Lausanne Laptop Institute – Last One!

Okay, the Laptop Institute ended last month, but I’m still writing posts about it. This is actually the last one. I’m finding this to be a reflective activity for me so I don’t forget what I’ve learned, and so I’m sort of forced to follow through with what I said I was going to do. There was so much valuable information shared that I want to get to the last couple of points I learned while at the conference.

The last session I attended at the institute was led by Jeff Utecht, who was also the keynote speaker for the conference. In the session entitled “Using Blogs as e-Portfolios,” he talked about blogs as mediums by which students reflect on their own growth over time. Moreover, if students’ blogs are made public (which, according to Jeff, makes it blogging; otherwise it’s not), students will get an “authentic” audience, as opposed to the audience just being the teacher.

Basically what blogging does is help students connect to the world. And if the teacher (or the tech person in your school) has access to a network outside the school (such as with Facebook or Twitter), that network can quickly be notified of student posts (where appropriate), thereby giving the student an instant audience outside of the classroom.

Nonetheless, there are some obstacles to overcome. Am I inclined to read 65-70 blog postings on a regular basis, in addition to everything else necessary to my teaching practice? The honest answer – no! But Jeff provided a solution to that problem…

Having a group blog!

Jeff gave an example of a teacher who set up a blog that all students posted to each day. Every day, a student was assigned to write a blog post. Other students were assigned to comment on that post. Using this structure, the teacher isn’t reading everyone’s posts everyday, getting lost, and then losing momentum by having blogs in the first place. It’s only one per day (for the number of classes taught). If you integrate reverse instruction into the mix, each class can start with the student defending his or her post, and the post evaluated by the class. So in this instance, students provide the content for the class discussion, while the teacher facilitates that discussion.

So that was exciting for me. I’ve wanted to integrate blogging into my classroom not just for the sake of saying I’m blogging in the classroom, but to foster critical and creative thinking leading to authentic learning in which all students will participate, not just those who are vocal.

To that end, I want to make it easy for my students to participate with this medium. Because I’m familiar with WordPress, I searched the platform for a WordPress theme that would be suitable for group blogs. And I found a theme that I think will work. It’s Twitter-like (without the 140-character limitation), a little customizable (not much, though, at least not with the free WordPress platform), and students can post right on the homepage real time, so reloading the page is unnecessary. So I created four blogs, one for each of my classes, using the P2 theme.

Click here to see what one of my class blogs looks like so far, and click here to see it in action.

With this theme, I can set it up where only students who are registered for the blog can author posts once I set up the students as authors or contributors.

So the problem with having to read 65-70 (or more) blog posts regularly has been eliminated. Moreover, I can keep track of my students’ posts through categories and tagging. And finally, I can empower my students to blog related not only to assigned readings, but to current events and personal interests.

So many possibilities…one blog – per class. I think this will be manageable. We’ll see when school starts.

(This post is cross-posted at A Teacher Seeking Understanding…Every Day)

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About Kay F. Solomon

Kay is a teacher of Biblical studies who is interesting in learning how to keep her students engaged in innovative and productive ways. She sometimes gets it wrong. But she keeps on learning.
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7 Responses to Lausanne Laptop Institute – Last One!

  1. Agnes says:

    John,
    Following Patrick’s lead, this past school year I had a group blog for each one of my classes, where a different student would post each day. One of the daily assignments was to summarize what we had done in class that day (with some reflection and commentary thrown in.) 🙂 There were several points to that: practicing taking notes and writing in Spanish, students that were absent had a summary of what had happened, and everyone had notes on major points that day (well, some days better than others.) 🙂 I need to figure this thing a bit better next year.

    I discovered that some of my classes were much more disciplined about keeping up with the blog when it was their turn than other classes. I am going to have to rethink some of that. In one of my classes students were so disorganized that the blog was one big mess, and the posts left a lot to be desired. Some other classes did an excellent job and a few comments downright funny 🙂 (I am translating from Spanish: “Today Ms. Matheson was sick and this is why we had a teacher who could not speak Spanish.”)

    Another group blog students we worked on: AP Spanish Language students from 3 teachers posted This I Believe essays in Spanish in one blog (http://yoasilocreo.blogspot.com/) We meant to print that blog into a book with Blog2Print, but we did not get around it.
    Agnes

  2. Kay Solomon says:

    Thank you, Agnes. When we get back to school, I’d like to talk to you a bit more this. It sounds like you’ve got something that works, and I’d like to find out exactly what worked and what didn’t, in addition to how you assessed the posts.

  3. Anna Major says:

    I would love to chat with both of you a bit about this. I’ve been thinking more and more about good ways to use blogging without it becoming entirely overwhelming. I liked Agnes’s idea of having only one student blogging per day, and then at the Lausanne conference, I heard another tidbit about having one student per day be in charge of a “Thought for the Day” post. I’m thinking this could be a brief reflection stating that particular student’s particular take-away for the day. Here they could also express any doubts or confusions that arose from the day’s lesson that could be a great springboard for starting the next class.

    • Kay Solomon says:

      Anna, your “Thought for the Day” post sounds excellent. And yes, my thoughts were, too, that I’d only have 1-2 students assigned to post per day. My thoughts were that if there was only one per day, students would only blog about once a month or so, and I’d want there to be more “data” for a student than that.

  4. I’m also planning to use a class blog this year for reading reflections. Kay and Agnes, do you only use the blog for class responses or do you also use it to post assignments and class content? I want to streamline my web presence rather than use a blog and Moodle, but the thought of having to duplicate all of my information between 4 different class blogs seems like a poor use of time. Any suggestions?

    • Kay Solomon says:

      Hi Sabrina,
      I will only be using the class blog for student responses/reflections. I use Schoology for posting assignments, class content, quizzes, etc. I completely understand about streamlining, which is why I like Schoology so much. With Schoology, you can duplicate assignments, notifications, and content quickly among classes (unlike Moodle, which is cumbersome). I’ll be doing a Schoology session during Faculty Forum if you want to see how I went about doing some of that stuff.

      • Anna Major says:

        I’ve never used Schoology, but for me, wikis are great for sharing and posting information. I used one for my AP class last year and have already created two more for the other courses that I will be teaching this year. I use this for posting assignments, handouts, useful links, etc. It is very user friendly!

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