Category Archives: About Weblogs

Great way to start a Monday morning!

bloggingAlong.jpgI received an email from the instructional technology specialist at the elementary school where I have done a lot of blogging projects these past few years. Hillary told me about Julie McCullers who taught third grade and had participated in a class blog in one of the projects.It was entitled McCullers Weblog. I want to point you to one of her posts from back then, A Final Goodbye. It is absolutely one of my most favorite posts coming from a classroom. It got the kids engaged and having fun as they were learning. Steve Dembo even commented to them! Julie is a creative teacher who does great work with kids. Her current blog, Blogging Along…. is so inviting! Check out this post, School Now. I like the questions she is asking the kids. I can’t wait to follow this blog this year. Welcome her back to the world of blogging! Julie has moved on to another elementary school closer to her home. We miss her but now her blog will keep us in touch and just think of the learning and sharing.

More on blogging projects

I went back to the elementary school where we blogged last year. The classroom teacher is getting her three classes up and going. Here is her class blog, Fifth Grade Web Writers. Welcome her to the world of blogging! She is a terrific teacher and I know she is going to do a great job this year.The student blogs are in the process of being created. I’ll let you know when they are up and going. I had the opportunity to teach a couple of classes today. They spent time browsing through past years’ blogs of previous students. Then we had lively discussions! What fun! Students shared what was relevant, what piqued their interest, and what they noticed about the comments. They really picked up how important the six traits of writing can be while blogging. I am going to try to touch base with these classes at least once a month this year. If any classes wish to communicate through commenting with these students let me know or email the teacher directly on her class blog.

On my high school classes I’ve been thinking about forms to send home to parents and forms for students to sign in regards to our blogging project. I have gone back through a number of my posts and relied (and borrowed) heavily on good sources from Nancy Bosch. Check out the Broken Arrow EL Center and follow links to the blogs. There are a lot of good things going on and one of their dads is building and hosting their blog site. Thanks Nancy for sharing your good work. I also sifted through Susan Sedro and Bud Hunt’s letters and others on his Blogging Polices and Resources Wiki. Thanks to each and everyone of you.
At this point these are the three items I am thinking of using. They are just drafts now because I need to think about them some more. If you see something I missed in introducing this let me know. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I have a ParentLetter.doc, Blogging Terms and Conditions.doc, and I plan to use David Warlick’s bloggers_contract.doc . Many thanks to David! I haven’t had a chance to run these by the classroom teachers. I’ll do that next week when we meet so as I said it is in draft status and could change some. What do you think?

Second meeting at the high school

Yesterday I spent the day observing in the classes and then in meetings with the teachers. I can tell it is going to be an interesting blogging project. Both teachers are going to be great to work with and I really enjoyed meeting and talking to the students.

Both teachers are brand new to blogging so they will be learning as we go. We probably will use blogmeister in the biology class and typepad in the other class. Both teachers want some control over the process and after a lot of discussion we decided to try these two programs. In one class none of the students had blogs or knew very much about them. Not so in the other – several students in this class had blogs on My Space. I think one might have had one on Live Journal. Kind of two extremes – interesting.

They asked me to be a part of the first staff development day which will be September 28th. I will be talking about blogs in educational settings. I think they are going to have a number of sessions in which the presenters will do them several times over the day and each teacher will pick 3 sessions to attend. I look forward to that!

We have more details to work out – blogging contracts, guidelines, and other such items to think about before we actual are up and blogging.

As I was driving home I thought that I’d like to take a survey with these students to get a clearer picture of their technology use. I hear all the time about how much the students know and are doing but this seems to be more with particular groups and I don’t think this is the case with at least one of these groups. I don’t want the survey to be too long but I was looking through this survey example. I really like the questions. Anyway I am working on this piece but if any of you already have one and would share that would be terrific. I am interested in how they use technology and what online tools they may use and how they generally use technology in their learning. This information was gotten from the post Some real data on Web 2.0 use on the TALL Blog. This blog is a wonderful source of information. I am still plowing through it and it is good. Here is the about blurb on their page:

The TALL group is part of the Department for Continuing Education at the University of Oxford.

We research technology & learning, develop online courseware, and provide consultancy in e-learning for in-house and external clients.

It would be worth your time to check it out. Also, if anyone knows an online tool that lends itself to this type of questioning let me know.

I love these blogging beginnings!

A new blogging project is brewing!

crystalBall.jpgA new blogging project is brewing and I can’t wait! I met with two teachers at a nearby high school. One had called me to ask for some “Open House” help in the technology part and one had visited the Blogical Minds group last year and expressed interest in a project. That led to a meeting with the two of them and they are ready to venture into the world of blogging! I will be blogging with two classes to begin with – both are ninth grade and one class is biology and the other group is a gifted class. In the gifted class we will be centering in on environmental issues. They are known as the green team. I don’t have all the details yet but I will return next Tuesday and spend a lot of time observing that day as we begin to construct and plan. If anyone can point me to good high school examples of class blogs along with student blogs I would be most appreciative. Of course Darren’s blogs are terrific and I always point to them as a model. I hope the teachers will be interested in using scribes. We discussed the gifted class mentoring the elementary classes as the classroom teacher from last year’s project is going to be up and going soon. I will be going out to that school the end of next week to help them set it up.I have been thinking and planning. It made me think how I used to prepare for my elementary classes for the year. I always went to high school sources and materials and then adapted them for use with the elementary students. I could find more interesting items. I could get more ideas. Now I have the web to travel around and learn from others but tips from you high school experts would be great! I haven’t been able to find enough examples of student blogs so please point me in those directions if you know of some.

Blogging with 3 classes!

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….  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!

A quest for good image sites

I’m getting ready to do a workshop with teachers on blogging. Finding good images is always a quest so I am beginning to put together a resource that might be helpful for teachers. I am trying to keep the explanation simple and the focus on sites that are free and quick and easy to navigate. If you have other similar “free” graphic places to share please list them on the comments. Since Flickr is my favorite place to look I’ll start with it…..
Flickr is one of the first places I turn to when searching for a dynamic photo for my blog. The selecion is huge, searching is easy and the quality is top-notch. Every photo on Flickr has a license. There are two major categories: “All Rights Reserved” and a “Creative Commons” license. “All Rights Reserved” means hands off! A “Creative Commons” license means that the photographer has reserved some of their rights but lets people use their photos for free under certain conditions. There are 4 major components. Link here to understand the restrictions. The Attribution component is always part of a Creative commons license, so you will always need to provide credit for the photo with a link to them.

Use the Flickr advanced search feature as you can check the box stating that you only want Creative Commons photos to display. Type your keywords and it’ll bring up a page with a huge number of results.Sometimes I use the “most interesting” search filter. Flickr’s concept of interestingness will display unique pictures of high quality. It is just fun to browse through them and lots of ideas for their use will pop in your head!Be sure to check out the Flickr Fun page on this wiki for lots of ideas of ways to incorporate Flickr into your teaching day! Here are some other links. I limited my links to sites where images are offered for free. Directions are on each site for their use. Generally you just have to provide a link of


PD Photo


Wikipedia: Free image resources


Here are some tools that will help with your searches and resizing pictures and other techniques to enhance your images.

Creative Commons Search

pic resize 2.0

Credits: I have to give credit to Kevin Jarrett of Welcome to NCS-Tech! His site is terrific and he leads us to countless good sites to use as resources. Many of the above sites came from his blog. Thanks Kevin!

Then Andrew Ferguson of Goldengod has a digital photography site that I could spend hours browsing and learning. In particular I borrowed a lot from these two posts:

I particularly appreciated his explanation of the licenses – clear cut and brief. Plus I like how he gives credit for his Flickr pictures. I’m going to have to switch to that format. Thanks Andrew!

A School of Voices

Last week I finished up a blogging project with elementary kids (sniff, sniff). It’s hard to let go of these wonderful groups of students. So I thought I’d jump into another project I’ve been wanting to try.

I have a blog “A School of Voices.” I created it to encourage voices from students and teachers everywhere to get their voices heard about events that are going on in the world today. Current events needs to be discussed by students and teachers so we can learn and grow together and be responsible global citizens. It was active for awhile but with all the research I’ve been buried in this year it was neglected.

Then an idea popped into my head that had been brewing for a bit. I am going to bring it back to life. I invited a previous student blogger of mine to co-author the site with me. Katey is the young lady who will join me on the journey. She will be a sixth grader next year. We will be communicating through email about the blogging. I’ve wanted to see if this would work with this age student. Her mom was in agreement for Katey to participate. I communicate with Katey through her mom’s email. I told Katey we would learn together. I also told her that if at any time she wanted to move on to other things to let me know. I would still feel the same way about her blogging or not. I didn’t want her to feel like this was something she had to do. I want this to be fun and a learning experience for us both. We’ll see where it leads.

Katey was delighted. Katey made great strides in her writing while blogging and she loved it. So Katey has officially made her first two posts. If you have a moment go comment and encourage her! The first post for the project starts with my post, A Shift in Direction. Her posts follow. Her post name is mind4blogger.
For those of you who might be interested here is a post that gives a little more background on why I think current events should be required for every student. And this was in 2003!!

Scott asks “Know a great commenter?”


Scott McLeod of Dangerously Irrelevant has a post “Know a great commenter?” Well it just so happens that I know many but I would like to recognize three bloggers who comment frequently on all of my student blogs. Their comments are kind, helpful, relevant, and very thought-provoking for the students.

I nominate:
Lani Ritter Hall
Chris McIntosh
Carolyn (not sure of her last name)

For those who are nominated Scott has created a neat badge that you can place on your blog, if you like. Thanks you for making a difference in the lives of students.

Nominations like these are great but they also leave me thinking that I left people out so with that thought in mind I’d like to say a huge thank you to all commenters. You all make a difference.

Shaping our learning through comments

I am constantly amazed at how much students learn from the comments they receive on their blogs. The other relevant aspect to this is that the learning is so applicable to the standards we are asked to teach. Today I browsed through the student blogs and reread some comments they received over the past school year. I just thought of one standard for each- I could have selected many more standards but this will give you the feel for the awesome power of commenting on our students’ learning.

Anni and Donna

Anni on her post entitled Water stated lots of good reasons supporting the need for a water fountain on her school’s playground

Donna, a teacher from Queensland, Australia commented back to share how each of their schools had rows of “bubblers” outside for student use. She congratulated Anni on her foresight in regards to this issue. Then she added more good reasons for installing a water fountain that Anni could think about as she tries to persuade her school to consider this action. Donna made the point that adequate water consumption is required for optimal brain function! Now I’d say that’s pretty relevant to student learning, right?

Here’s one standard that applies:


ELA5R3 The student understands and acquires new vocabulary and uses it correctly in reading and writing.

Anni’s learning from the comment. I’ve seen her search for a word or head over to the dictionaries in the lab. Plus we now have Answer Tips installed on each blog and that makes it even easier. I love that tool! Anni will remember lots of these words because they are relevant to her. They were meant just for her. New words to add to her vocabulary – bubblers and foresight for starters in this comment.

Eddie and Darren

Eddie’s post on The Language of Math prompted a response from Darren Kuropatwa, a high school math teacher in Winnipeg, Canada. Darren made math come alive in his comment to Eddie. He explained numerous ways math is everywhere. This led Eddie to further explore and communicate about all these concepts. Were they communicating mathematically? IYou can count on it!. And that post fostered lots more comments that kept coming in over the following days. New conversations about math continued both inside and outside our classroom.

Here’s one standard that applies:


M5P3 Students will communicate mathematically.

Eddie sums up his feelings here:

I have made new friends outside of school because of blogging. I have had teacher form other states and countries comment to my blog. I had a teacher from Winnipeg, Canada named Mr.Kuropatwa comment on my blog. He teaches senior math and the children in his class were overwhelmed because of what I knew. He even showed his class my blog and they made a podcast and sent it to me. I have also had a person named Lani comment to my blog and she is from Chardon, Ohio. She’s always trying to encourage me to write better. She always gives me tips and strategies on how to read and write better.

(The above is from The End of My Blogging Year)

Victoria and Kate

Victoria‘s post, Melting Down the Ice , explains that the ice in Antarctica is melting and she points to a movie that shows how this may cause the polar bears to drown and become extinct. Victoria picked up on this concern by reading joey girl, a blog by Kate. Kate is a student in Mr. Fisher’s class in Snow Lake, Canada. Several commented on this post and information was being shared and ideas were exchanged.

This standard applies:


ELA5LSV2 The student listens to and views various forms of text and media in order to gather and share information, persuade others, and express and understand ideas.

Victoria has done an exceptional job of applying the above standard. Her post Are We There Yet? says it all.

Now I could find many more examples and in most cases more than one standard applies. Students need practice with the standards that are being taught. Blogging is a great way to provide that practice. Blogging helps make it authentic and important to the student. They have ownership. Now again the classroom discussions are very important- it is crucial to take the time to share and reflect on how the comments are shaping our learning.

I may come back to some more of these. Better yet wouldn’t it be neat to let the students find samples. Hmmmm I’m going to ask the blogicians what they think about that.