Tag Archives: blogging

When we need to recharge

10 Nov

What happens when you hit a rut? In the 180 plus days of school, it is bound to happen. The mid-semester innovations slump seems to be upon us here in the basement. We have had a few failures, a few successes, but now it is time to take what we have learned and do something amazing.

As I sit and listen to an unusually quite room here in innovations class, it is clear that my pre-blogging speech inspired some reflection today. So what do we do when we need to be inspired?

Reexamine your passions

Why are we even here? What are we good at? How can I align those passions and skills with a problem that lies ahead? On Monday for our brainstorm activity, we made a list of our passions and skills. We then narrowed them down by grouping them together in order to find “the sweet spot” where our passions intersect. We then made a list of problems we have seen around us. How can our passions and skills help to solve those problems?

Take a look at the video below to see what we did at the start of the week.

The next step is for those who were unable to determine a problem they cared about in that session. The assignment over the weekend will be to start a “Bug List” in the notes app of their phone.

Put yourself and your beliefs out there

When we are challenged, we have to determine whether we will stand behind our beliefs or want to disregard them. Blogs help us do to this. My most important example came from innovations class last year. She and I each tweeted her blog post about sexual assault and a discussion with a teacher. The responses she got were rude, offensive, and ignorant. She came to class and asked, “What should I do? Should I take it down?” What we learned was that when trying to make a change, we often run into resistance. This is the time when we determine how strong our beliefs are. That resistance meant that she hit a nerve and needed to keep going. After seeing that response, the student had a renewed commitment to her project and her ultimate goal of educating her fellow students on sexual assault and rape culture. If our beliefs go unchallenged, it can be difficult to find the dedication and determination to make something happen.

Collaborate with trusted peers

When we work with others whom we respect, we have an opportunity to grow our thinking. Even more important is the energy that comes from a great sharing session with a group. We have a chance to be that source of energy for others each day. Think about the last time you met to talk about a great idea, great book, or great speaker. When we have something to discuss that truly matters to us, it is energizing to share that sense of community and build ideas together. Be an energy creator, not an energy vampire!

My hope is that our innovations class continues to see the potential in their ideas and the world around them. Looking back at these three ideas, I find that I use them in my professional life, and that is what makes innovations class so important. If these students can build these skills in high school, they will be far ahead of their peers as they head on to their next steps in life.

Knowing and addressing this slump is an important step on our road to big successes.

 

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It doesn’t have to be Genius Hour

6 Mar

Genius Hour, what isn’t there to love? And it is easy to see why – learning becomes a joyful experience that is owned by each student. Our classes become authentic environments where students choose what to learn. Of course this sounds great!

But I’m slightly afraid.

I love the idea of inspiring kids to learn by giving them ownership over the topic. I have been experimenting with Genius Hour/20% Time/Innovation Hour in my junior English classes this year, and let’s just say that I’ve learned a lot.

What happens if we ruin it?

My biggest fear is that I’ll have a group of juniors walk in to my room and moan because, “We did this last year,” or, “I never know what to do,” or, “This is boring,” – all sure signs that we ruined it. But it is so important that we do not destroy this experience.

In order to do my part in avoiding ruining Genius Hour, I decided to do something different with my sophomore English classes, something with a little more structure. We created magazines in small groups in order to address real-world writing purposes. It has been a great experience and has helped my students develop a sense of the audience they are writing for.

We still had the most important element in a project like this – student choice.

We created a magazine for each of the first two quarters, and there was some great work! But now it is time to switch things up. Students are going to create a blog or a video blog/YouTube channel on the topic of their choice. The goal is to build a following and create their own brand.

Our first brainstorming session had a great buzz. Students were coming up with great ideas, thinking deeper about those ideas and their potential audiences, and coming up with even better ideas. Some student were working together, and some were working in a group of up to three. There were even a few people who are going to do their own thing but be in the videos of another group.

One key that we discussed in the brainstorming process is that usually our first idea is not our best idea. If I were to sum up my inspirational speech of that day, I think it would sound something like, Get past that first idea, take it out of the mix. What else do you have? Keep building on something unique. Find you niche. What can you offer that others cannot? 

The highlights of my day were the few interactions that went just like this one:

Student: Mr. Sanders, this (a makeup blog) is actually what I want to do for my career.

Me: Yes, this is the start of your career! In a year you will be able to point to your blog and say that you have been doing this for a long time.

And the young man who wants to be a baseball scout will be able to point to his portfolio and show off how much experience he has.

There are groups doing fashion advice and makeup advice and spoofs on makeup advice with guys who are clueless. Food, hockey, tattoos and more.

Give students some choice and see the excitement build. Instead of prodding students to get going, you’ll answering the question, “Can we get started right now?!” Trust me, that’s slightly more fun.

It isn’t Genius Hour, but it sure feels genius to me!

Why blog?

21 Jan

In order to prepare for a short class on blogging, I decided to get some of my ideas together and make a post about it! Because I am asking my students to blog, I feel like creating my own was an important step. Here are some of the many benefits that both of us have experienced:

Positive digital citizenship – I really like the idea of building something positive for students on the Internet. We can preach rules about digital citizenship, but we also have to help students put those into practice. To do this in my classroom, we learn about commenting properly as well as taking steps to regulate comments on our own blogs. This also provides a segway into the issues that we see in email, Facebook, and Twitter if we want delve into conduct on these forms of social media.

Authenticity – As an English teacher, I want my students to consider the audience that they are writing for. All too often this is just imagining that it is someone other than me. By creating individual blogs, students are provided with an authentic audience that they attempt to please in order to grow their readership.

Pride – Publishing work on the Internet and gaining followers helps students to feel proud of accomplishing something. I’ve seen students carefully scour their writing for editing mistakes in ways that I could never have dreamed of before blogging. This is their chance to be seen as intelligent citizens of the world, and many of them will take it.

Connecting to others – This is a part of the blogging process that I need to continue to work at. I want my students to find other bloggers with similar interests and make connections across the world. It is possible to connect my classroom with another. I want my students to be reading various blogs, following them, and making connections by being responsible citizens of the internet.

Developing technology skills – Creating a blog or website is a skill that is becoming more common. Students can use this opportunity to familiarize themselves with a more creative aspect of the web than social media sites. These skills can benefit students in the future in presentations, portfolios, and other personal promotions.

Reflection – One of my favorite thoughts that I pass on to my students is that you don’t know what you think until you start to write. We have been reading various articles from Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week, and blogs have been a great place to respond to events taking place in the world.

Providing students with a voice – We are also able to use our blogs to provide a voice for students about topics that are of interest to them. I have students writing about fishing adventures and advice, video games (which are a few of the most informed and dedicated bloggers), the life of a military kid, and many other topics.

Blogging has been a great step in my classroom. How can you picture it working in yours?

Communicating with parents about blogs

19 Sep

Involving students in parent communications has always seemed like a great idea to me. The actual practice hasn’t ever taken place in my classroom, but there is no time like the present!

We are beginning a blogging project in 8th grade English and parent permissions and notifications are important. I don’t want anything to come as a surprise to parents, so I want their opinions about privacy to be heard.

I found a letter written by Clay Burrell’s Blogging Parent Letter: Choose Your Privacy Levels. After telling my students that yes, I am a thief and will steal other teachers’ work off of the Internet, we began to change the letter to make it our own.  Our finished product changed the introduction and explanation of what the blogs will do for students in terms of education, but we kept the options and pros and cons the same.  Here is our letter to parents.

What I liked about this letter is that it offers options along with pros and cons.  I still am unsure about whether having a student’s name on his or her blog is a good idea, but now that the parents will be deciding, it is one less thing for me to worry about.

It was amazing to watch the students engage with the wording that they were creating to bring home to their parents. I was actually slightly worried that the students weren’t excited enough about blogging, but I felt much better after hearing them discuss their future blogs.

The keyword in our class has been “passion” about our topics.  By offering a chance for these students to become invested in the project by helping write this letter, I think we are off to a good start!