Category Archives: Thinking

Thinking about motivation and blogging

I have been traveling about on the many and diverse blogs of the participants of this course. Cristina wrote a thoughtful post about The role of people’s enthusiasm in learning. She wonders, “Where does the motivation come from? Where do we get our inspiration from? Why do some of us get “high on” learning? why doesn’t everyone react the same way?… I’ve wondered the same things. Then she shared her thoughts on an online meeting with Carla Arena’s new class on the use of blogs. The consensus seemed to be that the community and the networks you are able to cultivate around a class are what makes blogging special. All of this is near and dear to my heart. I have been blogging with students since 2002, mostly elementary kids. I once wrote my rationale for educational blogging and thought I’d share. Also, some lessons learned.

Elementary students are extremely motivated to blog. They feel empowered – they get to have choices, their voices develop, and a community of learning develops that gets to go outside the classroom and connect with and learn from others. That outside connecting audience makes a difference. It is exciting. It is motivating. My first year of blogging brought this reflection from Dane, one of my students. When asked

“If an outsider visited your site, what would you hope he or she would think about it?

I would hope they would think of children as being capable of more than they had first anticipated.

That did it for me. I’ve been blogging with elementary students ever since. I think their voices need to be heard and we adults need to learn how to listen to those voices.

I really love the banner on Cristina’s blog. The young girl skipping down the path really depicts the joy of a learning journey. I feel like I am on board!

Beginning blogging sessions with elementary students

I’ve had two more sessions with the J. H. House students. Briefly, session one consisted of discussing blogging as a process in which they will:









We discussed the “craft” of commenting on blogs. The students commented on my previous post. They loved reading Harley’s welcome and made comments back to him. All this is summarized on my previous post.

Then to the student’s amazement they heard from Karen in New Zealand who invited them to come visit. This led us to Room 7 Tamaki Primary School and Tamaki Primary School Writers Group. What great blogs! It looks like there is much more to explore on this site. Unfortunately, we could not see their intriguing movies but I will work to see if they are blocked or what the problem is. There was no time during class to do this so the students just promptly got to the business of commenting and they loved reading the blog and making replies. They are jumping in and learning how to comment, how to invite response, and share the joys of blogging. Wow! Making connections is so much fun. First, Harley, then New Zealand – we have a fantastic beginning. We can only imagine what will follow! We had to adapt our commenting to New Zealand in that you had to have a gmail or blogger account. Harley’s blogger account let us just type in first names and urls. That was much easier but I will contact Karen and see if it’s possible to change that. Learning all the ins and outs of blogging takes time in the beginning but these students are quick studies! I can just tell it’s going to be another incredible year. The plan this year is that Mrs. Emmert will have a class blog with the students and I will expand their horizons in other aspects. I have lots of ideas. I plan to introduce the students to possiblilities and get their feedback. Developing reflective voices is a high priority. We have to figure out what is blocked and what is not and figure ways to share their learning, both in and outside the classroom. Mrs. Emmerts sends me her lesson plans and I can see that one of the things that they have been heavy into is the 6 traits of writing. That’s a perfect place to start. Now I’m off to create a new blog for this project! I’ll direct you there as soon as we get this reflective blog, the classroom blog, and student blogs going.

Any blogging classrooms out there who would like to connect???? Any others interested? Leave a comment……

More from Sara on The Book Trailer

What a treat! I was sinking as I thought more about the damage high-stakes testing is doing to our schools so it was so uplifting to read Sara Kajder’s article, The Book Trailer: Engaging Teens Through Technologies in this month’s issue of Educational Leadership.

It tells the story of students creating a two-minute video using still images, transitions and special effects (generated with MovieMaker or iMovie software), voiceovers, and a soundtrack. Students present the central characters, themes, or issues of the book visually and through written and voiceover narration. All trailers have to include the title of the book, the author’s name, and a presentation that is both authentic to the text and that works to “hook” readers. I also require students to submit their trailers with a piece of writing that explores the choices they made, with an analysis of the book that shows that they made decisions on the basis of the text, and not just by using the aspects of technology that would best captivate an audience.

Sara goes on to say that….

But technology is not the goal. Student writers and readers are at the center of our instruction. And we, as mindful teachers, must thoughtfully and deliberately prepare all of our students for success by critically exploring the new technological tools and then using the ones that can help us and our students to powerfully convey what we think and know.

I can’t think of a more exciting time to teach, as we’re immersed in new possibilities for working with words and with one another. When we teach creatively with emergent tools in mind, we stand a better chance of engaging reluctant students by giving what we teach real meaning. Each day is an invitation to examine, play, invent, reinvent, and join in the conversation.

Read the whole article. I’ve posted previously about Sara here and here.

Teaching Students to Think

If you haven’t read this month’s issue of Educational Leadership it has some terrific articles that you don’t want to miss. Here are links to some of the online articles at their site:

All Our Students Thinking

Disciplining the Mind

Clash! The World of Debate

Perspectives/The Thinking Teacher

(or if you prefer an MP3 for this one)

Shooting Aliens: The Gamer’s Guide to Thinking

Thinking is Literacy, Literacy Thinking

Here’s a link to their blog.

Canada/Georgia Connection on Gizmo

The blogicians and the students in Darren Kuropatwa’s Pre-Cal 40S class participated in a Gizmo call last week. The blogicians had prepared some questions that they wished to ask the high school students. Gizmo has a neat feature that lets you record the conversation as you are talking. It did pretty well but does have an echo effect from time to time. As I listened to these podcasts I really marvel at the learning that occurs. I kept thinking how much was going on and how much can be fostered with these types of connections. I think you have to have a plan of action as if you just connect and talk you may lose some focus. It was a thirty minute call that was filled with some many unexpected turns that were so worthwhile.

What a good space to give kids practice with public speaking. Both ages were nervous but the experiences they got speaking will serve them so well. I think both sides learned so much from each other. The older students were unaware of some of the constraints involved while teaching elementary students (listen to the chat box podcast), the ability to look for dramatic and outstanding pictures for presentations (listen to the Flickr podcast).

On a scribe post after the Gizmo talk, Grey-M one of the high school students said the following:

I must say that trying to answer something on the spot is brutally hard (These weren’t easy questions either) so people, including me, were a little hesitant at times to respond. So that was a fun deviation from our usual routine.

The younger students are in awe of the older students but in these kind of connections they learn to step back and decide if they agree or not. They learn that that is OK.

Johnny from the blogicians posted the following after the talk:

We just did a gizmo chat and it was quite delightful with a pre call math class and it was nicely spoken by me and my classmates. Mr. K was the teacher of the class I asked about chat box and how they use it and Danny replied “We use it to learn all over the web and it sort of saves time instead of commenting”. I sort of agree with him what do you thing do you agree or do you disagree? If you don’t know what it is try looking it up and using it.

You get to discuss so much and the best part is you are having authentic conversations with the students and encourgaging their honest input. It builds great learning communities. This can only make things better in our classrooms. This is great practice for them and us. The teachers get to do a lot of learning too. We’re learning how to best orchestrate these experiences. We’re learning how to help these kids on their path to becoming global citizens. The more experience we can give the kids with this type of learning the more they will be able to help us shape its’ most effective use. These are the types of literacies we need to be developing in all our schools.
I’m still thinking about all this….. the possibilities, how to involve others, and on and on….

It was a day to remember – a day of connections and learning between some very inspiring students in Canada and Georgia.


Links to podcasts:

Podcast 1 Introduction and special bond

Podcast 2 Eddie Chris Online Safety

Podcast 3 Eddie Vincent Being responsible while blogging

Podcast 4 Emmy Danny Flickr

Podcast 5 MV Chris Craig B.O.B (Blogging on blogging) and convincing middle school teachers to let students blog

Podcast 6 Tina Vincent Grey-M The best and the worst of blogging

Podcast 7 Johnny Richard Danny Chat Boxes

Podcast 8 Eddie Aichelle How does blogging advance your learning as a fifth grade student?

Think Pair Share with hand signals

I came across this video on YouTube which led me to Rebecca Newburn’s blog Information Age Education. It was of interest to me because I use the Think Pair Share activity a lot in the classroom. She extends the activity with Think Pair Share Write and Think Pair Share Blog. Now that really piqued my interest. See her post here for activities for more information on creating and using them in your classroom.

I keep trying to get control of my aggregator but keep finding such good blogs to read. Hmmmm that’s what I call a good problem.