My students are blogging. It took a while to get it going, mainly as I was unsure how parents would react to the idea of their 12-13 year-old children blogging. However, I sent home permission slips and explained how we would be using the blogs for social studies class. Parent response was overwhelmingly positive.
The students have only been required to blog three times, so far. The images below are examples of the student work. They were required to note the state standards (They need to know what they should be learning, as well as explain what the heck the words mean--that is a lesson in itself), define key terms, find images to represent these standards, embed a whole class created GoogleDoc, add video and then explain what they really learned in their own words. I could go on and on about what they are learning, but students and parents direct words say it so clearly (as copied and pasted from my classroom blog):
I like doing a blog, because I think it is a fun and interactive way to learn. I think this changes learning because it helps me do better work because I want to leave positive footprints.
From Dad:Your project is amazing. The fact you can incorporate all the information and present it the way you did is beyond what I would expect and imagine. I'm proud of you.
I think the blogs are really cool and awesome! They are fun to build and experiment with. After a couple hours of messing around with my homepage, I pretty much got the hang of how to edit and build. There's so many possibilities! My parents love it too!
From Mom: I find your blog very interesting. Great pictures!! Let me know when you have added more to it.
Personally, I enjoy working on the blogs. It is a fun way to express what we know.
In addition, the blogs are teaching us how to use a variety of technological resources.
I like these blogs because we can write about/express history in our own ways. It changes learning because instead of just flat-out taking notes, we can add posts to our blog as we go along. We are not pressured.
From Grandma: I can't believe the professionalism of your blog. Your pictures, captions, questions, and overall blog were great. Whenever you get some time I would love to know how you did it. Thanks for sharing.
I enjoy doing the blog a lot. It is fun and is a cool, new way of learning. Everyone gets a say in what their ideas are. This does change learning. It's different and fun.
I do like doing blog because it is a new way to learn. I think it does change learning in a way because it is a new form of learning and I think it's more of a group learning. I think it's more of a group learning because students share their comments on things and other students can read their comments.
I love using blogs to learn they are much more fun and interactive than textbooks and someone just standing there talking. It makes learning much more fun and interactive. Thanks
Honestly, I love the blogs. They are really fun and they seem to teach me many things. When I work with the blog, I seem to work harder to get a better grade, but it also teaches me a lot.
These blogs are an amazing idea. If they are saved, they can create an enduring impact on the future. "Leave digital footprints worth following"
From Grandpa:Wow, I am quite impressed. I feel that your interview of me was done in a real professional manner. If I would have realized that I would be on the internet, I would have changed out of my work jeans. All in all, your presentation covered the subject matter quite well and the addition of the photos brought that time of my life to life. Great job!!!!
I think the blogs are a fabulous idea! They are soo much fun, if you use them right, and such a fab way to share your ideas, because alot of the times when you are talking about class in your social time, it is about either how annoying the teachers are or complaining about the homework for that night, NOT what we learned in class. We should talk more about those things, but it's just so boring in real life! On the blogs, other people (i.e.: friends, your teacher, parents, grandma[??]...) can take a couple of minutes to read your thoughts and opinions about what you are learning, and it could possibly change your friends' thoughts about class that day! Also, it will give your parent(s) an update of what you are doing! Definitely a fun thing to do and I am so glad to have a blog of mine that is put to good use!
Student blogging helps me in my job. Kids are writing more, thinking more, connecting more, and "seeing" more. Student blogging is creative, meaningful and engaging for all. Give it a try.
At the end of the day, the whole reason we integrate technology is to create students that create the questions, not just the answers. Recently I discovered (through TEDtalks
tweet) an amazing high school math teacher named Dan Meyer, click here
for his blog. Dan presented at the TED conference and talked about re-inventing how math is taught. basically, Dan doesn't give homework, hates textbooks, and wants to create "patient problem-solvers". His presentation is the video below this blog post. I love the term "patient problem-solver". To me it evokes imagery of students using the scientific method in a social studies classroom. Students observe something happening in the world around them, create a hypothesis of why it is happening, then formulate questions to answer using historical resources. How great would it be if students applied patience, collaboration and technology to understand why the world works.
Students could skype students around the world, or professors from major universities specializing in particular areas of history, scour the internet for historians blogs and primary resources, then test their data against their hypothesis. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong. Either way students have complete ownership of this academic journey. From observation, to asking the question, to solving the question. Students can take days, or weeks to solve one major question; and along the way....accidental learning will take place. Students will be exposed to research tangents that pull in information, create connections with others, and hone their critical thinking skills. All of this is possible if you model patience with your students. Dan Meyer talks about how textbooks create problems that mirror contemporary sit-coms. Everything can be solved in a 1/2 hour. Only problem is that the world doesn't work that way. As Dan says, have you ever seen a problem worth solving that can be accomplished in a 1/2 hour?" (I'm paraphrasing here) Take a second and watch his presentation and then please leave a comment expressing your opinions. Just think, maybe answering 4 or 5 big questions in an entire school year will provide a better education than weekly assessments and a yearly 40 question standardized test.
Constructivism is an educational theory, usually associated with Jean Piaget, that states humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences in a process of accommodation and assimilation (more details
A person who really buys into Constructivism would practice a pedagogy of active or hands on learning.
I like to think of myself as a progressive educator who follows these principals.
So with that said, I am sitting at a workshop today.
A University professor is discussing the “Sounds” of history.
In the room are 26-27 teachers from northeast Ohio.
We are visiting sites and listening to historical content with discussions about each topic.
The discussions are week at best even with some impressive sound clips and historical data.
Well, before I give my perception of why, take a minute to read the following Washington Post article by Laura Mortkowitz entitled, “More colleges, professors shutting down laptops and other digital distractions
We will come back to this.
Computers engage people. Maybe not the way you always want, but they do engage. People want to “connect”, they want to share, they want to explore.
The discussions are week because the people are digging deeper into the sites then the story he is playing and disucssing. They are linking the voices clip to films, website, etc in fact Mike heard the
He went on the web, found a 1996 documentary “Rebels with a Cause
” watched it, then went to Facebook and “friended” three of the founding members of SNCC, who were interviewed in the documentary.
Needless to say, Mike did not say a great deal in the discussions, but was he “playing” or constructing his own knowledge?
As noted in the Washington post article, not all schools or professors are shutting down technology; Seton Hall University is giving all incoming students a MacBook and an iPad.
As the world changes and becomes more “flat” we need to find ways to engage people in more complex thinking.
The 21st Century skills and technology go hand in hand.
We all construct knowledge; we want to connect to our learning.
However, we need the instructor to guide us…not dictate all learning.
Humans are not educated on an assembly line.
As a teacher, I often guide my student toward learning objectives, but let them connect the learning in their own way.
I often talk about the “accidental learning” that takes place in my room.
Students are working to achieve classroom, district, or state goals but learn a large amount beyond that by accidentally reading, seeing, viewing something beyond these objectives. They begin to construct knowledge and learn how to learn.
The true goal of 21st Century skills is to become life long learners—computers and technology help us do that, but they will never replace the guide: teachers.
So, do you agree? Let me here your ideas. Have a good weekend. Garth
How can we use technology to take a students on a Quest for knowledge?
The answer is WebQuests:
WebQuests have become a major part of education over the last decade. They are inquiry-oriented and have students use variety of web resources for them to engage with content in a 21st Century way.
They can be both long and short-term assignments. Bernie Dodge
, who created WebQuests, describes what a WebQuest is in the following way,
“A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. The model was developed by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University in February 1995 with early input from SDSU/Pacific Bell Fellow Tom March, the Educational Technology staff at San Diego Unified School District, and waves of participants each summer at the Teach the Teachers Consortium.
Since those beginning days, tens of thousands of teachers have embraced WebQuests as a way to make good use of the internet while engaging their students in the kinds of thinking that the 21st century requires. The model has spread around the world, with special enthusiasm in Brazil, Spain, China, Australia and Holland”
However, as a university teacher at the grade school level, it is very clear many students who plan to teach have no idea what a WebQuest is or how to use them.
Last week when I asked 24 graduate students in our google doc pretest for the course to “Explain what a “WebQuest” is and explain the parts required to use one?” Three students mentioned they had heard of them, but could not explain them.
Only one student was able to define and explain the parts.
This raises some interesting questions for the future of education.
Teach WebQuest is not in this course syllabus, but I believe they should have an understanding of them and how to engage students in the content with WebQuest.
I will make time to address this concept in the course.
WebQuests have five major parts:
Introduction, task, process, resources, and conclusion.
The introduction provides some background on the topic and the hook to pull students in.
It should raise some motivating questions and get them excited about the topic.
The Task defines what the student will do.
WebQuests often have group collaboration to them, so this is where the roles or jobs are explained.
It will also explain what they need to accomplish during the WebQuest.
The Process is a numbered statement of what needs to be accomplished.
This could be the guided reading type questions or projects that need to be completed.
The fourth part resources are just that the prepicked (by you) places students can find the information they need to complete the tasks.
The conclusion is summative and rhetorical in natural.
I usually add a sixth section: evaluation.
This should provide a rubric for students to understand how their work will be graded before they begin.
Not all WebQuest online have this section.
They also at times combined the process and task page.
Individual teachers can adjust the assignment, if they hold true to the concept.
WebQuests are great learning tools--see this link for more details
WebQuests prompt many types of learning strategies, such as: Motivation Theory, Constructivism, Defferentiated Learning, Situated Learning, Thematic Instruction, Learner-Centered psychological principles, and Questioning at a higher level.
Teachers who are thinking of using WebQuests should check out the following site and examples: David Carpenter’s
work Discovery Education
on WebQuests List of WebQuest
by content and grade level Google Scholar
search engine for WebQuest research, articles, examples.
If you know of a great WebQuest…post the link below.
Beachwood, Ohio: I arrived in Beachwood in the 2001-2002 school year. I had worked five years at ESM in East Syracuse New York as a 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher and two years at Newark City Schools in Newark, Ohio where I worked as a gifted interventionist. Beachwood was a different world for me. I came to a place where the community really cared about education. I do not mean that ESM or Newark did not, but Beachwood supported the schools like nowhere I had seen before or to this day. The students came to school to learn and the community and local tax base supported the schools. It was the ideal setting for progressive education.
However, one person really opened my eyes to a new ideas of education. Edward Bernetich, BMS principal, was and is a visionary of what education can be. He focused on building solid relationships with all stakeholders. This is the foundation for an good educator. Ed also had a way with his staff, he presented new and exciting ideas about education and fostered and environment for risk-taking. He encouraged, nurtured, and inspired me to try new and unique things. For this I am forever grateful. I am sure his values, comments and ideas will be embedded in my postings on this blog.
Ed hired me to try something out. His vision was one laptop for every child at Beachwood Middle School: I would run the test program. I was given a classroom with a wireless lab of 25 mac books that could be used at any time and for any reason. My job, sounds simple, was to figure out how to use them in the social studies classroom. This was not an easy task. No books and few websites talked about what to do with that much power in your room. I was on my own, but supported, to try new things and see where it led. The first year was very difficult. My first task was to build a webpage and develop webquests to work from--both things I had done before. Time was the issue, one 3 year old and a newborn on the way (Oct of that year) and living in a region/city that was all new to my wife and me. However, over the year I began to find new and interesting ways to use technology to engage kids in content and teach them at a higher level, I believe. I will use this site to explain some of those experiences and provide insight in how computers are used today in my room and at BMS. What is happening at BMS is good and worth others hearing about.
The posts that following will not be in any order, but just posts of how my students have been doing things over the last 8 years. I hope someone finds this information useful to what is happening in their classroom.