Keeping in contact with parents and the wider community
I am traveling the most exciting journey of my teaching career this year. For the first time ever, I am part of a 1:1 iPad teaching and learning experience. I hesitate to call it a “program” as this implies that the whole experience of learning and teaching centers around using the iPad. Rather, it is a whole new way of incorporating a diverse tool into the daily experience of learning and teaching. There have been, as one can imagine been some periods in the journey when I would gladly have dashed the iPad against the wall (no not really!) in frustration. Some of the best laid plans in the classroom can go awry when internet connections are down, the signal is weak or the iPads just don’t want to play!
The beauty of the experience is the contact I have with my students and their parents almost 24/7 – not that I would go that far – I am dedicated, not crazy! Being on holidays, you would imagine that the children would be out of your mind and you out of theirs. I was quite touched when a child sent me a photo of the family enjoying some time together on their holidays and he felt he wanted to share that with me. Some teachers would find that annoying or an encroachment upon their time, but I like being in touch with my students and knowing that it matters to them that I share their awesome experiences.
Where is this going you may ask? We ended the term with a school camp during which we attempted to blog daily to keep in contact with parents and siblings at home. Unfortunately this did not happen for many reasons – WiFi connection and enough downtime to get the blog done. I was quite sad that I did not manage to do what I had promised by getting the children to blog with their parents, as I have seen it used to great success. Blogging is a fantastic tool for keeping parents informed of their child’s learning in (and outside) the classroom. It also gives them an opportunity to pose questions and make comments, and potentially receive instant feedback.
Blogging also allows children to reflect on their learning, ask questions and express their thoughts on the topic. Here you can see the childen’s individual blog posts about their expectations for the trip ahead. A valuable experience would be for the children to revisit these expectations and comment about the actual experience.
I accompanied a group of students on our annual Sydney/Canberra trip. Needless to say there were worries about the length of time the children would be away (homesickness is the first thing that springs to mind). The children and I updated the blog each evening while we were away. This gave the parents a constant connection to their children as well as the opportunity to see what they were doing and learning about – and yes, to see that their “little babies” were happy and well cared for! We had some of the staff members, younger grades and even grandparents from Canada following our blog to see what the Year 7’s were up to. I found this all so incredibly amazing!
Please feel free to visit the blog by clicking here.
THE VALUE OF BLOGGING IN THE CLASSROOM
Besides the excitement of seeing their work being accessed by people all around the world, blogging has valuable learning aspects too. The most important thing about starting blogging would be to educate the children on Cyber Safety and Netiquette. The basic rules would include keeping personal information private, respecting others’ privacy and rights and being well mannered online, thus creating a positive digital footprint.
The fact that blogging provides students with a purpose to their learning is supported by O’ Connell and Groom, (2010), who reiterate the importance of the activity having meaning and purpose by saying that “Practical engagement in immersive contexts provides the opportunity to construct, support and assess learning outcomes through amazing interactive 3D learning experience with cognitive and social-emotional dimensions.” By encouraging students to publish their thoughts and findings online for the wider community to read, gives them a sense of purpose in that they are able to share what they feel and receive feedback from people other than their peers and teacher. This may also encourage them to verbalise their thoughts more eloquently. The onus is also on the teacher to create more meaningful activities for this same reason; Richardson (2006) supports this by saying that “The idea that the relevance of student work no longer ends at the classroom door can not only be a powerful motivator but can also create a significant shift in the way we think about the assignments and work we ask of our students in the first place.”
BLOGGING PLATFORMS FOR CHILDREN
Kathleen Morris, on her site, Primary Tech, provides valuable information on blogging, global collaboration and technology integration.
O’Connell, J. and Groom, D. (2010). Connect, communicate, collaborate. Camberwell: ACER Press
Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. London: SAGE