Use BYOD to revitalize the WebQuest

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As you are probably aware, a WebQuest is an online, project-based learning activity in which students actively participate in authentic tasks based on web resources using web 2.0 tools. A WebQuest exploits inquiry-oriented learning in which students are not only finding information but also using information to create new knowledge, learn new skills, and explore value systems. WebQuests are engaging to students because they focus thinking on a series of goals and creation activities; time using technology is more effective because it is structured and purposeful. There are excellent resources and links at webquest.org. You can explore some webquests at questgarden.com or by using Google and searching any subject and adding the keyword “webquest.”

Project-based learning via a WebQuest is an excellent fit with the objectives of 21st century learning goals. Students can be engaged and challenged by collaborative activities that focus their creativity and critical thinking skills with a central goal or project outcome. Communication skills are practiced and developed both at the interpersonal level and intrapersonal level. Various media can be employed by learners to contain the content of their project.

One of the challenges in the past using WebQuests or other technology-based project based learning models was the limitation of technology resources in schools, such as computer labs. Many teachers find that there is only enough time in the computer lab schedule to take students once or twice a week for a 40-minute session. The introduction of BYOD dramatically alters access to technology and can support project-based, strategies such as a WebQuest, far more effectively.

The story of our iPad implementation – Teacher reflections and tips

[Note: I am very pleased to include this guest post on my blog.  The following reflection was written by @zikmanistobin and @LynnDesh. It  highlights various issues they faced when implementing iPads into classrooms at the elementary school where they teach.  The tips section at the end is especially valuable, I think, to educators who are either considering the iPad as a teaching and learning tool or just beginning to implement iPads into their classroom.]

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A long process

Implementing iPads in our program has been a long process. Using new technology in education always creates more questions than answers it seems. How will they be stored? Who will take care of the maintenance of updating the software and loading on apps? Should we just have it as a teacher tool or student? What apps will suit our needs?  After six months the majority of the questions were answered, resolved, and set in place.

Initially, it was a challenge to implement iPads in the school. Most teachers were already in the process of integrating the netbooks into their program; so the thought of using a tablet was not a priority.  Some teachers were quite familiar with tablets and some had hardly used them at all.  Quite naturally, there were some who wondered if they would have enough time to learn to use another new technology.

One of our first steps to alleviate these feelings and hesitations were to get the iPads into the hands of the teachers. We encouraged the teachers to sign them out and just “play” with them. This allowed teachers to become more familiar and comfortable with the iPad, and within a short period of time, they were beginning to ask their own questions about potential pedagogical uses. The initial use was just for research purposes through our available databases–something that was already familiar to teachers and students. Within a short period of time, the teachers began using the camera in the iPad to capture student work; video was used to record science experiments and dramatic performances.

The iPad’s effect on learning

The use of apps, such as Explain Everything, Book Creator, Toontastic, and Google Translate, expanded potential learning outcomes in literacy programs. Students were now creating diverse and interactive media texts (these texts had traditionally been completed using a pencil and paper). Student engagement increased, especially for those who found it difficult to maintain interest in certain subjects.  Students became leaders when using this technology. Teachers saw, firsthand, how easy it was for students to create, collaborate and communicate with the iPad. The use of iPads was having a tremendously positive impact on their programs and, more importantly, their students. Within two months, we progressed from the technology being used by only a few individuals to not having enough technology in the school to meet the demand.

There will always be issues and questions with new educational technologies but, as long as teachers continue to experiment and have a clear educational goals in mind, your iPad program will grow in a positive way.

iPad implementation tips:

  • Need wireless solution in place in the school
  • Buy apps in bulk for discounted prices (e.g., voucher program, 20+ installations)
  • Decide on a strategy for introducing the technology to teachers (i.e., will iPads be used as a teacher tool to collect data – 1 per teacher,  or as student learning/creating tool – a bank of 10-12?).  This will help determine how many to purchase and where/how to store the iPads.
  • Our school currently has a set of 12 iPads that can be signed out to use with a class (using the ratio of 1 iPad per 2 students) which has been very effective for grades 3-5. This set of iPads can be signed out using a central, online booking system so that all teachers can locate the iPads and book them with ease from any location using any device.
  • A few iPads are available for sign out to support specific goals mostly related to special needs students and most often used by ELL, ISSP and EA’s
  • Teachers in K-2 are using them as a teaching tool to collect student assessment data.  Grade level teams are also working together to develop ways to use apps to collect student data.
  • It’s important to label the iPads so that students and/or teachers can go back to the same iPad if they are saving work.  We found that the easiest way to do this was to use a permanent marker to label the charger cord and the interior of the iPad cover (easier to see if it’s not black).  Another idea is to use a stick-on label from a label maker.
  • We store all the charging cords in a mobile netbook cart. This means that the iPads have to be returned daily in order to the charged.  This cart is stored in a central place in the school.  Keys to the cart are controlled by teacher volunteers who have chosen to plan/lead/support technology integration in the school.
  • One person on staff is responsible for loading and managing all apps on the iPads.
  • One strategy for implementing the effective use of iPads was to introduce staff to 3-4 highly versatile apps (see above) and then allow time to learn and become comfortable with their application for teaching/creating.
  • Schedule regular lunch and learns (once a month) to introduce new apps and discuss issues around their use, storing/sharing information.  Sometimes, educational technology resource teacher personnel were present to demonstrate, suggest ideas, or make recommendations.
  • Develop a team of student ambassadors who can assist teachers with carrying the iPads to classrooms and then returning them to the cart and plugging them in properly so that they will charge.
  • Purchase iPad cases appropriate for age level to protect the devices from damage; cases that provide adequate protection for daily classroom use are currently not available through Apple; do some research to find a case from a manufacturer that fits your needs.

Boost learning outcomes by transforming student learning tasks

As a teacher, you are probably very interested in how you can more effectively integrate technology into the learning tasks of their students. The most important words in this goal are: more effectively. Every teacher I know does use technology in a variety of different ways and they do promote and model its use for students in the service of learning. However, teachers often want to know what to do next and how they can better use technology to improve learning and boost outcomes.

In order to do that, educators need a way to analyze what they are expecting their students to do with technology during learning tasks. There are a variety of ways to approach this that but the simplest I have found is to think about task outcomes in terms a model called the SAMR Model. This model can provide a language for their analysis. It organizes specific technology use into four tiers according the following chart:

The SAMR Model

The SAMR Model (used with permission: Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, author of the SAMR model. Click on image for original slide source.)

In general terms, the lower two tiers describe how technology is used in the learning task in ways that do not alter the task; the technology only enhances the task. The upper two tiers describe how technology can be used in ways that do transform the learning task into an activity that will have a greater impact on learning.

In the following video, Dr. Puentedura provides an excellent introduction to the SAMR model and the TPACK framework, which is also a useful tool for teachers to use during the planning and designing of learning environments and tasks for students.

The SAMR model is useful as a tool to help educators analyze how technology is used in specific learning tasks and how it relates to student outcomes. It needs to be applied specifically and within the context of the educational objectives from the curriculum you are using. It was not designed as a set of categories that describe technologies, or software, or Web 2.0 tools, or applications, or any task taken out of a specific learning context. For example, graphics such as this one can be misleading; it would appear from this poster that one could simply choose the “Skitch” app and be assured that the task was being “modified”. The reality is that, depending on the original learning task one is considering, one could use Skitch, for example, as a substitute for the original task, or to augment the task, or modify the task, or to completely redefine the original task… it all depends on how the app is used and what the original learning task and context is.

Further Reading

Outstanding iPad Resources for Teachers

[Updated: April 28, 2013]

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No matter what level of educational iPad user you are, the following list of iPad specific web sites provides a depth and breadth of resources.

  • Apps for Children with Special Needs – This link takes you to the A-Z index of app ‘how-to’ videos. This site produces an extensive library of instructional videos of useful iPad apps for teachers and caregivers of children with special needs.
  • ESL Techies – Large collection of ELL specific educational technology posts; many iPad app category posts. Best content: the blog post entitled “iPads for ELLs: Enhancing Critical Thinking”
  • “I Want my Students to:___” – Student learning task matrix connects to chart of suggested possibly relevant iPad apps that might be useful for that task. Also includes summary of app, iTunes AppStore link, cost, ratings.
  • TPACK iPad Project in Schools (TIPS) – An online guide for using iPads in classrooms. Best content: the app recommendations are great and include information about each app such as if it requires wifi to work, cost, and target user (e.g., students, teachers, administrators)
  • Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything – iPads in the Classroom – Massive set of links to iPad resources such as tutorials and deployment support. Best content: Classroom uses of the iPad section
  • iPads in Education – Mostly an app guide but great information about using iPads effectively. This site looks great on the iPad, too! Best Content: iPads in Schools & The ‘Agile’ Space pages.
  • Balanced EdTech: iPad – Excellent iPad wiki with extensive information and resources. This is a great resource to support educators who are exploring the potential of iPad technology for learning and instruction. Best content: self-paced iPad workshop and apps list by category on main page.
  • Naace Case Study: The iPad as a Tool For Education – Research report of extensive study of iPad implementation at Longfield Academy in the UK (students aged 11-18). Best Content: Read the Executive Summary on page 6 to determine if you want to delve deeper into the study.
  • 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (and how to correct them) – Very insightful list that every educator should read who is planning to implement iPads into a classroom/school. Best Content: Each of the five points is worth some serious reflection time.
  • Getting ready for iPad deployment: ten things I’d wish I’d known about last year – Great article with many insightful statements about iPad integration in classrooms. Best content: #10
  • The Teachers iPad Spectrum – interesting examples of how students can use iPads to collaborate, research, and create content. Best content: the ideas in the produce (create) column.
  • Apps in Education: Creating ePortfolios – Some ideas for apps to use for ePortfolio creation. Best app: VoiceThread
  • iPad 4 Schools – Great blog with excellent posts about using iPads in your classrooms.  Topics include iPad vs. iPad Mini, gaming, 21st Cen mLearning, 4Cs (using edtech in the service of learning and to foster creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking), etc.
  • 7th Grade iPad Presentations – Video of grade seven students explaining how they use iPads when learning in the classroom. Best content: the first student presenter; she is very enthusiastic about her use of ABC Notes.
  • Richard Colosi YouTube Channel – Grade one teacher has uploaded several videos showing how iPads are used in his classroom. Best one: Frog and Toad Get an iPad

VoiceThread Example – Grade 2 – Making a Snack

This VoiceThread was created in 40 minutes with a grade 2 class of 21 students.  The objective was to create a media text that captured a familiar procedure, that is, making a snack.  Students were highly motivated and engaged and this was not only due to the fact they would be leaving that day with a yummy snack.  Even though this VoiceThread was created with a paid account, it was done in such a way so that a similar one could be made using a single classroom computer and a free VoiceThread account.

Every student was involved in some way during the session.  For the first 15 minutes, the snack was actually made and photographed at each step.  A student volunteered to take the digital photos but instructed to not get any faces in the pictures so that no one could be identified.  Different student volunteers took turns coming to the central table to complete a step in the creation of the snack baggies. Two other students had an idea to write the steps on chart paper as they occurred (this slowed things slightly but ended up being quite beneficial in the second half when other student volunteers made voice comments for each step.  They could choose to read the text on the chart paper if they wanted to or speak the step as they remembered… most chose to read the step from the chart).

A five minute break took place in the middle of the session. Students put away the snack materials, cleaned up and assembled for the second part of the session: recording voice comments of the steps in making the snack.  Also at this time, the teacher uploaded eleven pictures to a new VoiceThread, added a title and description, and made sure the headset/mic was plugged in and ready to use.

Students who were not involved in the making and photographing of the snack now had the opportunity to speak a voice comment for one of the steps.  All of the remaining students were eager to add their voices the VoiceThread to narrate each step.

Near the end of the 40 minute session, the class watched the full VoiceThread together.  The link to the VoiceThread could be shared with parents and other students.

Blogging for Beginners – ECOO session

Royan Lee (@royanlee) is using student facilitators during his session at this year’s ECOO conference in Richmond Hill. In fact, it seems appropriate that I blog about this because I am sitting here now in the middle of his session at ECOO. He brought with him ten student facilitators, all from classes he teaches, to sit at each table and lead the beginner adult bloggers in setting up their site, answering questions about how blogs can be used, and sharing their own blogging experiences.

Emily, the facilitator at our table, is excellent. She is actively answering questions and helping the participants at the table set up their new blogs. She outlined the advantages of using blogspot.ca but also was interested to hear about other blogging sites. She shared with us her personal blog site about fashion. Royan has just finished addressing the group and strongly encourages teachers to blog personally first in order to get to know how it works and experiment with posting and commenting.

This session is also a great example of how students can be active participants in learning to use social media. This is the subtext of the workshop that I am sure Royan has consciously designed into the session. It is powerful that students are here and can answer questions firsthand about their experiences with blogging.

Here is the link to the Google doc Royan created for this session: http://bit.ly/ecooblog

Useful iOS 6 features for teachers (iPad specific)

[Updated: March, 2013]

With every new iOS release, Apple is building in more and more under the hood.  You are probably aware of many of these features but, in any case, here is a brief roundup of some that teachers whom I work with have found very useful, especially in a one-iPad classroom.  The features outlined below are all available in iOS6 on the iPad (and, yes, some features discussed below were available in iOS5 and/or iOS4).

Finger gesturing

You probably know these already.  Swiping four fingers simultaneously upward reveals the multitasking bar at the bottom.  In reality, this is more of a recently used apps bar as most apps stop running when you push the home key.  Nevertheless, this makes it easier to quickly start the app back up again so you can continue with whatever you were doing.  Swiping four fingers simultaneously left or right changes the screen to the different apps that you have started recently (as shown in the multitasking bar).   This works something like Alt+Tab in Windows or Cmd+Tab on a Mac.  If you turn on Zoom (Settings → General → Accessibility → Zoom) then you can use a three-finger double tap to zoom in and zoom out.  Also, while zoomed in, use three fingers to pan around the screen.

More on gestures here: http://gigaom.com/apple/how-to-use-ipad-multitasking-gestures-and-why-you-should/

Changing keyboards

Adding keyboards in different languages is easy (Settings → General → Keyboard → Keyboards  → Add New Keyboard…) and there is also an emoticon keyboard included called “Emoji.”  Once you install more than one keyboard, a new key is added to the left of the space bar so you can select them.  Remember, too, that pressing and holding various keys on the keyboard (e.g., vowels) will reveal several variations of that letter in the keyboard you have chosen (e.g., o, ö, ó, etc).  Finally, you can also undock the keyboard or split it into two pieces on the left and right (for typing with your thumbs).

More iPad keyboard settings herehttp://ipad.about.com/od/ipad_basics/ss/Ipad-Keyboard-Settings-Help_2.htm

Text SelectionsSpeak & Define

To select text, push and hold your finger on a word.  When the magnifying glass appears, release. Then, choose Select.  After the text is highlighted in blue, you will see more options for what you can do with the selected text.  The small blue dots on the top and bottom of the boundary lines allow you to select more than one word; re-position those with your finger to select more.  If you do not see “Speak” listed, then you need to go into the settings and turn it on (Settings → General → Accessibility → Speak Selection).  Changing the keyboard (see above) not only changes the keys so that you can type in that language, but it also changes the voice that will speak the text.  If you have multiple keyboards added, you can choose available languages.

You might have also noticed that when a single word is selected, you will see a “Define” option.  This can be used to define a word in any app that you are running using the built-in dictionary.  Additionally, if you have changed the keyboard to another language and selected a word, you can retrieve a definition from a dictionary in the other language!

More on iPad text to speech here: http://paulhami.edublogs.org/2012/10/01/ve/

“Reader” mode in Safari

You will have most likely noticed that on some web pages in Safari, the word “Reader” appears in a little grey box beside the web site address. Touching the word “Reader” reformats the web page to look more like a printed page than a web page.  Text size can be increased or decreased by touching the text-size control in the upper left of the Reader window (the AΑ you see in grey).  And, as always, you can use the select text and “Speak” option to read the text.

More on Safari Reader mode: http://itricks4ios.com/read-it-now-uncluttered-with-safari-reader

Offline “Reading List” in Safari

Reading ListThis new iOS6 feature allows you to browse to web pages while connected to the Internet and then save the web page in its entirety on the iPad device so that it can be viewed later when no longer connected.  This is handy for schools or classrooms where wifi is not facility wide.  For example, a student can go to the Library (assuming the wifi access point is located there), connect to the Internet, and save some web pages in the Reading List so they can be read in detail back in the classroom where no wifi is available.  This is also handy for field trips: a field guide can be downloaded and saved in the Reading List for use during the field trip.
Saving a web page to the “Reading List” is as simple as browsing to the page, then clicking on the Safari share icon: shareicon A menu with choices will appear; choose “Add to Reading list.”  The web page will then be fully downloaded, saved, and made accessible from the Reading List icon (reading glasses) in the Bookmarks menu.

More on Offline Reading List in Safarihttp://teachmeios.com/what-is-offline-reading-list-and-how-to-use-it-in-safari-on-your-iphone-ipad-mini-and-ipod-touch/

Restrictions

To turn on restrictions, go to Settings → General → Restrictions → Enable Restrictions.  You will be asked for a 4-digit passcode.  This is so that once restrictions are set, the user(s) you set them for cannot remove them without knowing the passcode.  Once entered, you can now control access to various apps, control content, turn on/off in-app purchases, and most importantly, disallow the installation and deletion of apps. Use of this feature is a non-negotiable in most classrooms where iPads are used.

More on restrictions here: http://bltechtools.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/using-parental-restrictions-in-ios-6/

Guided Access

To turn on Guided Access, go to Settings → General → Accessibility → Guided Access and turn it on. Very handy in one-iPad classrooms, this feature allows the teacher to set up one running app for a student to use so that they cannot exit or switch apps.  Additionally, if there is a button in the app that you wish to be disabled (e.g., a “feedback” button that starts up the mail app), you can mark out a dead zone on the screen where touching the screen will have no effect.  Be careful with setting dead zones – if the app has several screens, the dead zones stay constant and do not change when the screen changes.  (Warning: There is also a bug that sometimes keeps you stuck in guided access to the point of having to reboot the iPad.  Workaround here: http://osxdaily.com/2012/09/26/stuck-in-guided-access-with-ios-6-heres-how-to-escape/)

More on Guided Access here: http://www.toolsandapplications.com/guided-access-how-to-disable-the-home-button-on-ipad/
and here: http://awangshamsul.net/limit-children-app-ipad/

Further Reading:

Critical thinking and information literacy – Part I

Screenshot of “The Jackalope Conspiracy”
What do you think about the information on this web site?

Could critical thinking skills be learned as a self-extending system?

Can children be taught how to think critically within an information literacy context? That is, it seems to be a consistent educational goal that students of all ages are able to critically evaluate the information that is conveyed to them. So, how does the ability to think critically develop? Is it like learning to read? Is it more like learning to play soccer? Or, it is more like something else?  I have been trying to answer these questions for years, both as a teacher and as a learner.

My best guess at the moment is that educators need to conceive of teaching critical thinking as developing a self-extending system in students and that learning to be critical about/of the information is more like to learning to be literate (readers/writers/speakers of language). I am beginning to research the parallels between Reading Recovery instruction and critical thinking instruction.  More on this in a later post…

Facilitating the development of critical thinking is nothing new to educators; being able to critically analyze information is an essential skill in learning and knowledge building. In the past, students might have found information in a book or newspaper, on the radio, from a friend, in a diary, and so on. These days, the information is usually digital and is found on the web, in an eBook, or through a mobile app. Wherever the information comes from, I believe it is critical that students develop a filtering system that is sensitive in various ways. Information cannot, and should not, simply pass from the medium that conveys it into the receiving brain without any checks and balances.

Consuming information is like consuming food

Years ago when I decided  that I was going to try to explicitly teach critical thinking skills to my (elementary) students, I needed a way to explain what I meant to my younger students. I had a few ideas that I used. One that worked quite well was drawing a comparison between consuming food and consuming information:

  • Be choosy – Do you grab the first food you see on a buffet table and put it in your mouth when you are hungry? Probably not… usually you are looking for something you know you like or that you think would look good to eat.  You should be just as choosy with the information you find.  The  web provides information like a buffet dinner but you have to be choosy/picky (that is, critical).
  • Use your senses and past experience – When you choose food to eat, your body has built-in systems to tell you if it is good food or not – before you decide to put food into your mouth to taste it, you use your sense of sight and smell to check it out; you might even touch or squeeze the food to see if it is ripe or fresh.
  • Eating information – Eating information is no different to eating food but, before your brain does the tasting, you need to also rely on your other senses and past experiences with information.  Use your eyes to look for clues about the author, the reason for the information’s existence, advertising.  Use your nose to smell out fishiness (like bias) or foul odors like information that is past the expiry date.  Past experience (i.e., current knowledge) must also be tapped into-how does this new information fit with what you already know?  Learning and practicing these things became the  focus of various exercises and challenges.

I am planning to write more on this topic… Developing a critical thinking filter with students is a very interesting and complex problem but one that is, I feel, well worth exploring, discussing and figuring out.  In Part II, my plan is to reflect on some current strategies I have used, and that I have seen other use, to address this problem.

Integration of Technology – Sandbox Visualization

Children Playing in Sandbox

Image Credit: Children Playing in Sandbox by Flickr user njsnowdog

There are some interesting parallels between a sandbox where technology is integrated and a classroom where technology is integrated. There is a great article called Seriously Considering Play by Lloyd P. Rieber in which his description of a sandbox as a natural Microworld intrigued me.

A sandbox where
technology is integrated

A classroom where
technology is integrated

Can often be messy but not disorganized A student centered classroom can often seem a little chaotic to an outside observer and can be a little intimidating to a teacher not used to it.  Learning cannot always be quiet, solitary, time-limited, paper-and-pencil tasks.
Tools are just there; no big deal. Technology should also be no big deal in a classroom.  There should not be a “computer lab day” or project where technology will be used (as opposed to other projects).  It should be used much like calculators are now.  Grab it when you need it.  Use it. No big deal.
Lots of cheap but effective technology (tools like pails, cups, shovels, rakes, cones, wood, plastic animals, etc.) Delicate and expensive computer hardware is confined to labs and immobile workstations.  Cheap, mobile, wireless, and durable digital hardware for classrooms is the next barrier to overcome.
Plenty of tools available whenever and wherever children want them (not stored in a tool box somewhere) Classrooms need to be brimming over with these devices just as now they have plenty of paper, pencils, books, etc. Every child has a chair, desk, textbook, notebooks, writing tools… why not a various wireless computing devices, too?
Hands-on Hands-on learning is student-centered and complements constructivism, the scientific method, situated learning, problem based learning, and differentiated instruction.
Social – everyone learning and working together.Discussions going on Vygotsky maintained that social interaction comes first, then learning; that is, learning takes place in the context of social interactions.  Like a sandbox, a classroom should support this view.
Everyone is engaged.Everyone is self-directed. Classrooms should be like sandboxes.  You rarely find children who fail at playing and experimenting in a sandbox.  The sand is the content, the tools are the technology, and the other kids are fellow students.
Adult working alongside the children (not sitting in a chair or at desk) The adult in the picture is not on the sidelines but integrated with the students, working with them, assisting, and probably coaching, suggesting, praising as well.
Hardly any instruction to teach children how to use a sandbox or the tools in it. Sandboxes require almost no instruction before use. Regarding learning technology, my contention is that the measure of good computer software/hardware, educational or otherwise, is quickness and ease with which it helps you to accomplish what you want to do.  If there is a “steep learning curve” you must endure, then the software/hardware is, in my opinion, ineffective.

Further Reading:

  • Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/article1.cfm
  • Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054. (You can read it online here)
  • Reid, S. & Cash, J. (2009). Microworlds.  Retrieved from the ETEC 510: Design Wiki: http://sites.wiki.ubc.ca/etec510/Microworlds
  • Rieber, L. P. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games. Educational Technology Research & Development, 44(2), 43-58. (You can read it online here)

Reluctant Student Bloggers

Blogging Research WordleI had a great conversation with some middle school teachers recently. They have been using Kidblog to encourage their students to share ideas, thoughts, and reflections with the rest of the class. It has been working well but one teacher brought up the point that there always seems to be a subset of her students who do not post with any detail or with very much thought behind their words. She has been encouraging them but they have not responded. This has now become a pattern.

We brainstormed a bit trying to come up with reasons why students might not willing or able to create well thought out, reflective posts.

The students might:

  • be too socially aware that the rest of the class is reading their posts and so be hesitant to post very much
  • not know what to write about
  • not be fully aware of the expectations behind the blog post
  • need more support with how to construct a paragraph of writing
  • not care about posting
  • not think that what they have to say has any value
  • have forgotten to post

Thinking about all of this relates, I think, directly back to good pedagogical practice in language arts. Writing a blog post is simply a different form of writing than what they are used to, perhaps.  It might be assumed that a blog would be a more engaging format for students and that might be true for many by not all.  A writer who lacks confidence will have difficultly expressing in any form.  So, it might be that these students have difficulty writing in any format for any purpose.

This feedback about students who are reluctant to post much on their class blog is not that common but I do encounter it from time to time.  I think that sometimes educators assume that all students today are “digital natives” (which they are certainly not; sorry Mr. Prensky) and that just by giving them the right digital environment in which to write will draw out the self-expression that has been so slow in coming on paper.  This is by no means the assumption that is always made but I think that situations such as this provide material for professional reflection about how to best develop written self-expression in any medium by students.

Further Reading: