One of the best things about my new job is that I get to teach my own class, grade 6 MYP Technology (my favorite class to teach, actually). As much as I love coaching and working with lots of different teachers and students, there is just something special about having your own class to work with. And in this case, I get the best of both worlds: teaching my own classes and coaching! In addition, since this is the first year of our MYP implementation, I have a clean slate to develop the entire MYP technology curriculum.
Since there was no existing curriculum, and no formal technology classes at the elementary level, I wasn’t sure exactly where I should start with this new class. I want to make sure that we take advantage of all the amazing resources we have at our disposal (not to mention the faaast internet connection), enhance what the school is already doing and continue to expand the range of online experiences for both student and teachers. It’s also important that I make the class approachable for the parents, teachers and students – starting too far out of the realm of understanding could bring some unwanted backlash early in the year. Plus, I want whatever we do in tech class to be useful to the students within their other classes as well. And, of course, I want it to be fun!
For the last year or so, many students and teachers were utilizing the YIS blogging portal, The Learning Hub. We also send home paper portfolios eight times a year (I think). So, I’m thinking hoping that I may be able to expand the school’s vision of a blog (as a regular reflective practice for students and teachers) and also build up to the idea of an eportfolio instead of the paper folders we send home so many times a year by beginning our MYP tech class with a blogging project. We all know how I feel about those paper portfolios, right? I’m also working on modeling a thoughtful and reflective teacher-blog with my new YIS Middle School Tech blog.
Of course, we’re going to go through the Technology Design Cycle and really expand on the process of creating a blog, so this will probably be the most in-depth look any YIS students have at blogging. I’m anticipating that the unit will take us several weeks (we have class for 90 minutes, once a week), but because I work with the entire sixth grade, our middle school will then have a really solid understanding of the power and potential of blogging. I think it will be an easy transition to the MYP-style technology class and hopefully provide an easy to follow model for other teachers in the middle school.
Part 1: Investigate
We just got started last week with the investigate stage where we are reviewing other popular and well-designed blogs to see what features are essential in a quality blog. I provided the students with a list of blogs to start with, and after they review at least 2 from my selection they can review as many of their own favorite blogs as they want (with prior-approval from me). Just for fun, we reviewed one of my favorite ramen blogs in class first. We were all salivating by the end of class and the students really understood that they can blog about anything they are passionate about, even if it’s as simple as a bowl of noodles.
In order to bring in another useful skill, we’re completing the reviews on Google Docs so I was able to introduce the students to their GApps accounts and the concept of collaborative note taking. In this case, each student is filling out their own review form (and sharing with me), but I’m sure we’ll circle back to collaborating on a single GDoc soon enough. I was really impressed with how quickly the picked up the idea of creating a duplicate copy of the Blog Research sheet (and so thankful that we used GDocs since within the first half hour two students had accidentally closed their browser window, which would have resulted in lost work had we been using Office).
Our next step is to start brainstorming a potential blogging focus by exploring our own interests. We’ll most likely be using Inspiration to create a well-organized mind-map of ideas that each student can blog about (in addition to their academic posts). I’m hoping that if we concentrate a bit on their personal interests, their blog will become more than just a school project. A few of the girls have already come up to me super excited about their own blogging ideas. I would love to see their unique voices start to shine through in their posts instead of always reading the same post from every student (which can so often happen when blogging becomes “homework”).
Once they have some ideas about what they might be able to blog about, as well as the features of a quality blog, we’ll spend some time exploring WordPress. I will admit, I often gloss over this part because I feel like it’s so intuitive, but I’m planning to spend a little more time with this group to see if that cuts down on questions later.
The final part of the Investigate stage will be reflecting on what we’ve learned so far and what needs to come next (never the students’ favorite part, but a critical piece of the MYP design cycle process).
Part 2: Plan
Once that part of the project is complete, we’ll begin the planning. I would like to use Konrad Glogowski’s How to Grow a Blog process. I’ve used it peripherally before with middle school students, but this time I would like to really spend some time with it, so students feel more ownership over their own blog.
We’ll do a little bit of design work, potentially exploring a little Photoshop, so students have a chance to design custom headers at least (since the themes are all pretty much set) and probably determine which widgets they will use based on the look of their theme and header. I usually like to have them plan out what a finished product will look like in colored pencils so they focus on the design work before they actually get to the computer. That way their time spent actually creating their finished work is really productive.
I may also have them design a simple sitemap to really understand the purpose of (and difference between) categories, tags, archives, calendars, etc. This always seems to be a difficult piece to work in when I’m coaching in the classroom, there’s just never enough time to really explore tagging and categories so students always end up with dozens of posts in uncategorized and teachers struggle to understand the potential of a blog as eportfolio without that kind of structure.
Finally, we’ll reflect before we move on to the next stage.
Part 3: Create
Only after they bring in their signed permission slips, will we actually create the blogs. This will be the shortest part of the project because they will have done the majority of the thinking, planning and designing already. I’d love to have them publish a few pieces of work from different classes using pictures, videos, VoiceThreads or other embeddable objects during this time. Most likely we’ll also talk about the power of linking and start writing posts which connect to other student’s posts in class (or around school).
Hopefully at this stage, we will also be able to connect with other blogging partners around the world. If anyone is interested in working with us, please let me know!
And, of course, we’ll do a little bit of reflecting before moving on to the final stage.
Part 4: Evaluate
This final part of the project will focus on evaluating the success of the blogs we created, as well as the process of creating them. It would be nice to be able to have some external evaluation of our blogs in addition to individual reflection, so maybe we’ll come up with a Google Form for feedback as well.
That’s the plan so far! I’m just in the process of really working out how I want to structure the plan, create and evaluate as I get to know the students.
Since I’m just in the early stages of planning this, I’d love your feedback: What am I missing?
Are you interested in being blogging partners with us? We would love to have some partners around the world!
38 thoughts on “Beginning With Blogging”
I am also teaching grade 6 MYP Technology (at BISS with Julie) and am also just getting started with blogging with my students. I think it would be great if our kids could do some sharing. Our blogs are a bit more specific than yours. We got invites to a closed beta for an online video game that teaches kids how to make their own video games (and walks them through the design cycle in the process.) They are writing about their experiences. It has been tougher than I expected and despite the number of examples of ‘good blogs’ that we have dissected and shared, the quality is not as high as I had hoped.
This is my first year teaching MYP so I still have a lot to learn. I am now trying to get my head around the rubrics and how I am going to assess their blogs.
Would be happy to collaborate with you on blogging! I love the idea of having students design their own video game and would love to hear more about how that worked for you. I have a basic blogging rubric that I plan to simplify for grade 6 and will share here (again) eventually.
Hi Kim- I teach Grade 6 Intro to Tech, not in an MYP school though. I am interested in chatting a bit about the blogging concept. I also teach Grade 6 Social Studies and am interested in having my students possibly blog about their learning as an eportfolio tool. Would love to be in touch about this. I am at ASB in Mumbai.
Fabulous! Would love to work with your grade 6 students! We’re just in the process of actually creating our blogs this week (have been slowly following the design cycle process) and then should have links to all student blogs on the class blog. At the moment, I’m going to allow them to write about whatever interests them and then choose a post to be assessed. Would be great if we could share URLs and see if we can set up blogging buddies. What do you think?
It’s great to see your posts popping up in my reader again!
I hope you continue writing about the process of introducing your sixth graders to blogging. I’ve been teaching sixth grade math and science for a while now and have tried to incorporate student blogging in the past with less than stellar results. This post provided me with some great ideas and resources to draw from for my next attempt.
I have a few questions I’d like to ask you, if you ever find time to reply:
1) Would you mind sharing what blogging service you use? Is it edublogs?
2) One of the stumbling blocks I’ve encountered working with student blogs is the quality of student comments. They tend to be shallow and off-topic, more like Myspace socializing, and this seems to distract from the purpose of writing thoughtful entries. Do you encounter this problem and if so, how do you elevate the tone of student comments and discussion?
3) I desperately wanted to get my sixth graders using Google docs this year but didn’t think it was possible because they were too young to sign up for gmail accounts. You mention using student GApp accounts and GDocs. Is there a way around the 13 year old age limit that I don’t know about or are your students just older than mine?
I’m looking forward to reading more!
I have the same question about using Google Docs with students under 13. I would love my third graders to use it! I’ve heard you can use your own gmail account and then use the + sign to add a student to *the teacher’s* account. Would love to hear how people are doing it!
.-= Linda Yollis´s last blog ..A Record Number of Comments! =-.
With the Google Apps for Education, I think you are covered under a school-wide account set-up. Probably worth looking into… If that doesn’t work for you, you can just ask parents to create accounts with their kids (I’ve done that in the past). Make sure you have a permission slip and the parents are the ones “in charge” of the account. That way the person managing the account is an adult, but students still have access to the e-mail at school.
Thank you! It’s good to be blogging again!
So, to answer your questions:
1) We are using edublogs campus here at YIS. It’s been great because Sue (miracle woman that she is) has been able to answer any question almost immediately. If you don’t have the tech staff to manage your own WordPress MU, I think edublogs campus is a great solution. Of course it’s not free, but not having to worry about support is a huge advantage.
2) I usually do lessons (multiple) about commenting. I showcase and highlight quality comments when I see them and ask students to reflect on the feedback they receive and how helpful (or unhelpful) it’s been. I do think it can be a challenge no matter what you do, but having an authentic audience commenting (outside of your class) really helps.
3) Google Apps for education is what we’re using, which is specifically for K12 institutions. When you sign up, I think you sign off (as a school) on those younger grades accounts. We had it at ISB too. Plus the fact that it’s free, it just can’t be beat.
Kim, welcome back to the MYP family!
We’ve actually done away with a dedicated IT class in grades 6 – 8 and now look to integrate the Design Cycle and technology skills into the ‘core’ classes (although they still take a Design Technology class). The focus is more on learning and appreciating the DC instead of assessing it formally.
I would be interested in trying to find some blogging partners with you here in Hanoi. Now that our Middle School has gone 1:1 as well, I hope it will be easy to persuade some teachers to get on the blogging train. It would also serve as a fantastic chance to integrate much-needed digital citizenship lessons into the curriculum.
.-= Clint H´s last blog ..Thoughts on the IB Virtual Community =-.
It’s good to be back! My thoughts are actually moving toward the appreciation of a discrete tech class, as long as it’s in conjunction with an integrated model. I find it hard to go as in depth with technology within the core classes due to limitations on time (and because they’re not “my” students to work with. Sure, there are always teachers that are willing to “try anything” but I don’t want to take bigger risks with someone else’s curriculum. This is something I’m still thinking about (a blog post is in the works), but I just like the idea of giving kids who might be extra passionate or interested in tech an avenue for learning that isn’t “trapped” within the core content. Am I a total geek, or what?
Aaaanyway, would love to blog with a teacher from UNIS!
Dear Miss Cofino and class,
It looks like you are off to a great start! Wow! I am a big fan of blogging, and I’m sure all of your students are going to love meeting new friends and learning from one another.
My third grade students just started on September 1, and we’ve started blogging too. We live near Los Angeles and have a class blog. Some of the students will be earning their own blogs within a few months. We’d love to connect!
Have a great year!
.-= Linda Yollis´s last blog ..Science- Matter Matters! =-.
Fantastic! I think a grade 3/4 class might be a better match here at YIS, so I will pass on your info to our first PYP class that starts blogging! Thanks for the connections!
Juleen Keevy sent me the link to your blog. I’m currently teaching Social Studies and Language Arts at CAC. We use a great deal of technology and I too am looking to create e-portfolios for students to keep record of their learning. I would be happy to be part of a forum, I don’t know how much I can contribute, but would be very happy to feed off your ideas and bounce some back! ;)
Looking forward to hearing from you soon!
At the moment, I’m looking for other teachers that are blogging with their students to be blogging buddies with mine. You’re more than welcome to see what we are working on here and on the class blog: http://blogs.yis.ac.jp/mstech
Please feel free to also add your thoughts to the comments and discussion here on this post.
Thanks for this. I am planning on getting my Grade 6 students started this year- they will be the first class in our school ever to have a blog. Your posting has really helped me to get my mind around a few things. Thanks also for the very cool examples. Have a wonderful time in Japan!
Congratulations! I imagine blogging is a big step in Yangon! Good luck! Of course, I’d love to hear how it goes – and if you want to collaborate, just let me know.
Well, it’s been a long time coming, but I finally did it! Our Grade 6 class blog is officially launched. (If you see the monkey who used to reside on my back don’t give him directions home!)
Students will be setting up their own blogs shortly. I was wondering if I might have your permission to adapt the parent letter you use at YIS to introduce them to blogs.
Thanks again for all the great advice on getting things started. When we’re rolling (very soon) maybe we can connect our students through their blogs.
John Rinker´s last blog post ..Welcome to the Grade 6 Blog!
I have followed your ideas for blogging while you were in Bangkok.
If you want a list of classes and students who are blogging I am running the 10 week student blogging challenge starting on 20th September with the first challenge at http://studentchallenge.edublogs.org
It would be great to have your class or students also join us.
.-= Miss W.´s last blog ..Highlights for August =-.
Yes! We need to join the Student Blogging Challenge! Thank you for the reminder! I don’t think we’ll get in right from the beginning because we’ve just started making our blogs now, but this is definitely something that my students will benefit from.
This may be a silly question, but how did you set up a bunch of Google accounts at once? Does every student already have their own email address? My district does not provide email addresses for the students, and even if I had them all make their own Google accounts at school (since most don’t have internet at home) Google only allows a limited number of accounts to be made on the same ISP in a certain amount of time. Is there something I’m missing?
You can register 8, I think, before Google starts asking you to validate by phone. I just put in my cell number and within a second or two I got a 6 digit code as a text message. I typed it in and everything was fine. You can also register for a free account for your school with Google apps. Then you can create as many email accounts as you want.
Thanks for the tip!
We have Google Apps for Education here, which provides us with e-mail addresses for all of our students. It sounds like Ben has the inside track for how to make the regular Gmail accounts work from a single ISP.
I never would have thought that an elementary level class would have such a great knowledge of technology. If only we could have such in-depth tech classes in all elementary school classes. I hope to be able to teach students such lessons about technology.
.-= ed´s last blog ..Blog Post 2 =-.
We are lucky! This is a middle school class, though – 6th grade. Of course, elementary can also do exactly the same thing, though :)
Hi Mrs. Cofino,
My name is Brittany and I am a student at South Alabama and I was sent a link to your blog. I have been reading some of your post but this one struck me as very intriguing. I love the fact that students are so lucky as to learn how to blog and do all of the fun design work and exploring at such a young age. Well at least it is young considering I did not even know what a blog was until my 5th semester of college. Now that I have one, I love it. Blogging is such a wonderful and fun way for students to get to communicate and express themselves and am so happy to hear that schools everywhere are finally preparing their students for the real world a lot early than I was. I think your plan for this sounds great and I believe that the students will have a blast and I believe they will be surprised how much fun that kind of homework can be.
Thanks, I think our students are pretty lucky too! They get to do all sorts of fun stuff like this in many of their classes. I agree that they need to start learning how to use social media tools for academic (and “professional”) purposes – as part of the real world.
Hi Kim! I love reading all that you have planned for your students. I love how passionate you are about what you do. I think your ideas are wonderful! These children are getting such a head start on learning about technology and using the internet responsibly. I have only been blogging for a few weeks, and I am 21 years old. You’re ideas are wonderful and I agree with all that you have said within your blog! I want to wish you all the luck with your classes, and stay passionate about what you do!
Thanks so much! I appreciate your kind comments.
Wow Kim, I really wish I was one of your students !
The only thing related to the internet that we learned at school was some basic html stuff in the 10th grade !
Amr Boghdady´s last blog post ..Deutschedcom Officially Launched
Thanks! I remember learning to type when I was in school and playing logo, that’s pretty much it. But that’s more of a sign of the times, than a failing of my school, I’m sure :)
Hello again Kim!
As I read your blog, I am curious what skill set you are hoping your students develop with the blog. I mean to ask which subset of the possible skills to be learned seem to be the most relevant for this age group to focus on. This is obviously a place for them to develop their writing skills, and hopefully develop confidence in blogging and their ability to pick up technological developments; will you be focusing on networking, or generating comments, or Internet etiquette, additionally? Or all of that? I’m curious what a technological educator sees as the take-home message from this experiment. Hopefully learning to blog in the classroom will help students avoid many Internet pitfalls that their older counterparts have already fallen into.
If any of your students wanted to follow me, that would be really interesting. I would appreciate their insights. I’m a college student in Utah, USA, and your profile says you’re in Thailand. The blog I’ve listed above is developed for a civilization class, but our class focus is digital technology in modern society. I would be really interested to hear your students’ perspectives on how technology is changing and how it impacts their lives and other things from the other side of the world. That would be great :)
All of the skills you mentioned are important, and we will touch on all of them. The most important, that we will emphasize over and over again, is understanding audience, responsible online behavior, the concept of linking and reflecting on your learning. There will be some embedded technology skills: embedding images and video, designing themes, managing widgets, etc as well.
I’m actually in Japan now, just moved in August – need to update my website! I’ll see if my students would be interested in leaving some comments for you.
I am excited for you to start teaching your kids how to use technology in the classroom! In my EDM310 class we are learning and preparing ourselves to do the same thing as future teachers. I like how you stated you want to start out slow so there is no early backlash. Starting out in EDM310 was quit over whelming, but now that I have the hang out if it’s very beneficial. I hope the best for you and your students!
Thank you and good luck with your classes.
OK, you must scratch your head when you get a comment on something you posted 10 months ago. I have read, and re-read this post. Finally, now in a position to take action…
This is year 1 for me at a public middle school that is in the first year of the IB MYP authorization process. I am back in the classroom after 7 years doing collaborative instruction as a teacher/librarian. This year was “computer skills” for grades 6 and 8 for a quarter long course. Next year, we will be transitioning to a full semester (every other day) for grade 6 computer skills (“timetabled” as IB calls it) with grades 7 and 8 getting tech design. To satisfy our tech hours for IB, my colleague and I will also being integrating technology across the curriculum via co-teaching.
So, I am pretty excited about the change. Would it be OK to adapt your blog and tutorial units for our use?
Your work is truly inspirational. If you are ever “back home” and would like to stop by, I would LOVE to have you visit our school. Thanks,