Blogging is my tool of choice for sharing on a professional development day because it positively affects student learning in numerous ways. Will Richardson on his blog Weblogg-ed, discusses the positive impact of blogging; it enhances student writing, helps students find a voice, creates enthusiasm for writing, engages students in conversations, provides an opportunity to learn about responsible journalism and empowers students.
Some background and history of our school provides the connection as to why Blogs and Blogging is a good tool of choice for our staff to explore during a professional development day to utilize in their teaching. Currently our school is very much involved in a writing focus. One of our School Development Plan goals is to develop and support student writing skills. Our school is involved with the AISI project of Assessment for and of Learning and has initiated meaningful assessment of student writing skills through the use of rubrics and self assessment. Teachers have received various training sessions related to writing, including Six Write Traits in order to support student writing.
Although some teachers may be aware of blogs, there will be some that will need more of an explanation. Introducing this topic would be accomplished by sharing the video, What is a Blog? found on YouTube. (Arrangements would be needed to have the site unblocked at my school) The commentary on this video clearly explains blogs with the use of a ‘Wine Blog’ site as an example. There will be teachers who question the benefits of blogs and blogging. Without going too deeply into my own experience in this course and all the amazing readings and my own learning, I would share with them The 8 Ways Blogging Makes Me a Better Teacher.
By having each teacher create their own blog, I anticipate support of their own personal learning and understanding of student writing. Through accessing various educational blogs that discuss writing and to learn first hand about the challenges and successes of writing through blogging, their own writing skills will develop.
Time would be taken to share some blogs including my own. Although I am not as experienced as some bloggers such as Joyce Valenza and Will Richardson, the staff relates more to me and I would be able to convince them that if I can blog so can they! Taking them on a tour of my own blog would enable me to point out some special features of blogging such as the various Web 2.0 tools explored, the sidebars with various lists of bloggers and blogs that can be accessed and comments made by my colleagues and outside bloggers.
Some other blogs that I would share with them consist of ones that I personally find very informative, user friendly, current, and support the development of Web 2.0 technologies and libraries:
Hey Jude (very user friendly and informative)
Blue Skunk (this would appeal to our Grd 5/6 Teacher, who provides Tech support and has a great sense of humour including sarcasm)
Library Garden (may appeal to some of my colleagues who are intimidated by independently blogging on a regular basis as it is a group effort)
The Fisch Bowl (great for support of technology in the classroom)
Weblogged (Will Richardson, he is so knowledgeable and covers a lot of information)
Neverending Search ( Joyce Valenza – a guru!)
Cool Cat (introduces a number of technology tools)
The teachers would then be encouraged to discuss with their students about writing and have the students create their own individual blogs. Blog Basics for Classrooms is an excellent site for teachers to access to learn about blogging with students as it is user friendly and very visually appealing. In order to encourage students to initially write, the focus for writing on their blogs would include topics of interest specific to them. Student blogs would give them personal responsibility of their own learning. They would be able to express how they personally feel about something and let their opinions be heard. We want them to write, however we would also need to discuss what an appropriate topic choice is and why. At this time, it would be important to discuss security issues related to blogging and share this link as it is a list of tips for staying safe online for tweens and teens.
The importance and benefits of leaving comments on blogs needs to be discussed with the staff. Sharing an informative link on guidelines (10 tips for a better weblog) for good blogging would be useful. Encouraging all staff to comment on student blogs and students to comment on one another’s blogs is important as it will make their learning more relevant and meaningful. Students will learn from one another and so will the teachers learn from their students and in turn learn from one another. As we have experienced in this course, receiving comments is so motivating and inspirational!
Just as we have participated in reflecting in this course, we need to encourage our staff and students to do the same on their blog. As Anne Davis discusses on her blog, EduBlog Insights, we need to let our students write their way into their own understandings and discover answers to the questions they need to ask. We need to let them be creative, off the wall, and branch out with their own thoughts. Through reflecting on their blogs, staff can discuss and share their thoughts about writing and issues in education.
By now the staff and students should be well on their way to blogging for professional and personal development.
Where do we go from here?
The importance of continuing to blog needs to be emphasized to both staff and students. I would encourage them to ask questions on their blogs as other teachers and students may have an answer or an opinion that they could share by leaving a comment. I would encourage them to create a separate blog entry on a particular subject of interest. I would remind them to access other educators’ blogs as someone ‘out there’ with similar interests may have something significant and relevant to say that will support their learning or understanding. Sharing thoughts on their blogs with regards to writing as an adult, student writing and addressing challenges and assessment issues will be effective for their professional development. I would remind the staff and students to subscribe to their classmates blogs as well as other educational blog sites to experience many different perspectives.
On additional PD days the focus would be sharing some ‘cool tools’ that could be embedded on staff blogs, like podcasting, VoiceThread, and Flickr.
Once the staff is more confident and more knowledgeable regarding the use of these Web 2.0 tools, we can introduce them and teach our students to do the same. This particular professional development topic would be very collaborative as now the teachers would be experienced bloggers and could contribute to the planning and focus of a ‘Cool Tool’ professional development day.
Blogs and blogging is a very practical and effective Web 2.0 tool to introduce to my staff on a Professional Development day. Blogs support the development of our own writing skills, and student writing skills, provides access to quality educational blogs which deepens our understanding of writing and enables us to express our opinions, concerns and ask questions relating to writing.
“Blogging makes us better as professionals but it also makes our classroom better.”
(Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher Blog)