Archive for October, 2008

Ways to Share Student Work – Outside of the Building

The idea that when students create for a real-world audience online the quality of the work is better, got me thinking about what were some other ways to tap into this world.

Last year we published folk tales students had written as audio files.  Those files were posted on a blog and the students could then share those stories with friends and family.  How powerful to have a student that proud of their work that they wanted relatives who lived several states away to see what they had done for a school project!

I thought I would dedicate a few postings to ways we can share student work outside the walls of the building.  My last 2 postings talked about blogs and ways to share the written word, this post will concentrate more on non-writing assignments –  thinkart work, collage, poster, powerpoint, etc.   As always – be careful about protecting identities and make sure you have permission for work to be posted before proceeding!


In previous posts I have shared two online sites for uploading and sharing PowerPoints,  SlideShare and Slideboom.  Slideboom I liked for the ability to add narration to the powerpoints and keep it intact in the upload process.

In both of these programs users could leave comments on the presentations.  So mom or dad could take a look at the powerpoint that the student turned in and make a comment about the work, or ask an extending question to their student.   This would be a good way to do a gallery exhibition as well to have students watch each other’s presentations and leave comments about them.  Please be sure to go over with students what makes a good comment and what expectations your have about that activity.

Photo Sharing

Places like Flickr and Bubbleshare allow you to upload photos and allow you to provide written comments on those photos.  Videos or Photos can also be embedded into your blogs, wiki, or other web page.  Settings can be done to private, but always keep in mind what is on the interent is not always private even under the best of circumstances.

Play around with leaving comments if you like on some of my family photos.

Voice Threads

If you want to see what it looks like on the web page: Please leave a comment on the photo and add to the conversation.  Comments can be audio files, web cam shots or typed text.  You can also add video and stop to doodle on it or make comments.  Comments can be moderated.  They also have an education spot for teachers to use.

Coming Next- Google Docs.

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Blogging in Literature

Teachers struggle with getting non-writers writing and non-readers reading.  But why should those students practice a skill they struggle with?  Why will another book and another essay help when so far it has not made a difference?  We know that more practice helps, and that you can’t improve unless you work at it, but sometimes we have to approach kids and assignments from a different point of view.  We need to find out what they are doing and see if we can make that a hook into their learning.  Blogging and online communication is one of those hooks.

What does blogging do for your students:

  • Provides a real world situation for kids – authentic learning.  They are no longer writing just for you, but for the world.
  • “Research has long shown that students write more, write in greater detail, and take greater care with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, when they are writing to an authentic audience over the Internet.” ~ David Warlick
  • Encourages reflective writing – Something about seeing your work online and knowing that everyone can see and read it causes you to think harder about what you want to say.  Reading comments about that writing can spark new thoughts and new ideas that would not have been there otherwise.
  • Blogs are a great equalizer.  Student’s opinions and voices can be heard they same way adult voice can be heard giving weight and value to the thoughts and opinions being expressed.
  • Parents can access the student writing at a moment’s notice and see the progress their student’s are or are not making.
  • Student get feedback on their writing from more than just the teacher or a peer reviewer.

What are some ideas for using Blogs in Language Arts classes:

  • Literature Circles – students can answer questions about a book the class is reading and provide insight on plot and character developments
  • Original Writing – students could keep their own blogs and record their writing throughout the year.  At certain points the students would have easy access to look back over how their writing has developed over time.
  • Reflective Writing – Students could reflect on class topics, lectures, novels, or discussions.
  • The student that never contributes due to shyness or not wanting to look “smart” can now contribute without having to speak in front of the class.

Examples of Blogs in Language Arts:

Grading Blogs:

So how do you assess what students do on a blog?

Here is one teacher’s solution:

My solution was to design a blogging rubric that would enable me to attach a grade to something I previously had had only a gut feeling about. I assigned excellent, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory to

  • How well students’ blogs integrated the concepts and principles from class discussions and activities;
  • How effectively students’ writing conveyed their understanding of the content
  • Students’ use of higher-level thinking (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) in their blogging; and
  • How well students’ blogging entries demonstrated a personal connection with the topic and applied course readings.

Taken from” “Log on to a Blog” –

So are you willing to give it a try?  Do you have any other ideas for using blogs in your classroom?

Word of Caution: When having student’s publish online, you must remember at all times to be safe!  Using full names, posting emails, or giving out personal information must be off limits at all times.  For more information about thinking through these issues, please see:

and talk to your campus technologist to make sure you have thought through everything!

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Blogging in History

Several years ago I attended training at the University of Texas on Telecollaboration.  Most of the ideas presented in the training seemed so labor intensive that there was no way as a teacher or now as a Instructional Technology Specialist that they could be implemented.  Or I felt like I needed to know professors from all over the country before I could begin.  So I filed those ideas away and thought maybe some day I could attempt what I had learned.

Those ideas have come back to mind lately and I wanted to explore a few of those here.

Have an online conversation with a historical figure.

The original plan was to use email as the main means of communication.  Questions over access to the information in the emails and how the class could actively participate in conversation stopped me from trying this.  But with web 2.0 tools this could happen easily by substituting email for blogs.

This is not a new idea and you can find some examples of teachers already doing this online.

Basic premise: A Historical figure could begin keeping blog about the major events that happened in their lifetime.  Students could pose questions to the person to get a deeper understanding about how things worked.

  • Teacher(s) could write the posts and students could ask questions through the comment section.
  • Students could research the person and create the journal entries to be posted.  Other students could read the postings and ask questions about the information presented.


  • Harriet Tubman –
  • World Was II – – blogs are not based on actual people but on historical events and fictional people

Other Ideas:

  • Students could research a part of the world and write a blog entry as a person who lives there explaining what life is like.  Other students could comment on the entries and ask extension questions.
  • Create a blog that represents a side of revolution.  The Texas rebels could use the blog as a way to communicate the latest in the war effort against Mexico and what has happened.  Students could write the entries or the teacher could also post entries that the students have to respond to.

This is just basic ideas to get the ball rolling.  More ideas?



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Getting a New Perspective on the Written Word

October is Computer Learning Month

I had a dream last night that got me thinking about “perspective”  and how to give students different perspectives on what is being taught.  Our students are what some call “digital natives” and are wired differently than students of the past.  Think of all the ways they can get and send information in a moment’s notice.  So how can we tap into that part of their thinking and get them thinking about school and the subjects being presented from a different perspective?  How can we start to speak their  digital language?

With this thought in mind I bring you this post: Perspectives in Writing and Reading

So often as a history teacher I would present textbook reading as here it is and answer the questions at the end.  As I began to understand the importance of engaging students before, during and after reading, I used questions, discussions, paper and pencil, drawing, etc. to help get the students to see the information in a different way.

With technology I am amazed at what the other options can be!

To demonstrate some of the ways that a reading passage (fiction or non-fiction) could be presented using technology, I took the school’s weekly newsletter and ran it through several options.  These activities could be used as pre-reading hooks or as a post-reading assignment for the students.


The first is a web site called “Wordle.”  Wordle takes text and makes a word cloud out of it.  The more a word is mentioned, the larger it appears.  Think of it as a tag cloud for your reading.

Students could also upload their own writing and see what words they are using the most and how their writing is coming across.  For a list of ideas on this, please see the Tech Ed Know blog.


I used Inspiration 8 to create a web of the information as well:

Blurbs in Inspiration


Pictures are another great way to tell a story.  I took the same key words, found pictures to illustrate those words from flickr and made a short movie using photo story.


For Ridgeview Teachers: Here are a few wordles that come from history or literature.  If you are able to identify what text they come from and leave your guess as a comment to this blog, a prize will be awarded.   There will be a prize per entry, so you don’t have to know them all, just guess on one!  Click on the picture to see a larger image.

Entry 1:

Entry 2:

Entry 3:

Entry 4:

Ideas?  thoughts?  Suggestions?  Please share in the comments section.

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