Introductory Blog

August 30, 2008

Blunder of all blunders! I am a highly experiemental user of technology and I just learned that each time I edit one of my posts, that it comes through as a new post on Bloglines. I apologize to any of you who may have already added this to your RSS feeds – this will be the last time I’ll edit live. Next time I’ll save my posts until they’re complete, then publish them to the blog.

As I embark on my journey to Explore Web 2.0 Tools for teaching and learning. I decided to use WordPress.com for 2 reasons:

1. I already have started an experimental, personal blog at http://mikisew.blogspot.com/ and I wanted to try a different blog hosting site.

2. My division computer consultant has created a weblog hosting site for division school blogs through WordPress.org and I learned how to manage and act as administrator for my school’s (Winnipeg Adult Education Centre) weblog last spring. It’s free and it’s easy to set up so that I approve or moderate student comments before they are published.

I’m also on Facebook, but until now I’ve kept a minimal presence there. I’ve changed my thinking about Internet Safety and Privacy after listening to Doug Johnson’s: Classrooms and Libraries for the Net Generation and PBS’ FRONTLINE: Growing Up Online. I have been keeping in touch with a few of the students from my very first grade 5 class in Grand Rapids, MB through Facebook. They’re all grown up now with families of their own.

I have 2 RSS feed services right now and I like them both for different reasons: I like the ‘Microsoft Feeds” that is built into my IE browser because it is a little easier to add new feeds, and I like Bloglines because it allows you to search/find a wide variety of blogs easily. I won’t list all the feeds I subscribe to because I subscribe to too many right now and haven’t been keeping up. I came across a good tidbit of advice while working through Joanne’s trailfire about making sure to delete a feed each time another is added. I will tell you that the last two feeds I added were Joanne’s trailfire on Web 2.0 Information and this blog. I’m looking forward to adding the rest of Joanne’s trailfires and my colleagues’ blogs.

While reading through Joanne’s “Getting Started and Setting The Stage” I acted on her suggestion to  “visit the official education website in your province . . . to familiarize yourself with new developments and initiatives” regarding the role of technology in re-structuring education. To my surprise I discovered  a new  “Learning with ICT Blog: Across the Curriculum” has been added to our Manitoba Education @ http://www.literacywithict.ca/?page_id=2 and that The Winnipeg School Division Blogs (including mine) are listed under “Exemplary Classroom Blogs”.  It was interesting to lookother Manitoban school weblogs and I quickly got a sense that the way I approached our school-wide blogsite is different than how a classroom teacher sets up a blog. I was a little puzzled that the highly acclaimed Pre-Cal 40S blog by Winnipeg teacher Darren Kuropatwa (http://pc40s.blogspot.com/) as described in Chapter 2 of Will Richardson’s book was not included on their list. I got a lot of ideas looking at educational blogs for adding links, widgets and extras, but have decided not to get ahead of myself here and to build this site slowly and thoughtfully.

One amusing thing I just discovered is that when I toggle the spellchecker on in WordPress it marks both ‘blog’ and ‘weblog’ as misspellings.

I’ve included my school’s weblog in the blogroll on the left sidebar. I’d like to comment on why I think the first category Post (Letters to the Editor) was much more successful than the “Residential School Apology” Post.

The English teacher and I introduced the ‘Letters to the Editor’ project to the class as a chance to comment on an issue important to them. We explained it would be published in the June school newsletter. Posting the letters on the blog and giving students the chance to respond to each other’s letter was an afterthought on my part (and a little risky too because I didn’t tell the class I was going to do this until after it was done). I needn’t have worried because the students seemed pleased that their letters were published in this extra format. Just to be sure the students knew what an acceptable response to the letters looked like, I took the time and responded to each letter myself. Then we had the students come into the library to use the computers and post responses to each others blogs as well. The students at Adult Ed. typically have not had a lot of success in school before, and it took them a long time to read, reflect and post responses. Most only had time to respond to one other letter, but some responded to two or three in the time allotted. I thought some may re-visit the blog site and respond to some on their own time, but that didn’t happen.

The ‘Residential School Apology’ Post was written by the Grade 12 Native Studies teacher. She had planned to have them respond during their last class in June, but when some students arrived with food to share, the class turned into a farewell party and I’m not even sure if the students were told about the blog. Subsequently and not surprisingly no one has responded to that post. I just left it there in case the teacher wants to do something with it this semester. I suggested to her that she leave a sample response, but she didn’t want to influence their responses with her biases, so I’m a little concerned that we may get some inappropriate responses if/when students do respond. I think they need at least a little guidance when blogging in an educational setting.

It gives me comfort to know that as moderator of the school weblog, I either accept, edit, delete or mark as spam all comments, so am prepared to edit if/when it is necessary. I’m not entirely sure how much spelling and grammar it is appropriate for me to change. From my experience with the ‘Letters to the Editor’ I know students appreciated it when I edited for spelling and grammar as long as I didn’t change the meaning or intent of their writing. Whenever possible I spoke with the student first before making changes, and whenever it wasn’t possible I spoke to them afterward. It is tricky though and I think it involves developing a certain level of comfort and trust with the students, so I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to edit the writing of students I haven’t worked with? On the other hand, I know there are teachers who will be upset to see student work published that is full of errors.

I just read “Using blogs in school” by Terry Freedman – an article in  “Coming of Age: An Introduction to the New Worldwide Web” available online. He writes that in his experience “the most hardline thought police come in the guise of teachers of English”. I truly appreciate his slant on this. He asserts that language is to facilitate communication, and in online communication spelling and grammer mistakes oddly enough enhance communication!

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