Sunday, April 7, 2013

Online Collaborations and Conversations

New Zealand teachers can now easily join in chats with educators at a global or national level depending on their needs and enthusiasm for this kind of discussion. Blogging along with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and the VLN have all had a huge impact on learning and teaching everywhere. Quadblogging is one of a myriad of ways that teachers are able to connect and collaborate with other passionate teachers and learners. The outcome is an authentic audience for their classroom blog along with potentially very powerful and meaningful discussions.

David Mitchell, a teacher from the United Kingdom, founded QuadBlogging back in 2011. Within 8 weeks Claire’s class was one of 40 to get involved and she has participated in 4 out of 5 rounds. Since the official launch in September 2011, QuadBlogging has grown exponentially and is now being used across the globe in 40 countries. It turns out that after the UK and USA, New Zealand is the third most signed up nation!

The concept of Quad Blogging is very simple. Four teachers agree to have their students comment on each other's blogs by signing up to a google form along with other teachers from around the world. The form is embedded on David’s site ( ) . Each week, one of the four classrooms gets a turn as the spotlight class. The other three classes visit and leave comments. Over the course of a month, every student's work gets read and commented upon. Along the way, students learn about respectful online communication. They may decide to revise their thinking if a commenter shares a perspective they haven't considered. They also get to read writing, blog posts and descriptions of children’s learning from around the world.

Blogging has had a huge impact on writing in Claire’s classroom. Children are motivated to write because of their global audience and the authenticity that the blog provides. There has been a huge shift in motivation to write and actual achievement in writing.

However, it has not always been easy to engage families to comment regularly on the blog. They sincerely enjoy the “window” to their child’s learning that it provides but are not active contributors. Without an active audience and regular feedback, children in Claire’s class began to lose interest and the momentum in which they produced text.

Signing up to the Quad Blogging project gave the class blog a different focus. When the children in Claire’s classroom began to see hits on their cluster map from England, Canada, the USA and other places the reality of an audience hit home. No longer were they just writing for their teacher or sharing with their families. Suddenly they were getting feedback from peers of similar age from around the world about things such as spelling, ideas and how clear their text was. Children and teachers were asking for clarification. They wanted to know more about New Zealand, Dunedin and their school. The comments and conversations provided by the students showed Claire the widespread impact that this has had on their writing. By providing a real purpose for the students, the volume of their writing increased dramatically. Students had a real desire to complete tasks and to publish to the best of their ability. Texts included written, video and audio formats.

It turned out that this kind of feedback had an even greater impact on the children than their families being able to comment on learning experiences. They wanted to develop the content on the blog further so that it included video and audio files that allowed a real snapshot of learning in the Neinsteins’ classroom.

David continues to lead collaboration and via Twitter he shared his “Pass the Blog” concept. The truth is, this type of collaboration would be easy to set up within a school but in an essence: one blog passed to classrooms on a rostered basis. Claire and Room 9 found that this project lead to new collaborations including valuable comments and feedback. Another project, was a 24-hour phenomenon on Leap Day, 2012. The site received 12,000 posts, 5,000 comments, and 400,000 hits during its one-day-only publishing lifecycle.

Online communities and collaboration continue to be of huge value to Claire and the Room 9 Einsteins. They value the conversations and the global community that is rapidly evolving. Claire finds herself bumping into teachers on Twitter that she has met via Quad Blogging and other online projects. The ubiquity of online discussions is significant for Claire and she appreciates the discussions it presents her along with the professional dialogue.  

If teachers are looking for ways to develop an audience for their blogs, Claire strongly recommends that they sign up for a round of Quad Blogging. Benefits of such collaboration include motivating students to write more, produce writing of higher quality, gain new perspectives, and possibly even develop “global empathy”.  To maximize the experience teachers should communicate with each of the Quad teachers to best meet the needs of the children and to learn from each other. Skype or real time communication may not always be possible but to truly maximize this experience, teachers need to talk, share their class needs and direction and collaborate. It can be very powerful. 

No comments:

Post a Comment