As a classroom teacher, I was so excited to visit classroom blogs this week! Over the years I’ve considered incorporating blogging into my classes but I’ve never taken the plunge. After reading these classroom blogs I can’t wait!
The first blog that knocked my socks off was the winner of a 2013 Edublog Award, the Cougar News Blog. This blog is absolutely incredible! At first glance, I assumed that this blog was created by teachers or high school students, but the students who collaborate and create this blog are in junior high! I absolutely love that students in Cactus Canyon’s Journalism II elective, under the direction of Jason Davis, are have taken ownership and are responsible for submitting posts and maintaining this blog.
The Cougar News is clear with its purpose – its “written by, and for, CCJH” students. The entire purpose is to keep Cactus Canyon students (and by default, parents) in the loop with what’s happening in the Cougar Nation. Students have created well-organized categories and posts that make finding topics easy. Main categories like Academics are broken into further subcategories like Social Studies, Book Wars and Electives. I love how these journalism students provide posts on such an incredible variety of topics. From Bullying to Student Accomplishments, these young journalists have it covered!
This blog is a testament to what a group of determined, well led and digitally responsible students are capable of achieving! With audience appropriate formatting, meaningful and informative posts, awesome pictures of students in action and superb organization, the students of Cactus Canyon Journalism II have successfully put an exciting new spin on the traditional school newspaper!
As I continued searching through class blogs, I stumbled onto Mr. Lamshed’s Class blog. I glanced at his page, didn’t love the formatting and I started to hit the back button, but then something caught my eye. On the left side toward the bottom, there were thirty-one links to student learning blogs. Instantly, I was intrigued! As I explored, I quickly realized that Mr. Lamshed’s purpose for this blog was to interact with the students in his 6/7 year classroom, to encourage creativity and to provide his students with the resources that they need to successfully complete his class. Although Mr. Lamshed’s formatting isn’t fancy, his blog is an incredible educational tool that is an invaluable asset to him and his students.
The thing that I absolutely love the most about this blog is the student learning blog section. Students like Jai, Aaron (who, by the way, is “Like a Ninja”) and Robert B. each maintain their own learning blog. Posts include assignments like spooky story, student biographies, practice editing sentences, etc. The level of personalization, quality and abundance of entries clearly show that students have bought into, and enjoy, Mr. Lamshed’s use of blogging in the classroom. These learning blogs provide students with a unique experience to document their learning journey in a location easily accessible to their teacher.
Mr. Lamshed regularly posts pictures with prompts like Remember and The Night Watchman and students use the reply function to submit their written responses. These prompts give students the opportunity to be creative and use their critical thinking skills. Another fabulous feature of this blog is that Mr. Lamshed uses it to get important information to students. Whether providing them with videos to use to practice for the spring concert or posting current work, students can find all needed materials in one easily accessible place.
Although Mr. Lamshed’s Class blog doesn’t appear to be much at first glance, it is an incredibly well thought out example of successful implementation of blogging in the classroom. The interaction between Mr. Lamshed and his students is incredible! The Cougar News and Mr. Lamdshed’s blog are both great examples of how student participation in classroom blogs is so powerful!
Mr. Avery and his two sixth grade classes have created The Avery Bunch to show the world all of the cool stuff they’ve been learning and doing in Massachusetts! From beginning to end, this blog is all about what students are learning and how Mr. Avery is teaching. When you first enter the Avery Bunch website, there are scrolling full screen pictures of these awesome sixth graders engaged in exciting activities. The blog is simply formatted, easy to read and very straight forward.
One of the things that I really love about this blog is that it is full of posts that show collaboration, interaction and creativity. The Math Movie Network post was one of my absolute favorites because it provides a link to the school’s existing Math Movie Network and it talks about the two adding decimals videos that Mr. Avery and his class created and added to the collection. Another of my favorites is 1, 2, 3… Fore where he documents (with pictures and text) his class demonstrating their knowledge of math (perimeter, angles, etc.) as they construct a miniature golf course. Mr. Avery also features new technologies like the 3D printer that he and his class worked to earn through the Donors Choice program. He does a fabulous job incorporating pictures of students actually interacting with the printer and their finished projects. Another fun feature on the blog is the map and traffic log located on the sidebar.
Overall, Mr. Avery’s blog does a great job highlighting what he and his students are doing in the classroom (from both a teaching and learning perspective). However, unlike The Cougar News and Mr. Lamshed’s Blog, students don’t have much of a voice. I am surprised at how much I really missed student posts, replies and links to their own blogs.
While I was searching specifically for Social Studies blogs, I found Mr. Tesler’s Regents US History Blog. I chose this blog for my fourth review because it is completely different then the blog’s I’ve already reviewed. The purpose of this blog is very straight forward – it is strictly to convey information to students. While The Cougar News and Mr. Lamshed’s Class Blog are based heavily on student participation and interaction, Mr. Tesler’s blog does not have any.
When I first looked at this blog, my gut reaction was to judge it based on the blogs that I loved that incorporated lots of student involvement and teen friendly formatting. However, when I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t fair to evaluate the success of this blog based on criteria for a blog with a completely different purpose. The purpose of this blog is to convey information to students and he does that extremely well! Mr. Tesler does a fabulous job of posting detailed weekly homework assignments. These posts include very specific instructions, links to documents, PowerPoints, video clips and detailed grading expectations. In other posts he provides review notes, information regarding how to access online textbooks, study guides and more. Another feature that I love about this blog is that there’s a focus on the Regent’s Exam. On the sidebar, students see a countdown clock that shows how many days until the exam. Tesler also provides students with a group of “cool links” like textbook review questions, Regents Prep and Mr. T’s Regents Review Page in an effort to prepare them for their high stakes assessment.
Despite the fact that Mr. Tesler’s blog isn’t fancy, it is an invaluable tool for students in his classroom. The amount, and detail, of information that he provides students is absolutely incredible. The material and resources are easy to navigate and Mr. Tesler’s expectations are crystal clear. I am also blown away that Mr. Tesler has been maintaining this blog since 2006! Mr. Tesler’s Regents US History Blog is a prime example of a successful blog with a specific purpose!
Throughout this assignment and the associated readings, my mind has been churning thinking about the endless possibilities for incorporating blogging into the classroom! I’m still somewhat shocked that so many of us have been missing out on this incredible educational tool. We, as educators, have been working harder and harder to teach students 21st century critical thinking skills that are so necessary in our ever changing world and blogging is one of the keys that can help us! We need to stop using blogs soley to convey information to students and instead work to turn blogs into an avenue for interaction between students and teachers, students and their peers, and teachers and their colleagues. In their article “Brain of the Blogger,” Doctors Fernette and Eide state that “our mental activities actually cause changes in the structures of our brains – not only what we think, but how we think as well.” It is incredible that we have the power to actually help students become better thinkers!
Doctors Fernette and Eide provide five rock solid reasons why blogging is beneficial and each of the five reasons is linked to 21st century thinking skills and/or ISTE standards. They contend that “bloggers must write and visitors must read (rather than passively view) the postings.” This means that learners are actively engaged and interacting with the material rather than passively being given information. Fernette and Eide also stress that “blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction.” While blogging, students have the time to really process questions and comments, formulate their response, think again and then carefully articulate their answer. Students who are hesitant to participate in classroom discussions may be more willing to actively participate in blogging activities because they feel less pressure. Another key part of blogging is that students are given feedback from a variety of sources. Often, this can become an awesome form of collaboration.
When I think about incorporating classroom blogs into my classroom, I can’t wait! I plan to create a blog that incorporates parts of each of the blogs that I reviewed in class. Although there will be a category where I convey information to students and parents, the bulk of the blog will be dedicated to interaction between all members of my class (me included!). One thing that I noticed as I explored classroom blogs was that if blogs were disorganized, not categorized or lacked a specific purpose that I really struggled to use them. I need to make a conscious effort to organize my blog so that students and parents can easily access the information and posts that they need. My blog will be broken into categories that include U.S. History, Honors U.S. History, The Help, Unbroken, Homework, Current Events, Community Service, etc. One of my main objectives is to have students use my blog for journaling activities, reading logs and literature circles. Ideally, I will work to have students use create their own learning blogs like Mr. Lamshed’s class.
Overall, the possibilities for blogging in the classroom are literally endless! Teachers can use blogs to reach classrooms a thousands of miles away or they can use them to allow two students who sit next to one another to communicate in a different way. Blogs are only limited by student and teacher creativity!
Eide, Fernette, and Brock Eide. “Brain of the Blogger.” Eide Neurolearning Blog.
N.p., 2 Mar. 2005. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.