Monday, November 30, 2009

Are you and your students blogging yet?

Stevenson teacher Chris Salituro ("Sal"), has been interacting online with his Sociology students for some time. Several years ago Sal began extending his classroom discussions beyond the school day using an online discussion board. Web-based tools have improved over the years, and through that experience, Sal has transitioned his Sociology class discussions into a "Ways of Thinking" classroom blog. Sal recently shared his rationale for using a blog, and has granted me permission to publish his comments here.
My use of blogging was a long time in developing. I was always reluctant to simply use technology for the sake of technology. But as blogging became more popular and the technology became more available I decided that blogging would be a way of using technology to educate students in a way that was previously impossible.

First, the rise of blogging in general seems to necessitate, to me, a blogging literacy among students. A number of our grads have gone on to work in media and they have returned to school to emphasize the multi-media explosion of the last few years. For example, one student works for Fox and he is producer, but he also does on-air reporting and throughout the last presidential campaign he maintained a blogsite for Fox that would be updated throughout the day. Many other traditional news sources such as newspapers are turning to blogging as well. My first goal is to introduce students to this up and coming trend.

Second, I have been very aware of the change from a producer to a consumer society. We have become a nation of consumers. By creating a blog, it makes students producers again. The student-managed blogs are productive in that students are producing their own writing and thoughts. Blogging is unique in that it allows for a forum for students to produce something that reaches millions of people. The seriousness and meaningfulness of blogging changes the dynamics of what would be a traditional assignment. Rather than a journal that is turned in to a teacher and then discarded, the blog is something that can be accessed by the general public. One example from my own life recently is that I was googling an article that we read last year in class because I couldn't find my copy of it. The first few yields of the google search were my previous students' blogs about the article. Now I not only had the article I was looking for, but I also had the context with which we discussed it in class. Students are now helping to produce the content of the class, and content for anyone with the Internet to see.

Along the lines of being productive, the third point about blogging that I have found to be transformational is that it requires students to take the class content and apply it to their own lives. In doing so, and in sharing this application, the students become teachers for themselves. In other words, I am not the only one giving examples of our lesson to the students, but now the students are giving each other a lesson as well. I do not want students to be simple consumers of my sociology, but I want them to produce their own sociology that I can learn from as well. With the blog I am finding more and more that students have insights and stories to share that add to our understanding of the content, and these stories would not be available without the blogging.

One of the reasons that the student insights are available because of blogging is the limited amount of classroom time. The blog is an unlimited classroom where students can read as much as they want and are free to share as much as they want. On the blog, I never have to say to students, “Okay, we have to move on.” This virtual classroom allows motivated and interested students to be as involved as they would like to be, without dominating the class. Incidentally, this has been really useful in terms of absences. My classes have a notoriously high absence rate. When students return and ask, “What did I miss?” I say, “Check the blog.”

Lastly, I have always been wary of what we were measuring with our objective tests. The blog is a type of online portfolio that allows real assessment of a student’s grasp of the subject matter and the student’s ability to apply that subject matter to his/her real life.

If you are a teacher who is "still on the fence" about whether blogging is worth the time and effort for you and/or your students, I hope that Sal's comments help you decide in favor of allowing your students to move from being only consumers of content, into the roles of knowledge producers and contributors to the stories that "add to our understanding of the content."

K12 Online Conference starts this week

The K12 Online Conference 2009 begins this week! This year’s conference begins with a pre-conference keynote by classroom teacher and international educator Kim Cofino (

The 2009 conference theme is “Bridging the Divide.” K12 Online 2009 is a FREE conference, run by volunteers and open to ANYONE interested in integrating emerging technologies into classroom practice. A primary goal of the conference is to help educators make sense of and meet the needs of a continually changing learning landscape. Live events and twice-monthly webcasts will continue into 2010 via EdTechTalk, and Professional Development Credit is available.

The following two weeks, December 7-11 and December 14-17, over fifty presentations will be posted online to the conference blog ( and Ning ( ) for participants to view, download, and discuss.

Live Events in the form of three “Fireside Chats” are listed on the events page of the conference Ning and Facebook fan page, and live events will continue in 2010 through twice-monthly “K-12 Online Echo” webcasts on EdTechTalk. Everyone is encouraged to participate in both live events during and after the conference as well as asynchronous conversations.

Over 122 presentations from 2008, 2007, and 2006 are available, along with archived live events. Follow the K12 Online Conference on Twitter ( ) and Facebook ( )!

To participate and begin learning, visit