Vance Stevens joins us on this podcast, to discuss a project he has been doing with four teachers–Nelba Quintana, Doris Molero, Sasa Sirk, and Rita Zeinstejer. They have been asking their students to use the tag “writingmatrix” when they post to their blogs, then they use Technorati and Google Reader to find each other’s blogs. Vance and these four teachers presented this work recently at the K12OnlineConference: “Motivate Student Writers by Fostering Collaboration through Tagging and Aggregating” We thought it would be a good idea to see how we might join their network of student bloggers with our school-based social networks at YouthVoices.net and the PersonalLearningSpace.com.
Listen to the podcast to hear Vance Stevens further describe the “writingmatrix” project:
The presenters play with boundaries through the simple expedient of having student bloggers in different countries tag their blog posts with the unique tag term writingmatrix. Searching on that tag in Technorati, the student bloggers in four locations in three different countries have managed to locate one another’s posts, leave comments for one another, and have subsequently interacted in other ways as well. The presenters explain how they started the project and how it has branched into other online and even face to face activities involving the students in the participant countries. The presentation is made not only through the voices of the presenters, but with the students themselves lending their voices through their blogs and videos.
Vance Stevens and Paul Allison have a dialogue about the advantages of two different approaches to blogging with students in the classroom. Is the Internet enough? Or do we need software like the elggs that Paul and his colleagues use to create communities of writers at YouthVoices and the PersonalLearningSpace?
This is emerging as one important question that Vance’s work inspires. And there are many such questions. Any teacher who involves her students in blogging faces and array of choices, even if many of these are not initially apparent. For example, a teachers like Lisa in this podcast, whose students are blogging excitedly throughout the year, might forget to ask what to do when there are few other teachers in her district ready to continue with this curriculum the year after. What can we do if we are pretty certain that there won’t be a teacher ready to accept my “orphaned”Blogmiester blogs into a new home?
But the question of how to preserve and grow blogs from class to class and year to year is just one of the issues that teachers who blog with their students find themselves in the middle of. There are many others, from how public or private we want blogging to be, how to moderate student blogs, where to find a supportive audience for our students’ blogs, how to involve students in responding thoughtfully to other students’ blogs as well as creating them, and how to teach ethical and legal uses of other people’s creative content in our own blog posts… and more!
Another example of the kinds of questions that teachers ask comes from a group of us who had been working to have our students blog in the Personal Learning Space or in Youth Voices. Here are the questions we had at the end of our first academic year of working together.
- How can we cover all of the required skills and topics of our various curricula (technology, global studies, art, English…) and still allow students to blog about topics of their own choosing?
- Could we select a group of books and invite students to form communities (reading groups) around each of these? How could we have a common text or common texts available as an option for students to blog about… without loosing our environment of student choice?
- How do we continue to nurture our ethic of student peer response. Do the sentence starters we’ve been using work? Can they be more open?
- Can we use the elgg to share multimedia work, art, or visual work more? How do we sponsor peer response to this work?
- Can we all learn to use the wiki more, following Susan Ettenheim’s lead on Gallery pages like Flash Creations Page 2?
- Will an update to the new elgg profile pages (see Paul Allison’s example) be part of the solution?
- How do we remain a community of teachers that is open to new teachers jumping in with their students, yet maintain a transparent support structure where we can share tips and community standards (e.g. “only Community Commons images, please, and no pictures of the students themselves… and… and…)?
- What role might our wiki play: http://elggplans.wikispaces.com? How might we organize this site better? How do we get everybody to contribute to and use this site?
- What could we use to stay in touch on a regular basis?
- What can we do this to build this community?
Enjoy this podcast, featuring Vance Stevens, and join us this and every Wednesday at 9:00 PM Eastern on Teachers Teaching Teachers as we continue our journeys through these important questions. Find us on the EdTechTalk channel of the WorldBridges network.