The Power of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

What is a PLN?

It’s my understanding that a PLN is an informal learning network that involves connecting with others who share similar interests. The way in which this happens is through social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, and RSS feeds.

Here’s a video that I found called Networked Student by Wendy Drexler. It explains how students can benefit from this type of networked learning:

LinkedInMy PLN Experience

As a teacher on a quest to continue learning about the growing, changing, and evolving topic of educational technology, I’ve made it a priority to stay connected to people and companies in this field on LinkedIn. I love how it allows me to showcase and link to projects that I’ve done. It also allows me to connect my blog page to my profile. Whenever I post on this PacadaVision WordPress page, I have it automatically set up to become a part of my activity in LinkedIn. Anyone in my network can link to my blog and, in turn, I can link to blogs of any of my connections. LinkedIn frequently sends emails of updates, so it’s easy to view changes and updates of people in my network. It’s amazing how I’ve learned all about new Web 2.0 tools and ed tech companies just by looking into information connected to my LinkedIn Network.

Introducing Social Media to the Classroom using KidBlog

Educator Studio KidBlog LessonPopularity of social media tells me that it is my responsibility as a teacher to get my students prepared to be a responsible participant by showing them a correct way to use it. KidBlog is my Website of choice in introducing social media to my students.

Last year was when I discovered this teacher moderated blog site. If you want ideas on how to get started using KidBlog, check out my EducatorStudio lesson plan.

I’m hoping to start KidBlog with this year’s class within the next couple of weeks. Last year I had students blogging about voice activated cars, saving the environment, dreams, the future, and many more interesting and though provoking topics. I’m curious to see what kind of topics this year’s class will come up with. If I can get my students excited and interested about popular topics, I can get my students to improve their writing while also giving them useful 21st century learning skills that will help them grow their own PLN in a positive way.

Kidblog Lesson Reflection

Blogging with Students

Whew… this has been a busy 3 weeks of blogging with my students.  Since my class has been busy getting ready for state testing next week, I will say that it’s been hard to find enough time in the day for all of my students to type their blogs into my 4 classroom computers.  Just today, I was able to get the last group of students on to post their blog.  As a result, I have put off the student evaluation until next week.

 Here are some things that went really well:

  • Using the YouTube video Blogs in Plain English by Lee LeFever sparked a great discussion about how blogs have changed the way that news travels. 
  • Creating a thought provoking blog post of my own was the spark that led to a great online discussion about technology. When my students posted a comment, it was important that I commented back to each student.  This is what helped keep a discussion going.
  • BrainPop’s lesson about blogs was another great way to give my students information about blogs.  The video was very informative & the graphic organizers that accompanied the lesson were very helpful.
  • As you probably saw from my video in the previous post, my students loved taking a survey of the class in order to determine their most popular blog topic.  This was a great way to get them excited about the topic that they were planning on writing about.
  • Having the class create a grading rubric together was a great way to let the students know exactly what is expected of their own writing.
  • Students love being able to get on the internet to see work that they produced.

Complications with the lessons:

  • It is extremely difficult to expect 32 students to get onto 4 working classroom computers to type in a blog post and comments.  In hindsight, next time I will give extra credit as an incentive for them to post their blogs at home or after school.
  • Students wanted to post pictures into their blogs, but weren’t given the resources to be able to quickly find copyright compliant pictures.  To help with this, I needed to create a Kidblog LiveBinder that had links to help them find pictures. I also had to do an extra lesson with my class to show them how to insert pictures into their posts.
  • Typing the blogs in took longer than I expected because most of my students do not have the proper typing skills. Without a computer lab at our school, we don’t have enough resources to give our students the technology training that they really need. I’m not sure exactly how to fix this.  Maybe I can add some typing program links to my classroom webpage.

Final Thoughts:

Even though I’m not completely finished with the evaluation part of my lesson, overall, I am very happy with classroom blogging.  Next time I will definitely start this towards the beginning of the school year when I know that I don’t have state testing to compete with my time.  I feel like my students are more excited about blogging than most of the writing assignments that I’ve given them this year.  I find that they are being more thoughtful in their journals and they are doing a better job self-editing.  If you’re a classroom teacher, I highly recommend that you try it with your class!  You’ll have some of your quietest students actively participating and joining in the discussions.

Using Kidblog in the Classroom

http://educatorstudio.com/lessons/excite-students-about-writing-using-kidblog

Overview: Since many students are using technology on a daily basis, teaching them the proper way to communicate online is an essential skill that they need to learn about and put into practice. By having students create their own blogs, they will be able to learn about topics that are important and relevant to one another. It will also enhance and encourage their collaboration skills as they learn how to positively critique and critically think about responses to their classmates’ posts.  Learning to blog at an early age will better prepare them to be effective communicators in this digital age.

Target Audience – 32 students in a 4th grade classroom

Materials

  • Kidblog.org website with class usernames and passwords set up
  • Student journals to write and edit comments and blog posts
  • Blogs in Plain English by leelefever – YouTube video to introduce blogs
  • Classroom computers
  • BrianPop: Blogs – video & activities
  • Student-created rubric to assess posts
  • Computer connected to LCD projector
  • Blog Topic Poll worksheet

Objectives – At the end of this scenario the learner will be able to:

  • Define the term blog
  • Post appropriate comments in response to teacher & classmate blog posts
  • Create and conduct a survey to find a popular topic of interest to blog about
  • Construct a blog post describing their chosen topic of interest
  • Propose questions within their post to promote discussion among classmates
  • Privately evaluate 2 classmates’ posts according to the class rubric

Procedure

Preparation for your lessons:

  • Create an account on Kidblog.org with student usernames and passwords.
  • Use the settings to personalize your page & adjust settings according to your needs.
  • Create an introduction post & pose an interesting question to your students.

Lesson 1: (Using computer & LCD projector to show websites to our class.)

  • Introduce blogs using Blogs in Plain English by leelefever.
  • Show students how to login to Kidblog.org.
  • Read introduction post to your students.
  • Brainstorm thoughts and ideas with your students.
  • Give students quiet time to journal-write about the topic.
  • Upon teacher approval, students will use student computers to login and post their comment.
  • Teacher will approve/disapprove comment and reply with positive feedback.

Lesson 2:

Lesson 3:

  • Class will create a grading rubric to be used in evaluating each other’s posts.
  • Guidelines and expectations for blogging will be set and agreed upon.
  • Students journal-write about their chosen blog topic.
  • Students will self and peer edit before posting their first blog post.

Lesson 4:

  • Students will use the grading rubric to evaluate 2 blog posts.
  • Evaluations will help students guide their comments as they respond to the posts.
  • Teacher will use the grading rubric to evaluate students’ posts.

Emerging Technology Kidblog.org is a free website that allows teachers to create and manage a classroom blog.

Social Participation/Social Learning– Students will be taught about giving positive and useful feedback as they survey each other about blog topics and help classmates with peer editing before publishing posts onto their blogs. Besides posting their own blog, they will be assigned 2 blogs to evaluate using the class-created grading rubric.  They will then be required to respond to at least 3 posts. The teacher will oversee all posts, making sure that students are following all of the proper guidelines and expectations that have been set by the class.

Making Connections

Prior Knowledge:  The learner will make connections with knowledge about newspapers and emails in order to understand how blogs are used to get important news out to people with similar interests.

Relevance:  The learner will post a blog about a topic that is relevant and important to him or her.

Audience:  After the class posts their first blog, teacher will open up the blog to allow for visitor comments. An email will then be sent to parents and families with a link to our class blog.  Families will be encouraged to read the blogs and post their own comments, creating an even bigger discussion.

Create/Produce – Students will use their Blog Topic Poll worksheet to help them create an interesting paragraph on their topic.  They will then come up with 2 related questions for the readers to think about and comment on.

Assessment – Students will help create a rubric according to 3 categories: Writing Conventions, Appropriateness of Topic, and Content.  Teacher will copy this rubric for students to use as they evaluate each other’s posts.  Teacher will also use this rubric to evaluate students’ work.

Score

Writing Conventions

Appropriateness of the Topic

Content (How easy is it to understand?)

Total

4

3

2

1

Score ____/12

Reflection

The teacher will reflect about the class blogging experience by writing a blog post titled: Blog Reflection.  In this post, the teacher will post a personal reflection about the blogging process and will ask the students to reflect on their own learning by thinking and writing about the following questions:

  • What did I learn about blogging?
  • What were the things that I liked the most?
  • What part of the blogging process was the most difficult for me?
  • What did I learn about other students in this class?
  • What did I learn about myself?

After the entire lesson, the teacher will read the reflection blog posts to decide what kind of adjustments need to be made in order to continue blogging with the class.

And the Winner is…

It’s now been about a week that I’ve had my new WordPress classroom page posted and shared with my students and parents on the internet.  I’ve actually been getting to know WordPress since I started my action research website 4 months ago. The question is: Do I actually like using WordPress more than I liked using iWeb?

iWeb wins, but I’ll still be using WordPress!

Honestly, for something like my class webpage, I’m going to have to go with iWeb.  As a teacher, the school year is so busy between teaching, giving free homework help after school, correcting papers, going to meetings, lesson planning, and much, much more.  Being able to fall back on my drag and drop skills made everything so much easier for me.

The other feature that I liked about iWeb was the fact that every time I published any updates to my webpage, it would ask me if I wanted to send an announcement (via email).  I loved this feature!!  Whenever I agreed to Announce, a new e-mail with a pre-written message would pop open from my Mail application.  From there, I would simply add my parents’ email addresses straight from my address book, add a couple of classroom news items and updates in the message, and send it off to them.  They could count on this message on Sunday nights, when I updated the page for the week.

My New Realization

Maybe it’s just that I have a hard time letting go of all of the hard work that I’ve put into my iWeb page.  I guess that I can use this as a life lesson: As technology changes, so do we.  If we can’t change with technology, then we end up getting stuck in the past, watching the world grow and change around us.

I guess it’s time to embrace the changes, make the best of it, & push myself to learn and grow… not all at once, but gradually. I do love the sleek new look of my WordPress page & now that I’ve started blogging with my class, I’m starting to add links and resources that will tie into lessons that my students are learning in class.

Check out the new Kidblog Links page that I added last night.  Since my student will be blogging until the end of the school year, this is going to be an important resource page for my students.  So far, I only have links to the class blog & the Kidblog Resources Livebinder, but I plan on adding to this as my students learn more about blogging.

Plans for the Future of my Class Webpage:

No sense dwelling on an out of date program like iWeb, so here’s what I plan on gradually adding to my site.

  • Links to featured student blogs
  • Class news blog posts every 2 weeks
  • Test Prep Info page
  • Summer Learning page

I’m sure I’ll think of more to add in the summertime, but for now, I think I’m content with this to do list.

LiveBinders for Blog Resources

BP6… Take 2!!

Click for a link to: http://www.livebinders.com

Okay, here’s my second attempt to post BP6.  This time I will be blogging about using LiveBinders in order to share resources about blogs with my students.  In this post, you will learn about how LiveBinders can be a great teaching resource for teachers, parents, & students.  I will also reflect on the LiveBinder that I created for my students to use as a resource to help them get started on creating their own blogs.

What is LiveBinders?

For those of you who haven’t heard about LiveBinders, it’s a free site (unless you need to upgrade for extra memory & storage space) that allows you to keep and share organized virtual binders.

Get started by searching through created LiveBinders.

If you’re not sure how to get stared with LiveBinders, I recommend that you begin by doing a search through Featured Binders.  There you will find popular LiveBinders that can inspire you to start creating your own.  If there is a specific topic, grade level, or subject that you are interested in, there is a search box for you to type in key words.

Once you’ve gotten the idea of how to use LiveBinders, you’re ready to start creating your own!

Who can you share LiveBinders with & what do can you include in them?

  • Teachers/Colleagues
    • Share lesson plans
    • Resources for grade level subjects/reports
    • Worksheets
    • Teaching links
  • Parents & Students
    • Directions, resources, & links for reports
    • Homework help resources
    • Flickr Images
    • Links to helpful resources
      • Math fact practice
      • Writing prompts
      • Educational Videos
      • Class/school webpage

    Click for a link to my LiveBinder

(Files that can be uploaded to LiveBinders:  .pdf, .jpg, .gif, .ppt, .doc, .txt, and .mov )

To help explain, here’s a link to my Kidbolg Resources Livebinder.

After you start looking through LiveBinders, you will notice that you can create tabs and sub-tabs.  This feature is a great way to keep all of your resources and information organized and easy to locate.

Options for your LiveBinder:

  • Set your binder to private/public
  • Create a pass code if you set your binder to private
  • Share your binder via: e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +1, & Plurk
  • Add names of other LiveBinder users to allow them to collaborate & edit your binder

Reflection about my Kidblog Resources Livebinder:

I think that this LiveBinder is going to be a great resource for my students to use as they are starting to post their own blogs on Kidblog.org.  I plan on putting a link to this resource on my new class webpage.  Since most of my students are used to looking up images from Google, I felt that it was really important that this LiveBinder included places that they can go to for copyright compliant images.  For most of them, this is the first year that they are learning that it is not okay to use any image that they find on the internet.

The other thing that I like about my binder is that I have links to things like: blog topic ideas & the BrainPop page about blogs.  Since my students will have watched the BrainPop video in class, having the link in my LiveBinder will be a familiar resource for that they will be comfortable watching and learning from on their own.

This is a sample of the image that will pop-up when you click the button "LiveBinder it".

As I work more and more with the LiveBinders site, I am very impressed with its capabilities.  When you set up an account, it will recommend that you add the LiveBinder It link onto your Internet browser’s Bookmarks Bar.  This makes it especially easy to add any link to a binder that you’ve created. So, any time I come across a great site about blogs, all I have to do is click the button LiveBinder It, and once I select my Kidblog Resources binder, I can automatically add the link as either a tab, or a sub-tab.  This makes expanding the binder as easy as a few clicks of a button!

I recommend that you go and explore the LiveBinder site & you just might be inspired to create your own.

Kidblog to Excite Students about Writing

Creating this PacadaVision blog got me thinking, what if I started my own classroom blog to get my students excited about writing?

Watch this video as I navigate my way through kidblog.org.

Great Features:

  • Teacher sets up class usernames and passwords
  • Teacher has control over what gets posted
  • Teacher can block outside visitors from leaving comments
  • Teacher upload library is available for students to pull media from
  • Teacher can select certain students to become a moderator
  • The moderator can be in charge of approving comments & posts
  • This site is FREE and easy to use!

Next-Step Lessons:

  • Teach students how to compose appropriate comments to my posts
  • Come up with a student created rubric for scoring and grading comments
  • Teach students to create their own posts
  • Come up with a student created rubric for scoring and grading blog posts
  • Teach students about appropriate comments when responding to classmates’ posts
  • Teach selected students about the moderator role

Goal for my students:

I want my students to know about the seriousness of publishing their absolute best work on the internet.  By being able to read and respond to their classmates’ writing, I want to motivate and encourage my students to be come the most creative and best writers that they can be.  It can even be a way to have my students to continue to write over the summer break.  I can’t wait to start using this in my class this week!