Ten years ago this month, my six-year-old students and I first dipped our toes into the water of blogging. At the time, I really had no idea what would come of this new venture, no idea of the conversations we would have, no idea of the connections we would be able to make with people beyond the doors of our classroom and no idea of the often serendipitous learning that would take place.
Our blog was the first way we shared our classroom online and it inevitably led to many other ways of sharing. It is actually hard to remember what my classroom was like before the advent of our blog. Sharing and learning with others through our blog, Skype, Twitter and other tools has become so much a part of what we do that the “before” is kind of foggy (although that may be just my aging brain). I do, however, remember how exciting it was the first time my class received a comment and what fun it was to look at the pictures on the blog of our new kindergarten friends in New Zealand (Where did they find that shark?) and to wonder about their life that was so different than ours. (How can they see the ocean? Does their volcano have lava? What’s Marmite?) This excitement has continued with each and every connection we have made.
Moments like that, of forging a relationship with children we would never meet in person, changed not only my students’ perspective, but my own as well. Both students and teacher were no longer insular, looking only inward. Instead, we were looking out of our classroom to see who was there, exploring new ideas and points of view. It was the first step in building my own learning network and in building a network for my students. New tools for connecting have come and gone in our classroom, but the blog has remained as a tool to share and to connect.
In the years since those first posts, there have inevitably been changes.
- Tools have changed. While Classblogmeister was a wonderful host for us to use, the versatility of Edublogs has given us much more opportunity for student independence and control.
- The power of the tools has changed. Blogging and adding media is just so much easier. When I first started blogging, it was many months before I found out how to add an image to a post. It was a complicated procedure that involved attaching the camera to a computer, uploading the image to Flickr and then getting the html code from that site and pasting it into a post. If I wanted the students to have an image in their posts, I had to log in separately as each child and put that html code in for them. Mobile devices and the ease of transferring images have changed all that.
- There are other classrooms to connect with. When we first began blogging, I could not find any other primary classes with blogs. There just weren’t any. Now, there are oodles of classrooms that are blogging and looking to learn from others.
- Parent mindset has changed. I used to hold parent information nights to have the students teach their parents how to comment. That is no longer necessary. The world has become digital. The parents of my students are almost all on Facebook and other social media sites and understand what it is to be connected.
- Why we blog has changed. Originally, I simply wanted a place for my students to write and a place for me to share with the parents what was happening in my classroom. That is still relevant, but I’m now also conscious that
- Connecting will be part of my students’ world as they grow
- Even at their young age they need to know how to act appropriately online.
- My students already know how to have fun online. I want them to learn how to have fun learning
What has NOT changed is that the students have an opportunity to have a real audience for their work, they are learning how to be cautious and caring digital citizens and their parents, siblings and grandparents can watch and be part of their learning. The eyes of the students still shine as we read a comment written just to them by someone who is special in their lives or by someone they have never met. A comment from a stranger still sends us to a map to find out where those people live. And the students are still captivated by the idea that they have a voice in this big word we call the Internet.
Over my teaching career, there have been things that I have tried and relegated to the “well that’s no longer relevant” pile. Blogging is definitely not one of those things.
Here’s to the next ten years.