Better Blogging with Students 2018: Week 1

This post originally was a reply to the post you can find here in a course I am taking: Better Blogging with Students 2018.  This is our first week and we were asked to reply to a post about ourselves, our goals, how we would like to integrate our blog into our classrooms, and other such topics.  Below is my reply.

I have been blogging for a number of years, but my attempts are streaky at best- I write about educational technology, best practices, or tools and projects my classes are using or creating, then I drop off. Some posts are written as a model of what the current student project should look like. At worst I post sporadically, once every month or semester. As for my students’ blogs, they blog a couple of times a nine weeks at best, with replying to to other blogs only as an assignment. They are mainly one way avenues, not the vibrant exchange of ideas I hope to create.

My overall goal is to model consistently good blogging practices that I can show and discuss with my classes. This goal is to have a platform for them to use as a model. If I cannot meet my expectations, it is not fair to require them to meet the same expectations. The short term plan is to start small, just post regularly, even if it is just a review of what happened in class that week, maybe even just a cross post from a review pencast or podcast, but just get into the habit of producing a post on a regular basis by creating a set time for the exercise.

My audience is varied, I write mainly for other educators, showing off my students’ work and new tools I have begun to use with my students. Parents can also view the blog to get more of a feel for my class.

My Honors students have their own public blogs, where they post assignments from class, they are linked under my class blog. Students publish many writing assignments, mainly opinion pieces to Edublogs instead of writing to paper and recycling them in a week.

I am entertaining the idea of having a guest blogger on the main class blog as an enrichment assignment. Students can volunteer to write a bout a topic of their choice that fits into the course curriculum, History, and have an open forum to express opinions, interview people of that era, or some other task we agree upon.

The end result is to create a higher quality blog, class and student, where conversations occur naturally, not forced by class assignments. They would need to be integrated into class time so they become part of the class culture and not just an added task.

This has been an ongoing project and goal for awhile. I make small steps forward, I am hoping to make a bit more progress this time and not backslide when done.

Computer Room Chaos…or not

I rolled out the students’ blogs last week in three of my classes while my other three classes logged in today.  Overall the students were very productive, they began personalizing their blogs and writing their class expectation blog posts.  The three classes that started last week are almost done with the assignments and ready to move on.

I broke the assignment up for my classes up to keep me from dealing with the potential of six periods of chaos in one day.  Today, all six of my classes were in the computer lab, we all managed to survive the day.  Having half of the classes wrapping up the assignment while the others were starting allowed me to troubleshoot issues so much more effectively.

Speaking of troubleshooting, I did discover that for the most part, the students who had blogs from my class last year had a harder time remembering their log in information…which I anticipated.   Most could log in to Edublogs, a few needed their passwords reset via their Gaggle student email accounts.  A select few needed assistance to log in to both accounts, but this happens on occasion and the students were eager to help each other out while I helped with the administrative tasks.

The students who were new had an easier time, they were given their usernames and they all had a generic password to use.  There were a couple of hiccups with students who were added to my class in the last couple of days, and one or two that I missed when creating the blogs.  I am not sure of it was out school filter or an Edublogs issue, but several student accounts were rough to set up and once they were logged in, they had multiple blogs created from my various attempts to create accounts for them.

Their first task was to change their password to something they would remember.  The students then had to make their blog the primary blog.  This defaults the students to their personal blog instead of the class blog at sign in.  From there they began writing their expectation post and personalizing the space.  The processes were modeled the previous day in class, using the Interactive Whiteboard.  In a couple of classes I had the students gather around a computer while a student modeled how to turn in the assignments or complete a task that was confounding several students.

The assignments were posted in Edmodo along with my classroom expectation post.  I also created a couple of screencasts with Camtasia for Mac for students who may need reminded how to “Turn In” their blog posts and/or personalize their blogs.  The videos are posted on YouTube and SchoolTube for general access, they were also embedded in a folder within my Edmodo classes for easy access by my students. I could not resist name dropping tools so I can add the tags below…

All in all it was a very productive day, with many lessons learned and everyone playing different roles; students as teachers, teachers as learners.  It was what school and learning is supposed to be about.  And the chaos…it was nothing like I had feared.

 

Class Orientation Day Five: Getting caught up

Today, the last day of week one, we headed back to the computer lab.  The plan was to have the students go into Edmodo and check their grades, then work on any assignments from this week that they had not yet completed.  I had graded everything that they had turned in so far and placed grades in the Edmodo gradebook.

We discussed why some of them had submitted assignments but not received grades.  This meant something was not right, they may have submitted the wrong assignment, a name was missing, or I may have missed the assignment.  This process of submitting work through Edmodo will keep all of us informed as to the status of work and what we need to to do keep EVERYONE successful.

The students worked well, many went back and “officially” turned in assignments through Edmodo that they had completed but not submitted through the online classroom.  I was able to work more one on one and with small groups on technical details for Edmodo and Edublogs.

We did encounter an issue with Edublogs where some students could not log in and their password resets to Gaggle were not working.  I submitted the issues through the Pro Support tab in my dashboard and before the period was out I had the issues resolved.  Sue W. and Ronnie B. were the specific helpers in Edublogs support.  They did inform me that Gaggle disables the password resets from their site, but they were working to resolve the issue.

I had one or two students who were new additions to my classes and they were once again added into everything.  I was able to sit down with a couple of students who were behind and assist them with tasks.  As more students asked for help we went to the mentor approach.  Some students who were asked to mentor others were a bit surprised; they did not think they knew enough to help.  They were wrong, they did an excellent job helping others which made the day a success.

There were a few parent concerns sent in on the signed information sheets.  I was able to zip off email replies to answer their questions.  The main concern was about a lack of home Internet access and if it would affect student grades.  I assured the parents that time is given in class to complete assignments, and my room is open during the day for students to come in and work.  A lack of home access should not be a problem unless students are wasting time in class and not utilizing time during the school day.

Overall, the day was very productive and the students cleared out most of their due assignments, which left me with a ton of work to grade.  The pace was much more relaxed, which I greatly appreciated.  It has been a bit tiring this week, but the groundwork is in place for the rest of the year.  There are a few more tools that need to be rolled out, but they can wait until they are needed for specific assignments.

Class Orientation: Day Four Computer Lab

Today, my students went to the computer lab around the corner from my room…they experienced working on the iPods, now they needed back in their comfort zone.  The assignments that needed to be completed could be done more efficiently on a larger interface than what the iPods could provide.

We met in my room to review the lesson for the day.  We ran a quick overview of what needs done by looking at the assignments in Edmodo.  They saw haw to use the “Grades” tab to see what they have turned in, received grades for, or owed.  The Blog Expectation Parent Sign-off sheets were handed out, and I showed them the Dashboard of their blogs on the Polyvision Interactive Whiteboard (IWB). The last lesson for Orientation was also rolled out.  After the students post to their blog, they are to personalize their blog to their liking.  It is their blog, hopefully they will use it beyond mandatory class assignments.  They should be allowed to place their stamp on it.  There is a rubric for basic minimums required, it is their blog to personalize, but there still needs to be some requirements in place.  I shared a folder with links to a few widgets for them to use in Edmodo.

Once in the computer lab the students jumped into the assignments.  Some caught on rather quickly and became student mentors to others.  This helped me out tremendously; since there were still a few new students in some classes that needed put into the class system, Edmodo, Edublogs, and all of the previous assignments.  Once again I could handle the administrative tasks and have my students mentor the new students and get them up to speed. Once those were completed, I floated about and worked one on one or with small groups answering technical questions.

Overall the day was rather fast paced and a bit hectic, but very productive.  Two more days in the computer room and we are jumping into the curriculum.

Class Orientation: Day Three…Bring on the Blogs!

Today we slowed the pace down a bit during class orientation and let the ideas of this week soak in.

A student from each period logged into Edmodo and projected their view of Edmodo to the rest of the class.  It looks rather different on an IWB when compared to the screen on an iPod Touch.

We worked around the various functions as a review and the students were given instructions to finish up left over tasks from yesterday.  The students liked the notification feature in the top right of the screen, they saw how easy it was to keep informed of class information.

Next the new assignments were introduced; signing in to their individual blog,  changing their password, and if there was time they would start their Class Expectation Blog Post.  The first two assignments were short and sweet.  The third assignment made their faces drop at first…it seemed as if more than a few were expecting DOOM and GLOOM when the word BLOG was mentioned.

I then explained that instead of writing paragraphs and essay question answers on paper that would be possibly forgotten at home, in a locker, lost by one of us, and eventually thrown out or forgotten, we would complete most of our writing on the INTERNET.  Same writing they are used to completing, different platform for submission.  The mention of Digital Portfolio and Resume did not seem to resonate with them as I had hoped…I will explain that purpose again once they have more information posted online.

A student volunteer worked the Edmodo interface where the assignment, links, directions, and rubric are posted.  They pulled up the documents in a preview mode as we discussed the assignment.  They opened my example post on my Class Expectations for this year and saw what was expected of them.  Students who were in my classes last year added to the information.  Once they concretely saw what was expected of them they became more relaxed.  I suspect, and hope, the office will get less calls this year because, “Mr. Salvucci is making my child blog and I thought the class was about social studies.”

I know information being filtered through students to parents can become muddled or convoluted so I am sending parent information letters home to be signed.  This should help keep confusion to a minimum.  Unfortunately, I forgot to send them home with my earlier classes, so they will all be send home tomorrow.

A few students who were added to my class through schedule changes or being new to our school did not yet have accounts.  I jumped into Edublogs and used my Pro status to create blogs for them.  The entire process took about 30 seconds per student.  During Period 8, we had a slight “hiccup” and my students lost connection with Edublogs, but were still able to access other web sites.  I posted a quick tweet to @Edublogs asking about their status and received a timely reply.  The entire time of being unable to connect was only about five minutes and it was toward the end of class so we just wrapped up the lesson for the day.

In other events of the day, my two world cultures classes voted on dividing into sub-groups.  When the idea was brought up, I began to comment that I know what we can do…which was finished by one of my students from last year, “you are putting it to a vote with a poll.”  Some of my students know me and Edmodo rather well.  The results of the poll will appear later in this post.  Just as a note they were given the option of staying in one group or splitting since they are not an overwhelming number of students.

I have one class, a period 2 20th Century U.S. History class that is one day behind everyone else due to Junior class meetings on Monday.  They were almost caught up by the end of the period, with some students even to the point of logging into their blogs.  It was nice to see them jump right in and be comfortable with what we were doing.

All in all I believe we had a very productive day.

Rock and Roll by the Velvet Underground 1970 | John Larkin

Rock and Roll 0

by John • History, Life, News • Tags: , on July 16, 2011

“Rock and Roll” by the Velvet Underground. A remarkable film for a remarkable song.

I was too young to appreciate the Velvet Underground when they originally released their albums during the 1960s. Besides, I seriously doubt that they were given air time on Australian radio at the time.

In 1974 or 1975 my older brother Paul bought the album “Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal” by Lou Reed. During the concert Reed and his band performed “Rock and Roll”. I was hooked.

Later, during my first year at university I met a chap named Paul who was a fan of Reed, the Velvet Underground, Iggy & The Stooges, Radio Birdman and similar artists. Paul had an amazing collection of live recordings of these performers on cassette tape as well as an impressive collection of albums. He allowed me to borrow a copy of one of his Velvet Underground LPs and I heard “Rock and Roll” in it’s originally released form. It blew me away. You can hear it as the soundtrack to the short film in the YouTube video above.

The song was originally released on the Loaded album in 1970. I have since collected other performances of the same track by the Velvet Underground, both live and in the studio.

“Rock and Roll” is one of those songs that makes me stop. It takes precedence at that point in time. It defines the moment. It defines me.

Another fantastic post from an Educator that I follow on my social networks. Not only am I a big fan of this post because I like the Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, but John publicly shows the human side of educators. John often posts ideas on his blog that are not directly related to formal school learning, but fit more of a life experience/cultural genre.

As an educator in the United States we constantly hear from administrators, politicians, and unions to be cautious, even fearful, of social media. I myself am still guarded as to what I post on my sites; sticking mainly to straight educational tips and topics.

This needs to change, we as Educators need to show students, parents, and anyone who is watching that we have a human side. We need to use the forum of social media as an informal educational tool. Pique the curiosity of others by exposing them to ideas and concepts they may never otherwise experience.

Yes Charlotte, you can post to Edublogs from a Color Nook

Yesterday, May 19, 2011, we ran a little experiment with a Color Nook in our High School Library.  I had a couple students who were using the devices as eReaders test several tasks.  I should have tried this before, but it is sort of hectic right now.

The students jumped on the Internet using the web browsing app and were able to log into Google Docs and edit documents.  The next step was to log into Edublogs and post to the class blog, which was easily accomplished.  This creates another option for mobile technology in the classroom.  With ever shrinking, or straight out disappearing budgets in public education, the more options the better.

CoverIt Live and Current Events: Students’ Choice

This post was started on May 3, 2011, however life got in the way and delayed its publication.

My classes have been observing the events of the last few days and commenting on them through their blogs.  Today my Honors Civics class was given a choice before viewing videos of the recent events.  The first option was to view the videos and respond via their Edublogs accounts; while the second option was to comment while watching the videos using CoverIt Live (CIL).

Their response was unanimous in favor of live dialog. I quickly created an event through my CoverIt Live account and embedded the code for the event in my class wiki. This enabled me to archive the event and keep it public. The link was pushed out to the students through our Edmodo classroom. By pushing the link out this way the students do not need to type in urls, they only have to go into our classroom and click on the link.  This makes it easier for them when using our class iPod set.

Once the students were on the CIL wiki page, they typed in a short greeting as prompted and we started watching the news videos. There was no need to post any starter or ice breaker questions, the students jumped right in with comments. Several of my most even-keeled students were set up for approved comments without moderation, while most of the others had to have their comments approved. This was just a safety precaution, students usually get approved to post once they show they are acting responsibly. I walked around the room using the CoverIt Live application on my Droid X to moderate the debate.

Most of the students were commenting appropriately, they a a great group of Freshmen. There were several comments that needed to be adjusted, there was nothing inappropriate or rude about the comments.  However, some of the wording could have been misconstrued, especially the tone or intent when read later on the Internet.  The students viewed the comments, and rewrote them to get rid of any ambiguity.  Most of the students agreed with the rewrites, and understood how the misconceptions could occur.

The debate was rather spirited on the topics of the day.  The students were very opinionated about the world events, but respectful of opposing opinions.  This was the third time the students have used CIL in class and they are becoming much better at working on the iPod platform and commenting appropriately.  The students were also getting better at using “@” to direct comments to specific authors in response to their initial comments.

While writing this I now realize that I forgot to hand out the class iPad, which rotates to students in lieu of an iPod who request to use it.

Better Late than Never: Student blogging ownership

Not being 1:1 in my classroom since October has really slowed down my plans for student projects this school year.  It may just be my own personal bias or train of thought that slowed things down, but things slowed down nonetheless. I felt it was too complex and cumbersome to require students to access and work regularly on projects without dedicated daily access to 1:1 technology.  The students still have completed group projects, but many of the mundane things I wanted them to do have fallen to the wayside.

At long last, my Freshmen are finally personalizing their individual blogs.  I made it an assignment for them to personalize their blogs’ theme, add widgets, pages, and other such things.  There are restrictions to the personalization process, everything must be appropriate for school and relevant in some way.  I want them to begin using the blogs outside of the classroom…I will still award points for bog posts, but I want them to start CREATING THEIR OWN IDEAS….and then publishing those ideas on the Internet.  My Freshmen are in my civics class and what is more civic than contributing positively to the social discourse.

I will still have final approval before posts go public, it is one safeguard I am not comfortable relinquishing at this time.  I do not know if many, or any students will blog on their own outside of class, but I hope they do.

Student blogging from the iPods: Cross posting

My students in honors civics and Econ/POD participated in the One Day on Earth Project, a global multimedia documentary that took place on October 10, 2010, or 10/10/10. They worked on their reflection posts of the project. I had them use the iPods to write their posts in Edublogs, using the HTML tab. The students accessed Edublogs via the Safari app. Once they completed their reflection and had the post proofread, they were to copy the post and paste it into the One Day on Earth website, and my Freshmen also pasted into their Keystone Commons account.

The students accomplished this by holding their finger on the iPod screen until a circle appeared, then they lifted their finger they had the option to copy, select, or select all. The chose the select all option, then copy. See images below.

They opened a new window and logged into One Day on Earth and had to choose the “view normal page” option located at the bottom of the screen. Once they have the normal page view, they can open their blog and add a post. Students had to click the HTML tab and then paste their copied material into the second site. They added a title, proofread their post again, then published their work. My Freshmen then repeated the process in the Keystone Commons site they signed up for earlier this year. They were encouraged to also post links to their blog posts on their Twitter and Facebook accounts. I am hoping they begin to use these sites for more than just a collection of random comments and photos, that are in some cases inappropriate. I am hoping they begin to use the sites for positive promotion of their work along with becoming more conscious of what they post on the sites.

Overall, in the grand scheme of life, this little task was not a big deal. That being said, in my little piece of the universe it was monumental for several reasons. First and foremost they participated in a global project, which was a first for all of them. They also are beginning to use social media for educational purposes, which is new for many people, not just my students. They also are learning how to successfully complete more tasks, even if they are mundane tasks, using the iPod Touches. Their skill set with technology is growing which will hopefully give them an edge as they go through life.