Reflections on Widen your classroom with blogs

null The fours week blogging course has come to an end, and it’s time to reflect.
It has been an intensive four weeks and I’ve met a lot of friendly and very motivated people.

They have overcome problems and persevered to create their own space in the internet. It is easy  to forget how daunting that can.

And so I applaud all of you from the course who have taken the first step.

Of course, not everyone managed to create a blog and some dropped out of sight (site!). But this too is a natural phenomenon and not to be scoffed at or scolded. Perhaps the time wasn’t right, or perhaps a second start will be needed.
For those of you who couldn’t or didn’t carry on for whatever reason, I thank you for joining the course anyway and hope that you have been able to take with you something of it for a later point in time.

For those of you who have questioned whether using blogs for teaching and learning purposes (I stress the learning part!) is worth the time involved, I can assure you that this is a good question and worth exploring further.  What added value will a blog give your learners? The WOW effect? A new look for old methods?  Or can it induce a new kind of methodology, or simply an addition outside the classroom that wasn’t possible before?

I’m sure there will be those of you blogging about that as well, and I look forward to reading your discoveries and conclusions for in everything I teach I make sure that I am learning.

The changes in technology are continueous. As Jenny stated in the live session, you may become used to a certain tool and then suddenly find it gone or changed and have to set out to find another one. But it is nothing to be afraid of.  A teacher who cannot learn cannot truely teach.

I too have plodded on and tried this and that, asked for help, led the way and let others lead me, and so I am glad to have you join me on this journey as readers, writers, teachers, and acquaintances, making the world wide web a little smaller and bit more friendly.

The meme game

I’ve been tagged! So here I am taking part in the meme game, which is a great way to get to know about people and have a little bit of fun on the blog.

Here are the rules:
How to play the meme game:
Basically, the idea is for each blogger who accepts the invitation to reveal three things most people don’t know about them and then to pass the ball to three other bloggers by tagging them. You will know when you are tagged!

So here are my three things.
1- When I began learning about blogs I was extremely sceptical. I had a hard time finding good examples and thought the whole weblog idea was anything but conducive to learning. I only persued the idea of blogging because I wanted to figure out what all the hype was about. And here I am!

2- The most inspiring place for me is on the covered terasse of a little house on the coast of Sardinia. I find peace and quiet and muse to write.

3-I am a course book writer and have co-written a series of books for English for Primary School, but someday I’d like to write a completely different type of book on that covered terasse in Sardinia!

Now I tag Annie B., Maru Diaz and Margrit

Now it’s your turn to tag three different people!
How do you tag them? Well, link their blogs to your meme post like I did above.
Then send them a message to make sure they know they’ve been tagged (you can do this on the ning).
If you have a wordpress blog, also add their link to the box that says ‘Send backtracks to..’. This will also link the blog to your site and notify the owner that you have mentioned them.

My many blogs

At the moment I’m giving an online course on blogging and have been so busy reading and commenting n other blogs that I haven’t found time to write on my own blog.

Yesterday as part of the course we held a WiziQ session and invited a guest to talk about her blogging experiences. Karenne, the author of kalingoenglish, gave us inspiring ideas and useful tips on how to blog.

She described the many blogs she has kept, which has led me to write about my own blogs.

My blogging babysteps were for my first on-line course and several of us used a blogger blot together to share our experiences and help each other out. Once the course was over, the blog was no longer needed, but this experience was an important one for me, giving me courage to continue discovering the possibilities.

During the same course I opened my own reflective blog for the course. I wanted to explore the possibilities of promoting the Multiple Intelligences through the use of internet and on-line tools. It was called MIs of online learning – a long address!
It formed the basis of my final paper for the course. It was left alone for a while and then became used for my private class of kids for a short while. If you are interested in reading about the MIs, then you will need to into the archives.
It has been left, at least for the moment, as a document of work I have done. However, the idea of working with kids led to another blog with a second group of kids I was teaching privately, and a successful collaboration with a teacher in New York and a document of their work as well.

In the meanwhile I had opened two other blogs. In my first webheads session I opened this blog, which has turned into a kind of portfolio for me. And I opened my first class blog for my CAE students.
While this blog has remained with my, my first class blog was anything but successful. It was more of a suggestion than anything else. In the end I deleted it – goodbye blog.
The second one was better. I required my students to take turns summarizing the lesson, and got them on the blog, but not really blogging.

I realized that I had to let the students know from the beginning that the blog was an important part of the course, even if it wasn’t obligatory.
The next step was getting them to contribute. Real tasks helped, as well as surprise guests. Once I got the hang of it, I didn’t want to make a new blog each time. Now I’ve used the same blogfor two years and it offers links and is a place for the learners to say hi when they are off doing a language stay. Even jokes have been posted!
I have also realized that as soon as I let up on the blog, little will come from the learners. I’ve come to accept that and see that the blog can have quiet stages as well as active ones.
It can be time-consuming to keep up the blogs and I wish I had more time to keep all of them up, but blogging is still an adventure that I enjoy immensely.

Following comments

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Write to be read. This is why we write blogs.

But how do we know if we are being read? Well, you can go to your statistics page if your blog has one (WordPress does :-) ), or you can ask people you know if they have been reading your blog.

But the most powerful message you can send ot someone who has written something is to leave a comment. This is a sure sign that someone has read what you wrote and it moved them enough to say something about it. But now how do you know if someone commented on a comment? How do you allow for the wondeful situation when a conversation results from a single post?

Do you need to go back again and again to check? This might be okay for your own blog, but if it’s one that you chanced upon, this will prove to be extremely time-consuming, especially if you regularly leave comments on blogs and also if you follow a number of blogs.

There are a couple of possibilities so yocna be informed of further comments but don’t need to return countless times to check.

One way is to subscribe to the comments of a certain post. There is often this option and you will be sent an e-mail.

Another option involves a very small button at the bottom of your screen. Cocomment will let you know if someone commented on a post you’ve also commented on. It turns orange and all you have to do is click on it to quickly see whatthe discussion is about. Then you can choose to ignore it or delve deeper.

It’s little tools like this that make blogging easier and more satisfying!

My experience of on-line courses and on-line learning.

I have been a firm believer that it is necessary to know about technology and how it can enhance learning, especially as a freelance teacher. Now, though I am no longer freelance, I still feel the same way as I teach young learners.

I read books and made my own ponderings about how I could utilize the wonderful, yet ellusive materials out there in interspace, but it wasn’t until I took my first o-line course in 2006 that I really began to discover the more concrete possibilties.
From that moment on it was one long, intensive education that took place in a number of different times and places on the internet, no longer bound to the constrictions of a course. Yet one thing prevailed throughout this whole discovery process: I was not alone. There is a huge community of educators using technology, experimenting, commenting on the effect, and helping others.
I have learned so much from these people in many respects.
Now I also use technology, give on-line courses and write about my experiences. But I haven’t quit learning. My head is no longer smoking from processing the implications of some of the uses, nor am I quite so involved in the community at the moment, but it is more of a breather – taking time to implement all the things I have learned.

What makes on-line courses so different from face to face courses?
The most obvious difference is that you can work at any time of day or night, in your pyjamas, in the bath, or even in a cafe.
But there are other differences I have noticed. You are hardly ever alone. You can ask your questions at any time or day or night. You may not get an immediate answer, but you will get one soon. I also found that the roles of particpants in on-line courses quite quickly grew. If I needed help, quite often the first person to give it to me was someone else on the course who had figured it out or who had previous experience. More and more often it was I who was one of these persons helping out my colleagues on the course. I saw myself and others becoming responsible learners. I was also learning how to help out in technical questions – something we as teachers have to be able to do with your students as well.
We were building a network, and many connections I have made in the past are still alive.

Blogging the world

Sometimes things just seem to come together. At the moment I’ve got two projects going.

I was contacted by a teacher over in California with a request for collaboration. Now I have my 5th graders writing in English to other 5th graders in the States.

This is exactly how I imagine my kids learning English as a foreign language! It’s a great opportunity for the stronger ones, and a reason to concentrate on the accuracy, not just for good grades, but to get the message across to others. So far they are enjoying the adventure and already the two classes have discovered major differences in something as elementary and international as sports. Kids here in Switzerland know of baseball, but softball was a new word to them. On the other hand, handball is a common sport played among the youth, but not well known in the USA.  The school year just seems too short sometimes. I guess that is a good sign!

At the same time I’m preparing a blogging course together with my friend Jennifer for a group of teachers. Once again it will take place across the Atlantic, connecting Swiss and Argentinian teachers. This is a very exciting venture and I hope many will profit from the course long after it is officially over!

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