Thursday, April 25, 2013

So...You Wanna Use Blogs In The Classroom

Blogging is an important part of who I am as a professional. I can use this space to share resources with you, reflect on my own practice and try to figure out how to be a better educator. It is my public reflection on technology, leadership and learning.

Think about when you were in school. You write an essay. Who read it? Most likely the teacher and that is where it ended. You pour hours and hours into reflections on Shakespear, the economic and political effects of wars on society or how plants have evolved over time, yet the only person who read your thoughts are the teacher. Maybe you shared with a close friend or even the class. But generally the world was unaware of your thoughts and feelings.

Blogging changes that for kids. Now the audience is global and anyone can read, and in some cases respond and comment. Kids can post their writing, projects, thoughts and reflections. Teachers can provide prompts or starters and kids can pick up and run with it.

More and more teachers and classrooms are embracing blogging in the classroom. You're thinking about it, but are unsure where to even start or how to get started. Lets take a look at some classroom blogging resources to get started with.

There are lots of platforms to use. And the one you pick will depend on your district (blocked or not, policies, etc.) and how you want to manage them. Two very popular platforms are Edublogs and Kidblog. Both are very teacher friendly and ofter lots of features that make management easy. Edublogs has a great Getting Started section that will walk you through creation of your blogs and how to use them in the classroom.

Five Steps To Starting A Classroom Blog-Ms. Morris offers some great and personal advice on classroom blogging, learned from her own trial and error.

Two Critical Tips For Blogging Projects-From my good friend Bill, this post offers some more great advice on blogging in the classroom and how to make it successful.

Collection Of Blogging Resources-When I think of classroom blogging I think of Silvia Tolisano. She has been blogging, on, well blogging for a while. Her resources for classroom blogs are extensive and worth spending lots of time with.

Tips For Blogging With Students-Sue Waters (from Edublogs) also has written a lot about blogging with kids. This collection of tips are definitely not to be missed.

Student Blogging Guidelines-Some teachers will want some guidance in place when they undertake blogs with kids. Kim lays out some easy to follow guidelines that might make implementation easier.

So you can get started. You can manage your blogs. But what will you do with them. More over, what will kids do with these spaces. In addition to the ideas I laid out earlier, there are a couple more to consider.

The Student Blogging Challenge is a great way to get into blogging and get kids into their blogs. The challenge is hosted by Edublogs but you don't have to use Edublogs to take part. The challenges range from helping kids understand the mechanics of the blog to learning about digital footprints. Each challenge has prompts the kids can use as starters for posts too. And while the challenge goes on for a specific time, you can certain jump in any time and start.

And lastly, one of the great communities out there that supports student blogging is Comments4Kids. Remember before when we talked about reflection beyond the teacher? Comments4Kids aims to extend the reach of student blogs and provide feedback on posts and show kids the world is reading what they are writing. There is a Twitter hashtag too (#Comments4Kids) that you can use to post blog links or ask questions. Join the Comments4Kids blog and share your posts with the world!

Do you have a favorite resource for blogging in the classroom? Or some advice? Leave your comments below.

photo credit: Kristina B via photopin cc

Monday, April 8, 2013

Professional Development On Your Time, Your Way

As someone who helps develop and deliver professional development to teachers, I've heard lots of reasons why some of the PD schools offer to teachers might not be a good fit.

It's not relevant to me.

It's a waste of time.


I am sure if you ask, most teachers can recall some PD they've suffered through with great detail.

PD should be something that we look forward to. It should be something that we are excited about. It should be something we are in control of.

Yep. In control of.

Did you know there are tons of ways to learn new concepts, techniques and ideas for both in the classroom and for you as an educator?

Simple K12 Webinar Series ( The girls over at Simple K12 have been offering free webinars on a wide variety of topics for a while now. Everything from going Google Apps, formative assessments, iPads, administrator specific stuff, you name it, they probably have an upcoming webinar on it. The webinars range from 30 mins to 1 hr and are completely free to watch live. (If you want the recordings you have to be a member of the Community which comes at a fee.) Check out the upcoming calendar for all they have to offer.

Classroom 2.0 Live! ( Classroom 2.0, one of the largest member communities for educators anywhere on the Internet, has been doing these Saturday live webinars since 2009. Again, the topics vary week-to-week. But no matter the topic, you will find yourself having lots of fun and learning too. The sessions take place every Saturday at 12 noon Eastern. Miss a show? Not to worry! They archive every session and tag them so they are easy to search. This archive is a place I regularly go to find information on tools, trends in instructional practices and just to learn something new. You can also subscribe to the audio feed in iTunesU.

Bam Radio Network ( Bam Radio has grown into the place to visit for educational podcasts. With so many topics to choose from, my iPod is about to bust with all shows I've downloaded. You may already know 2 of the shows there, Edchat Radio and my show, Edtech Radio but those are just 2 of over 50 with hosts of every caliber. Oh, and all the shows are free and short too (about 10-20 mins) which makes them perfect for listening while riding to work or going for a stroll.

School Leadership Summit Recordings ( The School Leadership Summit was a 1-day, completely virtual conference aimed at school administrators but the topics reached much further than the school principal. With a keynote from Yong Zhao and over 100 sessions, you are sure to find something that you didn't know before. I am certainly going to spend time going through all the sessions over the next couple of weeks.

TED Talks ( By now most have heard of TED Talks but in case you haven't, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) are talks given by some of the world's best thinkers and doers. Whenever I watch one, no matter if its on the designs of 404 pages on websites to a talk given on monkeys and game theory, I always learn something. There are over 1400 to choose from, and while not all are education related there are several that are. And even the ones that are not, there are still takeaways that you can use in your teaching.

Open Courses (Various) In just the past year there has been an explosion in the number of higher ed institutions providing open courses to the world, meaning you can take a course on Physics from MIT or economics from USC. From MIT Open Courseware to edX (which is a combined effort of over 10 universities) there is so much out there to choose from, all for free. These can be great places to beef up your content knowledge or just learn something new.

Twitter Hashtags ( A list like this wouldn't be complete without mentioning the great learning that happens on Twitter 24/7. And hashtags are a great way to organize and follow that learning. (Want to learn more about hashtags? Read this post I wrote a while back.) The spreadsheet linked above is one of the best I've seen. Organized by day, it has most all of the Educational Hashtag chats and their times, along with hashtags that might not have a chat but folks still share using them.

Now, take control of your professional development. Use these as a starting point and go learn!

Do you have other places, webinar series, podcasts or courses that have helped you take control of your PD? Leave some comments below.

photo credit: Î’ethan via photopin cc