Thursday, April 25, 2013

Flipboard and Student Blogging

If you are into Ed Tech surely you are well aware of Richard Byrne and all he gives to us on a daily basis.  A few weeks ago he shared a post on creating magazines using a Flipboard extension.  I did not know when I was reading it the dramatic impact this post would have on the remainder of my school year.

I thought, cool, I will be able to create a magazine for EdTech, Assessment, History, News, etc.  It just so happens that at the time I was assigning my US History classes a long term project.  My goal in the project was to emphasize student voice and student choice.  I really wanted them to engage in the process of research and explore methods of creation or presentation of their findings.

I decided to place students on research teams.  They would have 4 or 5 students to be their project support system.  The to connect them and give me an inroad to their progress the students are posting weekly to their project Blog and their teammates are responsible for commenting.

My dilemma was trying to figure out a way to efficiently check their Blogs and view the comments.  It seemed like it was going to involve a lot of mouse clicks.  Then I remembered the FlipBoard magazine.

I was able to make a magazine on Flipboard.  Then using the Chrome Extension I opened each student Blog and added it to my newly created project magazine.

I have been reading, following comments, and commenting on my students' Blogs via Flipboard.  They're all in one place I have quick access and the Flipboard app is very easy to use.  I never anticipated that the Byrne post would make this class project so manageable for me.  But boy has it.

If you incorporate student blogging or are thinking about it this is a great tool.  If you shy away from student blogging because the logistics of accessing them and reading them seems daunting, try this method.  My kids are writing some great reflections on their research, their progress, and maybe most importantly they're encouraging one another.

Excellent resource thank you @rmbyrne!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Building and Maintaining Your PLN: #Flipchat Inspired

A twitter #flipclass chat about blogging has me…blogging about why I should be blogging.  Simple enough!
Last night I participated in a whirlwind Twitter Chat.  I went in expecting to be a voyeur.  My goal was to escape with some useful tech or classroom nuggets that experienced classroom flippers are using successfully.  My goals were set aside as the conversation focused on the usefulness of blogging from a few different angles.  Here are my takeaways:

1.      I realize that reflection is a great education practice; I preach it all of the time.  I had become disconnected with my reflective outlet (my blog) since September.  I, of course, blamed time.  Setting aside time for meaningful reflection is an important attribute that strong teachers possess.  Blogging is surely a great way to do just that, even if nobody else reads it (if you even choose to publish it).  The chat last night reminded me of that reality.  I had strayed from blogging because I did not prioritize it.  I was, (un?)knowingly, not prioritizing my own reflective process. 

2.      I value the online Professional Learning Network (PLN) that I have developed mainly through twitter.  I read so much of what other teachers and administrators write.  My reflections may have a place.  I am not living in an isolated place taking on tasks that nobody else takes on.  I suppose a blog, or sharing my thoughts, is an important component to the “network” component of PLN.  Read me or not I should share - because I value so much of what you all share with me.

3.      Can we have students writing blogs as a means to creating their own PLNs?  This was my favorite part of the chat.  The discussion was fast paced but so interesting.  My take away was that despite our kids social uses of the web, they’re not necessarily learning to connect in a way that enhances their learning.  I am currently putting the finishing touches on a US History research project.  I was already committed to student blogging about the process and their own learning.  I have, based on some feedback from a colleague and the chat from last night, made an important addition to the project.  I am going to manufacture a PLN.  I am going to place students on research teams.  They will be responsible to blog and also to provide feedback on the blogs of their teammates.  I think this seemingly minor addition may teach that important skill of connecting, communicating, and reflecting that I so value in an online PLN.

I have been a voyeur/minor participant in a few twitter chats.  The fact that I am writing this entry demonstrates the impact last night’s chat had on me.  Glad to be back at the keyboard.  Thanks to @guster4lovers and @thomasson_engl for challenging my thinking and inspiring my writing.