This week I wrapped up Kathy Cassidy’s Connected from the Start: Global Learning in the Primary Grades. I absolutely loved reading Cassidy’s book. Every time I sat down to read, I ended up jotting down notes and ideas that I could immediately put into place the following day in my classroom. Most of this has related to blogging, though this week I also focused on Twitter.
My fifth graders have officially begun using their blogs and are incredibly excited about it. The blogs were physically set up at the beginning of the week. I used this past week before Thanksgiving as an opportunity for the students to experiment with the basics. We looked at how to customize the blog first. I started with this mainly because the students love this part so much! It’s much harder to fight with them to focus on something else and wait to pick a theme when that’s all they want to do. Instead, I gave them free reign to customize their personal space of the internet so that they felt it represented themselves.
We talked about how to change an avatar picture, how to pick a theme, how to update a background image, and how to update the tagline at the top of the page. I also carefully modeled for them how to filter their Google search results by usage rights. All avatar images, background images, and header images were only allowed to be used if they could be found under “licensed for noncommercial reuse”.
The other piece we covered right away was how to change their password to one that was secure. The students all changed their passwords and then were given free reign to adjust their blog appearance and begin their first post. No one finished in time to post yet, but they are all beginning to feel more comfortable.
Examples of blogs that are “under construction” can be found here, here, and here. Notice, none of these students have posted yet but have begun to make their blog look like a space that they feel comfortable.
To follow the students’ progress, you can check in with our blogs at vanzeipel.edublogs.org .
This week, I also was inspired by Cassidy to focus on Twitter. She often writes about using Twitter in her classroom, but I couldn’t visualize the benefits until reading her chapter about it. As I was reading, I could see how Twitter could fit easily into my own classroom routine. I immediately created a classroom Twitter account and used Cassidy’s suggestions for who to follow. I found kid-friendly news accounts, science accounts, authors, astronauts, and other experts that my students may be interested in. As we use Twitter, I’ll add on to who we follow based on student suggestions.
I would like to use Twitter every day (or realistically, every other day) to quickly read about what interests my students. My goal is to Tweet as a class once per day about something we learned or a question we have. Cassidy pointed out that very few Twitter accounts will ignore a direct question from students about their learning. I’ve noticed that the Twitter community as a whole is very collaborative and responsive. I’m hoping that my students and I can find opportunities for authentic learning as we wrap up each day and Tweet about our thoughts. This is a brand new experiment for me, so we’ll see how it goes! To follow our Twitter progress, you can find us on Twitter as @vanzeipelclass .