Recently, Wesley Fryer forced me to realize that I am simply "digitizing school 1.0 (as he put it at NECC)". While I thought I was using my classroom blog (www.mrfowler.wordpress.com) in an innovative way, I am pretty much just having my classroom have a conversation with themselves electronically. While this does improve typing skills, it doesn't incorporate conversation with the outside world. For this reason I have a few questions:

1. How do others incorporate blogs into the school day?
2. What type of topics do you blog about?
3. What strategies have been effective in bringing in genuine collaboration between students and professionals in the real world?

I am very anxious to hear what others are doing!

Cheers,
Mitch

Tags: Blogs, Collaboration, Elementary Education, Wesley Fryer, blogging, elementary

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Between our blog, website and e-mail communication we've made much more meaningful connections with parents this past school year.
Hi,

I haven't used blogs in a classroom as a teacher ( I am still in the process of becomming one), but we use blogs in my grad class to reflect on what we have learned or read, and even to strike up conversation with fellow students.

Relating more to elementary students, I have seen examples of teachers using blogs for communicating with schools in other countries, and one interesting one where a teacher role-played a character in history and taught about that time period through blogging with the students in character.

The possibilities are endless!
My blog from last year: http://nicholasfifth.edublogs.org

1. I made sure there was time in almost everyday for some students, and definitely time every week for all students to go on computers in my classroom (7 of them).

2. We blogged about the larger ideas in what we were studying, and how things were going in the classroom.
I did some projects on wikis and the blog.

3. I didn't do much collaboration with folks out of our classroom last year, but I plan to do more in the future. They collaborated more with each other. I found the clustr map was very important, and the Compliment Box. When I got comments from outside adults, I would post and discuss them with students.

There was a recent show on Elementary Blogging you can listen to at: http://itslementary.edublogs.org
Can't get that 2nd link to work - could you repost?
Some nice examples of blogs in elementary schools:

The Almighty Bloggers (New Zealand student blog)
http://www.classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=71175

Edinger House Classroom blog; and look on the right tool bar of their blog for links to other elementary classroom blogs from around the world

Room 9 Blog New Zealand class Class sets their own blogging rules also.
http://room9nelsoncentral.blogspot.com/
Mitch,
When you say "conversation with themselves electonically," do you mean individual to individual (or self), or individual to group?
I've found blogs and forums very useful for community-building. If kids post around themes, and then the themed-writing is viewed in group meeting time in class, a lot of good stuff happens. Beyond the "did I say it right to get my idea across" lesson (which is very authentic and skills-building), there's that sense of having a synergy going. "Oh look--here are some reactions to her blog (or forum). Do you share this reaction? What's your view? It gets the conversation going, and kids connect the process of group conversation to this Web 2.0 group conversation.

themes I've used:
share an example of a heroic act
interview a grandparent about the most beautiful place they've seen
show a cartoon you like, and explain why you like it
and all sorts of book-related, study-related topics

But maybe you're asking for more than this local-community interactive blogging/foruming... I haven't yet gotten going with linking up with classes globally. (It's in the works for next year.) Do you already have some ideas for global connection?
Mitch,

I think what you are doing is great! Yes it would be also great to bring the collaboration piece into it, but the big question is How? and How to safely?

I am starting a new position next year teaching 5/6th tech and I want to incorporate all these great new web2.0 ideas into my class. But the big problem I have run into is how to do it so students stay safe. My IT will not let be put students on any network that our district doesn't have ownership of, like Ning. He wants us to use Moodle. At first I was frustrated. But then as we continued to converse I realized that he was only worried about the kids safety. As well, I realized I could do just about everything I want to on Moodle. The one thing it is lacking though, is the connection to the outside world. Moodle keeps everything in a nice little bubble.

As I have been reflecting on this over the summer, I have come to realize that not having that connection as authentic as it could be is OK. We do lots of things in education that are not exactly how they are done "in the read world". They mirror the adult world. In chemistry students are limited by what chemicals they can use, in sports they have different rules than adult leagues, we have special laws about students driving as minors.

So the challenge is making as authentic as possible. Is there a class across town you could work with? Or across the country.
Greg, You might check out Think.com, owned by Oracle. I've been using it for student email for about 5 years and it is very safe. In fact, I find it too "closed". I send parents a letter explaining the need for emails---we can't do anything else without email accounts (wikis, Scrapblog, etc). We then use our Think.com email and password for everything else we sign up for. It comes with a rinky dink webpage option that I hate but the kids love it and it can only be viewed by other Think.com account holders grade K-6.

The key to safety is monitoring---I read the blog nightly and also use safety measures to secure wikis and blogs from outsiders. Let me know if you want any more details on how we started out, what I say to parents, or how we run other projects--I think you can find info on my blog at http://anotsodifferentplace.blogspot.com
If you can run Moodle, you should be able to run WordPress MU too. You could install it on the same server that Moodle's on and you can make it as open or as closed as you want.
We've had a classroom blog since November with good results. If you would like to discuss a collaborative project let me know. You can see our class blog here http://areallydifferentplace.org and you can see a list of my websites and blogs and our recent student projects here http://anotsodifferentplace.blogspot.com/2007/07/where-is-all-your-...
The fact that "blog" is in your vocab is a big first step for many teachers! I see students in grades 1-5 on a regular basis and have had them blogging on various topics (look back into last school year)-check it out at: http://scheney.edublogs.org/
As you can see my work isn't targeted just towards students but it is for teachers that I work with and also as a place for me to reflect professionally. I hope to have my students do more with the blog this year and would love to collaborate with people in places other than NH for my work. I think that kids commenting on other kids' work outside of the school and receive feedback on theirs will be very powerful. ~Stephanie.
Mitch,

It sounds to me like you are doing a great job. I can't think of any research that indicates that students learn better when they engage in dialogue with the whole world. If you are looking for topics to blog about, I have a whole series of questions available on my living textbook: http://www.pass-ed.com/Living-Textbook.html. If you take a look at them, I'd love to know what you think.

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