Category Archives: Collaborating

Learning from others

On the Yahoo Groups list for classblogmeister Lorraine from New Zealand shares her reflection templates to use in blogging. She was inspired by reading Konrad’s post and has created a post/article reflection and a comment reflection.  Her link led me to a great wiki that contains excellent info on their collaborative learning community. I really like this wiki. Thanks Lorraine for taking the time to share!  Keep up the great work! And as you know, one link leads to another – here’s her blog. It’s a good read, too! One post was about the danger of embedded links. Look at the comments to see how our community responds! Here’s her follow up post on this issue. And of course I have always been a fan of SlideShare. Look how they address the dilemma here. I second Lorraine’s “thumbs up” to SlideShare.

Just imagine!

Since I can’t have the elementary students browsing through Flickr I figured out how to overcome that obstacle. I took Flickr to them through a PBWiki called Just Imagine!

Christine helped me by graciously allowing me to use her Flickr photos in this way. Now bear in mind that I could not give her credit on the wiki because that link would provide entry to Flickr. Now I still believe that elementary students can be taught responsible use of services such as Flickr but I don’t choose to put my energies into that battle just yet. I have students who have places to go, blogging to do, and many exciting things to learn. So I want to give credit to Christine for letting me use her wonderful Flickr photographs on the wiki. We had a grand impromptu lesson today. I shared this in an email to Christine.  I’ll share that part with you:

I love your pictures and it was so much fun browsing through the wiki
today with the students. Ooooohs and ahhhhhhs for all I think except the
mushrooms – dead silence for a moment there.  I wish you could have seen
their faces. The assignment for today was as listed on the wiki. They
are to be creative and simply write a story. I had them choose a photo
number – first come, first serve. The teachers were enchanted with the
pictures. I told the children that I had a good friend from Scotland who
was letting me use these pictures in this manner. I then asked if they
knew where Scotland was located. One lad raised his hand and said in
Asia. I shuddered but not visibly. I had two up at the globe and our
world map and finally they located Scotland and I asked them to give me
more info – one said it’s in London. Another invisible shudder from me.
My, some days I know my work is cut out for me but we had fun and they
finally got to the fact that it was part of the UK. I do love this type
of learning because they will remember the moment today – your pictures
sparked an interest and I will follow up with more info for them.
Perhaps we can extend on this learning later after they do some writing.
I see lots of possiblities here but first will see how they do with the
first writing. They will bring either jot notes or something written to
blog about in class next week. They have that choice. They will insert
their picture to go with their creative writing. I also asked them if
they could make any connections to what they are currently learning
(from the photo). That’s a leap they are not ready for yet but I am
planting seeds. 

Next week the students will be writing their stories. I can’t wait to see them. Remember that I am Mrs. C on that blog. If you want to see what they’ve been up to head over to Blogical Minds and leave a comment or two.

Just imagine what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it. Remember, turn those obstacles into opportunities! Small victories can grow into big ones!

A request

I am knee-deep in writing several ongoing papers to try to put a new blogging project on the road. It is exciting!

One of the things I need to do is follow up on a request from a teacher in a school. She needs a list of all the sites we need to have unblocked with an explanation of how we will use them with our students. Now I can do this but I’m really thinking about the best approach to educate, as well as get the message out in a professional way. This could be a great resource for all of us. So I was wondering if any of you have done this or have some quick one liners for justifications. If you could share your approach or point me to examples I would most appreciate it. I know Flickr and Furl are two sites that have been blocked. I’m not sure what others. I’ll add them as I find out.

Exciting possibilities ahead!

I’ve got a years worth of lesson plans and the curriculum map for the fifth grade class I will be working with this coming school year on my flash drive. Whew! Just plowing through it makes me think “What are we thinking?” The phrase cover and smother keeps running through my head. I plan to use the curriculum guides as the base to show other ways to teach the material rather than strictly by basal and textbook. My goal is to get the kids blogging their ideas thoughts so we can add that to the pool of knowledge.
I met with the instructional technology specialist at J.H. House today to share my ideas with her for this project. Hillary is great! She did a great job with her Blog Write group this year and plans to do another group in addition to working with me on this project.

The ideas are just swimming in my head. I’ll be working with the whole class. That is so exciting. It’s amazing all the things you have to work out to make this happen. Flexibility is hard to grab hold of in our current classrooms due to the scheduling “tigers” that have to be wrestled to make the whole process work and make sure the kids get all that is required and expected.

I’m also trying to work out a research piece with a professor at Georgia State. Many hoops have to be jumped through to make that happen so wish me well. This has always been the area where I wish I knew more about and how to conduct it correctly. I’m learning a lot from this professor in that area. She happened across some of my blog work with students and was impressed and invited me to her class last semester. We’ve been networking ever since and plan some collaboration between her classes this year and the fifth graders. She wants her students to get first hand experience. So wish me luck on the research piece. I really hope that can happen!
I am also in the process of transferring all my past school projects to TypePad so they can be shared with others. The transfer from Manila won’t be seamless but you will be able to see the actual student work. And you won’t get the constant message that the site is down. That site was the first one that Tim, my coworker, set up, back in 2002 when we were just beginning to blog. I really liked the features of Manila but it is not the most user friendly software around.
This year, the plan is to model the use of blogs and other web tools for the classroom teacher to demonstate the possiblilities for learning when these are put in the hands of students. The goal is to learn from each other – students, teachers, parents, and others who comment or add to our conversations. I plan to blog the journey and share all I can. I am hoping the classroom teacher will blog along with me so that piece will be available, too. We need more records like that to help us see through the eyes of others. discover what works and what doesn’t.

Also, a couple of students from Georgia State will be doing some student teaching at the school and I will be working again with Lynne Jordan. She’s the one I did the Literature Circles project with. I have transferred those blogs and here is the link. I was going to wait until I got my write-ups done about each project but some of you might like to see those. Check it out here.

Of course today when I was showing Hillary, or should I say, trying I could not get to Flickr or Furl. What blew my mind was what popped up on the screen. I can’t remember exactly but Furl had a message that went something like a social dating ….. and Flickr was something equally crazy. Who blocks these things and how do they make such calls for what they are? I don’t think it will be a problem to get it unblocked, we just have to make a call but it makes me realize how much we have to do to educate others. Sigh…

Anyway, I can’t wait! I still have lots to do to make it all happen but next week I am taking off for a week long vacation at DisneyWorld. We are taking both daughters and their families – five grandchildren in all! We are so pleased that we could get our whole family together for this. We’ll be staying on site and making some memories!!! If I blog at all it will be a photo blog of the vacation!

Ranging out of control

The activity going on over at Blog2Learn is amazing! I am having so much fun browsing through the blogs. Assesment plans from O’Reilly’s Blog, how-to directions from the Byrd House, interesting musings on directions to take with blogging from Browder’s Site, and Project Group 3 (Kim, Chris, and Julie) have already created their own pbwiki! This wiki was announced with a glittering sign “We love wikis” on this post from Mrs. Cole’s Oh No! It’s the BLOG.

Also, take note of how cleverly the cat states one of the blog guidelines on “the talking cat” at the top of her blog.

Brainstorming, lots of Web 2.0 tool use, creativity, and planning is going on. What a week!What a group!
Now I have just highlighted a few of many, many “sparks”. They are all over the blogs.

Then this spark of creativity from Sandy Rittenhouse of Language Links. This is one sample of the talent emerging from this group. Sandy wrote this poem on the first day of the workshop:

Two dozen teachers
Crowded in a lab
Searching and surfing
Typing like mad.
Some are beginners
Some are old hats
But everyone listens
While working like rats.

This was my comment to her:

Wow! I hope we get some more of your poetry. Maybe you could write one about the different language arts blogs. That would tickle some of the authors. What do you think?

She emailed me right in the middle of when I was finishing up comments to the others. That was the day Will presented – she was still working away at 9:30 that night (along with me!). Then today I get an email from her and listen to this post entitled Blogophiles:

Language Arts teachers learning something cool,
we’re from Cobb County and Marietta schools.
Instructors far and near, using Skype and other tools,
working hard so we can all turn into blogging fools.

We’ve learned to import files and give our work some style,
and we know how to link to lots of other blogophiles.
The hard part will be leaving our blogs once in a while
to walk the gritty paths of No Left Behind Chile!

One thing I can tell from all this is that for sure “No learner is going to be left behind” by this dedicated group. They get it! I’m ranging out of control but usually when I do that I have to admit it is mostly when I’m working with students. It sure feels good to “range out of control” with a special group of teachers.


Over the weekend I was cleaning out some papers that had gathered dust in my office at home. I came across an email that I had sent Will back in 2003. It bears repeating. To give you a little background this was the first elementary group I blogged with and we ended up collaborating with Will’s high school journalism students. Will had emailed me and asked how a session went after our groups connected.

OK, Will, this is going to be a long email but I’m on the tip of something and not quite sure just what it is, so here goes!

Today was puzzling. Something is taking place among my elementary students that is unusual. My kids are truly very excited about your kids helping them but something has been in the air that I haven’t been able to get a handle on. Now they are really into this but something has been amiss. I think I figured it out today. They absolutely realize that their writing is out there, exposed for anyone to view. They also feel like their writing is not good enough. Now, in some ways this is a good thing but I feel like I am treading on new territory. I have empowered them with their blogs and they loved it! Now they have to take a leap of faith and just sort of be exposed. I don’t know how to explain it otherwise. It is a scary time for them and they don’t think they can do it. Typically elementary kids just barrel on through and do not have such concerns. They turn a deaf ear to the teacher saying the same thing over and over, to some extent. This is a different story though. They want to be able to do it. They want to deliver. They have an audience they really care about.

They came in today with leads ready and got right down to posting. Then we just gathered in a little group for some discussion. I always encourage them to tell me how they are feeling, what they think, how this can be better, what do they need, etc. and they do. You have to understand that for the most part this is just not done in elementary schools. They are usually told just what to do, when, and how. even down to the time they all troop to the bathrooms! We had a deep discussion on their feelings and having the opportunity to have your journalism students help them. They are so afraid that they will not measure up. One of mine said, ” I am so nervous about the negative part.” They phrased it as having students put down their writing and this would be upsetting to them.”. They then went on to say that they really wanted the help and wanted this to continue. They are a bundle of mixed feelings.

Anyway, I give you all this background to let you know that I am witnessing a new phenomenon and I really am not quite sure what to make of it. What I do know is that I have a terrific group of kids, they will handle this, they want to do this, and they will help us all learn and see what will work and what doesn’t.

This week, have your kids check in and comment on the leads, give feedback. Encourage them to comment on anything else that the kids have written, if they like. If you want them to go ahead and plan mini lessons on good reporting- nut graphs, quotes, leads, etc. We can expose my kids to that but maybe not expect them to deliver all of it.

Next week they are coming to class with this assignment:

  • News story with good title

· Good lead

· Details in an overview

· More details

· One quote

· Good ending

  • Bump up vocabulary

· Good flow

They tend to put personal comments and thoughts in their stories which I want to continue. I know it defeats good journalism in news reporting but I want to leave the essence of elementary students writing and thinking within their reports.

I think that if I have the students continue writing a news report (elementary style), your kids can use those to comment on how to improve, what they like, note when they have a good lead, handled a quote correctly, etc.

Do you think it would work if your students pointed out things they are doing well, things they need to improve, but not expect a full fledged correct report while at the same time we’ll tell them what that would be? Making sense????

After meeting with the students today, I met with their classroom teachers for a weblog workshop. They were really impressed with what was happening with their students. One of them has a student who is being considered for the gifted program and this student has to submit a piece of work that they are most proud of ..guess what, it was his weblog. The committee probably won’t even know what he’s talking about- :_). Each teacher stated emphatically that they had noticed much improvement in these kids’ writing. Others made comments that reaffirmed what we have been saying about this process. One parent today told me that her son cannot wait until Thursdays, that it is the most important day of the week for him. NOTHING keeps him from getting to school on Thursdays.

Not to say that I wasn’t aggravated with Manila during the workshop today √ it never works seamlessly! Your post today brings up many things that we really need to think about √ what have we gotten into???? No, not what have we gotten into but how are we going to tame it to have it reach the possibilities we know exist in this arena.

Please, give me your thoughts.

Seeing this email again was uplifting to me. It reminds me what can come out of struggles – good things! I am really struggling with my high
school weblog groups, Getting Heard and Teacher Cadets. Mostly it is the ‘Getting Heard’ group. I wish we did a better job of making school relevant for so many of our “at-risk” kids.. This email was just the boost I needed to remind me that the struggle is definitely worth it.

Will blogging help? Who knows? They look forward to the blogging days but is it the novelty? I don’t know yet but I do know that they are willing to write on blogs. They try very hard and the writing does not come easy. I’m convinced they need to be heard and I believe in the possibilities. I’m going to keep on struggling for those good things to happen!

Go Skype!

I nudged Nancy McKeand to try Skype and

she jumped right on board!  Nancy is a real trooper. She keeps

persevering despite various obstacles. I admire that.  She truly

sees the value of blogging. I wanted to  cheer her on and offer

my help.

We had a great conversation this morning. I am still amazed at how

clear and easy the process is. The voice quality really is excellent.

Installation is a breeze. What more could you want? And oh yes, the

best part is that it is free!