I never really got the chance to write about my Seton Hall weekend, but some interesting bloggy things have been happening with the cohort. One of the assignments that the 33 Ed.D. students have is to identify a problem in their district that could be ameliorated with the use of blogs, wikis, RSS and the like, create a plan to implement some of those tools, and then use their own blogs to reflect on the process. Last weekend was our first chance to talk about their progress, and the reports back were mixed, to put it mildly. Getting into the swing of blogging was difficult for many of them, and we had some great discussions about why some were more successful than others. We talked about the discomfort of writing in public, the difficulty of bringing tools they themselves weren’t yet comfortable with to their colleagues, and the lack of time to learn them. (I’m going to point to this post at the Seton Hall blog in hopes some of them will come here to comment on their own.) It was, I thought at least, an important example of why face to face classroom time is so important.
In the week since we met, however, there a sense of energy around the project in many spots. They’ve been video skyping each other. They’ve been talking about MySpace with their students. They’ve been doing a great job of commenting on each other’s blogs, and it’s obvious they’re feeling more comfortable. Take this post, for instance:
Today we had our first staff development session to introduce blogs to the teaching staff at Kennedy Elementary School. We had nine participants on a voluntary basis. I am not a proponent of mandating this particular initiative. I would rather operate through word of mouth. There is a change to the initial project I posted as part of our class assignment. After our cohort week-end and a conversation with Will, I decided to begin by having teachers build a personal blog instead of building web pages. The first stage was simply the constuction of the blogs. Nine new blogs are now available to the Internet world. This is just the beginning though. Their assignment is now to think about how this new tool can be used to enhace the classroom and childrens’ learning. In the few minutes allowed, we came up with various uses, such as posting vocabulary, lesson plans, as well as interesting web sites that are already being used as resources to the established curriculum. I would say that the overall climate was excellent and I look forward to our next session. The project is beginning to take on a life of its own. By the end of the school year, it is our intention to have web pages, RSS feeds, curricular lesson plans, archived articles all part of each teacher’s blog.
And this from a current assistant superintendent:
Yesterday we had all of our Kindergarten teachers at the Central Office writing assessments. One group was writing an assessment where the students would sort night and day pictures. They were attempting to download clipart to use for this task and were visibly frustrated that they weren’t finding what they really needed. I showed them the Flickr site and how they could search using the tag words for pictures. They found exactly what they needed there and were very excited. (Just imagine a room full of Kindergarten teachers discovering a site like this…the possibilities for seasons, holidays, animals, places, etc.) Forget about the assessments, they were searching for bunnies for spring and lake/ ocean/ river pictures for a unit, etc. Compared to using clipart, it was like going from black and white T.V. to color for them. Our fine arts coordinator was at this meeting. She pulled up the flickr site and shared that she actually subscribes to a site much like it which sends an email to her everyday with pictures. She said that she hates the fact that the files are so big they fill up her mailbox at hotmail. She has no choice but to look at them everyday. I asked her to show me the site and it had an RSS feed. I helped her set up a bloglines account and we brought the site’s feed over to it so now she can receive these pictures everyday, but only needs to look at them when it is convenient. She was very pleased.
Pretty cool. Small steps. But progress. I’m really looking forward to see what they’ll do from here on out.
A. Gordon says
Flickr is such a marvelous tool. When I wanted to find pictures of “Christmas in Australia” or a Loy Krathong celebration in Thailand, I could find plenty of Creatve Commons licensed images that I was free to use. And with clever folks out there making Flickr tools like Wickr (at http://www.widgetgallery.com/view.php?widget=38172) and Retrievr (http://labs.systemone.at/retrievr/), Flickr becomes better and better by the day.
The sad news? Flickr, and several other great resources for freely usable visuals are blocked by many Internet filters. This leaves librarians and teachers an unappetizing choice between lifting copyrighted images from commercial sites, or wading through clip-art galleries hoping for that great photo of a red panda or Death Valley or a street scene in Quito. Or, of course, they can do all their web design and lesson planning at home…
Anthony Hardwick says
I had been wondering about use of MySpace by middle schoolers as well. An article in the NYTimes (the link seems to need a subscription now) and I was sent an invite from a fellow grad student (I am an ‘older’ grad student in an ed certification program in NJ). I joined, but did nothing with it. On Saturday I went to the movies and had a pair of 8th grade girls over to watch my children. I told them they could use the computer but “don’t do anything that would embarrass all of us”. I never use Internet Explorer, so their online trail was well documented. I didn’t probe, I just looked at where they went (it felt a little creepy, but I told myself it was for educational purposes) They spent a while with AIM and a great amount of time on ‘MySpace’ Since I had a login I went and looked around and searched using my small town’s name as a keyword. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the New York Times had led me to believe, but still… These children (not my sitters, but their friends and my neighbors) are putting racy pictures of themselves up in myspace and inviting comments. Other than that, I saw lots of unrealized potential. There is a huge community out there and because of their age and the inevitable chemical jolt of adolescent lust this is an element of their interactions. It seems unlikely that the school administrators and their parents have much of an idea about all of this. They deserve some privacy, but as a parent…