Saturday, December 02, 2006

Workshop on blogging

The workshop at Ivanhoe was a informative experience and very rewarding for me. I got to hear James Farmer talk about the theory of blogs in education and and the development of a communities of inquiry which could be structured by the teacher to lead to more or less control on the part of the teacher. I know this idea of teacher control is important to some teachers just starting out with blogs. It seems to be the fear factor of students misbehaving on their blogs as they sometimes do in the playground, causing "mayhem" when left to their own devices. When teaching students about blogging, it is important that the teacher is the leader and guide and that the expectations of students' behaviour in the classroom are the same expectations of coutesy and respect that one would engender in the classroom face to face. It wasn't so long ago that I was a bit afraid (I called it caution) of the power of blogs. I wasn't sure what I was afraid of, just that it was unknown. So the fact that James was able to tell the teachers who may be looking to start blogs that there was a level of control that remained the teacher's would have allayed some of the fears. Jane, my fellow researcher (she is doing a Ph.D) spoke next about her use of blogs in a classroom to establish a community of learners through their ESL class blog. Jane herself doesn't have a public Internet profile as she prefers to concentrate her efforts on her class and their interactions with each other. Her journey and the journeys of her students showed the way that blogs could give a powerful voice to those learning English. Her adult writers had some very humourous interactions and some were very pointed, especially about relations between men and women. The story I told in my presentation was about the learning that I and my students have done over two years and the fun that it has been, especially as my students have been getting to know the students in Clarence Fisher's class. I finished up with this insight about learnings that still have to happen:
But there is still a lot to learn. I need to insist that students link to what they’re writing about to prevent people like Derek from having to take risks
like this one

From Keshia's Quill (love the blogname)
  • One. SPAM IS EVIL!!! (Sorry…too much sugar for breakfast.)
  • Two. I learned a lot about the environment thanks to my fellow blogger Derek. (He wrote some real detailed stuff)
  • Three. I found out just how easy it is to communiate with someone from another country or maybe on the other side of the world. Are you guys in Canada enjoying your…umm…is it Autumn up there?

And Derek's comment

Hey!! Thanks for mentioning me in your blog (Well, I hope you are talking about me, otherwise this would be humiliating ). SPAM IS EVIL!! I remember when I got a whole lot of spam. Luckily, I have my comments sent to moderation. Also, “Bad Behaviour” blocks some spam. I agree that you can learn lots from blogging...

Blogging isn't the answer to the world's most serious problem (whoever thought it would be?!)... but it is a tool for learning…. and I cannot now imagine learning or teaching without using blogs.
I love the questions that Clarence is asking of his students right now and am looking forward to reading their answers. The workshop was well written up by the organiser Joseph Papaleo here.


  1. I am still amazed by the traffic that still goes on between our two classes on its onw, wiht little support or encouragement. The kids have gotten to know each other and the conversations are natural for them now. As for those two quesitons I asked the kids, you absolutely need to see their answers. I feel I know the kids in my class well, but I was amazed by what they wrote. It is well worth your reading time.

  2. b_chittenden2:09 pm

    I am currently a new high school teacher in Las Vegas. I have been reading this blog for a few months now as it applies 100% to my Technology and Education class that I am currently taking. I am excited and encouraged by your use of technology in the classroom. I too would fear that the students would "misbehave" and this is the main motivation behind my not wanting to incorporate as much technology into my instruction as I probably should.

    I feel that I come from a bit of a different setting, however, in that I teach in a low-income, inner-city section of town. I can not assume that all of my students have access to the internet at home. In fact, I would venture to guess that most of them do not. To incorporate a blogging assignment into their daily schedule may be asking too much of these students. Many of them would have to stay after school in the library to be able to complete this assignment or would have to find another source for the internet. I believe that it is important to teach these students about technology and how to incorporate it into their lives, as they will have to do so anyway when they graduate, but I am stumped as to how to do so without alienating the students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

    I would love to incorporate more technology into my teaching, as it is a wonderful technology tool, however I fear that in the school I am teaching, the students may not be prepared as of yet. Although our school is connected to the internet and there are many computers on campus, do you think it is fair that I ask my students to take on an assignment where there is an obvious advantage to having money and, therefore, technology in the home? Some students will be able to go to the comfort of their own homes to do the assignment, while others, who may be obligated to come home to help out around the house after school, will have to stay an extra 20 minutes to finish the assignment at school. Perhaps I should rather make this an in class assignment instead, but I again run into the problem of lack of technological resources. It seems a wonderful idea in theory, but in these more impoverished communities, it is much easier said than done.