Student Voices

Oops, I missed Activity 4 as this is Activity 5 of the Teacher Challenge Blogging with students. Maybe I’ll get back to 4 one day. But as it is, I’ve been mulling over whether or not to do this post as I struggled with inspiration. I think I’ve got my mojo for now so best to let it flow.

Looking at the winners of the 2010 Edublogs Award for class blogs, two things were immediately obvious (1) students contributed and (2) teachers facilitated and moderated (as well as contributed, of course).  For this little bit more, I’m honing in on the Blog Dogs – catchy name, yeah?

Student Contributions

BlogDogsIt is not unusual for class blogs to allow students to contribute via blog posts, with or without pictures. In the Blog Dogs (Year 3s at that!), students have videos posted up. The picture on the right is a snapshot of one such video where Simone and Patrick explain and demonstrate addition. Frankly (as a maths teacher), I shudder to think how such an explanation can be done as a text-based post, even with photos.

I think a multi-modal approach to air student voices encourages creativity as well as provide multiple avenues for expression. Surely that’s a good thing.

Teacher Moderation

Part of moderation is certainly looking at what’s appropriate prior to publishing a post. Even better is to publish the guidelines used for appropriateness.  I like that the Blog Dogs have their blogging rules prominently displayed and pitched perfectly (in my opinion, anyway). AND, there are examples

– Never post your full name or the full name of others – only first names

– Never post any details about where you might live: eg) “Hi I’m Mitch and I live in Smith Street, Smithville” – BAD.

“Hi I’m Mitch and I live in Epping/NSW” – GOOD.

I would probably format the text for ease-of-reading but the content itself is exemplary. I have a very strong hunch that the teacher has gone over the rules with the class plenty of times and modeled application accordingly.

In summary….

For students to successfully engage in class blogs, there are 3 key factors (yes, it’s a list…again…)

  1. Encourage multi-modal contributions
  2. Moderate contributions. Give feedback as appropriate, positive and negative
  3. Have rules and use them

I probably missed other important factors but I reckon if you have the 3 above, you’re well on your way to a successful class blogs (award-winning or not).

Comment ON

Here’s my post for the Teacher Challenge Student Blogging Activity #3 on Comments.

I’ve got two main message: Switch commenting ON and Comment ON.

Why comment?

(To list or not to list, that is the question.)

  1. Comments are affirming. It lets the blogger knows that there are others who share or like the same ideas. I’ve received plenty of comments like this and I like leaving comments such as this as well.  And because comments are affirming, they are also encouraging. Readers are important to me.
  2. Comments extend blog posts and conversations. When a post asks questions, readers can respond via comments and so the conversation continues. A good example is this one in Janelle’s post on cotton ball clouds.
  3. Comments are good sources of ideas for blog posts. It might be a question or a bright idea that’s worth pursuing or reflecting on. My post on creating a Follow me on Twitter widget was prompted by a question on someone else’s blog.
  4. Comments can be crumb trails. Commenters can either embed hyperlinks in the comment or within the avatars. In this way, they too can be visited increasing the chances of continued conversation, perhaps via other channels such as Twitter. Of course, commenters can be anonymous, too.
  5. Comments are feedback. Whether positive or negative, comments provide the blogger an insight into how the post is received. Feedback is important to learning and since I’ve said the blogging is a learning platform, it makes sense to set up a feedback mechanism, don’t you think?

(To list wins!)

So if you’re a blogger, please switch commenting on. I may not leave a comment in all blog posts I read but when I do want to, I want to be able to. This means I want to keep the conversation going. I suppose I have to respect the possibility that you don’t want to.

As for you my dear reader, know that I want to hear from you. Feel free to agree and disagree. Ask me questions. Challenge my ideas. Extend my learning.

Is that too much to ask? 🙂

Rules are Rules

This is my post for the Teacher Challenge Student Blogging Activity 2.

We’ve all heard it before – “Rules are rules”. This is often followed by “they must be obeyed” OR “rules are meant to be broken” (and variations thereof). Either way, rules set the tone or more to the point, set the expectations. Working presently as a technology integrator, I don’t have a class and so will divide this post into two sections (1) my own rules for blogging and (2) process for setting up class blog rules

My rules

  1. Keep it professional. Use appropriate language. Stick to the focus of the blog, i.e. learning.
  2. Respect the privacy of others, students and adults alike. Do not name names (including employer/school) except when: there’s expressed permission, information is publicly available (e.g. pingback to someone’s blog or tweet) or if it shows the other person (adult) in a positive light.  With the latter, still use discretion to see whether this person/entity is okay with it.
  3. Consider the implications of this blog being public. Consider that for what and how something is written and presented – and how it can be perceived. Do not intentionally offend.
  4. Respect copyright. Give credit where it’s due.
  5. Engage in conversation. Ask questions. Answer questions.

Setting up class blog rules (if I had a class)

  1. Set-up in conjunction with class rules and adapt. This serves to emphasise that the blog is an extension of the classroom.  With the teacher I’m working with at the moment, we actually set up an online survey so class rules became a democratic exercise. The survey was linked off the class blog and students had to comment back.
  2. Discuss my rules above. It’s obvious that an emphatic thread is “Respect“. Respect oneself and others – privacy, reputation, copyright, ideas.
  3. Create visuals of rules and display on the blog. With the class I’m working with, the students were asked to create digital posters for each rule with a photo. This task broached concepts such as visual literacy (associate text with images) and digital citizenship (use of Creative Commons and copyright-free images) – pretty good for a maths class, I think. A blog banner will be created compiling the work of all the students, i.e. all the rules.

That’s it. Keep it short and simple, I say. Too many rules means too many to obey…or break.

Did I miss much?

Follow Me on Twitter widget

With the #ksyb Teacher Challenge over, there’s been much interest and promotion of using Twitter to build one’s PLN. In one of the #ksyb participants blogs I visited, there was a question on how to create a Follow Me on Twitter widget. I would normally just respond on the comment but thought a post would work better because of potentially (and I mean potentially) bigger readership, ease of access/sharing and I can show html code a lot easier – most blog comments accept html tags and so will not show code.

For all these options, you first have to create a place to embed the necessary html code.

In Edublogs/WordPress, add a text/html widget or in Blogger, add a or html/javascript gadget.

The Simple Way

The simplest widget would be a plain hyperlink. This is how I had it when I first started a year ago.

Copy/Paste the following and change the handle (mine is malynmawby) to your Twitter handle. You can change “me” to your Twitter handle if you like.

<a href=””>Follow me on Twitter</a>

The Graphical Way

This is what I’ve got now (look on the top right) using a site that provides Twitter icons – There are plenty there and I chose the most popular one, not because it was popular but rather that I like it very much. Anyway, you just type in your Twitter handle and copy the embed code. Unfortunately, the default image size is too big for my liking so I scaled it down (changed code are in bold).

<a href=”” title=”Follow me on Twitter”><img src=”” alt=”Twitter Icon” border=”0″ height=”100″/></a>by <a href=’’ title=’Custom Twitter Icon’>Custom Icon</a>

You don’t have to copy the code above if you go direct to If you do copy my code above, then you must remember to change the Twitter handle to yours.

The Creative Individual Way

This is what I’d like to do one day. That is, I’d like to design a Twitter graphic of a bird (maybe I’ll crochet one like @MrsSOnline (see below, isn’t it just adorable?). This combines the ideas behind the two above. This means I have to:

  1. Create a graphic file (take a picture, digital drawing, conjure random shapes in PhotoShop, and the like)
  2. Upload the graphic into my media library
  3. Write up some html code not unlike my Love2Learn Badge widget

So there you have it, a few ways to create a Twitter widget. If you can suggest any more, please write on the comment or maybe post about it and ping back here so I can update mine.

MrsSOnline’s avatar

MrsSOnlines avatar

Addendum: I think it’s a good idea to have a link to your blog on your Twitter profile as well. So even as your blog points to your Twitter feed, vice versa would hold as well. This allows others a chance to get to know you a little bit better and a shortcut to your blog in case you’re not in their RSS Reader. It all helps in keeping the conversations going.

Blog link on Twitter profile

Blog link on Twitter profile

What makes a good challenge?

Yay! I completed the Kick Start Your Blog Teacher Challenge – Advanced. It was a good challenge and I’ve not only learned more about blogging but of various other things like art and science whilst visiting other participants’ blogs.

I love a good challenge. I once made a croque-en-bouche (though without the traditional pan) because my husband said that an Orange poppy-seed  syrup cake  was too plain. I recently also made a Mocha Truffle cake because my (always yummy) chocolate mud cake was becoming a staple, and thus ordinary. (Just for fun and to practice some #ksyb skills, I’m putting in a photo gallery of these two creations…..please oblige).

What makes a good challenge?

  1. Success is possible. Though success cannot always be guaranteed, I need to be able to see that I can achieve the objectives. For the #ksyb, I had a choice between Beginner and Advanced. After only a year of blogging, I certainly didn’t think of myself as advanced but decided I probably wasn’t a beginner either- this turned about to be a right decision for me. The #ksyb site even said “There’s no pressure — you can join and leave the challenges at any time.” plus there were promises of support and mentors, if needed. A 30-day challenge was  not easy but certainly do-able, I thought.
  2. Opportunities to learn. A good challenge allows me to do something I haven’t done before or at least do things differently. I started blogging for various reasons and was fumbling along with much resourcefulness and use of Google. Passionate to learn especially in improving my practice, I really did see #ksyb as a chance to learn. Ditto for the cakes above – first time I’ve ever made them.
  3. Personally relevant. A good challenge means I gain something: new skills/techniques, insights/perspectives, relationships, inspiration and the like (you get my drift).  It is personally interesting. I could see that my blog needed kickstarting and #ksyb definitely came at an opportune time.
  4. Flexibility to be me. Ok, a challenge followed to the letter can be a good challenge too. However, challenges that allow for my own creativity or individuality provide extra motivation for me. #ksyb certainly allowed that with multiple options and even extension activities. I can call this point differentiation but only educators seem to undertand that term. Really, when we differentiate we allow for individuals, right?
  5. Completion provides a sense of satisfaction. It can’t be too easy as I have to be able to stretch myself. This point is like the flipside of #1, i.e. Failure is possible. It is possible for challenges to provide a sense of satisfaction even if objectives aren’t met (some call it failure).  Failure that generates learning allows one to transcend the “negativity” of failure. I think that even if I didn’t complete #ksyb (read: fail to complete) it would still have been good because each activity in the challenge had features of a good challenge.

With #ksyb, I was able to put myself in learner’s  shoes (re: Teacher, be a learner), pretty much along the lines of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. I gained more than kickstarting my blog, the original objective, towards expanding my PLN. Visiting other blogs as part of the challenge was a stroke of genius. I felt some pressure – self-inflicted, I assure you – which helped motivate me. I felt affirmed in many ways by comments in my blog posts and seeing what others have written as well.

I am a bit sad that it is over but I am glad as well.

How can this experience translate into better teaching?

How can we design teaching programs that provide good challenges for the learners in our classrooms? Does it even make sense to look at teaching programs as challenges for learners?