I mentioned in my last post that I was shifting my online instruction this semester from one based on Blackboard discussions to one based on blog posts. Over the weekend, my graduate students posted their first blog posts in response to an assignment.
I am teaching a graduate class called Educational Technology for School Leaders. This class has thirteen K-12 teachers working on their Masters in Education, and these students are scattered over three states. The option of getting together face-to-face does not exist. Based on initial introductions, none had ever blogged before, and most were pretty nervous about setting up their blogs and publishing on the open web. That nervousness was precisely why I wanted them to dip their toes in the waters and begin to experience the possibilities of networked learning. As future potential administrators, I believe it is helpful if they swim in the same waters in which their students swim. So blogging through the semester is one way to achieve that goal.
I provided links to getting started tutorials for our school blog, Edublogs, WordPress and Blogger, but left it to the students to decide what platform to use. The distribution was pretty even across the choices. All thirteen successfully set up their blog and then successfully posted their first post on time. I pulled the various blogs together into our class Google Sites page.
As the illustration to the left demonstrates, they did not just grab the default page. I was excited by the diversity of design and styles that they chose for their own blogs. I also was excited (as were several of their classmates) with their experimentation right off the bat with embedding videos and pictures.
And quite frankly, I was impressed with their first posts.
As an assignment, I asked my students to watch the YouTube video “Welcome To My PLE“, in which a 12 year old girl describes how she uses the web for learning. My simple question to my students was – would Wendy (the 12-year-old girl in the video) be welcomed in your classroom.
My students were across the board awed by the prowess this 12-year-old demonstrated in her use of the web. Many felt that they would be intimidated by Wendy, though others wondered if Wendy was already in their classes. As a group, they felt motivated to becoming more comfortable with the web so that they could effectively guide Wendy as she took control of her own learning. In fact, they tended to cherish the fact that Wendy felt responsible for her own learning. As one of my students noted, she wished she had 15 Wendy’s in her class.
There was also an interesting underlying theme regarding not whether they themselves would welcome Wendy, but rather would their fellow teachers, their parents, and their administrators welcome Wendy.
For a group of self-proclaimed technophobes who feel they are way behind Wendy, I was very pleased with their first post. It is a good baseline from which we can grow as a group. We will continue to blog weekly on different topics, and in the coming weeks, will explore some of the more difficult issues of ethics, politics, and law regarding the web. I suspect that the quality of the posts will continue to improve, and I would ask those who follow me to take a moment and check out our class Google Sites page and if moved, comment to some of my students. Nothing adds quality to blogs like the realization that someone besides the professor and Mom is reading their work!