Teachers Teaching Teachers #26 - Is blogging bigger than the sum of its parts?

Teachers Teaching Teachers#26
October 25, 2006
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Has writing really changed? What’s the difference — really — between writing an essay and writing a blog post? Has the use of images really changed the writing process? Digital technologies are great, but don’t we still have to teach kids how to write the way we always did? What’s the difference?

To further our discussion of these questions five teachers — Paul Allison, Lee Barber, Susan Ettenheim, Teb Locke, and Chris Sloan — will get together for a conversation this week on Teachers Teaching Teachers (Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Americas). We come from and an elementary school, a middle school, a 6-12 secondary school, and high schools. We hail from New York City, the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and Salt Lake City, Utah. We are Writing Project teachers, English teachers, art Teachers, Webheads, science teachers, and members of the World Bridges community. Over the past couple of years we have come together because of our interest in teaching with Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.
For example, in a couple of weeks, at the National Writing Project’s 2006 Annual Meeting in Nashville, Chris Sloan and Paul Allison will be facilitating a “roundtable exchange” with 25 Tech Liaisons for Writing Projects all over the United States. The session is titled “Multimedia and Multimodal, and here is how they described their session:

How do changes in technology change the type of writing students do and the way they interact with each other? How does digital writing differ from traditional writing? Presenters will lead a discussion and share experiences about the way blogging, podcasting, and other newer technologies that incorporate sound, image, and collaborative techniques have played out in their classrooms and at their writing project sites. This roundtable exchange is for teachers at all levels, kindergarten through college.

All of that in 75 minutes. Clearly some focus is needed.

Along with Susan Ettenheim, Paul and Chris worked with their students on a blog and podcasting site together last year at Youth Voices Coast to Coast: NYC and Utah. This fall the project has morphed into a potentially larger project at YouthVoices.net and PersonalLearningSpace.com, “elgg powered ” social networking sites open to any high school and middle school students or teachers. Lee Baber who manages the middle school PersonalLearningSpace joins Paul, Susan and Chris this year in the planning.

To see an example of this work, take a look at Paul Allison’s Juniors and Seniors at East Side Community High School, NYC. On their podcast, listen to what these students have been writing about on their personal blogs in Youth Voices. Recently Paul pulled together the RSS feeds from each of his 24 students in “New Journalism 2007 and 2008.” Using xFruits and Feedburner, he created a podcast with these young voices. You can subscribe here, or in iTunes.

In addition, Chris and his Media students at Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City, have been exploding with video, text, photographs and podcasts! Take a look at the Bulldog Blog. The post from Monday, Oct. 23rd might suggest how excited his students are about this work:

Monday, October 23, 2006

There are more videos, pictures, and radio clips coming all the time. There are so many things going on here. Photos, movies, and radio are updated at least once a week! Here’s what is coming soon.

-In the Classroom: Get Your Yoga On
-An all new Mike and Rob Show, our very own Sports Radio
-Pictures of anything and everything
-Radio interviews that you don’t want to miss
-Pep Rally 2006: The exciting assembly, interviews, and other features about the week.

***Look for our written issue coming out soon…

-The Bulldog Press Posted by Judge Media at 6:20 PM

Wow! Did you notice that they still produce a written issue too?
In another example of using Web 2.0 tools, Chris Sloan and Susan Ettenheim, who teaches at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in NYC, have also been cooking up some collaborative projects via webcasting. Susan is starting a school radio station: ElRo Live! One of the three achievements listed in Wikipedia (so it must be true) for ElRo reads as follows (or at least it did at 11:34 PM on Tuesday, October 24, 2006):

Eleanor Roosevelt has also been successful in starting a webcasting (Internet radio) program, under supervision of Susan Ettenheim, and with senior webcasting hosts Cedric Tam (Big C at Sports Central) and David Lugassy (M.One the real One).

New technologies allow students to engage in purposeful discourse based on shared interests (the radio station), although these collaborations across time zones and between academic schedules in high schools are challenging. Susan remembers her daughter, in elementary school, under the guidance of Shelley Harwayne, engaging in purposeful writing. This project is an opportunity to use the newest technologies to stretch the possibility of purposeful, shared ideas across time and place.

In a similar way Lee Barber, a teacher at Hillyard Middle School, in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, has been the inspiration behind an elgg for middle school students, Personal Learning Space . This middle school elgg has students from Canada, the U.S, and Brazil, are using blogging, podcasting, photos, and videos to learn more about their communities as well as mapping on the CommunityWalks:EntryPoints. (Both high school and middle school are working on the mapping project.) This highly charged group meets weekly in a live webcast called SpaceCast to encourage collaboration as well as learning first steps toward digital and traditional writing skills and social networking. You can subscribe to the SpaceCast podcast here, or in iTunes.

This year, Teb Locke has been recently starting Elgging with his third, fourth and fifth grade students at the Neighborhood School in New York City on the Neighborhood Elgg. At this point, students have started to develop their profiles, but most the students have simply written their “introductions”. Most of the third graders have drawn, scanned and uploaded their self-portraits to use as icons for their user names. This coming Friday, Teb is planning to have the students finish their profiles and explore the concept of tags or “keywords”, so they can start “making friends.” In addition to expanding this Elgg to more classes in the Neighborhood School, Teb has also spoken with two teachers at other elementary schools in the hopes of extending the community of this elementary school Elgg. Lastly, another project the third graders have been working on involves the use of ComunityWalk.com. Students have been documenting their favorite places. At this point this project is still very much a work in progress, but the idea is the students write about their favorite places explaining the places’ significance, record a sound file of their explanation, draw a picture of this place so that it might be scanned and uploaded to CommunityWalk.com, and link the classes map, image and sound files to the school’s blog, the NeighborhoodBlog.

Paul, Lee, Susan, Teb, and Chris would welcome any colleagues to join them in these adventures. They have stories to tell about teaching with these new tools. Don’t look for too many conclusions yet! The written, visual and audio work that Paul’s students are doing in his New Journalism class is quite different from Chris’s Bulldogs and Chris’s New Media students are on a path different from Susan’s webcasting hosts on ElRo Live! or in her Computer Arts class. Teb’s third graders are learning the keyboard so that they can blog and Lee’s SpaceCast crew are still gathering steam to become the new high school group in the coming years. But we all come together because we recognize that we are on the cusp of something very exciting, and different, something much bigger than the sum of the parts: reading and writing with images and sound for purposeful communication across schools. Or maybe that is big enough?

Audio icon 10_25_06Teachers26.mp327.69 MB