Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog – Third graders learning and sharing together is the first classroom blog I read. The purpose of the blog appears to be connecting the teacher with her students outside of the classroom and providing support for lessons or activities the students are doing in class. One thing I noticed about this blog is that most of the posts end with questions for the students. I think that is a great idea. It gets the students thinking and mentally involved in the post. Instead of the students having to think up a comment for the post, they can easily answer one of the questions. Also, the posts include lots of pictures and different color and size text. I believe this helps grab and maintain the students attention (especially as the bloggers are younger).
One thing I didn’t like about this blog is that there are so many widgets on the right side of the blog. I found it distracting and a little confusing. I wonder if the younger students also find all the flashing text and pictures a distraction from the main posts. I did like that there is an introduction for Mrs. Yollis and also an introduction for the entire class which, I believe, helps give the students a sense of ownership.
One post that caught my attention was “Family Blogging Month Winner ~ Adia Teaches Knitting“. This post recognized one of the students as the winner of Family Blogging Month and allowed her to post on the blog. The student used that as an opportunity to teach (via instructions and pictures) knitting. What a great way to involve the students in technology! Not only did the student (probably) have a sense of pride in being able to post on the blog and be able to “be the teacher,” she also learned how to use some form of technology and learned to use pictures as a teaching aid.
I believe this blog is very effective in connecting with the students because it is interesting and fun. Allowing the students to post and comment will help keep them involved in the blog. Also, using pictures and classroom experiences in the posts helps the students maintain a connection with the blog. If Mrs. Yollis often uses “free posts” (i.e. the students can make their own post), this will also motivate the students to have an active interest in the blog. Overall, I enjoyed reading and looking around this blog.
The second blog I analyzed is a high school blog called The Mac Lab. The design is much different in that it appears more contemporary and “cool.” This site appears to be a place for the teacher to post assignments and give instruction on how to complete them. Also, the author provides links for things the students need to read or watch as part of the assignment. Announcements, reminders, and tips are also written about in the posts.
Honestly, there were so many links and different things to read on the site, it would have taken hours to explore all that was available as part of this blog. One thing I found interesting was that a there is a gallery section in the blog. This blog appears to be for students who are interested in becoming media artists, so I thought the idea of showing their work in the gallery section was great. It will give the students a sense of pride and ownership in their work and the blog.
This blog not only provides a place outside of the classroom for the students and the teacher to connect, it is also a medium to share assignment information and announcements. Thus, I believe this blog has a lot of educational value for the students. This way, they can access their assignments and needed information whenever they need to. Also, the students can easily communicate with the teacher and ask questions. Because the class appears to be about media, it makes perfect sense to incorporate a blog and the internet into the class. I think this blog achieves its purpose and is a great resource for the students.
The final blog I looked at is a middle school blog titled Billings Beta – technology with intention. I found this blog very interesting. There are sections for each grade (6th, 7th, and 8th) and also places to discuss and show-case projects. This site seems very involved and high-tech. It is very clean and easy to navigate despite all the different sections and links.
This blog posts about what the students are doing and learning. The posts include pictures and videos of the students and relating to what they are doing in class. Including the students’ projects and thoughts also helps the students feel a part of the blog and the online community. They can visit the blog and see their work proudly displayed on one of the pages or posts. I’m sure that must be very exciting for them.
The thing I was most impressed with about this blog is how clean and easy to navigate it is. I also really liked how each grade has its own sort of blog-within-a-blog. This blog is for the entire middle school, but allows each grade to have its own section. The site is maintained by the school’s technology integration coordinator, and it is very obvious that this person knows what he (or she) is doing. I can tell a big difference in this blog compared to some of the other blogs I’ve looked at that are maintained by just the average teacher. I believe this blog has educational value in that it provides an online community for the students and also allows the parents to see what the students are doing and creating.
My ideas on classroom blogs…
I believe that classroom blogs can be a great source of connection and communication between the students and their teachers. It provides one specific place for news to be shared, announcements to be given, and assignments to be discussed. Also, it allows an easy way of asking and answering questions from the students. I would probably start a blog for my classes for those very reasons. Students these days (especially those in high school) spend a lot of time on the internet, so I think they would be more likely to hop over to a blog to check out assignments than to search through their stack of books to find their class notebook and flip through it until they find an assignment and instructions I gave them in class. A blog also prevents students from misplacing assignment instructions and papers.
As I learned more about classroom blogging and as I experienced the benefits of it, I would share it with other educators in my building and county as a casual suggestion or discussion. After having had real life experience with it, I believe what I said would carry more weight. Especially as the other teachers could see how it was helping both me and my students.
Using professional blogs for professional development seems a bit tricky. I suppose I could use them to learn new teaching methods and new resources that have become available to educators. Also, I could use them to connect with other teachers and ask questions and discuss difficulties we face with a particular problem, situation, or technology. Again, there are so many things to learn via blogs, I think many blogs could be used as a very informal means of professional development.