to use blogs to build literacy in the classroom. We need more students in on this mix.
In Diane Penrod’s book “Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy” this paragraph jumped out at me:
“In short, blogging might turn out to be the tipping point in education for lifelong learning. Its adaptive nature, malleability, and ease of use make blogs a killer application. Like its predecessor, e-mail, blogs might soon develop into a ubiquitous communication tool in schools. For literacy, this will be an important event: having an inexpensive, ever-present, easy-to-use method for transmitting information, knowledge, and meaning across student populations, suggesting that it is indeed possible to teach and upgrade th literacies students need right now and will continue to need in the future.”
Another point of interest in the report was a note about grammar instruction. Grammar instruction in the studies reviewed involved the explicit and systematic teaching of the parts of speech and structure of sentences. The meta-analysis found a negative effect for this type of instruction for students. The negative effect was small, but it was statistically significant, indicating that traditional grammar instruction is unlikely to help imporve the quality of student writing. Overall, the findings on grammar instruction suggest that, although teaching grammar is important, alternative procedures, such as sentence combining, are more effective than traditional approaches for improving the quality of student writing.
Read the report and reflect on your practices.
I also thought how this would be a great topic to explore for professional development on our blogs in school. Picture a community of learners in a school, each blogging away sharing their techniques as they relate to these elements of writing instruction. I can picture addressing number 10 with models coming from the blogs of students themselves. Now that could be motivating!
On one of my searches I came across a new book on educational blogging. The book is “Using Blogs to Enhance Literacy : The Next Powerful Step in 21st-Century Learning” by Diane Penrod. Diane Penrod is professor of writing arts at Rowan University, Glassboro, N.J. She directs the university’s masters program in writing and is the site director for the National Writing Project. The book was not available in the library here at Georgia State but I was able to check out a copy from Gil Express. In her preface she states, “Because literacy is a complex topic, as are the social aspects of blogging, to intersect the two creates a host of issues. To that end, I have based chapters on contemporary concerns. My hope is to make the material relevant to educators and parents who want to learn more about the blogging phenomenon beyond what is described in the mainstream media.”
The chapters cover these topics:
- Why blog?
- Blogging and New Lieracies
- Blogs as a New Writing Genre
- Gender and Blogging
- Ethnicity and Blogging
- Blogs and Bullying
- Encouraging Safe Blogging Practies
- Integrating Multiple Intelligences and Blogging
- Creating classroom Ethics for Blogging
- Blogging Matters
I like this book. I liked it well enough to buy my own copy. I particularly like to see books with a focus on literacy as it relates to blogging. Her last chapter discusses challenges facing classroom blogging and suggestions are offered for parents, teachers, and administrator. She poses lots of questions and possibilities. Lots of food for thought….
Ewa McGrail and I did a poster session at NECC, “Lessons Learned from Blogging with Elementary and University Students”.
This is the research project we have been conducting all year. It was an overview of the project with a focus for this particular presentation on the relationships with the elementary and university students. We highlighted different aspects of the project. See “Lessons Learned” for our initial observations and thoughts as we have yet to dig through and analyze all the data from the year. Hey, I am still transcribing! Will that part ever end?
I put together a slide show of the many participants who came by. We appreciate everyone coming by. The conversations were great!
I met Rushton Hurley at EduBloggers.com He now teaches part time but the bulk of his waking moments are spent on a non-profit organization that he started called Next Vista for Learning. Here’s how Rushton explained the site:
“It is a place where there is an online library of videos by and for teachers and students. It is totally free. The idea is just to be able to say if you’ve got a great way to teaching a skill or concept share that in a video that is five minutes or less ideally using media in some engaging way that some kid who is having trouble understanding that topic could say “Oh that’s what it is.” Because it is free to them they don’t have to stop and have it explained to them. They don’t have to feel stupid. They can just go somewhere and see what has been contributed
He said it was a young effort so far. They have 70 or 80 videos up right now. They have 3 collections so far, those just mentioned, communities around the world and another to highlight the good that people do in the world. They want to build interest in the research related to the efficacy of these videos. They want to show that this has an effect on how students recall what they are learning in class.”
The video collections are light bulbs, global views, and seeing service. See the FAQ on his site. I think this effort is one we need to follow. I really liked his discussions on staying on content. He talked about how most video production traditionally has been about the teacher in front of the room and what they are doing. Of course that has value but in a teacher preparation program he thinks it would be far more valuable to have teachers learning to make videos for a student audience where they tell how they use media to get a topic across to kids effectively in 5 minutes or less. That gets the teacher to stop and think about what are the core elements of what he/she is about to teach. I met up with Rushton again at the visual arts playground. He even gave me some one on one instruction on video production. I’m thinking that we need to get the kids going on these types of lessons too.