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

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!

Your year in a sentence

It wasn’t an easy call to put a whole year into one sentence, but many of you rose to the call. For some it was a time to think about family, for others change was the main theme, but in all it seems like 2009 has been a satisfying and happy year.

So let’s say goodbye on a positive note. Thank you for all the lovely, hopeful and reflective sentences!


Sara has managed more in a year than many manage in three. I bet she’s in for a busy 2010 too! Congratulations, Sara!!

in less than 12 months, i’ve managed to change grade levels, finish 3 grad classes, buy and fix up a house, move to said house, spend time with good friends, sweat less of the small stuff, eat lots of sushi, take good care of my husband and cats, and get knocked up – good times, 2009!

Janice sounds like she’s ready for a break too:

Where did 2009 go; no reflection time since too many unfinished things needed to be completed before the year ends.

Anne has had a lot to do too, but but seems to enjoy a challenge – congratulations on your projects!:

2009 was the year I took on too much in the face of uncertainty and as a consequence left too much undone but it was also the year I took on new challenges for example as a tutor with The Consultants-e and managed to bring a good project (VITAE) to a successful conclusion.

While Connie has been traveling the world:

Much traveling this year, a daughter in Barrage playing fiddle tunes around the world; a son visiting colleges; and me, traveling to Cambridge, San Francisco, and Washington, studying neuroscience and presenting talks on Problem-based learning… it’ll be great to just settle down together in Michigan for a much-needed break, doing and thinking not much at all!

Family is always an important part of life when you have kids as Kevin and dkzody and Nancy make clear :

My oldest son is now in the same grade that I teach (but in a different school) and that, to me, seems like some sort of transitional moment in time, if only I had the time to reflect upon it a bit more.

Happy new year!!


Two goals achieved: My darling granddaughter was born in May, and we leased an apartment in San Francisco in November.

Nancy and her family are growing in more ways than one!

This year has been all about growing– the baby grows into a toddler, our family prepares to grow into a family of 4, we work on personal growth and our love and happiness grows most of all.

And Jim reflects on how quickly time pases with kids:

january, july, and now december, where does the time, go, grandchildren, schoolchildren, growing up way to fast, what does the future hold?

Gail has been inspired:

Dropped by a classroom on Friday in one of the worst neighborhoods (high poverty/high crime) in my district and stood back in awe of one teacher’s ability to engage ALL his 5th grade students in a range of digital composing activities….amazing, just amazing.


and Eric is engaged in change (or not):

Looking for change by working with 10 year olds rather than 5 year olds- the same issues come to light, only furthur along.

While Ben is slowing down for change:

I have had to do some priority defragging, which caused me to put the professional side of teaching (blogging, PD, etc.) on the back burner for a while…or at least to turn the heat to low, but I’ll be back soon.

Learning has been another key topic of 2009

Cheryl is on cloud 9:

Moving to the Cloud and virtual computing, google domain for education, collaboration and sharing with my personal learning network, priceless.

And Tracy says it all!

Learning about what is important to me – lessons that never end!

Gail took a bold step in 2009, which turned out to be worth her while:

I stepped out into the cyber world a bit more boldly than in years past and learned more than I ever dreamed I would.

Cristina supplies some words for thought ( in more than just one sentence!) and a special New Years greeting:

Problems only become problematic if we don’t allow them to be converted into new opportunities

Jan 1 kicked off a change that had just been waiting to happen. That affected my mother tremendously, and consequently created a degree of unbalance in my life I had not envisaged. A year later I am pleased to see and say that a new balance is being created for both her and me, with new challenges ahead.
Sometimes we become incarcerated into our own drama, bound to expectations of a judgmental society (and generation) we were brought up in and are not able to look at ourselves from different angles opportunities, hence failing to see what lies ahead of now. Nothing is always good or bad… and we just need to make the best of situations ahead of us.

To you all have I wish a Mega 2010 ;-)

And a couple of final statements to round up the year-

From Anne , who could write a book about 2009.

As a teacher, this as been an exciting, amazing and eventful year that has seen my classes from a geographically and culturally isolated rural area, connect, communicate, collaborate and create with classes and students across the globe.

And finally, thank you, Bonnie, for all your optimism!

2009! I’m thinking. A big reflection.

Even though I loved being a history major I think I am more a person in the present and future, so I’m looking forward to 2010 with optimism. I think we have braved the storms of 2009 and I want to see what will grow from the soil of 09.


2009 in a Sentence

The never-ending path of life

Well, this year is almost over. The days are getting shorter in my part of the world and the fields are covered in white.  It’s a festive time, a time when people long for light in their lives and enjoy the celebrations which bring their friends and family closer.

Since the year is coming to an end, I’d like to invite you to share something about your year before we move on to 2010. All variations are also kindly welcome.

Just post your sentence as a comment and on Sunday they will be released for all to read.

Here is mine:

Overcome illness  and rejoined family have helped me to focus and redefine my priorities, making time for the little joys in life and appreciating what is often taken for granted.

I am glad to say that my mother-in-law is now cancer-free and my darling son has come back from a year abroad a young man.

Thanks, Kevin, for bringing so many people together through A Day in a Sentence!

The classroom blog

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Blogging is pretty easy to do and setting up a personal blog should pose no great hinderence to even the most computer-clumsy, but how can it be used for teaching?

There are many ways to use them, you can get the students up and blogging on their own, mash them together and all sorts of fun stuff. You can set up a blog with tasks and information for your students to use. Or you can get them all on the same blog sharing and communicating.

I have chosen the last possibility with my class of adults, one reason being that blogs seem to pose a mental barrier that is not easy to cross for many. The other reason is that I want my class to use it for real communication, as opposed to language practice.

It has taken me several classes of trail and error before I felt happy with the results, and I still am on that path of trail and error, but for those readers interested in using blogging as a supplement to what is going on in class, I will share what has worked for me, so that you may be spared at least some of the particularly bumpy beginning of the road.

Give clear instructions on how to use the blog and then allow time for troubleshooting in the next lesson or so.
And then explain again, even better, get them on the computer and let them try it with you standing by to hold their hand. Many people need this sense of security and will give up at the slightest hint of a problem. And here you need to be diligent and patient.

Give the blog importance from the very beginning.
My first time round I made the mistake of downplaying the role of hte blog, stressing that it was an addition, and that noone had to post to it.
Well, that didn’t work AT ALL! I still don’t make posting obligatory, but I do stress that this is where they can really use the language and that they SHOULD do it. I also offer to add anything to the blog that they don’t feel they could but would like to.

Give students clear and personal tasks to fulfill on the blog.
No tasks, no writing on it, especially at the beginning. I have found that asking students to make a personal comment on a topic we have been dealing with works quite well. However, since it is not obligatory, I must also accept that some will not contribute even with a very gripping topic and task. The chances are a lot better though, that they will.

Comment on every post a student makes and encourage them to comment as well.
Everyone wants to be heard, so make sure they feel they are. To get the students commenting on each other you might want to set further tasks. And ask them how they feel when there are comments- or not- on their post.

Set a good example.
If you want the students to write stories, about personal experiences or feelings, then make sure you do it as well. This supplies them with a model, on the one hand, and the sharing is two-way, builing stronger bonds in the classroom as a very pleasant side-effect.

Let the students decide what is corrected and what isn’t.
I clearly tell my students that I will correct nothing unless they specifically ask me to and send me the text. I am very clear about my reasons for this as well, otherwise they most certainly wouldn’t be accepted by my class (this may be different in your own). I explain that correcting is what happens insid ethe classroom and that when communicating, mistakes will happen. It takes a bit of courage to just write, and then just send it out onto the blog. It also creates more dynamic writing, and more of it. It is what real communication is about.

Get a special guest onto the blog.
This can be extremely motivating to share with someone outside of the class, maybe even with another class. Someone will be reading with interest and responding (hopefully) with more information, questions, etc, and THIS can generate a whole lot of very significant communication!

I’m sure that if I wracked my brain, I’d come up with more, but I think the ones above are enough here. Perhaps you can add to my list.
And if you’re interested in what my classblog looks like, here it is!

Finding the balance

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As one can easily see from the dating of this and the next most recent post, I’ve been taking a break from personal blogging. It’s been a chance to step back and reflect on how I spend my time and how much is dedicated to may family, as well as what kind of role model I am to my kids when I am at home. So instead of following this or that discussion or exploring the newest applications in social networking, I’ve been playing with my kids, discussing school, watch the telly with them and ksyping with my far-away son.

It’s also given me a chance to miss certain people, tools, discussions and mental challenges I had previously filled a lot of my time with. So now I’m slowly entering back into the social network of nings, twitter, blogs etc.

Interestingly enough, one of the first blog posts to hit my screen was Angela Maiers‘ post ‘Drowning in Social Media‘ (incedently picked up in twitter).

Angela presents a system called BREATHE which should help people regain footage, with its main rule in 3s: commit yourself to three friends, three tools, three actions.

This has given me food for thought, though I’m certainly not going to blindly follow her suggestions. Instead I’m going to take small steps back while trying to keep to a couple of other ground rules.

Sorry, I have no sexy acronym for what I plan on doing, but one idea is certainly taken from a site whose link is long lost to me.

Rule one: only check your e-mails 2 times a day.
This I find a real tough one, and in the original version you are only to check once a day. I’ll try for once in the morning and once in the evening – and immediately take care of any mails you have at this time, answering, deleting or filing away for future reference to the appropriate spot.

Rule 2: Work before play – no twitter, no nings, no distractions before the work has been done.

Rule 3: be selective. Now this really does go to where Angela is at. How many blogs can I really follow? Do I really care about the content/writer on them? Which groups am I truly profiting from or contributing to? Why am I in the group? How can I maintain quality?

Rule 4: set aside time to reflect and contribute – NOT when the family is around. When the family is around, I can’t concentrate and won’t contribute. I also don’t want them to only see me on the computer. I want them to close the laptop when they are talking to me, and I should give them the same respect.

Now that I’ve actually put done the rules, I do hope they will be easier to follow and that I can find my own balance between two worlds.

It’s good to be back!