Category Archives: blogging

Blogging in the classroom

I’ve read two posts today in support of blogging in the classroom. Yes, there have been many posts written about The first article, by Bradley Hammer a writing professor at Duke, on nj.com (via Patrick). Hammer writes:

As part of this change, technology has radically extended the spaces for academic debate. In real ways, blogging and other forms of virtual debate foster the very types of intellectual exchange, analysis and argumentative writing that universities value.

…But in my courses, students write blogs and few traditional papers. This isn’t just a gimmick to act young in an old game. They write blogs because we now live in a world where debate and publication happen predominantly in virtual spaces.

In addition to blogs, they maintain Web sites where they learn to interact with other writers beyond the isolating confines of the classroom. They defend their analyses and argue with real purpose be cause they are forced to be conscious of an audience beyond the limited scope of the instructor. Consequently, they are learning to think and write critically in ways that promote inquiry and genuine interest in writing and thinking.

Hammer goes on to talk about how this type of writing differs from the “traditional” writing currently taught in most high schools and colleges. I encourage you to read the whole article for yourself.

The second post came from Barbara Ganley from Middlebury College on her own blog.  I enjoyed reading her transcript/notes of her presentation to the faculty of Exeter Academy on the Harkness method and the 21st Century.  She did a compelling job of explaining how she made the journey in her own career from teaching as she had been taught (at Exeter) to her current use of blogs, social networks, and other online resources in her courses without losing sight of the strengths of the Harkness method.  You need to read her whole post because she does such a beautiful job but here’s a powerful quote:

The results of classroom blogging, as I will show you now, have been nothing short of astounding in my experience these past six years—this is now how my classes look and feel according to my students, who have become actively engaged with deep learning, developed their skills of critical and creative thinking and expression, their ability to connect and collaborate, and their confidence and skill using the digital technologies. It has been nothing short of electrifying. Staying the course for Harkness in the 21st century means evolving it to suit the needs and realities of our times, and to avail ourselves of the opportunities afforded by new ways of teaching and learning–online.

I really enjoy reading Barbara’s posts, in general.  But this one resonated with me because it captures the type of “good teaching” and learning that our school embraces.

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Retreat Reveiw

It’s been a whirlwind few days with not much time to sit but I just wanted to write a few notes about our faculty retreat on Monday. Overall, a success. First off, the “technology” part of things went without a hitch – the network, the laptops, the email server. I had to do little or no tweaking along the way – major relief. Secondly, the day was received very well and most comments from the day were extremely positive.

It started with “Dialog A” – a conversation about Ken Bain’s book, What the Best College Teachers Do – we had that conversation in three different modes: a live, f2f conversation; an online chat, fishbowl style; and a group of “bloggers” responding to prompts on a blog.

In the second part, “Dialog B”, we had a live, f2f conversation with five people involved in the chat and five bloggers and they were talking about their experience in Dialog A. The rest of the group was split into 2 online chat groups, fishbowling that conversation.

Finally, in the last session, we had a live group talking about good teaching and how technology supports it while the rest of the group was blogging response to a summarizing post from our Head of School who had observed all facets of our first 2 dialogs. whew.

You can imagine the chats were a little chaotic – faculty members who had never been in a chat, trying to type and process all at the same time. They did well, some were frustrated and just sat back to observe; some tested the waters a bit and admittedly got better at it by the end. Those that happened to be in a chat group back-to-back said it got a lot easier by the second chat. I have to admit that we made the chat groups too big – there were about 9 or 10 in a group – there probably should have been 4 or 5.  Those that blogged really liked it and immediately could see it’s benefit in the classroom.

Of the comments we received at the end of the day, one really struck me. Part of their comment read:

I somewhat resent the fact that I read and underlined the d–n book and never got an opportunity to discuss it!

I guess for this person the day went right over their head – their idea seemed to be that if they weren’t involved in a live dialog, then no dialog occurred.  Oh well, I guess we can’t hit everyone the first time.

We had a wiki to record the day and serve as a resource for the school year.  Our hope is that the “good teaching” blog we set up for the day will serve us all year as a place to continue the conversation we started.  Take look.  We welcome and encourage outside voices to join us in this conversation.

Horse before the cart?

I haven’t had much time to write these days. I’ve been knee-deep in preparing for the return of faculty (and students). Lots of technical work – hanging projectors, reimaging computers, turning over databases. Not really the most stimulating work but I have had a lot of time to think. I’ve been focusing on our upcoming retreat for Upper School faculty. The form of the day has changed slightly but the approach is the same — get faculty talking about what makes good teaching and how can web 2.0 tools help promote it. The day will be mostly conversational using three different modes – live f2f conversation, online chat, and blog/reflection. We will use these conversations to kick-off a “good teaching” blog which we hope faculty will contribute to throughout the year. We will also use a wiki to archive our chats, notes, and other resources from our retreat.

I am looking forward to the day (Monday). I think it’s a good way to start the year. The book we read (Ken Bain’s, What the Best College Teachers Do) was interesting and affirming. I think it will really help drive the tone and content of the conversation. I do wonder whether there will be enough of us with knowledge about these communication/web 2.0 tools to talk about them and get others interested in using them to promote “good teaching”.

Introducing technology to teachers in this way is unique.  We have tried to do  skill workshops with departments and small groups of faculty, but only the interested attend.  If we require everyone to attend, there are many that just don’t get it – too abstract.  In this model, we are trying to get to faculty through the idea of best practice. Will they go for it?  Not sure, time will tell.  But my guess is that we may intrigue some members that were not interested by the skills based workshops.

I  am interested in everyone’s posts about their professional development experiences at the beginning of the school year – Jeff U., Karl F.Stephanie S., just to name a few.  We all are working on something a little different but our message seems to be the same – “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the learning”.  I hope this is a good start to the year for everyone and I hope little by little we get our message out.

Rethinking Professional Development

In digesting some of the summer blog posts (too many to name at this point – but Scott McLeod may have started the conversation about a month ago with this post), I have realized that I have totally failed in part of my job. I’ve been quite focused on getting the teachers and students to utilize the new web technologies but I have not pushed these tools with administration and business side of the school. And now I understand these tools (especially RSS and social networks) are extremely important in doing their jobs. They are the key in making connections and networking. When you are the only business manager, development officer, or whatever manager in a school, you need to go beyond the walls of your school to find people who have similar days to you, who think like you, who solve problems like you do.

I have put administrative training at the top of my to do list this school year. Specifically, I want to introduce them to RSS and blogs.  Of course, (ideally) this will serve two purposes: One, help them network, learn, and make connections.  These tools are becoming increasingly more important in professional development.  People who do not tap into these technologies may fall behind those who do.  And at a time where going off-campus to meet other colleagues f2f at conference becomes harder to do, we need to embrace these technologies that help us do just that from our desks.

Two, once administrators begin to use these tools they will begin their power and their potential when used in the classroom, which can only increase the awareness around campus.  I know that one workshop will not be enough – it will probably take several follow-up sessions for some. I think even after that some will still not understand the power of these connections.

I had a conversation with a colleague last week who said of blogs, “what do I have to say that others would want to read?”  He had missed the idea that blogs are conversations, not soapboxes, and through these conversations we make meaningful connections.

So, as I look to the fall (which is not so far away), I begin to gather pieces for some professional development workshops for administrators. If you have suggestions out there, please send them my way.

Will Richardson at WH

Will Richardson is here to speak to the entire conference this morning. His focus – how the world is changing. Coming to us from a parent, educator and blogger. I blogged during his presentation:

He has given us the link to his wiki.

Blogging has transformed his learning. He wouldn’t be here(speaking to us) if it weren’t for blogging. How many have seen Did You Know? Only a handful. Future for our kids is much different then current. schools are preparing kids for today (not future).

Obama site – shows how things are changing. It’s a social network – hundred thousands connecting through website – money raised. People are connecting now in ways that they could never do before. Every candidate on MySpace. First primary will be held on MySpace in January (no longer in NH). You Tube debates – NCLB video. Get kids to post comments, videos, etc.

Journalism – 70% internet traffic is file sharing. Most sites are becoming blogs (USA Today). Users can engage in the conversation by commenting. IBM has 26,000 blogs, 20,000 wikis – own social network (Wikinomics). Advertising is about the conversation – not marketing the product.

75% college kids have Facebook page – 5-7% of educators – real disconnect. A real shift is happening and we need to adjust. Technologies are changing – no more keyboards, social networks. Different levels of access – 1 out of 3 in Philly have not been on internet. Privacy is shifting.

Transformative time – we need to address these changes. Need to respond to these shifts.

Blogging – best part, responses to posts – clarify, push, engage in conversation around ideas. powerful. It has become his classroom – amount he’s learned in last 6 years of blogging far exceeds his formal education. Opportunity (problem) – kids are already getting it. Passion-based networks – fanfiction.net – interacting, feedback. Kids doing this beyond school.

Typically think of MySpace for social networking. negative to adults, but it is a network – connecting with others. Is anyone teaching MySpace in curriculum? One person. No wonder kids are using it this way. Authors, musicians, politicians are using MySpace to engage. Extremely important to learning – we need to understand it.

Nata village blog – Clarence Fisher – Hilary’s blog. comments from Africa. Authentic learning from experts.
Information and literacy is changing. 46645 – text message to google. Text a questions and it will ring you back the answer. Are we teaching kids how to access information? MIT open courseware – taking courses for free. How do you help yourself to learn? Content is changing – wikipedia – collaboration and openness. Literacy – m*rtinl*therk*ng.org. editors of information – huge challenge. Can they write in hypertext – to connect ideas.

Tapping into experts – Secret Life of Bees Blog. Flat Classroom Wiki Project, Radio Willow Web, Marco Torres – video.

People beginning to use the tools but the pedagogy is not changing. Need to take the next step into the conversations and connections that can be made. Educators need to understand the potential (networking, connections, conversations) themselves. Need to tap into the connections available to you on the internet. Then you can model these connections for the students.

It was a good presentation. He presented in a follow-up session later in the morning – the internet connection was down so I couldn’t blog it. But I came out of there (the whole day) with a few thoughts (Ok, more than a few…). Whipple Hill’s website can use some improvements. To get kids to use it more, we need to give them some more options like: let them comment on other kid’s profiles (a “wall”), let kids and teachers comment together, let kids upload content to their profile – pictures, homework, presentations.

Parents are another audience all together.  I’m still trying to envision how the website can best serve them.  Do they need a community or do they just want content?

These are just some quick ideas that came out of today. As I digest more of the day after my drive, I’ll post some more thoughts.

Outta my shell

I got wind of the latest incarnation of the EduBloggerCon, EduBloggerWorld. It’s a Ning social network set up by Steve Hargadon to bring Edubloggers from all over the world together. As Steve says in his latest post:

The site is not meant to replace the engaged dialog of the blogosphere, but to complement it with personal connections.

I joined right up to help my cause as I begin my new initiative to actively blog (rather than just read) and to make connections and have conversations with people all over the edublogoshpere. I’ve been preaching about the value of these connections to the faculty at school for a while now and finally I have decided to practice what I preach. I’m still a little slow and a little short on words – it’s summertime after all – but I’m working on it. What’s next for me? Twitter? That’s for another day.