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Literacy, Blogging and the Digital Native

Page history last edited by Bill 7 years, 1 month ago

Literacy, Blogging and the Digital Native

 

Direct link to this page:  http://bit.ly/asdnfeb2013

 

Few parents, practitioners or policymakers would argue that one of the key outcomes of K12 education should be developing literate citizens that can function fluently in tomorrow's knowledge-driven world.  The hitch, however, is that technology is changing the very definition of what it means to be "a literate citizen." 

 

Working together with Solution Tree educational technology expert and full time classroom teacher Bill Ferriter, participants in this webinar -- sponsored by the Alaska Staff Development Network -- will examine new definitions for literacy and explore the role that blogging can play in helping students to develop the core behaviors of a literate individual living in a digital world.

 


 

 

Today's Slides

 

The slides for today's session can be found posted online here.  You can also view and/or download them directly from the widget embedded below:

 

 

 

 

What DOES it Mean to be Literate in the 21st Century?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literacy 

http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/21stcentdefinition

 

The first step for anyone interested in preparing today's students to succeed in tomorrow's world is to understand how access to new digital tools -- and more importantly, to the opportunities that digital tools create -- are changing just what it means to be a literate citizen.  Use the links above to think carefully about this shift.  While exploring, consider the following questions:

 

How would you define literacy?  What do you think it means to be a literate citizen?  More importantly, how do you think that literacy has changed over time?  How has it remained the same?

 

Are there new skills that literate citizens need to master in order to succeed in a digitally driven world?  What are they?  How well do you think schools are doing at preparing students for this new reality?

 

 

Doing Work that Matters

 

One of the most exciting elements of the definition of 21st Century literacy developed by the National Council of Teachers of English is that it argues that students should be facing outward, aware of -- and acting with others to draw attention to -- the kinds of cross-border challenges that our world is wrestling with.  That emphasis on action -- which is made possible through the use of digital tools and spaces -- resonates with today's students who are passionate about participating in the world around them and doing work that matters. 

 

Need some tangible examples of how kids are using digital tools to raise their voices and support their causes in public ways? 

 

Here's several that cut across grade levels and content areas:

 

The Story of Malala Yousafzai - Growing up in the Taliban controlled regions of Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai -- a teen girl -- faced almost unimaginable challenges and a strictly regimented life that treated girls as objects instead of individuals.  At the age of 11, she decided to take action -- starting a blog on a BBC News website about just what life was like in her part of the world.  Her bravery quickly earned her the admiration of thousands of locals -- and the scorn of the Taliban.  Yousafzai -- now 14 -- was shot by Islamic militants in the Fall of 2012. 

 

Westwood Middle School Makes a Difference - Sixth grade at Westwood Middle School in Coon Rapids, Minnesota is a year-long lesson in community activism, where social studies teachers Bob Schneider, Chris Clark and Dominic Martini assign their students a civics participation project every fall.  Students learn more about the role that local government plays in their lives and get involved in advocating for change that they believe in.  Whether they're sitting in on school board meetings, writing letters to the mayor or volunteering at groups dedicated to fighting hunger, WMS students care about their community -- and are taking action on their concerns.

 

Our New Value - Making Stuff with Kids - In this blog entry, Will Richardson details the steps being taken to give students the opportunity to "do work that matters" at the Marymount School -- an independent Catholic school in Manhattan where real projects that have real implications for changing the world in a positive way are being used to drive the curriculum.  "If we see this as better learning than the lockstep curriculum that we’re currently delivering in a variety of ways in schools," Will writes, "then why aren’t we fighting harder for it? Why aren’t we demanding it? Why aren’t we at least starting conversations around it?"

 

High Tech High San Diego Bay Project - For juniors in Jay Vavra and Tom Fehrenbacher's science and Humanities classes at High Tech High School in San Diego, the issue that matters most is how to better protect the environment in and around the San Diego Bay.  The entire year is spent studying the habitats of the Bay area and the impact that humans are having on the environment.  Together, Vavra and Fehrenbacher's classes publish a field guide that is used by everyone from environmental scientists to local politicians interested in looking for solutions to improve the overall health of the Bay.

 

Salem Middle School Kiva Club - Making a difference in session presenter Bill Ferriter's sixth grade classroom has centered around using Kiva -- one of the world's largest and most successful microlending websites -- to fight back against poverty in the developing world by making loans to people who want to start businesses to improve the lives of their families.  Together with classmates, Bill's students raise money and then make regular decisions about who to make loans to.  To date, they've loaned out over $13,000 to over 400 people in 28 different countries. 

 

While there is no ONE cause that every teacher should center their classroom's collaborative efforts around, developing literate 21st Century citizens DOES require every teacher to center their digital work with students around real issues.  Doing so helps students to recognize that EVERYONE has the ability to come together to drive change in today's world. 

 

Questions to Consider

 

Can you see evidence of students doing work that matters in the projects above?  Would YOUR students be motivated by these kinds of classroom tasks? 

 

Can you see evidence of students mastering the kinds of core academic skills and content knowledge that are required by state and/or district curricula guides in the projects above?  List all of the different content objectives and skills that the students in the projects above are mastering while doing work that matters.

 

What kinds of changes would need to be made in order for projects like these to become common in the classrooms of your school and/or district?  What tangible steps can you take from your position in the system in order to make these changes a reality?

 

 

Using Scoop.it as a Blogging Starting Point

 

Interestingly enough, session presenter Bill Ferriter never recommends that teachers BEGIN their classroom blogging projects by actually creating and maintaining a blog!  His reason is simple:  Students and teachers are often not ready to manage blogs -- which require a constant stream of content and a good bit of monitoring and promoting in order to really thrive -- from the beginning. 

 

Instead, Bill has begun to suggest that teachers start blogging projects with Scoop.it -- a service that allows users to curate public collections of resources around individual topics. 

 

What makes Scoop.it unique is that it automatically searches for new content that users might want to add to their public collections and then makes adding that content -- along with a short description of why it is useful -- easy.  Recently, two of Bill's students used this handout to create a public collection of resources related to the New York City soda ban.  Bill recently wrote about that experience here and here.

 

Like blogs, curating public Scoop.it pages gives students opportunities to raise their voice on issues that matter and to have their thinking affirmed and/or challenged by commenters.  Public Scoop.it pages also give students opportunities to practice managing multiple streams of information and evaluating the reliability of online sources -- two additional skills that define literate 21st Century citizens.

 

But curating a public Scoop.it page is far less intimidating than maintaining a blog.  There's less content to generate and less writing to do.  That makes it a nice starting point for teachers and students that are interested in taking first steps towards publishing content for a global audience. 

 

 

Three Tips for Structuring Successful Blogging Projects

 

Tip 1 - Create ONE Topic-Focused Classroom Blog 

 

A lesson that session presenter Bill Ferriter learned early in his work with blogs is that they are far more vibrant -- and attract far more attention -- when they are updated regularly.  The challenge for student bloggers, then, is generating enough content to bring readers back for more. 

 

The solution in Bill's classroom is to always START classroom blogging projects with ONE classroom blog that EVERY student can make contributions to.  Doing so takes the pressure of generating content off of individual students simply because there are dozens of potential writers who are adding content at any given time. 

 

Bill also tends to create blogs that are focused on a specific theme or topic rather than general blogs that contain content across several domains and/or interest areas.  By focusing his blogs on a specific theme that is connected to a cause that his kids are passionate about, he can tap into the desire of students to "do work that matters."  He sells these kinds of blogs to his students as an opportunity to raise awareness about important issues.

 

That does mean, however, that his blogs often have clear starting and ending points.  Once students feel like they've covered an issue completely, they are generally ready to move on to something new -- and their blog becomes a static home for people interested in learning more about an interesting topic.

 

For an example of this kind of blogging project, check out the Sugar Kills blog -- a site that Bill's students are currently maintaining that is designed to raise awareness about the amount of added sugar that is in the common foods that today's tweens and teens eat.  You can also see how students feel about their #sugarkills blog by reading this interview that they completed for MiddleWeb magazine and learn more about Bill's rationale for using cause driven learning as a focus for blogging projects by reading this article that he wrote for Smartbrief.

 

You might also want to check out the Birds of Salem blog -- a site that a group of Bill's students put together in 2012 as a resource for the school community.  Their goal -- the work that they thought mattered -- was helping visitors to our school's campus to know more about the birds they could find on our grounds. 

 

 

Tip 2 - Develop Lists of Other Student Blogs for Your Kids to Read During SSR Time

 

Another mistake that session presenter Bill Ferriter made during his early work with classroom blogging was thinking that "classroom blogging" started and ended with WRITING blogs.  In reality, there is a TON of hidden power in encouraging students to become avid READERS of blogs as well.  Doing so gives students samples of the kinds of writing that blogs make possible.  They can spot topics for new posts and post styles that they might never have considered. 

 

Along with READING blogs, Bill also encourages his students to become active in the comment sections of the blogs that they are reading.  Responding to the bits written by others is an important bit in developing student bloggers because it provides short, safe opportunities to craft first-draft thinking about important issues.  Each comment helps students to practice articulating thoughts in writing.  What's more, each comment can serve as a starting point for a longer post on a classroom or personal blog.

 

To encourage students to become avid readers of other blogs, Bill used Netvibes -- a free RSS feed reader -- to create this collection of blogs that students might enjoy. By doing so, he made it easy for students to find blogs worth reading.  He also gave students time during sustained silent reading to explore his classroom blog collection. 

 

To encourage students to become active commenters on other blogs, he required that any student that chose to read blogs during sustained silent reading leave at least one comment on another blog.  To help them master the skills necessary to leave good comments, he used this handout.   

 

If you teach elementary schoolers, this video on composing good blog comments made by Linda Yollis's second and third graders may be an even better resource to explore.  It makes the principles of good blog commenting approachable for younger audiences.  

 

And if you teach middle grades students, you might consider sharing this reflection on the characteristics of bad blog comments written by a fifth grade student named Max in Pernille Ripp's classroom.  Written in an engaging style that will resonate with students, Max's post reminds readers that "cool" isn't a comment worth responding to!

 

 

Tip 3 - Recruit Commenters to Push Against Student Thinking

 

For any blogger, the ultimate reward is crafting a piece that resonates with readers and leads to a TON of comments. 

 

Every comment left for a blogger is proof positive that they DO have an audience and that they ARE being heard.  Just as importantly to classroom teachers, however, every comment is an opportunity for a student blogger to have their thinking challenged -- and the tension that results whenever thinking is challenged ALWAYS leads to new learning as students are forced to refine and revise and polish their positions on the topics that they care about. 

 

Take a look at how students used a blog in Bill's classroom to wrestle with the income disparity between American oil companies and the Nigerians who work for them.  Then, look at how he turned blog comments into new sources for challenging conversations for his kids.

 

The challenge, however, is that classroom blogs won't AUTOMATICALLY generate enough attention to receive comments.  The simple truth is that in a digital world where there are thousands of new blogs created every hour, "being heard" isn't nearly as easy as "getting published." 

 

To address this challenge, Bill always recruits volunteer commenters when his students are working on a blogging project.  Most of the time these volunteers are parents or PTA members who want to help at school but can't find the time to get away from work during the day.  Bill will ask them to monitor the blog for a month at a time and to leave two or three comments a week that are designed to challenge students. 

 

Other times, Bill turns to his own professional friends and family members -- pointing them to specific posts that he'd like to generate comments for.  He's also established relationships with other classrooms that are blogging, encouraging both classes to read and comment on one another's posts.  Doing so generates momentum, ensuring that students feel the reward that comes along with having an audience.

 

If you're interested in establishing relationships with other classrooms that are blogging, spend some time poking around the growing collection of blogs at the Comments4Kids website.  And if you're trying to generate comments for individual blog entries, consider sharing a link to the post in Twitter using the #comments4kids hashtag

 

 

 

Handouts for Structuring Classroom Blogging Projects

 

Teachers interested in starting classroom blogging projects might find the following handouts from session presenter Bill Ferriter's book -- Teaching the iGeneration -- valuable:

 

Leaving Good Blog Comments - One of the mistakes that teachers make when setting up blogging projects is overlooking the role that comments can play in the blogging lives of their students.  This handout is designed to help students find ways to contribute to classroom blogs through comment sections. 

 

If you teach elementary schoolers, this video on composing good blog comments made by Linda Yollis's second and third graders may be an even better resource to explore.  It makes the principles of good blog commenting approachable for younger audiences.  

 

And if you teach middle grades students, you might consider sharing this reflection on the characteristics of bad blog comments written by a fifth grade student named Max in Pernille Ripp's classroom.  Written in an engaging style that will resonate with students, Max's post reminds readers that "cool" isn't a comment worth responding to!

 

 

Blog Entry Scoring Checklist - This handout is designed to help teachers -- and potentially other students -- to spot the kinds of traits that define the best blog entries.  It is useful for helping to define the characteristics of quality content for students in the early stages of their blogging lives.

 

 

Teacher Tips for Blogging Projects : Over the course of his time blogging with students, session presenter Bill Ferriter has learned a TON of lessons about how to successfully manage classroom blogging projects.  This handout details 10 important tips that you might want to consider before starting your own classroom blogging projects.

 

 

 

Additional Classroom Blogging Resources

 

Annotated List of Classroom Blogs to Explore - For many teachers, imagining the role that blogging can play in their instruction is difficult simply because they haven’t seen enough samples of what classroom blogs look like in action.  This annotated list of samples -- developed collaboratively by Bill Ferriter, William Chamberlain and Pernille Ripp -- might make a good starting point for teachers who are curious about just what a classroom blog could be. 

 

Pernille Ripp's Classroom Blogging Resources - One of the most articulate advocates for classroom blogging is Pernille Ripp -- a fifth grade teacher in Madison, Wisconsin.  Her professional blog -- called Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension -- is full of practical ideas, suggestions, strategies and tips for making classroom blogging projects work.  If you're new to classroom blogging projects, you might dig this bit sharing six tips or this bit sharing fourteen steps for structuring successful blogging projects.

 

Comments4Kids Project - For teachers interested in making blogging a bigger part of their classroom practice, the Comments4Kids project -- and its Twitter Hashtag -- can be an invaluable source of inspiration. Visit the site to find a TON of sample blogs from across grade levels and curricular areas.  Just as importantly, visit to find blogs for your students to read and comment on as they learn more about the power of blogging.

 

Blogging in the Elementary Classroom - For elementary school teacher Linda Yollis, blogging was originally designed to be a way to give parents updates about what was happening in her second and third grade classroom.  She quickly realized, however, that blogging could be a powerful literacy experience for her primary grade students.  This bit -- written for the Smartblogs Education site -- describes the hows-and-whys behind blogging in the primary grades.  Most interesting are the suggestions about specific blogging activities and projects that Yollis runs on a regular basis.  

 

Blogging in the High School Classroom - For high school English Teacher Nicholas Provenzano, giving students the chance to write creatively about any topic is simply a must in a world where kids are constantly told what to write and when to write it.  That's why he's changed his own approach to classroom blogging this year.  Instead of asking students to focus on pieces related to the curriculum, he's asking students to focus on a series of interesting visual prompts.  Learn more about Nick's strategy for creating writers through creative blogging posts in this piece.

 

 

 

 

Blog Services Worth Exploring

 

While there is no single blog service that is perfect for every teacher in every school, several are popular with educators.  Here are three worth considering:

 

Wordpress -- Wordpress is one of the most popular blogging services used both in and beyond schools.  It's got a ton of really clean themes and layouts which authors enjoy and appreciate.  It also gives students experience with a tool that is widely used beyond school for publishing. 

 

Blogger -- Blogger is Google's blog service, which makes it another tool that is worth introducing to students who are likely to spend their lives working with Google's products.  While Blogger has many of the same features of both Posterous and Wordpress, the visual layout of Blogger blogs is not as polished or interesting as the other two services.

 

Kidblog -- Kidblog is a blog service that is specifically recommended by and for elementary school teachers.  One of the primary advantages of a service tailored for younger students is that you can find sample blogs worth exploring and the safety features are customized for individual age groups.  Here are some step -by - step directions for getting a Kid Blog off the ground.

 

 

 

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