Much of what I have learned about teaching has been from observing veteran teachers in practice. When tasked with reviewing teacher blogs for SLM 508, I viewed this as an opportunity to identify blogs I can visit to learn about classroom management strategies, innovative resources, potential lessons and ways to engage learners. This is also an opportunity to see how blogs are used by educators and gain insight into how I can utilize blogs in my media center lessons.
The first blog that I identified is called Venspired created by teacher Krissy Venosdale. She created this blog so that she had a place to reflect on her teaching practice. She describes her teaching style as “inquiry-based” with an emphasis on STEAM/STEM. Venosdale’s blog has links to additional pages, including the gifted-school where she teaches, additional blogs related to gifted and talented topics, and an extensive poster section where she has free downloadable posters she has created.
One of my favorite posts from Venspired is called Inspiring Creativity and is a place where Venosdale shares her 10 favorite hands-on activities to inspire learning through creativity. At a time when teachers are encouraged to use inquiry-based learning in their classrooms, I relish the opportunity to learn about new resources that I can draw upon in my own teaching.
As we learn about Creative Commons, Copyright and Fair Use, it is refreshing to find a blog where the author is willing to share her valuable resources. She has created vibrant posters with inspirational sayings about learning and developed classroom themed free downloadable art in the Posterpalooza section of her blog. In her presentations section, Venosdale links a fabulous handout that she used at her “Tech Bootcamp” presentation. She briefly summarizes tools such as Symbaloo, VoiceThread, Wordle and SchoolTube. She also explains how teachers and students can use Twiducate to “tweet” with other students around the world and create individual student blogs through Kidblog!
A second blog that dovetailed with topics in SLM 508 is Wesley A. Fryer’s Moving at the Speed of Creativity Blog. Fryer’s blog focuses on technology, digital learning and STEM. Many of his posts describe digital tools teachers can use in the classroom such as Twine, a choose-your-own adventure story tool. He also highlights tools for teaching skills like visual notetaking. Fryer uses screenshots to augment his detailed instructions for incorporating technology in the classroom.
A post that resonated with me was one about becoming a “connected teacher.” Fryer and his wife took a virtual fieldtrip to Tanzania with the aid of Google’s Connected Classroom’s website. He was only aware of this videoconference because he was looking into a question someone had Tweeted him that morning. It is apparent to me that Fryer exemplifies the ISTE standards in his teaching, specifically standard 1: “Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity” and standard 3: “Model digital age work and learning” (iste.org/standards).
Fryer has so many relevant posts on his blog that it was hard to pick which ones to highlight here. His post titled Helping Students Use Creative Commons Images in Presentations is one that I can use in future lessons in the media center, as well as share with teachers in my building. Fryer suggests students try a PowerPoint-like platform called Haiku-Deck to create presentations and select pictures that are Creative Commons licensed, including the attribution links. I will continue to follow Moving at the Speed of Creativity as a way to stay on top of innovative ways to infuse technology like blogs, videoconferencing, and presentation platforms into my media center lessons.
A third educator blog that I will highlight here is Kleinspiration. Written by Erin Klein, a second grade teacher in Michigan, this blog promotes project-based learning ideas, “tech tips” for the primary grades and “social networking.” Klein also reviews educational websites, products and blogs. Most of her posts promote an App, software, digital tool or activity to do with students in the classroom. For classroom teachers with access to iPads, Klein shares seven ideas for asking questions in the classroom with iPads: Integrating iPads.
Klein’s social network post is a great resource for teachers looking to start laying their digital footprint. You can find social media suggestions, video clips to help you connect with teachers on Twitter, and various lesser known social media tools related specifically to education.
A fourth blog I explored is called Technology with Intention, created by Jac de Han. This blog emphasizes “learning in public with technology and education” as stated in its blog catchphrase. Han’s page includes announcements of upcoming Tech conferences, interviews with technology gurus, and his experiences as a digital educator. He shares information about different digital tools and how they can enhance learning. The first post that caught my attention was called “Create a Classroom Blog in Under 2 Minutes: Updated.” Using “Blogger,” Han takes viewers through simple to follow steps aided by helpful screenshots. This is a tutorial that I could share with teachers in my school during a professional development session or via email. Even the most apprehensive teacher can see that creating a blog is nothing to fear.
Another post that was particularly relevant to SLM 508, was titled “The 5 Best Digital Identity Resources.” Included in this list of recommended websites and resources is CommonSense Media and Edutopia’s “Parents Guide to 21st Century Learning.” These are resources that teachers and media specialists can use to teach our students about digital etiquette and leaving a digital footprint they can be proud of. Likewise, these are resources we can share with parents and the PTO/PTA to better educate parents about the digital media their children are encountering in today’s connected world.
I am overwhelmed by the ideas gleaned from these educator blogs and encouraged that I can use these resources to stay abreast of emerging technology tools and inquiry-based learning tips. The one thing common with all of these blogs was their focus on using technology in their classrooms. I see these blogs as a way to connect professionally with other educators, as a place to share and bounce ideas around, and as a way to challenge myself to stay on top of my game.
Not only can my students create their own blogs in the media center and in the classroom, but they can also learn the value and pleasure of following blogs. Avid readers may enjoy following blogs such as Josie’s blog, a runner-up in Edublogs 2012 Best Student Blog. They can interact through blogs. They can provide feedback to bloggers using appropriate digital etiquette, and meet other students with similar interests from other parts of the world.