Taken from a painting of Kapiti Island at Sunset.
by Sonia Savage.

Friday, February 25, 2011

11 Things to Know about Commenting and Students.

1.  I have come to know that we need to teach our students the skills needed for commenting.  I have been mainly guided in the last year or so by L Yollis and the work she does.  Last week while attending the webinar run by Tech Talk Tuesday, I realised just how precise we need to be.  If you weren't at it,
I advise you listen to the recording.  The enthusiasm of the teacher and the modelling by the teacher is really important.

2.  As a teacher encourage thoughtful commenting.  How many times have you, on your class blog received a comment?  "Your blog is cool, come and visit our blog."  It's a start but there is no real engagement.  So teach your students that they need to read the post and respond with a positive comment, perhaps a connection or a question, or added information or an opinion with reasons.

3.  Many of your students may see commenting as something similar to comments they send each other by
  texting!  So commenting needs to be taught!  So correct spelling, grammar and punctuation are important.

4.  Students love to receive comments.  Many of mine watch the count and celebrate with a post when they get to 75 or 100.

5.  As a teacher value the adults who leave comments on your class blog or your students' blog.  Email them and thank them.

6.  Especially value other teachers from other classrooms who leave comments on your class blog or your
student blogs.  Students feel very special when they get such comments.  Once I left a comment on a student blog of a student in the USA.  Later an aunt of his ( a teacher) emailed me to thank me, he couldn't believe that something he had written was read and responded to, from so far away.

7.  As well as students loving getting comments from other teachers, as their teacher it thrills me when I see a comment from another teacher coming in for them.  I feel like someone else is helping to develop them. It
seems to be like we are all fostering their writing and web 2.0 skills.  I also love comments that tell a student their post is being used by a teacher in some way. 

8.  Teach students that pingbacks are something to savour as well.  It means someone has valued their post and has linked to them.

9.   Teach students about spam comments.  Examine some together so that they know just to delete them.

10.  Be aware there are various kinds of comments.  Not all comments call for a detailed comment.  Perhaps
 it's just a short one.  For example today on our class blog we got a query asking were we okay, because
of the recent earthquake in Christchurch.  Or it might be a quick comment of some other kind.  There is a time and a place for a variety of comments.

11.  Yes one more, it takes time!  Not all comments are going to be what you quite want, but what counts I think is the evidence that they are improving at commenting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Memoirs of my Class Blog.

My Class Blog
I began my class blog at the beginning of 2009 with Edublogs. It was a steep learning curve for me. Each evening I poured over Edublog video tutorials and written guides. I signed up for the class Edublogs challenge in March of 2009.  This was a great choice as I learned from what others were doing, and I could ask questions of other people.

In the beginning, I had wanted to blog for two major reasons.  A) To communicate with parents and to share with them some of the things we were doing in the classroom. B) To have a place to publish writing the students were doing.  I signed up the students as users on the blog and they were able to log on from home and draft posts.  I soon found C) To locate resources in a central area, another reason to blog.

As 2009 developed I began to see that blogging was also connecting our class to other classrooms around the globe.  This was still low key, as we built up our skills, but it was great.  I found a few class blogs in New Zealand and I unashamedly scrolled their blogs for ideas and to  find out what we could do.  We tried a little pod-casting as well.  In about October 2009 I set some of the students up with their own blogs.

In 2010 I still had many of the same students in the class, I used the students who had already set up blogs to set up more students with blogs.  Now that meant the class blog changed somewhat.  Its main role became more a place where I alerted students to new tools, I alsol continued to share things so that parents could have a window in.  2010 saw far more interaction with other classes through blogs.  We connected with a class in Israel, which was both interesting and exciting.  We skyped with a class in Australia. We continued to take part in the Edublogs challenges.  I was able to use other class blogs to teach and discuss. A case in point was the commenting video that Mrs Yollis' class made.  As we saw quality work such as this video coming from other classes I wanted to involve students more. I began to develop video making skills with them.

2011 has dawned and again I am in the process of setting up students with their blogs.  I now present homework on  a page on the blog.  This year I want to involve the students in making quality videos, to mainly share with their parents what they are learning.  These will be shared on the class blog.  Students no longer post on the class blog, they have their own.  However I share the best of the week on the class blog. My google reader feed also shows on the class blog showing the latest student posts.  We are taking part in the Edublogs challenge again. I will probably use more polls on my blog this year.  Part of the class blog is that the journey keeps on going, and change happens!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Digital Class and Teacher!

(140/365) Computer magicphoto © 2009 Sarah | more info (via: Wylio)

What equipment does a class need to be a digital class?
This was one of the areas of exploration that took place as part of a webinar that Murcha alerted me to last week.  Deciding that I could be brave and join in, I took part.  My first experience of a live webinar.  Of course the bravery came from the fact I felt very secure in the fact that after the teacher blogging challenge I felt comfortable with anything that Murcha would be helping to organise and moderate. I was amazed at the dedication of the teachers who joined from some late time zones.  I loved the interaction of the webinar. As Murcha writes in her post just recently, and why wouldn't students be doing this too?  My mind begins to tick over.

 I already have earmarked the next one, when Linda Yollis will be the guest speaker. Over the last few years through the class and student blogging challenge I have seen the great work she does.  I just know I will learn.

So back to the question about equipment. 

I have 5 desktop computers and 5 laptops in my classroom. They have access to the internet and work of the school server.

I have a set of headphones for each computer.

I have my teacher laptop.  It has a built in microphone.

I have a digital camera for photos and video clips. I am about to add another.

I have one simple free standing microphone.

I have a digital computer over my whiteboard.

3 of the students are trialling using their own ipod touches for classroom use.

This is more than adequate and I am grateful for what I have. (Of course I dream of ipads etc!) Our policy is to have the hardware in the classrooms rather than as a school suite. I am a fan of how we do this.  We are too small, just over 120 students for a dedicated suite and ICT coordinator.

Each year I have grown as a digital class teacher.  The edublogs challenges have largely been resonsible for this.  The other part of the equation is that I have an interest and belief in it. Well, I love it, actually.  It is such a wonderful thing to be able to learn and share with other teachers and students around the globe. All the time new doors are opening.

There is one disadvantage to all this as far as I can see.  I have things to do outside the digital community! Yesterday, being Saturday, I had a NO COMPUTER DAY!  It was great, time to do the shopping and housework. Then time spent with a friend walking and swimming at the beach, with dinner later.  Yes definitely important for me to stay away from it one day a week!

So how about you?  What kind of digital equipment do you have to use as part of your daily teaching? What do you dream of having? What exciting new learnings are opening up for you?  And do you ever factor in no computer days for yourself?!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Add a picture/ link in your side bar.

Recently one of my students, Teegan, intrigued me with a link in the side bar of her blog to our class blog. It had a picture of the blog.  Last Friday she shared with me what she had done.  It also gave me a chance to try out the new Snip It tool I have, since our teacher computers were updated to Windows 7.

1. Step one was to capture a screen shot of the blog. I used the snip it tool, I would suppose you can use any capture tool, or even just a simple screen shot.

2. Place the screen shot into Paint and resize.  Click on pixels. These are the dimensions she used. You will need to experiment and see which size fits your side bar.

3.Save it as a jpeg or some other suitable file.
4.Then upload it into a post in visual editor, before placing it in the post, change the link url to where you want the picture to link to. Then insert it in the post.

5.Change to the HTML editor. And copy the code!
6. Depending on the blogging platform now place it in a text widget if you use Wordpress/Edublogs. If Blogger then into a HTML/Java gadget. And save.

If you then see that the sizing does not fit, change the sizing in the html code, and it should be good.

I like this if there is one or two special blogs you want to link to.  For example on my class blog when the student challenge starts in March this will be the way I will place a link to it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Encouraging a Reader to Read my Blog.

web2.0 partyphoto © 2009 Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig | more info (via: Wylio)

Without a doubt every blogger that has a public blog would like people to visit and read their blog, and as well perhaps engage in dialogue through comments.  As others doing the teacher challenge have pointed out, there may be readers even though they don't leave comments.  I notice some of the big blogs don't actually have many commenting, although readership is in the thousands.  I think of Richard Byrne's blog as an example, I read most of his posts and occasionally feel motivated to leave a comment.  So readers and commenters may form two different groups.  It is for each blogger to make their choice and then develop as best they can the kind of reader they would like.

As a teacher beginning out on developing my teacher blog I think I would like to have readers that leave a comment.  At least some of the time.  Why? It's affirming and supportive, encourages me to keep going and also a comment may lead me off on a path I have not thought about.  I recognise that as teachers we are very busy, and reading other teacher blogs at times will not be a high priority.  However I think its part of being part of a learning community, and I intend in 2011 to be active in this. Like Britt Gow, I think it is a PLN that I want to be part of.

The following are tips for myself or for you the reader if you find them helpful.

 # Read and comment on other teacher blogs.

# Post consistently, and persist.

# Make the effort to share with others. Write a post about it.

# Be yourself.  While you may like to have readers it is of little use to twist yourself into somebody you are not just to impress them.

# Join networks such as Twitter.

#Post on Facebook. While I use this mainly for family I do have teacher friends!

# Reply to the comments that you receive.

# Network in person. Go to an IT conference!    I now have Ulearn11 in Christchurch, New Zealand as a possible conference. Thank you to Britt Gow for making me think about this, through the post she wrote.

To conclude I would like to add in this slideshare that I viewed. It was Richard Byrne who posted about it on his blog and I read it and loved it.  It is by Sacha Chua.  I have added her to my Reader. I love this slideshare because I am an introvert and it is in relation to the final tip!

The Shy Connector
View more presentations from Sacha Chua.

P.S I am going back to read all her slideshares. I had never heard of her. She does fabulous work.

Image: 'web2.0 party'


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

So You Want to Widget?!

Widgets are fun!  I think they just brighten up your blog.  I remember back to when I put my first widget on my classroom blog. It was a major piece of learning. I think I made it a lot more difficult than it needed to be! My students love to widget.  One of the widgets that caught on with them was changing the cursor to a little animal!

My class blog is with edublogs. It is very easy (now!) to add widgets to an edublog.  Blogger is good as well.  Wordpress is not so easy because it won't take flash type widgets. 

So I am looking around at some other blogs and what they have on the side bar.  Of course there is the danger that you overload it, and your blog becomes too busy!  So a spring clean every so often is a good idea. I think I must suggest that to some of my students.

The first blog I want to share is Teegan's blog. Teegan is a student in my class this year, and from half way through last year. She has a lot on her side bars, possibly too much.  However what I really like is the way she has some blogs and websites put in the side bar with pictures. I love that. I am waiting until we go back to school and she has time to show me how she did it!!

Mrs Yollis has in her class blog a widget that shows her class Twitter news.  Now if you are a Twitter user, that would be a good idea.  I am not sure if I am that in to Twitter yet, but a class Twitter account as opposed to a personal Twitter account is a good idea I think, with the teacher's Twitter posts showing on the widget.

Laurie Fowler, one of the teachers doing this challenge has a personality badge that she has done after doing a test on a web site.  I like that, I have that bookmarked and I intend adding one to my teacher blog!!

Here is a class teacher here in New Zealand who always has a very alive classroom blog, and when I was beginning blogging I used to watch to see what he was doing.  I see while visiting he won a major New Zealand prize for his blog for 2010.  He has a poll in the side bar, another great idea for a widget in a side bar. I will be taking time to think through a poll, to leave on the side bar of my teacher blog and class blog.

The last blog I think I like the best of all the blogs I visited to do this activity.  It is another class blog here in New Zealand that I keep an eye on and drop in to visit every so often.  I like the weather map on this site, in fact I think I will add one to my teacher blog.  I like his world maps that track visitors, he has a number of interesting ones.  While I wouldn't have that many I still like them.  He also has a link to You T ube, Twitter etc. He has also included a picture in the side bar of their digital learning sequence.  That's a great idea too. Yes I definitely like the side bar on this blog!

Lastly I like the idea of making a badge for my blog. However this will go onto the backburner until I have a little more time. Perhaps my students can make one too, and we can all have a go together. They of course will have far better ideas than me, and I will just pick their brains!! As all teachers are geared to do.

Image: 'desktop130306'


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