Conversations to improve practice…

Guest post by Jocelyn, a Year 6 teacher who invites conversation and listens to her students. She is wondering where she has gone wrong with class blogging…

I am a teacher who thrives on the adrenaline I get from learning so that I can pass this on to my students. I understand the power of collaborative learning and it excites me. I work hard at creating a collaborative learning culture in my room and in the last few years have been passionate about using technology to help me create this culture.

I see our class blog as a collection of our learning and sharing. I also see it as a tool to enable students to gain the understanding of building a digital footprint. It is for this reason that today I got the shock of my life when I initiated a conversation about our blog with my students. We are very active on our blog and it has been puzzling me why it is that the students have not taken more ownership of commenting on each other’s posts. Today I decided to ask them why this is the case and the responses disturbed me to my core. I felt that everything I thought that I was building up in my classroom was not valued by some of the class members at all.

They said things to me like:

I would prefer to write on paper!
When I asked the child how her learning could be shared she just looked at me. I suggested that maybe she could pass her paper to others in the class for commenting and she looked at me in horror.

Comments should only be written by the teacher.
I asked if he thought I knew everything. ‘No’, was the reply. I asked if he felt that his classmates had nothing to offer him…

Why can’t people present their learning in front of the class and everyone can comment orally?
‘Wouldn’t it be boring to listen to and comment on one presentation at a time?’ No reply.

Uploading to the blog makes me feel pressured in terms of time.
This is my fault. I need to allow more time for this.

It took so long to get one of my presentations onto Slide Boom so I could embed it, I had to get help from the ICT teacher.’
I asked if he had learned learn anything from the process. ‘Yes, you are right, I did. Point taken.’

‘If not for the blog I would not have been able to make connections in the world.
Thank God for her….

Why don’t we just save all our learning to our own accounts only?
‘Is that the same as saving it on the blog? Who would your audience be?’ ‘No, it’s not really the same…’.

I ended by asking them to write or come and have a conversation with me if they had anything more to add… I have not heard from them.

While trying to recover from this frank discussion I began asking myself where have I gone wrong…

I realise that before these kids came to my class, most of their collaborative experiences on a blog had been limited. I took it for granted that my philosophy would rub off onto them. I might not have been explicit enough at the start of the year. Maybe I needed to build up more ‘culture of learning’ skills.

I was away on leave for a term and while I was away they did not go onto the blog at all.

Last year I had more of a global audience, thanks to the help of a colleague. I have just started on Twitter so I need to get my blog out there myself.

I need help…..

22 thoughts on “Conversations to improve practice…

  1. Well done for being brave enough to ask your class about it! That’s something that often people do not make the time to do if they are not sure they will like the answers.

    The global audience is important but class blogging can still work locally, sharing their work as a class or a school as long as it’s seen as a celebration of work. I always offer my class the choice of whether their work goes on the blog but I make it sound like a very good thing if it does, they can show their parents and the other teachers in the school their efforts as well as the world.

    I don’t know whether this is due to the age of my children (year 4s) but they can’t really imagine the globe, they find it hard to understand why anyone who wasn’t someone that knew them would want to know what they had to say. I used the NeverSeconds blog to introduce this with my class, and I talk about my own and the power that has on others.

    It may also be worth considering that they’re possible mimicking their parent’s opinions, as we so often see, and it is in fact not their opinions at all e.g. ‘Why not paper’.

    If you want to talk about blogging or try and get our classes working together then I’m happy to arrange that, tweet me. I will have year 5s next year, I had them when they were year 4s, their old blog is here http://bvsyear4.wordpress.com/ so most already have an idea of blogging and why we do it.

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    1. Thanks so much for that Sway. i looked at your blog from last year, it’s great. I would be happy to connect our classes and will connect with you on Twitter:)

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  2. Hello Jocelyn.
    It is certainly dispiriting when things don’t quite go the way you expected. Like Edna, I’m sure a global audience will help. Do tweet me links to showcase pieces on Blog Dipping. In September, 100 Word Challenge starts again and that is great for driving traffic to blogs and once students see their visitors they ‘get the idea’! Links for you to look at
    http://www.blogdipping.org.uk
    100wc.net

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    1. Thanks Julia so nice to hear from you again. You used to comment on my blog lots last year. Will look at what you suggested.

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  3. Hello Jocelyn. I have found getting parents on board commenting on their child’s learning really helps too. I have uploaded some newsletters to my blog and will continue to do so. You can check them out if you like http://34mk2012.global2.vic.edu.au. I have also had the support of a few staff who have been regular commenters and that has motivated the students. I have been part of blog dipping and have also signed up for quad blogging starting next month and I think that will really excite the students and build connections. You could also try tweeting about recent blog posts and see if you can extend your audience that way. Happy to visit myself if you tell me your blog address.
    Cheers,
    Mary

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    1. Hi Mary,
      Have tried to involve parents through my newsletter, but only three have responded with one who is actively involved. Edna has told me about quad blogging and am keen to give it a go. Will also look at your blog for ideas.
      Thanks for your support.

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  4. Thank you Jocelyn for your honest and open reflection on your practice. It has given me much food for thought and I think this post exemplifies what is awesome about reflective peer practice . Cheers🙂

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  5. Hi Jocelyn,
    I think this comes down to student choice. We can’t expect they will all equally enjoy the same types of writing. Hence, we cannot expect they will want to give back in the same ways.

    When editing/revising/commenting, students should be able to choose to talk with partners, make comments on Google docs, or get more public feedback.

    We also can’t assume all will want to post their work on blogs (especially a blog they do not own). My publishing question is this: On which medium will your message be best communicated? A blog? An eBook? A hard-cover book? An online magazine (like Issuu)? A podcast? A movie? A letter to the editor?

    My students who loved blogging developed their own blogs based on their passions (life from the perspective of their dogs, blogs on horses or magic tricks or popular music…). My class blog was more for parent communication of student work/activities. I taught students to appropriately comment on others’ blogs – but was okay if they never blogged beyond that.

    I suggest asking these questions:
    1. What is the message you are trying to communicate? What information do you need to obtain and share to make that message powerful?
    2. In what ways would you like to receive feedback on your writing?
    3. Over which medium will your message be best communicated?

    Have some students publish their message in a couple ways to compare/contrast.

    Good luck!

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    1. Hi Janet,
      Thanks for all your suggestions. You have definitely given me food for thought. Great questions to ask the kids.
      Will try them out.

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  6. Posted on behalf of Sue Waters of Edublogs who is (gasp) having a bad technology day!

    Hi Jocelyn

    You’re struggling with an issue faced by many teachers when it comes to encouraging students to comment.  

    The key is you need to teach them quality commenting and including commenting activity as part of their routine.   Educators like Kathleen Morris and Linda Yollis spend a lot of time focusing on commenting which makes a high difference to their students learning and literacy skills.

    You can read more about the approaches they use here – http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/2012/08/09/activity-4-writing-comments-what-you-need-to-know/#quality I also recommend you read the comments on that post as there is a lot of discussion on why students are reluctant commenters and strategies that educators use.
    Hope this has helped!

    Sue

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    1. Hi Sue,
      Thanks so much for your effort to respond through Ed. I have read some of Kathleen’s suggestions. At the start of my blogging journey our school skyped with Kathleen and I remember her focusing on writing comments.I realize I need to work on kids comments too.
      Thanks again.

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  7. Joc I love your honesty and the importance you place on reflection and open communication in your classroom. My child was one of the fortunate ones to be in your class last year and I know he still talks about your class blog. I agree that it might not be every student’s preferred means of communication so perhaps it can be one choice on offer. Now that they have all experienced blogging they are in a better place to make informed decisions about when they want to communicate in this way! You care so much about your students’ learning and they are very lucky to have you!!

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  8. Hi Jocelyn,
    given Lana’s remark I wondered if you might be able to arrange for last year’s enthusiastic kids to comment on this year’s blogs. Also, @Gret’s students would welcome comments on their blogs… perhaps there’s some scope for practising commenting skills there. You’ve probably done it already but how about asking your students what they’d like to read or what they enjoy reading on blogs from kids in other countries… and then ask what those kids might like to read about on theirs. Interactions with an audience outside the classroom might hold the key.
    Good luck!
    Clive

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  9. Thanks Clive, great ideas. I now feel I’ve got lots of ideas to try and implement and feel really positive about the outcome.

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  10. Hi Joc,
    A couple of months ago, after a morning PD on blogging, I asked my class what we could do to make blogging a more engaging experience for them, thus motivating them to comment & submit posts of their own. They gave a range of positive responses & suggestions but are still not visiting the blog of their own free will apart from a couple of students.
    I look forward to trying out some of the suggestions people have made to you.

    Hailey

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    1. Hi Hails,

      Thanks for that interesting. I’m also looking forward to trying new things. Lets collaborate with our classes to work it out.

      Joc

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