Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Benefits of Using a Blog for Student (and Teacher) Learning

This post is extracted from Ms. Pernille Ripp's blog : Blogging through the Fourth Dimension (Educator Musings / Technology / and Lessons ) My Life as a Teacher by Pernille Rapp.

What Does Student Blogging Exactly Do?        (This Link will take you to her blog) 

As a proponent of student blogging I am often asked what it "does" for my students.  The thing is, it does quite a bit. 
  • Provides them with a voice.  Education cannot be done to students anymore, they have to have a voice since it is their lives it effects the most; blogging gives them that.
  • Gives them an authentic writing audience.  The product doesn't end with me and a grade, it is out for the world to see and to continue to be developed.  
  • Puts their place in the world in context.  We think our students know how much in common they have with kids their age around the world, but they don't usually.  Blogging with those kids and connecting through projects such as the Global Read Aloud brings the world in.
  • Increases their global knowledge.  Again, when you connect with others through your work and words, friendships develop and as does a mutual interest in the lives of one another   This is the modern version of penpals.
  • Instills them with tech saviness and confidence.  Blogging teaches my students yet another tool to use and we also use it to showcase other tools we have played around with.  They feel confident in their skills as bloggers and it carries into their overall tech approach.
  • Instills safety rules and measures to be taken whilst online.  We drill safety all year and the kids know the lessons by heart.  It is our job to teach them how to be safe and the best way to do that is to work with them in situations that could be unsafe if treated the wrong way.
  • Teaches them how to give constructive feedback.  We comment on each others posts but they have to be constructive comments.  Blogging is a natural extension of the peer edit.
  • Teaches them how to have a meaningful written dialogue.  When students don't get comments on their posts, we often go back to see why not.  Usually they realize it was not written in a manner that invited others to participate in their writing.  Revision and reformulating follows.
  • Cements proofreading and spell check.  We don't want the world to see us as a poor spellers or grammatical buffoons.
  • Expands their geographical knowledge.  We pushpin maps with the location of our connections, this sparks more questions, which lead to a deeper relationship between the students and those we connect with.  
  • Furthers their empathy, as well as interest in others.  Blogging should not be a solitary experience, but rather one that invites discussion.  To have meaningful discussions one must care about others, which is shown through their questions.
  • Encourages them to view their own writing through a more critical lens.  Because we have a portfolio of their writing from the beginning of the year to now, we can go back and see their development.  Are they developing as a writer or what do they need to focus on?  The stakes are raised because it is not just the teacher that sees their work.
  • Creates reflective students.  Because students are given a mouthpiece to the world, I see them take more chances to reflect on themselves and their choices.  It is remarkable to see a student reflect on what grades has taught them  or what it means to be a student.
  • It creates opportunities for us to have fun.


RAISING THE BAR on Our BMHS Cadet Program


We started the school year off with reviewing our strengths and weaknesses from academic school year 2011 to 2012. The JROTC Instructors continually assess and re-assess the status of our program (from last year, over the summer, and during the beginning of this new school year) with the goal of continually improving WHAT we are doing and HOW we are doing it.

Observations of Last Year: Our Shortcomings
  • Questionable Upperclassmen performers & weak senior class (32)
  • Lack of Participation in Community Service (20 % vs 80%)
  • Inconsistent Drill Performance (Lack of Commitment in Practice)
  • Substandard Personal Behavior & Professional Conduct
  • Poor attendance at Memorial Day Parade (58 out of 120)
  • Lack of Parental & Cadet Participation and Support
  • Fundraising: Captains of Comedy Night. We barely broke even, minimal tickets sold.
Raising The Bar This Year: Fixing Our Shortcomings
  • Increased Academic Rigor
    • Improved Homework, Research, Writing Assignments
    • Balance of Individual Assignments and Group Activities
    • Improved Uniform Compliance & Inspection Program
  • Increased Community Service and Unit Participation
    • 2.5 community service hours a Marking Period to attain a grade of A
    • Instructor promoted but Parent Supported & Supervised Events
  • Cadets & Parents Are The Key To Fundraising
    • Band Parents approach to Cadet Parents Group. Quarterly Meetings of Higher Quality.
    • Parent & Cadet Centric Fundraising
  • Improve Health and Physical Fitness
    • Use President's Physical Fitness Challenge

We need to revisit these efforts listed above throughout the year every marking period to ensure we are improving in a focused manner. Let me know what you think about how we are doing...?

What is Your Future Going To Be Like...?

We started the year off with the video, SHIFT HAPPENS, to take a look into our present and future globalized world which is very dynamic and fluid. The BMHS teachers were shown this video to start our 2012 school year. So I naturally thought we should show to the other part of the Learning Team, you the student.

Student Reactions Were Varied ranging from defeatist attitudes to engaged "let's take up the challenge" attitudes. Some of the responses were: Wow, this is kind of scary?....I didn't know our country was so far behind....We can do better than that...we have a lot of work to do. 

Purpose of Showing the Video: I wanted you to take a look into the possible future in the context of figuring out where you ARE as a student-learner, where you WANT TO BE as a student-learner, to develop a philosophy and plan on HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET THERE (Future Destination).

While the video can be somewhat intimidating as far as how fast and how far the global world is changing, if you want to be able to function effectively in that "shift happens world" with relevant skills and knowledge then YOU need to EDUCATE and TRAIN yourself to be able to do so. This is a team effort, Parents / Guardians, Teachers / Administrators, and Students. We all teach and learn from each other, but that only occurs if we collaborate to work together.

Question: HOW DO WE "RAMP UP" OUR GAME FOR THE FUTURE (to function in the Shift Happens World):

Answer: Develop 21st Century Learning Skills (taken from Tony Wagners's book, The Global Achievement Gap). He called them his Seven Survival Skills:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  2. Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
  3. Agility and Adaptability
  4. Initiative and Entrepreneurship
  5. Accessing and Analyzing Information
  6. Effective Oral and Written Communication
  7. Curiosity and Imagination
If you develop these learning skills you will be ready and relevant for the challenges of the 21st century, if you don't then others will determine your future for you. Will you try to predict your future or will you make your future...?