Teaching and Learning with the Unlinked Net


Images from OpenClipart.org

I have been thinking of this post for a while as our students begin blogging more this year. Most all students in the Middle School are now blogging through Language Arts classes using Edublogs. In grade five, students use a teacher’s blog to post with the teacher serving as the editor who must approve both posts and comments. In grade six students and teachers use the class blog feature in Edublogs so that each student has their own blog but are managed under the teachers blog. This system worked well last year as it provides the students with ownership and a place to find their voice. The teachers still serve as editors and must approve all pages, posts, and comments. This systems works well to establish solid writing, collaborative commenting skills, and learning how to interact in an online community. These are important skills that must be taught if we do not want a world of trolls on the internet. Starting this year, grade seven students and teachers will be expanding the use of class blogs with the students starting with restricted publishing as they start the new year. This will soon move to full editing and publishing done by the students with the teacher only serving the roll of monitor. In grade 8, the class blogs have no restrictions for what is posted and commented and the teacher serves as a monitor. While the blogs have different setups, the goals are the same: Write for an authentic audience, Write more, Learn to write collaborative comments, and establish a presence on the internet that showcases your work and yourself. I feel it is important for students to work at creating their own “Google Juice” so they are searchable with results ranging from silly photos to articles written by them. All of our blogs are open to the public and indexed by Google and other search engines.

The idea of cultivating “Google Juice” is also why four years ago we started having students create and manage digital portfolios with Google sites. These portfolios hold not only a link to their personal blog but also samples of exemplar work along with goal settings and reflections on the student’s learning. These portfolios live at the edges of what we do as all of our Google Apps services are private only to our school which means no one outside of our school or any search engine cannot access them.

This leads to the title of this post as I have been asked by teachers the following question: “How will parents find our blogs?” The quick answer was to send them a message with the link. While that works, it does raise the larger question in my mind of how do we expose all of the wonderful learning and teaching going on when it is not linked by our school or not accessible to anyone outside of our school? Should we expose this part of our school to the world? What are the risks? What are the rewards? I can make a page on Veracross which would allow anyone from our school to find the blogs. I do encourage teaches to list their blogs in the Edublogs directory as a way to engage with the world. 


Until I figure out the best solution, here is a list of the blogs so far. Some will have a link to class blogs on the side.

Grade 4 – Mrs. KarolMr. Mason

Grade 5 – Mrs. Goldstein, Mrs. Parry

Grade 6 – Mrs. WilliamsMrs. Donnelly, Mrs. Saffo-Cogswell

Grade 7 – Mrs. Howes,  Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Grade 8 – Mr. Sheard, Mr. Michelman (new this year and not doing it yet), Mrs. Engebretsen

Flapping Our Wings in 6th Grade Digital Learning Class


Image: ‘With the Wings of a Bird’



I knew I wanted to try new methods of teaching and learning with my new sixth grade Digital Learning class. For the price of $39.95, I set up an Edublog for us to use to reflect and share our learning experiences. We just did our first post which asked students to write about an image that I provided to them via our blogs Media Library. The image is from Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org which allows me to also discuss copyright and some advanced skills like linking and target for links. We also discussed categories and tags so that we can build a logical tag cloud.

I plan to have them write reflective posts from home as work they do outside of class and to teach them how to share their VoiceThread portfolios through the use of embedding code. This was just the first post of what I hope will be many more from my students. They are editors which mean posts they make go live which as I told them, puts the responsibility on them to make sure their posts are “postable”. We went over the blogging and commenting guidelines which you might find useful to read as well.

Visit the blog and watch us learn together. http://dl6th.edublogs.org/

To Share or Not To Share is Not the Question – We Need to Teach Sharing and Collaborating

By Ryan Gallagher

Photo: on 12-15-2010 http://www.flickr.com/photos/clickykbd/2710697870/

I have been thinking about this post since reading Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog post on what do you have to lose on her Langwitches Blog. The post came to my attention after I clicked on a link that one of the people I follow on Twitter shared. I am grateful to the person in my PLN who shared it although the fact that it was shared is exactly the proof of this post. I used Instapaper to read it later on my iPad, found myself thinking about it while I mucked the barn in the cold dawn of the morning, and each day at school when I watched my students practice learning how to find their voice with VoiceThread and Google Apps for Edu. There is so much good information in this post and links, that I plan to show it to my faculty and anyone else who happens to read this post. I may even create a workshop around the core ideas on sharing and tools to do it effectively. It summarizes what I have been advocating for our students to do more of for about four years. My role may be the advocator in chief for many of these technological tools as I feel strongly that our teachers and students must embrace the skills outlined in the ISTE NETS for Students and ISTE NETS for Teachers. Students in my Digital Learning class are working on their portfolios with VoiceThread and many are on the third or fourth attempt either to perfect it or because there were issues. This is not a waste of time as the learning gets deeper each time they practice. I think it is important for all of us to find our voice and frankly, get over how we sound. I helped a Spanish teacher record a brief piece for the exam that is being administered. It took four takes to get it just the way we wanted it. Truth be told, the second one was golden but I lost it somehow. Again, learning is messy. She remarked how she had trouble listening to herself. I assured her she needed to get past that and the only way to do that is to do more, not less.

Alan November

In her article, Silvia has this image and quote in her post which I think is the heart of the matter. We need to teach our students how to share and collaborate as a skill and not as something to be avoided or prevented. I love it when we have club and the students exclaim that we now have readers from South Africa or other countries because we made our school “newspaper” a blog this year. The Cav is one attempt at sharing done by our students. They write the posts and the two teachers serve as editors to make sure it meets the standards of a journalistic paper before it goes live. We had a FirstClass blog for the last three years but never knew if anyone was reading it. Our new Google Apps for Education accounts are allowing students and teachers to share work with each other.

Read the blog by Silivia and lets get to work teaching our students how to find their voice and how to share their learning with other learners.

Sharing helps me everyday via my Twitter stream, the Diigo bookmarks that are shared by other teachers from around the world, Google Reader where articles are brought to me around interest areas. How can we not help our students to harness the power of these curated streams of information. To not is to do them and ourselves a great disservice. Dean Shareski also did a post on how to make better teachers where he suggests we get all teachers blogging to reflect on their teaching. Another great idea for me to weave into the workshop that is starting to take shape in my head.

As I was finish this post, I want to share a message I received from a teacher and a picture of a tweet from Melissa Trendenick that she sent while at a conference where Pat Bassett was speaking. Both affirm my points in this post. Without the tools and sharing, learning is diminished.


Hi Karl,

I have a student who is in Korea and is missing a week and a half of school due to the death of her grandfather. She is currently completing assignments for our short story unit using google docs and Moodle. She is able to read the short stories from Moodle and is writing (and having teacher and peer edits) via google docs. Thank you for these wonderful tools. Otherwise, She would miss two weeks of work.


Just wanted you to know, these tools have a powerful impact and daily extend my course beyond the wall of my classroom.



Melissa Tredenick Change.png

Durham Academy’s Online Newspaper “The Cav”


The Cav has been done using a FirstClass Conference in the past with some success. This year Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Donnelly, and I wanted to offer an opportunity for our reporters to write for an authentic audience so we switched to an Edublog account. For about $40.00 we have a highly managed and secure system that uses advanced editing tools. Students are excited and writing away. Teachers are the ones who serve as publishers making sure before it goes live, it meets the editorial standards of our newspaper.


Check it out at http://thecav.edublogs.org/