Kid Blog

This week I have been experimenting with blogging platforms which we can use in the classroom. One of these platforms is KidBlog. KidblKidBlogog is an online blogging platform for children. It is made for teachers by teachers. It allows schools and teachers to set up and monitor individual blogs for students. The aim is to support student learning and create a sense of online identity and community.

The advantages of Kidblog include the following: it is easy to set up, it has simple navigation, students do not need an email account,  it is advertisement free, you can connect to Google Drive which means it is easier to upload documents, videos and power-points, and the teacher has complete control. Students write and upload blogs, the teacher then reads and approves the blogs and publishes them on the site. A blog can act as a digital portfolio of students work throughout their time at school. One thing I liked about Kidblog is that there are no limits on the amount of content that can be uploaded so students can keep the same blog from 1st through to 6th year. Parents can also be involved with the blog. They are given access by the teacher so they can read and follow their child’s blog online. This is a valuable tool for parents who cannot always make parent evening or drop into the school at any time. 

kidblog_photo

Blogging in class encourages peer assessment and group involvement. Students can read and promote each others work and a sense of community can develop. There are many different ways teachers can bring blogging into their classrooms. These include creative writing tasks – while this usually occurs in the English classroom the religion or history teacher could also make use of this method, set up a student book club – students read and publish their thoughts and opinions, pen pals – students can connect with other classrooms around the globe and write to each other – this could be extremely beneficial in religion class or CSPE, can be a digital portfolio- an ideal way to demonstrate learning growth through pictures, video, writing, and more and it could also be used as a notes and study aid. Students can write about topics they like or topics they find difficult other students can then comment and offer feedback and advice on what works for them when studying. 

Setting up on Kidblog is very simple and straightforward. A teacher can go to Kidblog.org and set up a administrator account. They create their class by selecting Click to Create a Class, they then enter username, password, and class name details. Keep in mind the class name you entered is also the blog name, for example, Ms Dunne’s Classroom blog. Select the grey Create Class button, Click the Add New Users button to add users individually or in bulk. The teacher can also access a join code so students can add themselves to the blog. The teacher can add multiple classes and keep them separate which is useful for teachers who want to bring it into multiple classes or subjects.

At the moment you can get a free 30 day trial of Kidblog and after that it is $29 per teacher per year. They also offer deals for whole schools or multiple teachers joining together, quotes available.
Screen-Shot-2013-07-12-at-8.44.51-PM

One of the disadvantages to using blogging in the classroom in the time constraints. Teachers need to schedule certain time to set up these blogs and students need to commit at home or in their free time. Teachers also have to commit some personal time to approve and correct the blog posts. While this may sound like a pain the layout of kidblog makes this job easier than one would think. It is straightforward and easy to navigate. If a teacher could commit two-three hours a week to do approvals and corrections they would reap the benefits in class and in student production. As with all teaching methodologies it is important to rotate and not rely solely on the blog, this will also help with time management.

I cannot wait to start blogging with students and I will post about reactions and students opinions in a few weeks time. 🙂

 

 

Twitter as a Learning Resource

As I mentioned in a previous post I am relatively new to the world of Twitter. I have set up my new Twitter account for my Digital Learning module as part of my Masters degree. The purpose of my new Twitter account is to connect with as many people as possible from the world of education in order to learn and grow as part of the education online community. Before being set this task I would never have thought of Twitter as a place where I could find resources or advice on teaching. But I was unbelievably wrong. Twitter is a goldmine for the educator if you know where to look . In order to discover how to make the most of twitter I began looking up tutorials and articles to see how to use twitter and how it can improve my work as an educator. The first article that stood out to me is written by Megan McPherson, Kylie Budge and Narelle Lemon. This article talked about twitter as an informal learning space. I immediately liked how they described twitter as this informal learning space as I think it takes away some of the pressures usually related to learning and educating. They speak about twitter broadening the conversation from the hallways and staff-rooms into the global sphere. You have control over the type of profiles you follow to ensure the news you want to see comes up onto your profile. The 140 word maximum tweet also provides a quick vies of the story and then if you want to research further you can use the hash tag to search for more opinions and discussions. ‘Twitter efficiently filters information through’ (McPherson 2015) so we can see what we need to see.

The second author that spoke to me was a fellow blogger, Tom Barrett. Barrett, in a blog about twitter for teachers, describes twitter as a constantly flowing river (Barrett 2008). When we open up our twitter accounts or feeds we are at the banks of the river looking at the ever flowing water. Some people stay here looking on taking in the new information or some people dive in and eagerly contribute. Whether you are on the banks or in swimming you need to be involved to see what is happening. If you are away and miss a tweet it has been washed downstream and unless someone re tweets it is likely gone forever.
I think what stood out to me as an educator from both these articles is the possibilities twitter holds for people. It is a mass collection of information, resources and opinions that can help you form opinions and gather ideas. At the start it is ok to sit back and watch the flow but I think for educators to get the most from twitter they need to learn to swim. It is important to share opinions and begin discussions in order to learn and grow. I think it is time I put on my armbands and go for a swim also. If you have read this and have anything to add please find me on twitter and join me in discussion 🙂 5j16MsDunne is my twitter name I look forward to hearing from you.
flowing_river_by_sigmar32-d59nyb1

Blogging as a Method of Reflection

When I think about blogging and what I want to put into my blog I automatically think of other people. How can my blog help other people? What resources will others find useful? What have I learned that some other new teacher might not know yet? I never really thought about what I could take from my blog. Yes it is a nice place to keep my favourite resources but how else could it help me as a newly qualified teacher. This thought never entered my mind until I read an article by Maureen Killeavy and Anne Moloney on a study which looked at using blogs for reflective practice.

Reflective practice is a crucial part of being a teacher. No class no matter how well prepared we are is ever going to be 100% perfect. Some do go smoother than others but we still have to ask ourselves what made that class better than others? We are always reflecting even when we do not realise it. So how do we reflect efficiently? We are told to look back and see what went wrong or what worked well and build on that information to improve the next class. It is suggested that teachers, especially NQTs, keep a journal or diary for reflective practice. This is a nice idea but it is often not practical. Some teachers have eight classes a day and it can be hard to find the time to write in detail what made the class great. Often we find ourselves reflecting as we run down the corridor into the room that went downhill yesterday. When dealing with one class or one day this type of reflecting is often all we have time for (Not necessarily a good thing but we work with what we have).
What about the long term? How do we reflect on a month, six months or a years teaching? This is where the report says a blog can be extremely useful. On a blog we can document our thoughts and feelings throughout the year, the classes that went well and the ones that went not so well, our teaching and learning styles etc. We do not have to do a daily update but the report stated that teachers who blogged once or twice a week found it helpful to look back and see how far they had come. Some teachers reported that at the beginning of the school year as a NQT they felt alone, insecure, unequipped for some situations. After a year teaching they admitted to not realising how far they had come until looking back at their first blog posts and seeing that these feelings had improved or disappeared with experience. From the information we upload we can look back to see how we have changed for the good and sometimes the bad. We can see how far we have come as teachers. A blog has the added benefit that we can share it with others who have had similar experiences. People can comment and ask questions about your practice and offer advice and support which in my opinion all teachers need at some stage.
For this post I am talking about a reflective blog in the short term as in up to one year but imagine having something after a 30-40 year career in teaching to be able to look back at and say this is how far I have come and having one place to keep all the memories good and bad you have gathered along the way. This, I think, would be something extremely valuable and remarkable. This article has made me think about blogging in a completely new way and I hope to be able to use this new way of thinking to improve my blogging style in order to create something that can benefit me personally as well as other new teachers who may read my blog.