Cyberbullying is a serious problem that has been growing in intensity in the past several years. Teens are plugged into their phones, tablets, and laptops for hours every day. Bullies have gained a host of new platforms to perform their special brand of intimidation, cruelty, and abuse. Click on the link below to view my Voice Thread detailing the effects of Cyberbullying and what school librarians can do to help curb it.
If you are looking for a fun and engaging way to integrate technology into your instruction, Blabberize.com is for you. Using this website you can create “talking” pictures, or a “Blabber Mouth” as my students like to call it, with a click of a few buttons. It’s easy to use and students love to make them and see what others have created too.
Teachers of any subject and any age level will find they can use this in their instruction. A talking picture is a great way to capture students’ attention when you are introducing a topic, or can be used to review information at the end of a unit too. How fun would it be for students to watch Emily Dickinson telling them how to use imagery in poetry or see Louis Pasteur chatting about vaccines? Math teachers can animate a geometric shapes who discuss their attributes. Social Studies teachers can have a Corinthian column talk about the pitfalls of living during the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.
Students can use Blabberize.com too. They can create a talking picture to wrap up pretty much any research project or concept they have learned in any subject area. During a study of the Revolutionary War, groups of students can choose artifacts or people from the time period to discuss different aspect of war. A musket can talk about the Battle of Bunker Hill, a bag of tea can discuss the Boston Tea Party, and a horse can talk about the ride of Paul Revere. In math, a bar graph can talk about all of his many important parts, or a multiplication symbol can talk about his properties. The options for use are limited only by your imagination.
(Medieval Knights by Julia by Christine Carey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)
As I viewed a wide variety of classroom blogs this week, it struck me what an awesome educational tool a blog can be. The library blogs I looked at last week were all great resources for the school community. They showed the fantastic activities and learning that go on in the library. They offered links to wonderful resources for students, teachers and parents. Some of them even offered opportunities for students to contribute in some way. But with these classroom blogs this week I found something more; each of them in their own right are a powerful educational tool, an opportunity for students to learn, grow, and even build up their own digital footprints. The teachers who maintain each of these blogs have given their students exciting and engaging opportunities to learn in new ways and are empowering them to become effective 21st century learners. I am convinced after seeing these excellent examples, that all classroom teachers, from elementary to high school, need to seriously consider making use of a classroom blog. As a school librarian I will most strenuously advocate the use of this tool, showing teachers the most effective ones I found for their grade level and giving trainings on how to build one and the best ways to use it in their classroom.
Here are three really good examples of how best to use a classroom blog:
High School Blog
Mrs. Emery, Language Arts teacher at Florida Virtual School, created a blog entitled Creative Writing Club. This blog touches on all areas of creative writing and gives students opportunities to practice characterization, voice, and plot development. Each activity spans from one to two months and writers have the opportunity to share their writing with others and get feedback if they want it. The current activity involves students writing a short story based on the lyrics of a song. The blog also has writing prompts, designed to get the creative juices flowing, as well as upcoming meeting dates, the yearly schedule, the current activity, an editing submission form, and short story submissions from former students. One topic Mrs. Emery had her students exploring was how music effects writing. She provided a link to the website Helping Writers Become Authors, where students could read an article on this topic.
There is no page for additional resources, and I think that having one could really boost the overall effectiveness of the blog. The blog is great idea though, and I could see it even replacing the need for an after school creative writing club. With the blog, the teacher could post the writing prompt and provide links to resources for students to use, and then students can post their submissions from the comfort of their beanbag chairs at home. This blog most definitely engages the learners and has them actively participating. It’s sole purpose to help develop budding writing skills and so so in an engaging and effective way.
Middle School Blog
In her blog, 2021 Tech Savages, Mrs.Conway has created a space to post the activities she is doing with her 8th grade technology class – but all of the posts are written by students. In one post a student, Jack D. explains how (and why) the class created 60 second book and movie trailers, posts pictures of the process, and includes two examples of the trailers that were created. In another post Jeeweon and Andie explain how they used an app called “Superimpose” to put random heads on other random bodies. They then posted examples of ones that were created in class. In one student post, Wesley W. and Wilks F. discuss the 2015 Student Blogging Challenge that their teacher has invited them to take part in.
This classroom blog is a very simple, straightforward blog with two main purposes: to communicate to the community what students are doing in their technology class and to engage students in the learning process by having them summarize what they learned. I can see this as a really great way for parents to get a first-hand look at the really great activities they are doing. I love that the students write the posts because it gets them so much more involved and engaged in the process. In the process of posting, they are learning to synthesize what they learned so they can summarize it, using 21st century skills, and practicing digital citizenship. I noticed that the students don’t use their full names, which I am sure is a result of parent concerns. I do think it could be even more valuable for them if they were able to use their full names. A positive digital footprint is an important step to becoming a full-fledged digital citizen and can wind up serving them well later on in their life. I would definitely encourage teachers to get parent permission to post full names.
Elementary School Blog
Andrea Campagna has made a blog for her third grade classroom called Mrs. Campagna’s Class. This blog is similar to some of the library blogs I looked at in that it is a forum for communication, assignments, news, and resources. She has a page for parents to find links to the class handbook, newsletters, schedules, and handouts. She also has a page with math learning links like the game Soccer Score where students can practice their multiplication facts in the midst of a game of soccer. She also has a reading page with a link to Compass Learning, a site that her district subscribes to which provides practice with both reading and math skills. On the main page, Mrs. Campagna posts things her class is working on, such as a lesson where students read a book and posted answers to a posed question in Google Classroom.
She also has a “Blogging Challenge” where students are asked to complete a task and then write about it on their personal student blog in Edublogs. One student named Jack has a blog entitled The Very Happy Blog. In it he posts his answers to the blog challenges, but also has posts about his favorite games, movies he has seen, and pictures of the pumpkin he carved over the weekend. I noticed that his grandfather posted a comment on his “About Me” page. It struck me how amazing it is what third graders are capable of these days. I am very impressed that Mrs. Campagna has brought her class in on blogging and that she obviously sees the rich educational opportunities it creates.
Again, I noticed there were no last names. A positive digital footprint can be a very powerful thing for grownups, it’s true, but I am wondering how early one needs to start building it. Is it necessary for a third grader to have a digital presence? Maybe it is enough for now for them to practice digital citizenship, learn how to be responsible, respectful, and how to use technology appropriately. So many parents are resistant to their child’s image and name being out there in cyberspace that I think it might be okay to leave that battle for middle school or high school educators to fight. By the time they get to middle school, students have internalized many of the digital citizenship rules and are better able to understand the importance of creating a positive digital footprint.
I also noticed that Mrs. Campagna posts lots of pictures of her students in her blogs. I don’t know if she excludes any students who don’t have permission, or if she has somehow gained everyone’s permission to take their photos and post them. Their names aren’t attached to photos, so that might make a difference in the minds of the parents. I do really love the photos. It is great to see the concentration on their faces, or the smiles as they show off their accomplishments. As a parent, I would love to have this window into my daughter’s classroom and am thinking that if I could get parents to overcome their fears, they would love it too.
As you can see, a classroom blog can just be a means of communication and a place to put resources for students and parents, but it can also be such a powerful tool for learning. Mrs. Campagna has really done an excellent job at making her blog just that, and it has inspired me to try this with my own class.
Kids Working on Computers. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 30 Jan 2016.
What is a good new book to read? How do I use the OPAC? How do you use MackinVia? What is a good website for finding information on magnetism? What is a good book for read aloud? How can I integrate the Maker Space into my lesson? How are you supporting the curriculum? Why does my child keep talking about a digital footprint? I lost the paper about the Summer Reading Club, can you send me the information?
If you are a school librarian, you are probably bombarded with these questions from your students, fellow staff members, administrators, and parents throughout the day.
All school librarians find themselves dreaming of being able to replicate themselves so that they can keep up with all of the many tasks of keeping up a well-run library. Since that is not a possibility, even with today’s amazing advances in technology, school librarians might want to consider keeping and subscribing to librarian blogs. In my search through the many library blogs out there, I found that each one fits into one of two categories: for the school community or for the teacher/librarian community. The blogs written specifically for the school community tended to have resources geared toward students, teachers, and parents. These types of blogs allow the librarian to have all of her most useful resources in one place and can be used to help answer many of the above questions. The other type of blog is one written and maintained specifically for teachers and teacher librarians. This blog has resources and links and reviews of the latest educational innovations and technologies that teachers can use in their classrooms or libraries. The focus is usually on new useful websites, book reviews, and lesson ideas. Here is a closer look at a few of them:
Type #1: Whole School Community Blog
One school librarian blog that does this quite effectively is the Curtis Elementary Library blog, maintained by Shawna Ford.
This blog has a few well-organized sections. The first is for the librarian to post pictures and write about the things going on in the library. Anyone in the school community, but especially parents, can go here to see all the wonderful things going on in the library. It is great PR for the library and another way to advocate for the school library program. The librarian posts everything from descriptions of her lessons to pictures of what the after school Maker Space club is doing.
Another section focuses primarily on resources for teachers. There are webcasts showing teachers how to use various software and explaining different databases. There are also links to websites that the librarian found and thought would be useful for teachers. One such website is ThingLink , where students can make an image interactive by adding links, images, and music to it.
Another page on this blog is dedicated to book reviews. This can be useful for students, teachers, and parents looking for good books. The librarian picks new books to read, summarize, and rate. When someone asks for a good book to read, the librarian can direct them to this page as a start. Mostly likely, if she has reviewed a wide variety of books, she can cut down greatly on the amount of time she spends with students and teachers looking for books that suit them. Overall, this type of blog is very useful for the librarian to share her ideas and resources with the community. It can be a bit time consuming to build and maintain, but it would be worth it if it can address some of those questions that she spends so much time each day answering.
Type #2: Teacher/Librarian Blogs
Shannon McClintock Miller is a teacher librarian with a vast background in school librarianship. She is an educational consultant for Mackin Educational Resources and Cantana learning and consults around the country on education, librarianship, technology, and social media topics. Her blog The Library Voice has won many awards.
This blog focuses mainly on inspiring busy teachers and librarians, providing ready-made ideas and resources. When a friend asked her for penguin resources, McClintock Miller went to Twitter to find opportunities from zoos, authors, and publishers. She wound up finding a penguin program through the Calgary Zoo. The zoo has an extensive website and they also wound up doing a virtual tour of the penguin exhibit through Skype. McClintock Miller explained the process in her blog (she searched for “zoo on Twitter” and found a bunch of zoos to choose from) and posted pictures of the Skype event with the students.
Also on her blog, she finds resources related to holidays and posts them for teachers and librarians to use. Not only does she post the links for the resources, but she describes in detail how they can be used. Think about how much time you could save weeding through all of the Black History Month resources out there and coming up with lesson plans too. She also has posts explaining how to use different new technologies available, like the website Storyboard That where she had students create Valentine’s Day Cards. This blog is like your one-stop-shop for fresh ideas and useful resources. Busy librarians should definitely subscribe to this blog and others like it. And if you find yourself with some extra time on your hands, it would be great to “pay it forward” and put your own ideas and treasure trove of resources into a blog that others can use.
A Media Specialists Guide to the Internet is another really great blog chock full of ideas and resources for the busy librarian. Julia Greller did a stupendous job gathering resources and organizing them in this blog. There are pages based on grade level and topic. A 5th grade teacher can go to the Grades K-5 tab and find literally hundreds of resources organized by topic such as Earth Day, Poetry, and Lesson Plan Sites. If you are an ESL teacher, there is a page for you. If you are a new teacher, there is a page just for you too. If you are looking for graphics, or a Web 2.0 tool for concept maps, or a Health lesson, there is a page for you. On the main blog page, Julie Greller discusses her favorite apps, posts video tutorials, and posts the latest resources she finds. One great resource she shares is a site called Busy Teacher where among many useful things, you will find 700 free worksheets to use for free. Every teacher and teacher librarian should subscribe to this blog for great ideas and easy to find resources.
As you can see, library blogs can be very helpful to a busy librarian. Not only can a librarian use them to communicate to her school community, but she can be a part of a support network of other busy librarians by subscribing to a multitude of useful blogs maintained by other librarians. Maintaining your own blog with library and teaching resources will not only help others, but it can also be a way for you to organize all of the ideas you find throughout the school year. Getting time for staff development to share new technologies and ideas with the teachers in your building can be difficult. A blog is a great way to share your ideas and expose teachers to the latest technologies you have found.
Mixed Race woman using laptop on library floor. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 30 Jan 2016.