Blogging Bound ~ My Students’ First Digital Steps

Thank you to Bob Schuetz, Technology Coordinator at Palatine High School, for including this post as a guest blog on his site, NOCKING THE ARROW.

MY BLOGGING BACKGROUND: My blogging adventures began in February 2009 when I was offered my own website through StudioPress.  At that time, I barely knew what a “blog” was much less what I was going to do with this site.   I contemplated back and forth between posting creative writing or professional posts.  Initially, I opted to use Grading Girl as a space to write reviews and share personal pieces.  I quickly learned that word travels fast on the internet and companies started sending products to review.  It’s great fun and a productive way to channel my own writing practice.  Teaching, however, is in my blood and, naturally, much of my life centers around the classroom.  Fast forward to today, five years later:   Grading Girl has grown to over 2500 views per day, I’m a 1:1 teacher in the classroom and launched this second site, TLC – Technology, Literacy, Collaboration, devoted solely to my technology and literacy experiences.

GradingGirl.com

GradingGirl.com

RATIONALE FOR BLOGGING: Exuberantly experiencing my own blogging adventures led me to begin blogging with my students over the past three years.  Both the Common Core and my school district’s Critical Learning Standards emphasize the need for students to read a variety of text for understanding, to write clear, supported arguments and to apply knowledge and skills to real-world problems.  I believe writing blogs can fulfill those expectations.    Blogging provides students with digital writing experiences to pursue understandings in the real world, not just within a classroom.  It’s no longer a matter of earning a grade – it’s a matter of voicing views to a real audience.  Moreover, blogging across the curriculum, not just in English class, allows for both formative and summative assessment because it helps writers see the progression in development of a piece of writing. It may actually take more talent and skill to create an interesting persuasive post on the French Revolution, let’s say, than a traditional essay.  Like an essay, a persuasive post needs to be clear, concise, and convincing; on top of this, there is the overriding need to be compelling.  That said, we need to teach blogging as a skill to help students voice arguments succinctly as they prepare for communication in the competitive job market they will take on later.

It’s Not Fair Argumentative POST

More advantages to using blogging as a writing tool as cited in the European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 9, Number 4 (2009) article, “E-Learning Environment:  Blogging as a Platform for Language Learning:”

  • Encourages feedback and represents both writing and reading activities;
  • Stimulates debate, critical analysis, and encourages articulation of ideas and opinion;
  • Offers opportunities for collaborative learning; projects, debates or interactive travel logs;
  • Provides environment in which learners can develop skills of persuasion and argumentation;
  • Creates a more student-centered learning environment

WHY EDUBLOGS: I use Edublogs, WordPress’s platform for education, to create a site for each of my accelerated freshmen and senior writing students.  I’ve dabbled in other platforms but find EduBlogs offers the most customization with the most secure environment.  Here’s more specific reasons to support Edublogs:

  • Safe and Reliable – Blogs can be completely private or completely open to the public or somewhere in between.  Since they only host education related content, Edublogs are allowed by most school filters where other blogging platforms are not.  Even the most leery of educators can find a comfort zone.
  • Student Friendly – It is as simple to add to and update a blog as it is to send an email or write a letter. Teachers can easily create and manage as many student blogs as needed.
  • Rich With Features – A few of the most popular featured widgets include discussion tools, video embedding, Facebook and Twitter integration, and calendars.  EduBlogs seems to offer the largest amount of widgets and plug-ins to accommodate.
  • Customizable – There are over 100 different themes which allow for control of colors, images, and layout.
  • Research-Based – Engages students in their learning and enhance instruction through collaboration, student portfolios, and seemingly endless classroom uses.

CLASS CONNECTION SAMPLES:

Writing with Parents:

And Student Sample HERE and HERE and HERE

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Writing with Peers outside of class:  

Seniors & freshmen share philosophies

Writing for a Public Audience:

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Sample Book Review

NEW BLOG EXTENSION: Beginning this spring semester, my two accelerated freshmen classes will be expanding their websites to include reporting on their very own Passion Projects.  I’ve been following Catlin Tucker, Google Certified Teacher and CUE Lead Learner, and inspired by the experiences she reports on within her blog.  I’ve previewed the project with the students, discussing Google’s concept of 20% Genius Hour.  Robert Schuetz, my school’s innovative technology director, graciously took the time to speak with my students about digital citizenship and taking on a project such as this to pave the way for their ever-growing digital portfolios.  While time allows us to take a modified 10% of class time this year, students are devoting a portion of their research and discovery outside of class that I am excited to share.

Student Sample of Passion Project progress so far . . .

 

My goal for next year is to incorporate blogging within each of my classes at each level.   There is need for students to become proficient in 21st century collaborative web tools. Digital writing is no longer an extra tool to voice opinion – it is mainstream, here to stay and continually evolving.  

BOOK REVIEW – THRIVE: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching

Thrive by Meenoo Rami

“What you fear to do is the very thing you need to do”  (Rami 70).  I’ve flown to California nearly 50 times since family members relocated there 16 years ago but the four-hour plane ride during this particular spring break flew by more swiftly because I had the pleasure of reading so many lines like the one above in THRIVE:  5 WAYS TO (Re) Invigorate Your Teaching by English teacher and Twitter colleague, Meenoo Rami.  I find it to be the perfect read for teachers, coaches, and mentors of all experience levels.  Meenoo’s words provide motivating ideas to create and collaborate in new ways.  Her book should be required reading during a teacher’s first year of teaching and would make a great “one book” read for any school’s professional development program.

Sufficiently supplementing a busy educator’s schedule, the brisk 94 pages provide just the right amount of invigorating inspiration to leave the reader ready to roll out new strategies within and outside of the classroom walls.  Meenoo shares both what she does to empower her students, such as her class teen magazine as a research paper alternative, as well as what she does to help empower her colleagues, such as her origination of the now very popular and productive #engchat on Twitter.  I remember well when Meenoo first started the #engchat in 2010 and was honored when she asked me to host one of the earlier chats.  I wasn’t quite versed yet in TweetDeck or other Twitter applications but walked away thoroughly inspired by the connections made that day and continue to be amazed by the number of resources acquired during those chat meets.

The book is logically organized into five chapters on mentoring, networking, challenging, listening and empowering.  Meenoo’s friendly tone helps us young and old realize we are not alone in our uncertainties and anxieties we face as educators along the way.  She shares her early feelings of isolation, poses targeted questions for each of us to ask ourselves as we initialize each new school year’s goals, and tirelessly emphasizes the importance of connection in and out of our school building.  Noting Daniel Pink, Rami outlines the three most important things teachers need to maintain motivation as they pass through classroom doors for perhaps decades at a time.  I don’t want to give away all of the valuable points and ideas laid out in this book;  but please know this is definitely worth your time and dime.  My book is highlighted, annotated and doggie-eared.

Meenoo most definitely deserves an A+ for sharing her knowledge, fears, and hopes.  She inspires all the teaching souls like myself who have a number of books in our heads that we need to stop making excuses for not writing.  I can’t wait until her next book and thank her for the inspiration!!

P.S.  As I’m writing this, my Twitter PLN is showered with National Poetry month ideas for approaching and analyzing poetry.  Meenoo has a great idea in her book to emphasize the point that “we all use language to convey complex thoughts and feelings in playful ways” that I can’t wait to try (Rami 76).  Manipulating language in various ways is more exciting than ever thanks to technology; check out Meenoo’s ideas to see how.

 Rami, Meenoo. Thrive: 5 Ways to (re)invigorate Your Teaching. Portsmouth: Heinemann,  2014. 

 

Blogging in the Classroom – Paving the Way for Our Students’ Digital Footprints

 

Interested in giving your students more authentic writing practice while helping them initiate their ever-important digital footprints?!  Click this link to my Illinois Computing Educators 2014 presentation for an overview of creating a classroom site, initiating student blogs, and maintaining proper digital citizenship.

Welcome to Grading Girl’s New Classroom Site!!

On my original site, GradingGirl.com, I’ve sincerely enjoyed the blogging experience over the past four years.  I’ve struggled, however, with the balance between professional and personal posting.  While teaching is in my blood, writing is my constant . . . Consequently, I’ve finally decided to divide between two sites – one for personal lifestyle posts and one for professional educational posts. This new site is bound to change along the way.  GradingGirl.com will still be alive and well in the wide web world – she’ll be reviewing all things worth reviewing along with providing fitness facts.  I’m anticipating this change will prompt me to share more on BOTH sites!

As always, I would more than welcome comments, suggestions, questions, and views on both sites.  I look forward to continue to grow as an educator, writer, and social media strategist.  Thank you in advance for joining me on this blessed journey.

**Finally, please note that all content I present here is of my own opinion and not necessarily that of the school district I work for.  Thank you!