Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sharing with Blogs!

Blogs are a great way to share. As a teacher, there are a lot of things that we can share. We can share things we make, things students make or things that we find on the internet. Maybe you have an awesome powerpoint that you want your students to be able to see outside of class? Post it on your blog. Maybe a student made a really awesome project and you want to share that? Take a picture and share it on your blog. Maybe you want your students to collaboratively work on a Prezi? Well, create the prezi and share it on your blog. Students are wired for computers and the internet. Let's use that! They want to be able toTo  see materials outside of school. Parents want to be able to see things outside of school. It helps engage. It helps students be involved and get connected.
To share a powerpoint: upload your powerpoint into google docs, which will give you the embed code.
To share a prezi, click "share" and use the embed code.
To embed your powerpoint/prezi on your blog, click the "html" tab when you are composing a new blog post.

Conferences, Parents, and Technology

Conferences rock! We completed our first round of conferences yesterday. How did it go? Did you get sick of talking? Did you get sick of repeating yourself? Did you get sick of the parents just staring at you-waiting for you to say some more stuff? 

Here are some scenarios you may have encountered:
Teacher: "Do you have any questions?"

Parent: "Nope." 
Teacher: "Okay, sounds good. Thank you for coming." 
(Parent continues to look at you, not moving) 

Or, how about this: 

Parent (without kid) sits down at your table and just stares at you, waiting for you to tell them about their kid, like the teacher has memorized what each kids' parent looks like. Teacher is thinking, "Who is your kid? You, the 42 year old mother, look nothing like your 12 year old son so I have absolutely no idea who your kid is." 

Or, how about this: 
After skimming over the list of grades for their child which includes ten grades of "A" and one grade of "B+" and the parent stops on that B+ and asks, "So, what happened here?" And the teacher is thinking, "Uh, they got a question wrong."

Conferences do get long but I think it's a good opportunity to touch base with parents, even those who do not have struggling kids. It's good to meet them in person, it's good for parents to hear how great their child is doing. It's good for parents to hear that their child is struggling but there's a plan as far as what we are going to do about it.

Yesterday, I saw a lot of evidence supporting the technology movement. About 90% of the conferences I had (90 total), the parents made some comment about technology. Many, many parents said how much they love getting the text messages notifications. Many, many parents said they wished all the teachers did it. So, why aren't you? Many, many parents said how much they liked my website, which shows they want the technology. It helps them. It helps them help their kid. If your website has nothing on it except the lesson plans, you are missing a huge opportunity to reach students and parents. It's the times, folks, we are in the Techno Age. It's a freight train in education. Let's get on board.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Three Headed Monster: Think, Write, Read

I like to refer to blogging as a Three Headed Monster. When a student sits down to my blog, each time they must do three things. First, they must THINK about what they are going to say. Next, they WRITE what they want to say, what the answers are, their opinion, etc. Finally, they go back and READ what their classmates have shared as well. When you can come up with a tool that forces the student to think, write, and read and have it be something they WANT to do, then why wouldn't you use it? If you could go to Target and buy such a tool, you would. But you don't have to because blogging is free! All you need is a google account and an imagination. There is a wide variety of ways you can have students interact with your blog. Posting comments is something we do a lot in my class. A few examples of comments my students post:
1. Vague post: At the beginning of a unit, I often tell my students to "just tell me something" about the world we are about to start. I provide them with appropriate websites and they browse at their own leisure and share with me and their classmates what they want. Good way to get them in the "mood" for that ancient world. 
2. Imaginary Conversation: Students love to imagine, especially middle schoolers. So let them! To show me what they know, I like to have my students post a comment in which they have a "conversation" with an imaginary friend about a certain topic (pyramids, Nile River, Greek Mythology, etc). Students really get into this because its fun for them to choose their imaginary friend and pretend to talk to them. This is a really good example of the Three Headed Monster because students really enjoy looking through the comments and seeing what their classmates did and who they talked to. 
3. The Great Debate: Middle school students struggle with opinions. One thing that prevents them from sharing their opinion in class is they are afraid they are "wrong" or don't know what to say. Help foster their opinion forming by giving them a way to think about it first instead of on the spot sharing in class. I pose a question and have the students post a comment about what they think and WHY. This is a good way to have all students share what they think instead of waiting for their turn. Again, students then read through their classmates opinions and continue to discuss. 

There are many, many different ways you can have students post comments but they can't do anything unless you have a blog! 
I recommend using  Though there are other options such as wordpress and edublogs.