Finding the 10th Web 2.0 tool for this assignment seemed to be the hardest. VoiceThread was a choice from our assignment outline, but looking at the tool and how teachers are able to use it, I personally didn’t think it was an excellent site. I didn’t want to use a tool for the sake of using technology in the classroom, which is what I felt I would be doing by creating with VoiceThread. I continued to look at tools from ReadWriteThink, Teaching History with Technology and other websites, but I couldn’t seem to find one that fit with my Science 9 Space Exploration Unit. I suppose I could have used a different subject for this last tool, but I wanted to be consistent. I almost decided to do something with VoiceThread when I started thinking about the purpose of using online tools with our students.
So far all the tools I have chosen have been to help students with their research, studying or presenting their learning. Connecting students with technology by giving them tools to increase their interest and creativity with what they are learning is another purpose of using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. However, a large part of the way students use technology is social media. Through social media, students have discovered how easy it is to share information online. In order to become good digital citizens they need to be taught how to use this technology responsibly, and as is often the case it has fallen to teachers to teach this to their students. I believe it is important to not only use tools with students that will enhance their learning, but will also give them skills they will need for their lives outside the classroom.
Blogs have become a significant way to share information over the Internet. In researching Web 2.0 tools for this assignment, much of the information I found came from blogs. As it is highly likely that at some point in their lives students will read blogs, make comments on other people’s blogs or blog themselves, it is necessary that they learn how to use this media in a positive way. (I often wish there were people screening comments on sites like YouTube.) Facebook and twitter are a form of Microblogging (Wikipedia, 2013), which many students are already participating in. This makes it all the more imperative they learn to leave a positive footprint on the World Wide Web.
The term Blog is short for Weblog and became part of mainstream media by 2004 (Wikipedia, 2013). My daughter’s class has started blogging through Kidblog so I decided to look at its website. Kidblog is a free blogging site made by teachers, for teachers. With it they can create “safe and simple” blogs to use with their students, from K-12 (Kidblog, 2013). According to the website, teachers can use Kidblog to teach their students how to be a good digital citizens, reflect on their learning, and practice their writing skills (Kidblog, 2013). The teacher retains complete control over their students’ blogs, having the last say as to what gets published and what comments get posted. Kidblog gives the teacher the flexibility to keep student blogs private (only classmates can view), to invite others to view the blogs (like parents or others in the school community), or make the blogs public (so anyone can view them) (Kidblog, 2013). Kidblog has no advertising and does not require any personal information from students (Kidblog, 2013). Kidblog seems like a great way to introduce students to the world of blogging.
My daughter’s class uses their blogs for “play”. Beyond learning how to log in and create posts, students have not been given any further instruction, but are simply allowed to explore the medium on their own. As Kidblog allows a safe place to do this, letting them explore is not a bad idea, but student blogs can create more learning opportunities than this. I wanted to take a screenshot of my daughter’s blog, but I couldn’t log in to the District server using Diigo browser on my iPad. I assume this is a security feature or it doesn’t recognize the browser. As I don’t have a class to start on Kidblog, I chose not to create a class account. Instead I explored the Internet to see how other teachers are using blogs in their teaching practice.
A Grade 1 class is using Kidblog to follow Flat Stanley’s Adventures and another class has documented their trip to Argentina. I found these two examples on the Twitter feed at Kidblog. Another teacher tweeted there about how blogging has motivated her students to write. A Google search elicited more ways teachers are using blogs with their students. Check out Mrs. Yollis’ Wiki as she talks about how blogging has enhanced her students’ learning. On Kidblog’s own blog there is a great 5-part interview with a teacher, Russ Goerend, from December 20, 2012, on how he uses Kidblog in his own classroom. He has lots of tips on getting started, assessing work and teaching students how to comment.
I like the simplicity of Kidblog, as it is “important to not get distracted by the technology that powers the blogging platform” (Dunn, 2012). According to Dunn blogging should be about reading and writing, not the technology. Blogging provides students with authentic learning opportunities by enhancing student reading, writing and commenting on other’s work (Dunn, 2012). From what I could find on the Internet, teachers see blogging as a way to enhance their students writing, therefore most of the examples I found were from Language Arts or English. Though I didn’t find as many ways teachers are using blogging in Science classrooms, I think it would be a great tool in that subject as well.
Science writing (writing about science for non-specialists) and scientific writing (writing for specialists in the field) are different from other forms of writing (Writing@CSU, 2013). A scientific paper has a standard 6-part format that guides readers to the information and analyses it contains (Writing@CSU, 2013). When communicating their findings outside the scientific community, scientists must ensure they are writing in a clear and effective manner (MSTA). Though not all students will become scientists, I believe it is still important for them to practice science writing. By understanding good science or scientific writing, students will be better equipped to judge whether or not the “science” they find on the Internet is reliable.
I can see many opportunities for blogging in a Science 9 classroom. An important part of scientific writing is the discussion of results from an experiment. Often in a formal lab report students answer discussion questions and then write a brief conclusion. Blogging could be a way to discuss the experiment in more depth and reflect on what the student learned. This may help change the focus from “what did we do” to “why did we do it” and allow students to see science knowledge as more than a set of facts to be learned (Brownstein & Klein, 2006). In the Science 9 Space Explorations unit, students could write biographies about astronauts, describe new space or spin-off technologies, or blog about anything that interests them about space. Blogging would help foster community in the classroom, as students would learn what interests their fellow classmates have. From my experience, science teachers often complain about their students’ writing. They often don’t take the time write up their labs or other projects properly. Because students know that a larger audience than their teacher will view their blogs, blogging has the added benefit of improving the quality of students’ writing (Brownstein& Klein, 2006).
I tried to find a few examples of blogs in the science classroom, but was not very successful. I found quite a few science class blogs, but the posts seemed to be all from the teacher. I also found blogs by science teachers indicating they use blogs in their classroom, but I couldn’t find any with student work. Having students blog about the science they are learning may be underutilized in the classroom, however, I believe using Kidblog would have a lot of value for students and be another way for them to connect with the science they are studying.
Blog. (2013, March 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:20, March 26, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blog&oldid=542932272
Brownstein, E. and Klein, R. (2006). Blogs. National Science Teachers Association WebNews Digest. Retrieved from http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=51966
Dunn, J. (2012, December 24). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://edudemic.com/2012/12/blogging-in-the-classroom-a-4-step-guide/
Kidblog (2013). Retrieved from http://kidblog.org/home/
MSTA-Michigan Science Teachers Association (n.d.). Writing Across the Curriculum: Science. Retrieved from http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Science_WAC_2_3_264454_7.pdf
Writing@CSU (2013). Writing the scientific paper. Colorado State University. Retrieved from http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=83