How we communicate with anyone is extremely important. The way we communicate with students, parents, administrators and colleagues directly impacts the learning that occurs in our classroom. This module on communication demonstrated various ways to use the Internet to interact with students, parents and administrators.
I think back to my PSII experience in a large Calgary High School and I really am not sure how relevant email would have been as a mode of communication with my students. They were extremely adept to checking D2L on a regular basis for updates from teachers, which allows for whole class updates or private conversations with students. This said, as a practicum student, I found it difficult to get into the habit of continually checking D2L for updates and questions from students.
In PSI we learned about a tool called Remind101, which I think would be a great tool for sending out messages to students, and is a one-way tool. It gives each student the option to sign up with an email or phone number (which is kept completely anonymous to the teacher). When the teacher wants to send out an update they select their class list, type their message and press send. This will send the message to either the email address or phone number (via text message) that the student provided. As most people carry their cell phones on them at all times, I feel this is a more efficient way to quickly contact students with any time sensitive messages.
Google Blog Search! I do not understand how this is the first time I am hearing of this fantastic resource! After reading about this search engine I decided to try searching for a few things myself. This is an excellent resource that could be used in class! I was able to pull up thousands of blogs on chemistry and as I refined my search to more specific topics in the curriculum (for example: chem* and education and bond* and “intermolecular force*”) the responses became much more succinct and relevant. To return to the topic of my last post, effective research, this is a brilliant way to integrate blogging and teaching effective research techniques to students. Using Google Blog Search the class can view several blogs and make comparisons to help them determine what a good, mediocre and poor blog looks like, so they have a vision for their own. As I begin to brainstorm, I know I am just scraping the surface of learning potential that is provided by this resource!
This segues nicely into my plans to blog with my SCI 10 and CHEM 20’s in PSIII. I see blogging as a truly authentic experience for students. Using blogs will allow me to breakdown the classroom walls and expose students to a learning environment that I, alone, cannot provide them. Using blogs allows students to connect with virtually any experts in the fields they are interested in (MacBride & Luehmann, 2008). Collaboration is at the heart of blogging and there is no learning that can be made more authentic than allowing students to connect with individuals who are currently working in the field (Macbride & Luehmann, 2008; Sawmiller, 2010). Students will be able to take part in conversation where they can take the time that they need to effectively plan out their response, edit it and ensure that it demonstrates their best learning. This is different than in the classroom setting, where there is only so much wait time that can be provided before an answer is needed. I also love the notion that blogging gives the silent students a voice (Sawmiller, 2010). Often our classrooms are tailored to extroverted students, but the use of blogging allows the introverts to shine on their own accord. I think that it is extremely important that we teach our students to be able to interact on a daily basis with their peers (or eventual colleagues), but we also need to provide them outlets that allow them to be true to themselves and demonstrate their learning in a way that best fits their personality and learning style.
Blogging is one way that we can differentiate for our students and begin to build and inclusive classroom. What about those students that will still struggle with blogging? Perhaps their writing is weak – there is a solution for that! We know that in order to practice effective assessment in the classroom, it is important to incorporate a variety of different formats (Younger, Duncan & Hart, 2013). Students can use the standard blogging platform and make videos with iMovie (or a Windows equivalence) and upload them to YouTube and post them on their blog. Alternatively, there are platforms where students can create their entire blog to be a video blog, or Vlog. There are also resources available that allow the student to speak into a microphone and the computer will translate this into the written word for them. It is possible to create an inclusive classroom with the use of blogging by differentiating to accommodate the needs of all learners in the classroom.
As teachers, we can read as much research as we want that tells us what effective teaching practices are, but in reality the best source of information is our students; all we need to do is ask them if what we are doing is working to promote their learning. Below is a video of middle school students talking about why they enjoy blogging. Responses include “expressing yourself without limits, bring the class together as a whole, fostering creativity, show your own personality, expressing themselves as individuals” (Forster, 2011). It is clear that these students enjoy blogging in the classroom as an outlet to express themselves as an individual when interacting with others.
I want to conclude with a discussion pertaining to the “Framework for Student Learning: Competencies for Engaged Thinkers and Ethical Citizens with an Entrepreneurial Spirit” released by Alberta Education (Alberta Education, 2011). Below is the graphic that is used to illustrate the Framework for Students Learning.
Personally I find the visual to be an effective representation of student learning. Most importantly the student is at the center of the wheel, which makes sense, in that all decision we make as educators should have the benefits of student learning in mind. A strong vision outlined by Alberta Education (2011, p.6) that guides the Framework for Student Learning reads:
“All students are inspired to achieve success and fulfillment as engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit”
It was brought to our attention that arguments are being made against vision for entrepreneurial spirit, because it is too “business focused”, which many of our students will not actually pursue in the future. After reading the description that Alberta Education has outlined in their document, I think this vision is directly aligned with what we, as educators, should hope for our students after leaving our class. Descriptors such as “… achieves goals through hard work, perseverance and discipline; strives for excellence and earns success; who explores ideas and challenges the status quo …” (Alberta Education, 2011). This vision is not focused on the business world, but rather the success of our students; what ever our students choose to do after high school, these skills, and this spirit, will serve them well.
Alberta Education. (2011). Competencies for 21st century learning [Image]. Retrieved on July, 8 2013 from http://education.alberta.ca/teachers/aisi/themes/21-century.aspx
Alberta Education. (2011). Framework for student learning: Competencies for engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit. Retrieved on July 8,2013 from http://education.alberta.ca/media/6581166/framework.pdf
Forster, P. (2011). Student Blogging [Video File]. Retrieved on July 9, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdT7IJPTl8w
MacBride, R., & Luehmann, A. (2008). Capitalizing on Emerging Technologies: A Case Study of Classroom Blogging. School Science And Mathematics, 108(5), 173-183.
Sawmiller, A. (2010). Classroom Blogging: What Is the Role in Science Learning?. Clearing House: A Journal Of Educational Strategies, Issues And Ideas, 83(2),44-48.
Younger, D. W., Duncan, J. E., & Hart, L. M. (2013). Tuning into YouTube in the Classroom: Improving Assessment Scores through Social Media. Online Submission.