Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tracy's Nominations for the 2011 Edublogs Awards

I love awards because it's a chance to recognize and share those who rock my world.

Thank you Edublogs for providing this opportunity to acknowledge amazing educators around the globe, and for raising the awareness of the awesome impact social media and web 2.0 can have on our learning and our learners.

Here are my nominations for 2011-2012:

Best individual blog: Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom
Integrating Tech in the Primary Classroom
Hands down, the most influential individual blog that I've learned the most from is Kathleen Morris' Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom. Her content is innovative, filled with tangible and applicable learning for every level (even if you aren't a primary teacher). She makes it super easy for a newbie to feel right at home, while being encouraged to take the next step. I appreciate how Kathleen replies to all her comments, which lets us know how much she cares and is passionate about helping others create 21st century, learner-centered classrooms.

Best individual tweeter: Joan Young @flourishingkids
I met Joan last summer during the Edublogs ISTE Meet-up, and have been inspired by her ever since. I enjoy visiting her blog, and see her almost every time I'm on Twitter. She's a passionate educator who encourages, and shares a plethora of valuable resources and ideas. I highly recommend following Joan.

Best group blog: Our World, Our Stories
Our World, Our Stories is a new group blog for primary students to connect and share with others around the globe about their community, their lives, their creativity, and their experiences. This is a great blog for all classrooms to connect with other classrooms around the world. The classrooms involved are:
Our World, Our Stories

Best new blog: Travelling with Mr 'Davo' Devil
Travelling with Mr 'Davo'
Sue Wyatt, otherwise known as Miss W or @tasteach, created a new blog this year, blogging from the point of view of Mr. 'Davo' Devil, a Tasmanian devil. This blog is a way to share Miss W's trip around the USA and Canada, connecting with blogging classes and chat room friends. Students and classrooms from around the globe enjoy following, commenting, and participating in all the discussions this new blog offers. This blog gets my vote for best new blog of 2011.

Best class blog: Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog
Mrs. Yollis' Blog
My absolute favorite class blog is Linda Yollis'. Her blog was the first class blog I've ever followed, and I always return to it as an inspiration. I love how she uses her class blog to build community, awareness, and a joy for learning. I learn so much from following her blog, and her blog absolutely deserves recognition for the incredible impact she makes on learners around the globe.

Best student blog: Teegan's Terrific Blog
Teegan's Blog
I first noticed Teegan when I was reading through the volunteers to mentor during the Student Blogging Challenge, and Teegan wanted to help out the younger kiddos in the challenge.  When I visited her blog, I could see why she was chosen as a mentor. I appreciate all she does to help others, and the digital footprint she is making. Thank you, Teegan!

Best ed tech / resource sharing blog: What Else
What Else
No secret, I'm a big Sheri Edwards fan, and I appreciate all Sheri offers. One of my favorites of Sheri's blogs is "What Else" because I always have a take-away for an idea to share with others. Sometimes it's a direct idea through her post (such as an idea to implement in the classroom), and other times it's indirect (such as an example for how she posted or how she created a visual). I appreciate all the ideas for integrating technology and resources. Thank you, Sheri, for making a difference in so many lives!

Most influential blog post: Top 10 Twitter Tips! by Kathleen Morris
Top 10 Twitter Tips!
Kathleen Morris is the reason why I understand how to use Twitter, and am not afraid of it. She has several posts about using Twitter, and I recommend all of them, but if I'm trying to share with others how and why to use Twitter, this is the post I send them. Thanks, Kathleen, for answering all my questions and teaching me about the power of Twitter!

Best twitter hashtag: #comments4kids @wmchamberlain

#comments4kids is my favorite hashtag because it's a place where I can go to ask others to comment on student posts, and a place where I can return the favor of placing a smile on someone's face. I've seen the disappointment in students after they've written a post, but no comments... and the excitement from someone leaving students thoughtful comments. It can make their day. Check out #comments4kids, leave a comment, and put a smile on kids' faces.

Best teacher blog: Dare to Care by Denise Krebs
Dare to Care
Denise is another passionate educator who I learn so much from. Her blog, Dare to Care, focuses on the 6 Cs she puts in her tag line, "Creating, Contributing, Communicating, Connecting, Collaborating & Curating." Her genuine love for learning is apparent in all she does.

Best School Administrator blog: This and That by Jon Castelhano
I know that traditionally when "administrator" is said, I think of a principal -- but not this time. The best administrator's blog is the blog of Technology Director, Jon Castelhano. He gets it. He gets how he and his department can help change the culture of a district. He empowers those around him to work towards the goal of a healthy 21st century learning district, and he captures that in his blog.

Best free web tool: Twitter
Twitter is the best free resource I've been introduced to. The people I connect with, and resources and ideas shared on Twitter are a huge part of my professional development, learning, and growth.

Best educational use of audio/video/visual/podcast: Mr. Avery's Classroom Blog
Mr. Avery's Classroom Blog
Mr. Avery creates fabulous math videos and tutorials. I appreciate that he has his students host the math movies.

Best open PD/unconference/webinar series: Serendipity/Fine Focus Webinars
I love the Edublogs Serendipity and Fine Focus Webinars because they involve everyone attending, and they strongly encourage audience interaction -- for newbies and experts.

Best educational use of a social network & Wiki: #elemchat
I absolutely love the discussions and professional development through the #elemchat on Twitter. Furthermore, exploring the archive to revisit amazing resources and ideas are a must. I'm grateful to all those involved in this!

Lifetime achievement: Sue Wyatt
Miss W -- @tasteach
Sue Wyatt, also known as Miss W and @tasteach, volunteers her time to organize the Student Blogging Challenges. The amount of effort, time, and energy spent to provide students with an authentic purpose to help them create, connect, and improve their blogging is incredible. She leaves oodles of comments for the students and classes participating, while also teaching students and teachers to connect and comment on blogs around the globe. From the bottom of my heart, I thank her for all she does, and believe she deserves the Lifetime achievement award.

Final Remarks:

I'd love to hear who your favorites are in either a comment or your own post. Be sure to send Edublogs your nominations in a post and connect to their Nominations Page.

  • Who are your favorites?
  • What do you like about nominations and awards?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Collaborative Writing to Develop the 21st Century Learner

Collaborative writing is strong for bringing ideas together, capitalizing on individual strengths, and building in feedback. When I walked into Mrs. Bliss' 5th grade class to work on the Student Blogging Challenge #3, "Me on the Internet," they decided to write their post collaboratively.

How can students successfully write a collaborative post (or written work)?

Build Background Knowledge (while hooking their interest)

First, we watched this video called Digital Dossier by DigitalNatives, introduced to us in Miss W's post for the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge #3. Before playing the video, we asked them to focus on two questions to discuss after the video:
  • What is a Digital Dossier?
  • Why is it important to each one of us?

Following the video, we went back to our guiding questions and asked them what it was and why it's important. The students were quite involved in their discussions because of its relevance to their lives.

Introducing Tracy's Favorite Graphic Organizer

I once saw this organizer on a bulletin board and thought it was genius because it helps organize ideas while allowing for creativity.

Box 1: Introduction

After their discussion, I asked "What's the main point they will want to make in their post?" or "How can you protect your digital dossier?" They said two things:
  1. Stay safe online
  2. Be positive online 
Next, I shared my favorite ways I like to start writing:
  • a quote
  • a question
  • an interesting or shocking fact
  • a sound (typically better for creative writing)
For this post, what would be the best starter? The students agreed on a question, and brainstormed until they narrowed it to two questions.

Box 2: Define it

Box 2 it makes the most sense to define the topic.

Box 3: First main point -- Being safe

This is based on one of the two main points from Box 1. They had to explain why being safe online is important to their digital dossier.

Box 4: Second main point -- Being positive

This is the second main point outlined in Box 1. Again, it's key to explain why it's important to be positive (instead of saying negative things about others, etc).

Box 5: Conclusion

Box 5 is actually a repeat of Box 1, but for the purpose of concluding. I emphasize that repeating something from Box 1 gives the reader a sense of closure.

Collaborating on the Writing

We organized the class in five groups and asked who wanted to write each of the five parts based on the graphic organizer.

Within each group, we had one or two typers (sharing their document in Google Apps), editors, word choice wizards, and task masters (helping with ideas and focusing the group). It's important to clearly define the roles in each group, and to talk about norms of collaboration, so the groups work together smoothly. Taking the time to set the tone for collaboration is worth it.

When the groups were ready, they filled in their part of the graphic organizer, then started working on their paragraph(s).

Final draft

As we collected each of the groups' paragraphs electronically, I had a few students help with the final draft. It was hands-on modeling the revision process. They grappled with tense, point of view, and voice. They also chose to put the video in for depth, as well as links to other blogs.

Click here to see their final product.

Alternative way to use Tracy's Favorite Graphic Organizer

Final Remarks

Learning how to collaborate is a necessary 21st century skill, through experience will become a learning habit.

Modeling the writing process is key to developing the writer, and so is writing for an authentic purpose and audience. Blogging has been one of the easiest ways to model and build in the authentic audience.
  • What tips and trade-tricks do you share with your students to develop their confidence in writing?
  • How does working collaboratively improve the final product?
  • What else grabs your attention in this post?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Common core, informational text, digital literacy, & 21st century learning

Last week, I had the privilege of working with a group of educators on 21st century lessons and PBL as part of their Collaboration Coach training. One of the main topics we kept revisiting was authentic purpose and audience.

After pointing out strengths, I asked questions such as:
  • What real audience could the students share their learning with?
  • What real audience would benefit from their learning/product?
  • What real audience, community, or expert outside the classroom could provide feedback?
Relating Authentic Purpose and Audience to Common Core Language Arts

Yesterday I received an email from Theresa Bartholomew, our Federal Programs Director, asking us to watch this video and reflect on these questions:
  • What stands out to you about this?  
  • What potential shifts will this require in our instructional time, focus, use of curriculum programs, etc.?

Here was my quick reply to Theresa:
I'm pumped about it! I expect to see more PBL, probably thematic units, and using technology for authentic learning --the Internet is filled with informational text everywhere! So if they are using it authentically then rock on!
Information text, digital literacy, and blogging

Blogging is a great way to connect to an authentic audience, while learning about writing for an authentic purpose. Furthermore, there is a huge focus on reading informational text. Here is a quote from Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano's Langwitches post, Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students- Part I: Reading:
"Blogging is about writing, but it begins with reading. Teachers recognize that in order to teach about blogs, they have to read good blogs. Most want to jump immediately in and have their students start blogging, sit back and expect students to write quality blogs. It won’t happen. Teachers need to take time in reading other blogs, before they expect to be able to lead their students in quality blogging."
Blogging is fabulous for literacy and all content areas.

Final thoughts

Will the common core be the panacea for education? No, but it might be a disruption in how things have been taught... which could open the doors to change.
  • What impact do you predict common core will have on instructional focus?
  • How do you do to focus on informational text, digital literacy, and 21st century learning?
  • What were your take-aways from this post?
Thanks, Theresa Bartholomew, for sending us the video and questions to reflect on!