Thursday, 12 February 2015

Blogs and blogging in the Foundation Phase – a great boon to a modern classroom

The term blog originated from the blend of the term “web log”.  It started as a way someone could voice their thoughts and opinions and share information easily online.  Blogging is really much easier than it looks. A classroom blog can be easily created without any knowledge of HTML and it is a great way of sharing the life of a classroom with parents, other teachers and interested folk.

The following video is a quick, short introduction to blogging.



Why start a classroom blog
Blogs are especially useful to teachers because
  1. You don’t need to know any html to create a blog. You simply decide on your platform (see below) and then follow the prompts. Thereafter all you need is the Internet, information that you wish to share and a camera for visuals. 
  2. Parents would love to know the finer detail of what is happening in class. They enjoy hearing about the class’s different activities via and bog and they often show their friends and family the information. 
  3. Some teachers encourage their class to have their own blogs and have their students’ blogs linked to their own blog for easy access. This is a great way to teach and prepare students for digital citizenship.
  4. Teachers can create world-wide friends with teachers in other countries who also have classroom blogs.
What information can be posted on a classroom blog?
Here is a quote from a great post in Educational Technology and Mobile learning. You can see the full, excellent post here.

“Ways to use blogs in your classroom
Here are some ways on how teachers can use blogs in their classrooms:
  • Provide further assignments for students to work on
  • Have students work in small groups to write and post summaries of content covered in class to build a compendium for content covered over a semester
  • Get students to do their writing assignments in the form of blog posts
  • Encourage students to post comments on each others postings
  • Use blogs for peer learning. Get students to read their colleagues writings and underline spelling and grammatical mistakes
  • Use blogs for classroom projects where students can include videos, clips, audio,, text and images
  • Teachers can create a specific section just for website links and references to other interesting content online.
  • Use activities, games, puzzles to enrich students learning experiences
  • Use blogs to conduct an online survey in relation to your students learning needs. You can also include parents in the surveys. Check out these free survey tools for teachers.
  • Post  your classroom guidelines and code of conduct on your classroom blog for students to review
  • Publish a list of the objectives ( general as well as specific goals )
  • Challenge your students to write, record and post tutorials about certain concepts of things you teach them
  • Use a section in your blog for classroom news where to communicate the general classroom news. Work with students to identify the kinds of information they would like to share with their parents, then engage them in writing and posting daily or weekly news updates
  • Post weekly challenges such as a riddle or brainteaser that requires your students to think creatively and critically.  Ask students to post their answers on the blog then discuss the solutions with the whole class at the end of the week. This will tremendously improve their problem-solving skills
  • Again use your blog as a communicative tool both with your students and their parents.”
Blogging platforms
For a teacher to easily create a blog he or she would start of by using one of these user-friendly platforms.

Blogge
This is a free weblog publishing tool from Google, for sharing text, photos and video. This is undoubtedly the most user-friendly blogging platform available and what I like about it is there is ample space. You can set up as many blogs as you want and right from your Google account.
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Kidblog
This is a great site for K-12 teachers providing a safe, simple blogging platform which allows students to share their voice with a broader audience. This platform is very popular in primary schools as it is easy to log in to and you can keep it as private as you want to.
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Edublogs
This is a very popular free, educational blogging service. It is a Wordpress blog and lets you easily create and manage student and teacher blogs, quickly customize and include videos. One drawback is that space is limited so one eventually has to buy space. One advantage if you buy space is that you can create your student blogs from a section in your blog and have more control over them.  
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Wordpress
This is another useful free, blogging platform for students and teachers, slightly more complicated that Blogger and Kidblogs.  
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There are other blogging plaforms but these four are the most popular. Take a look at these primary svhool blogs sorted by blogging platform: http://goo.gl/CsVax

Examples of blogs
The best way to get started is to look at other teacher blogs of which there are many! Personally I have learned SO much from other blogs. Incidentally, a trend I have noticed of late is that many teacher bloggers, especially in the United States, have wonderful blogs and they also use the opportunity to sell some of the lessons they have created through Teachers Pay Teachers. To be honest, I often find this a bit irritating as it puts a commercial slant on a blog.

imageGrade R or Kindergarten  blogs
I think it is wonderful when teachers of young children share their ideas via a blog. My favourite Kindergarten blog is that of Matt Gomez: kindergarten teacher (from Texas) http://goo.gl/FcmMRW. He does such amazing things in his classroom and his blog is well worth exploring. He says that his goal is to use blog posts and videos to help parents understand the learning that is happening in their classroom. His hope is parents can support or even expand on that learning at home.he feels that informing parents about our learning is important at all levels, but especially for young kids. I love this quote from Matt Gomez ‘Kindergarten have only ever known the technological world.’
 
Here are some more samples of interesting Kindergarten blogs:

Kindergarten rocks
http://mrsosterman.blogspot.com/
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Miss Kindergarten: http://goo.gl/MEpqrV image

Time for Kindergarten
 http://www.time4kindergarten.com/ 
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My very own circus – a Kindergarten blog https://myveryowncircus.wordpress.com/  image

Blogging with love and laughter
http://teachingwithloveandlaughter.blogspot.com/
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Mrs Watsons  K/1/2/3 blog http://mrswatson.ca/ image

Further places to find collections of Kindergarten blogs on the Net are: http://bestteacherblogs.blogspot.com/p/kindergarten-blogs.html

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I also came across a Pinterest board collection of Kindergarten blogs: http://goo.gl/ho5XY4

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Grade 1 blogs
My all time favourite as far as Foundation Phase bloggers is Ms. Cassidy's Classroom Blog (for student showcase) http://mscassidysclass.edublogs.org/  You’ll notice she lists all her Grade 1 student blogs down the side of this blog for easy access. Cathy Cassidy also has a blog for teachers where she explains a lot of what she does. Here teachers'blog can be found at http://kathycassidy.com/ Primary Preoccupation


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Other interesting Grade 1 blogs:

Peeking Into Division 18 http://goo.gl/nIZ3NT image
Mrs Morrison’s classroom http://mrsmorrisonsroom.blogspot.com/ image
Miss Smith’s 1st Grade blog http://misssmiths1stgrade.blogspot.com/ image
Grade 1 owls: http://mrsvanrees.blogspot.com/ image
The kinderkids blog: http://thekinderkids.edublogs.org/ image

Grade 2 blogs



Mrs Wideen http://www.mrswideen.com/



Peeking into Division 10: http://mrsbettsclass.blogspot.com/       
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Grade 3 blogs



Mrs Yollis’Grade 3 blog http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/ image

What innovative ideas are teachers implementing as shown in Foundation Phase blogs?

Here are just a few ideas:

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Using a cvlassroom hashtag and reading tweets 
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Reading to a listener via Skype
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Taking photos for their individual blog entries
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Using a giant map to learn Geography skills
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Have a mystery Skype with another class
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Being taught Science by another class
Further Reading

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