Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recent Reflections...

My journey with blogs and wikis began 4 years ago when I decided I would be left behind unless I made a real effort to keep up... This lead to self lead learning which often went up "a garden path"...
I was recently asked to share my journey with E-Learning and pedagogy in CINZS. It proved a great opportunity to take stock of where we are with e-learning and how it fits within my practice...
Click on the link to read the whole reflection... A summary is posted below...

I began using Web 2.0 tools about four years ago. Truth is, I saw this “stuff” happening and was hearing about innovative teaching making the most of these tools. My interest in this area came from my own action research in writing. I was hoping to find a way to improve writing outcomes and motivation in the children that I work with. I wanted to explore the value that Web 2.0 tools might have on pedagogy and practice. In this article I share some of my experiences of using these tools.
I began by using Wikispaces with my class. The purpose of the Wikispace was to share our learning with families from outside of Dunedin and to involve working parents with what was happening in our classroom. In hindsight, this was invaluable as it taught me quickly many skills including html coding, uploading images and the Creative Commons. Understanding about the Creative Commons has meant that I have been able to guide children about legal use and downloading of internet content. A great explanation about the Creative Commons can be viewed here: <>. At the time though, this became a virtual display space and added to my duties as a classroom teacher. Certainly, it was very motivating for the children to see their writing published online and visitors reading it from around the world, and it definitely became another display space for me. In other words, this was teacher driven, not student driven, unless they were responding to my feedback.
I am glad I began with Wikispaces because it developed my knowledge and understanding of web tools and sites. I feel it helped my digital literacy to develop, thus leading to increased confidence. I have continued to use Wikispaces but my philosophy about their use has evolved and changed.


Wikispaces are a form of social web tool. Therefore, it is intended for users who are 13 years and older. Our syndicate teachers have developed a Wikispace that we access and update as administrators. It is a valid form of communication between home and school and includes links to notices, homework, road patrol rosters, photos, etc. This has proved itself to be invaluable for working parents, grandparents based around the country and the world as well as helpful for students. If children are away, have lost notices or homework sheets, or want to practise spelling and basic facts specific to their current learning goals, they can access these from home. If you are thinking about establishing an online class site, Wikispaces is where I recommend you begin. It is easy and intuitive to use, mostly free and gathering huge momentum with teachers around the world, who are keen to collaborate, communicate and comment. It has created an authentic audience for the children we are working with in so many ways.
Last year, we began blogging. Both the children and teachers became administrators of the blog and the class took on an active role. The Super7Scooper Blog is a classroom blog that has been developed firstly by myself and then evolved by the Year 5 and 6 children working in Room 7, as they took on ownership of their space. The blog shares our daily learning experiences, exemplars of our different levels working within our classroom and also acts as a reflective journal that we have referred back to regularly. Initially, it was started as a teacher-driven tool as a vehicle for modelling during shared reading and writing sessions, and as a means for introducing the children to digital citizenship and literacy. Over the year, the ownership has shifted from the teacher to the students who now decide what is blogged, which Web 2 tools they use to publish as well as the moderation of comments.

The aim of blogging was two-fold. Firstly, the blog was intended as a means for children to share their learning with their families and to further develop the sense of community between home and school. The second aim of this blog was to give the children a sense of audience. We were targeting writing in all classrooms across our school and looking for ways to improve student standard and motivation to write.The latter has grown far more than I had initially planned thanks to the use of a professional learning network (PLN) who offer comments, feedback and motivation to write. This group comprises teachers and students from around the country/world that evolved from professional discussions and sharing on Twitter and VLN (virtual learning network) – an online community for New Zealand teachers.
The “Scooper” derivation came from “what’s the scoop?” in other words “what’s the news?” Over the year, operation of the blog has evolved. Initially, it was set up and managed by myself, the teacher. Over the first term, the blog presented itself as a fantastic means of shared reading and writing supporting the modelling of safe internet practice and modelling of the writing cycle from planning and drafting, to conferencing, publishing and responding to feedback. As the year has progressed, the children have stepped up and slowly taken over the running of the blog. “Today’s Scoopers” were rostered and they would work through the writing cycle to plan, draft, edit and conference their posts. Once posts were published with the approval of the rest of the class and myself in the form of conferences, I would then (secretly) tweet my PLN if feedback or audience would be beneficial to those writers. Often feedback comes from families, friends and “followers” without being solicited. The children read their feedback and respond or edit their posts depending on the feedback they receive. There is a sense of pride in this group of writers when they receive feedback and see readers from around the world visiting their blog.
Children will actively seek reasons to write, either collaboratively or on their own, and will independently respond to feedback in order to revisit and edit their writing. It was noted at our most recent three-way conferences that writing was voluntarily shared as a favourite area of learning and (surprisingly) not one boy failed to mention that writing was one of his favourite subjects. By using digital tools ranging from the class camera to web-based tools for publishing, this class has been inspired because they’re reaching an audience and their published pieces look “real”. Above all, they are getting feedback.
Blogging as a class has led to connecting with a range of audiences and developing projects with classes worldwide. However, the development of using blogs in this classroom really came from a school-wide initiative to develop our writing programmes in order for improved achievement at all levels. Obviously aspects of development included pedagogy and practice. Blogs and Web 2.0 tools have been only a part of this project but it is fair to say that they have accentuated motivation to write, a purpose to publish our writing, and engagement in the whole writing cycle. The ease of web-based tools has impacted on other areas of literacy including visual and oral language programmes. Children are actively involved in reading and responding to blog posts, sharing their news orally in their fortnightly “Scoop” videos and sharing photos that support blog posts.
The blog has become an archive of learning experiences and outcomes. It has proved to be an easy way to store artifacts that have been created using software and web-based tools. These tools have had a huge impact on learning including the following examples.

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