I have recently discovered a cool new Web 2.0 tool called “Blabberize.” Blabberize allows you to upload any picture and make it talk! If you have never used it before, you can view my instructional video here. I just created a “Blabber” as an introduction to a sixth grade social studies lesson about the Great Wall of China. In the lesson, students are asked to create a defense strategy to keep invaders out of a kingdom. Most students have no prior knowledge of the Great Wall of China. I will use the blabber to pique my students’ interest for this problem-based lesson. You can view my blabber here. After this project, students will learn about the Great Wall of China and compare it to their own defense strategy. This lesson is aligned with the following Maryland State Curriculum standards:
5.A.1.b. Explain how and why towns and cities grew from early human settlements, including the need for security and government.
5.B.4.a. Describe the causes and consequences of the unification of China under early imperial dynasties, such as the Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang.
Just as there are wonderful library blogs, there are also some fantastic classroom blogs written by passionate teachers. Blogs are a great way for teachers to reflect on their teaching practices and share what they are doing in their classroom. Blogs can spark great conversation between educators and create a network of colleagues. Maintaining your own classroom blog is also an effective way to model digital etiquette and how to maintain a positive digital footprint. They can also be incorporated into your lesson plans and involve your students. Requiring students to post on your blog makes it “nice to have class discussions and assignments saved in a central location so that students can return to the blog when exams or final papers loom” (Windham 4). Blogs can also serve as a place for students to connect with each other and express their ideas and opinions. A benefit of this is that students “are less likely to engage in risky behaviors online because they see social media spaces as forums for learning first and entertainment second” (Ferriter). Below are some of my favorite classroom blogs.
I really love Katherine Sokolowski’s elementary blog “Read, Write, Reflect.” Katherine uses her blog to share and reflect on what she is doing in her fifth grade classroom. Her blog is full of optimism and positivity; she posts a “Celebration” post weekly in which she talks about the accomplishments of her students. In last week’s Celebration post, she discusses the end of the school year and how much she will miss her students. She even included a video of her students showing how many books each of them read over the course of the school year. She also reflects on educational articles and speakers. In her “Boys and Reading” post, she discusses the struggle to make boys want to read. She shares multiple ways that she encourages her sons and her male students to read.
If you are looking for some inventive, problem-based projects to incorporate into your classroom, I suggest you read Bianca Hewes’ high school blog. In this post, Bianca explains how she uses popular music to teach poetry. She uses music as a hook to spark interest and to make the students begin to examine verses. In this post, she talks about how she introduced her students to blogging. She first discussed the purpose of blogs and proper etiquette when commenting. Then, the students created a blog on paper, posted the blogs around the classroom, and commented on each other’s post. This is a great first lesson before actually creating blogs online.
Kevin Hodgson’s middle school blog “Kevin’s Meandering Mind” is a collections of his thoughts and ideas about teaching. He regularly shares what he is teaching as well as emerging technologies. Just yesterday, he posted about a site called Fold That Story . On the website, students write a creative story one piece at a time without being about to see how the story began. He shared some impressive examples and inspired me to try it in my own classroom. He also wrote a post about an app called Rosie Comic Maker. He shared some of the comics he created using the app and they look great! My mind is spinning thinking of all the ways I can incorporate this into my classroom.
Ferriter, William M. “Digitally Speaking/Positive Digital Footprints.” Educational Leadership 68.7 (2011): 92-93. ASCD. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Web. 29 May 2014.
Windham, Carie. “Reflecting, Writing, and Responding: Reasons Students Blog.” EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Discovery Tool: Guide to Blogging (2007): 1-10. Print.
There are a lot of amazing blogs out there, written by dedicated school librarians. Blogs are a great tool to incorporate into the school library. It is important to not only create a blog for your media center, but to encourage the other teachers in your building to create a blog for their classes. Unfortunately, “we’re failing to empower kids to use one of the most important technologies for learning we’ve ever had” (Richardson 16). By creating a blog, teachers can model online etiquette and how to create a positive digital footprint. In order to do that, “we educators must first own these technologies and be able to take advantage of these networked learning spaces” (Richardson 19). You can also show the teachers the professional development opportunities related to blogs. Many blogs provide information about professional development and creating your own blog shows that you are a leader in your field.
One of my favorite blogs is The Daring Librarian. Written by media specialist Gwyneth Jones, is has a wealth of information and resources. Her posts are witty, yet appropriate and she integrates a lot of pictures and videos to grab the reader’s attention. She recently posted about Books Beyond Borders in which her students talked about their favorite books with their sister library in Louisiana (Tiffany Whitehead, see below) via Google Plus Hangout. What great way to use technology to connect with others! She also wrote an insightful post about Twitter and how to use it professionally. She suggests that educators keep their tweets positive and supportive. She also encourages that educators treat Twitter like a conversation and use it to interact with others.
I also love Tiffany Whitehead’s blog, the Mighty Little Librarian. Tiffany shares a lot of great tips and activities that she uses in her own school library. She is also a wealth of knowledge about professional development and conferences. One of my favorite posts of hers is “My Case for Social Media” in which she promotes the use of social media in schools. Social media can be a great tool for educators and can also be used to teach students about creating a positive digital footprint. She also discusses her success using a self check-out in her media center is a post she wrote in May. Creating two self check-out stations freed her from the circulation desk and allows her more time to help her students. Teaching the students the procedure was key to its success.
The True Adventures of a High School Librarian is a great example of how to create a blog for your school media center. She blogs at least once a week about happenings at the school and the library in particular. All of her posts have pictures and links to what they are doing. In a post from April, she talks about how she used Doctopus in a lesson she co-taught. She even includes an informational video and a link to the PD session she created. In another post, she talks about a visit with author John Mantooth. She provides multiple links to articles written about the author and uploaded videos of his presentation to the students.
Richardson, Will. “Footprints in the Digital Age.” Educational Leadership 66.3 (2008): 16-19. ASCD. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Web. 29 May 2014.