Sunday, December 2, 2012

Project Blog

When it was first suggested trialling blogging in the primary, my initial thought was this would not be plausible in first grade. The benefits of blogging are well documented. It was just the process and how to do this with 22 budding six year old students. 

That is where sharing ideas and networking comes to the fore. When Jeff Utecht  visited SAS and suggested creating a class gmail and using student names as labels for each post they made, the light turned on and the impossible seemed very possible.

So when primary technology decided to trial individual blogs in second grade with several classes, I made the brave decision to take Jeff's idea and put it into practice. I say brave because we were entering unknown territory and we were trialling this with elementary students. 

Never to be phased, I approached two first grade teachers. The initial response was one of apprehension. Blogging? First grade? Why? However, armed with evidence and a persuasive attitude, the agreement was sealed and Project Blog in first grade was born.

We decided to treat this as an action research project. Class gmail accounts were created and the basic blog was set up by myself and the teacher. We created a learning log on google docs to assist with tracking and sharing information back to the first grade team.  

The first lesson was fascinating. We made the assumption first graders may not know what a blog was and it proved to be correct. So the introductory lesson examined various blogs and what they do. The most empowering part of this lesson was to inform students they would be the owners of this blog. That day they added a new word to their vocabulary; post. 

The second lesson was the actual posting. Since we did not wish to take away valuable class learning time, we ran a center of six iPads using the blogger application to make the first post. Students were instructed to use the camera tool to take a photo of themselves . We then began the step by step structure of teaching post title, post content, attach a picture, add a first name as the label and publish. 

Monitoring and providing support to the students at this crucial stage was essential. As life would have it, the first batch of six students could not post. An error popped up on the iPad. A quick change to the image settings was made and suddenly we were publishing.

Since the initial posts, each child has added two more. Last week, one class went to the primary school website and saved images off the screen from the school's JAlbum. They then created a collage using an application entitled Pic Collage, saved it to the iPad and then, as a group, teachers assisted them to post it to the blog. The step by step structure of posting is still a skill students are learning hence constant support and guidance remains essential. 

This project is exciting. It involves an incredible degree of collaboration between myself and the teachers. The creation of a single class blog and the use of labels has enabled us to make blogging very manageable for first graders and we can see that there is much scope for using the class blog as a learning, reflective tool. 

We have witnessed incredible reenforcement of skills when just sharing the class blog with the students as a class. A prime example of this was having the students verbally create the page entitled 'Our teacher'. The students told us what to write and the teacher typed the text into the blog. The skills of reading and writing become incredibly powerful when using the blog in this manner. It is why we as the teachers decided from the very beginning to make all the language in blog readable by a first grader. It is, after all, their blog!

We are only at the beginning of this journey. The content will continue to expand as we move through into the second semester. There is no denying that time taken on this project is substantial. The class teachers are busy and support is crucial. However the ability to use the class blog as a reflective tool to think about what students learned is powerful. Above all else, students enjoy the process and the thrill of having parents and extended family witness their learning online, not just in Singapore, but all around the world.

(The two class teachers involved in Project Blog are Mrs. Pamela Derksen and Mrs. Debra Joyce. Click their names to visit their blogs. ).

1 comment:

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