Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

Primary Preoccupation - A grade one teacher inviting the world into  her classroom

Blogging in a Primary Classroom–With Only One iPad!

Many primary teachers who only have access to one iPad in their classroom assume that there is very little they can do to make that iPad useful for an entire class.  A few weeks ago, I blogged about the way I would do the “listen to reading” option of the Daily Five in a one iPad classroom. Today, I want to share some options for blogging with only one iPad.

Blogging with one iPad is possible with several apps, including the Edublogs and Kidblog apps, which allow multiple users. With Edublogs, all of the users can be logged in on one app. Kidblog also allows this with students just typing in their password each time. These options are definitely doable, but a couple of newer apps make the process even easier, especially for young children.

The Easy App Company has created Easy Blogger Jr. and Easy Blog Jr. The former works with Blogger blogs and the latter works with Edublogs.

Because Easy Blogger Jr. works with Blogger, the blog itself is free. You just have to pay for the app. And because setting up a blog seems daunting to some people, the creators of the app will even set up a blog FOR you. Once you have the blog set up, you just need to add your students’ names and pictures to the app so that they can begin to post.

photo 100

 

I made a practice blog to try this out and discovered that if I gave each student the “label” of their own first name, their name would appear along the side of the blog. While all the student’s posts appear in order of posting on the main blog, clicking on a student’s name on the right brings you to all of the posts that that child has written.

 

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The best part of the app is that even young students can use this app independently. They just touch their own picture…

 

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…and then confirm who they are. Notice that every page has an icon which, when tapped, will read the words aloud to the child.

 

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Students have a choice about what they will post.

 

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If a student chooses a photo, he can even record his or her voice talking about the photo, making the photo into a screencast or video. Just think of the possibilities this holds for young pre-writers to share the things they create!

 

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If you use (or would like to use) Edublogs, the Easy Blog Jr app works just the same, but works with the Edublogs platform instead.

Your students will all be blogging using only one iPad. Such a great way for young children to share their learning with the world!

Full disclosure: The creators of Easy Blog Jr and Easy Blogger Jr gave me a copy of the apps to try.

Changing Face of Early Literacy – Why Digital?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear“Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? I see a red bird looking at me,” chanted all of the children in my classroom as they participated in a shared reading time in my classroom. Shared reading, in which all of the children regardless of their reading level read aloud from shared text, has long been considered to be an important part of a balanced early literacy program.

In the good old days, not so long ago, all of the shared reading in my classroom was from books (including ‘big’ books whenever possible) and from poems and chants that I had purchased or carefully printed on chart paper so that the entire class could see.  While I still use these resources when appropriate, much of our shared reading is now digital. We read a variety of digital texts, but most frequently we read tweets written by classes or others we follow on our class Twitter account or we read comments written on our classroom blog or on the blogs of one of the students. We also read blog posts written by classes or students far away.

What Does This Look Like in the Classroom?

Shared Reading of Twitter

During our shared reading, I project either our class Twitter account or our blog comments onto a board and together, we read these tweets or comments aloud.  At the beginning of the school year my students are still pre-readers, so I point to the words as we read, but I turn this job over to my students as soon as it is possible. After reading each tweet, we talk about what we just read. What did we find out? How is that similar to or different from what we have done/studied/know? Do we want to reply to this tweet or comment? What do we want to say?  Since my students are slow typists, at the beginning of the year, this task usually falls to me as they tell me what to say, how to spell words (we stretch out the sounds together) and remind me that we should always re-read a tweet before we press “Tweet”. At this point, the shared reading has turned into a shared writing lesson.

When we read a comment together, we follow a similar pattern. Is this a good comment, something we want posted on our blog? If yes, we click “Approve” and then discuss whether the comment needs to have a response.  If it does, we follow a similar procedure to the one just mentioned.

Why Read Digital?

Why have I made the switch from only traditional text to including digital in my classroom?

1. Much of the reading the students will do outside of my classroom and as they grow up will be digital.  It seems appropriate to begin to acknowledge this right from the start of their reading education.

2.  High interest Students are excited to read text that has been written by other children and classrooms. They like to “get to know” other classrooms by reading what they are up to on Twitter or reading a comment by someone they have never met. They wonder aloud about these people and if appropriate, we respond. We often get responses in return. Never in all of my teaching have I had that kind of authentic engagement with any of my chart paper poems.

3. Personalization Much of the digital text we read is written directly to my class or to one of the students in my class. It is hard to argue against the efficacy of personalization in any kind in learning.

4. The students are able to respond to the text. As I mentioned above, the digital text we read allows for an immediate means to respond. While written response to traditional text is certainly possible, the ability to ask questions and to have them quickly answered by the text’s author (whoever that author might be) is certainly not.

Can you see why I love using Twitter and our blog comments as part of my literacy program? I’m not quite ready to throw out all my charts with poems, songs and chants just yet. They still have value. But it is hard to beat the benefits offered by digital text when doing shared reading.

Using Blogs and Twitter With Young Students: THIS is What it Looks Like

I talk and share what I do with a lots of teachers.  When these educators hear about the ways their colleagues are using blogs and Twitter in their classrooms they are intrigued. Most of them are interested enough to want to look further, but the idea is a bit overwhelming.  I find this to be especially true of primary teachers. “What would that look like with young children?” they wonder.  “What do the different blogging tools look like if you teach six year olds?”  “How could you use Twitter in a kindergarten classroom?” “Yes, I can see what that would look like with older students, but my students are young. Most of them can’t yet write. What would THAT look like?”

Reading Tweets

Reading Tweets

What they really want to see are examples. I can show them my classroom blog and my classroom Twitter account, but there are so many other fabulous classrooms out there learning and sharing their learning in unique and effective ways. Ways that teach traditional literacy skills while also teaching digital literacy including how to learn and how to be safe online.

So for those people who have asked the questions and for anyone else who wants to see what blogging and tweeting in a primary classroom looks like, check out the links to examples below.

This is what it can look like:

Primary (to me that means age 3 – 8) Classes that Tweet*

Primary (again, ages 3 – 8) Classroom Blogs

And just so that those of you who teach older students don’t feel left out, here are some lists for older elementary students.

Classrooms That Tweet (all age levels)*

More Classrooms that Tweet*

Elementary (ages 8 – 12) Classroom Blogs

Blogging

Blogging

I’m grateful to teachers who are willing to add their information to lists like these that are such a help to educators who are just beginning their social media journey.  When you start your own journey, don’t forget to add your link to a list!

A link really is worth a thousand words!

Maybe more.

[*Note: If you have never used Twitter, but want to see the tweets of those teachers who are, you just need to type twitter.com/username in a browser to access their home page with all of their tweets. For example, my classroom Twitter account’s URL is twitter.com/mscassidysclass]

 

What Would You Have Said?

This past week I received this comment on my classroom blog. [Additional Note: I have never met this person. It is not one of my students’ parents.]

Comment 2

The online world that I usually inhabit is a bit of an echo chamber. The people there are online and think that being online is a good thing. It is sometimes good to be reminded that not everyone shares that opinion. This comment pushed me to rethink why I do what I do and whether it is defensible.  My reply is below.

Thank you for your comment.  You clearly care enough about children to comment and I respect that.

I take the safety of my students very seriously.  We regularly talk about how they can keep themselves safe in many different situations. Being online is just one more place they need to learn to be safe.

Classroom BlogYes, I do post pictures of my students online. If you notice, I post pictures of the students only on MY blog, where there are no names ever attached. The students’ FIRST names are attached to their own blog, but you will never see a photo of the student on their own blog, or their last name.  (In fact, I know of blogs in which the teachers do, with the parents’ permission, identify the children by name, but that is not my policy.)

I teach my students carefully about what is appropriate to put online and what is not. They quickly learn how to take photos and make videos that do not show faces so that they can be posted on their blog. When we read comments together, they soon learn to point out if a parent has accidentally included a last name and together we delete that comment before it is posted for the world to see.

It is true that Adam likes Mario. So does every other boy and some of the girls in my classroom. I’m sure this holds true for most six-year-olds.

Although no negative thing has ever happened because of our blog, many wonderful things have happened.  

Because of our blog, the parents of my students are able to watch their child’s learning and as the parents leave comments (which are an integral part of our reading instruction) they become part of the learning as well. Grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, older siblings and other friends drop by just to see what is happening, and may leave a comment as well.  My students beam with pride as the comments, written just for them, are read aloud.

Because of our blog, my students have an audience. They look at the tiny dots on our Clustr map and know that even if people are not commenting, people are seeing what they are posting.  An audience is a powerful motivator for people of any age. Writing for a real audience is so much more powerful than writing something in a notebook that only your teacher will see.

Because of our blog, we sometimes have comments from people we have never met, but who are cheering my students on as they are learning.  These comments send us to a map to find out where in the world Texas, or Romania or Ontario is and then leads to other serendipitous learning and perhaps to a face-to-face meeting through a videoconference of some kind.

Because of our blog, we sometimes get videos or items in the mail from people in far away places. These unexpected treasures lead to even more learning, particularly about empathy and understanding of people who live differently than we do.

Because of our blog, my students are leaning about digital literacy.  In a safe environment, with me to guide them, they are learning what it is appropriate to put online and what is something that should be kept private.  They are beginning to create a positive digital footprint. The Internet is here to stay, and I would prefer that my students learn about online etiquette and safety than to leave this learning to chance.

I’m not sure if you know this, but hundreds (probably thousands) of teachers are now doing the same thing as me—sharing the learning in their classroom online through classroom blogs, Twitter accounts or Facebook pages.  

I hope that you can see the positive impact this new way of learning has had on my classroom. Just as with anything new I do in my classroom, I weigh the benefits against any possible risk or difficulties. With the safety features I have built into the blogging process in our classroom and the ongoing discussions I have with the children, there is no contest.  Blogging has opened too many doors for us.

What would you add? How do YOU defend what you do?

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