This is Day 4 of a series of posts this week to provide strategies for the first week of school in a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) classroom. These ideas are my suggestions for developing a learning community during the first five days of school. Hopefully, this sense of community will lead to an effective BYOT implementation for the rest of the year as students learn and practice the digital age skills of communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Please modify these activities to better suit the needs, interests, and abilities of your students.
Scenario: Throughout this week students have been empowered to utilize their own technology tools for a variety of instructional uses. A synergy is developing between their online collaborative activities and their face-to-face classwork. As they work together more online, the more they collaborate and communicate in the face-to-face classroom. One fear of many teachers is that they feel as if they are losing control of their classes when students experience the agency to use their devices as needed and begin to share their ideas with each other so readily. However, this shift represents the students taking ownership of their learning experiences, and it should be encouraged.
Activity – Nurture Communication
There are many ways that the digital age skill of communication can be facilitated in the BYOT classroom. This week, it has been practiced through the use of Wikispaces, Edmodo, and Socrative, yet another way to promote further communication is through blogging. A blog provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their learning, share ideas and responses with others, and highlight their academic successes. Blogging enables students to develop their own personal portfolios as they post and document the artifacts of their learning – their writing and projects. Although there are many types of blogging tools, my district has subscribed to Edublogs for all of its students and teachers.
Edublogsoffers free blogging for students, and this use of social networking is an authentic way to teach and practice responsible use. There is an Edublogs app for iOS devices, or students can use other devices to participate in blogging. Students are able to begin drafts of their writing within their blogs and when the draft is finished, they can easily publish each post. This week, the students completed their profiles within the other web tools at home. After the students have signed up for their blogs, they should complete their profiles and customize their blogs in class. I advise students to use the same photo or avatar for each of their profiles in order to develop an online presence in the class that represents them and their personal strengths and interests. Edublogs offers several themes so that students can choose designs that complement their profiles.
The following list explains just a few reasons why I think that it is essential for students (and teachers) to blog:
- Blogging causes students to make connections to what they are learning as they reflect.
- Blogging stimulates critical thinking as students take a stand on an issue and explain supportive reasons for that stand.
- Blogging provides opportunities for on-going debate and discussion as students respond to each other’s posts.
- Blogging showcases and documents student work and creativity.
- Blogging helps students discover their strengths and share their expertise with others.
Branding through Blogging
Throughout the year in the BYOT classroom, the students will continue to develop and practice digital age skills, and this authentic work can lead to an appreciation for individual differences and strengths. This recognition is influenced by several factors. First, the students already have personal interests, and they have the agency with their devices to further refine and perfect those capabilities. Second, BYOT can be the great differentiator in the classroom, Students who have mastered particular skills and concepts can move ahead more easily, and students who need additional practice can receive that support with the use of their own technology tools. Third, when students are empowered to make choices and encouraged to work collaboratively on relevant topics, diverse sets of skills are needed by the learning community for it to be successful. Finally, since the teacher is unable to know every device or every online tool, they have to learn alongside students, and this transformation helps everyone to assume the role of a learner.
As students discover their talents, they can offer advice and support to other members of the learning community. They are often branded as the student you can go to when you need an effective speaker, a videographer, an artist, or a technician. Through blogging, students are able to highlight their individual areas of expertise and this brand becomes further aligned to their personal identities.
When students have finished personalizing their blogs, have them write autobiographical drafts that will be posted in their blogs. There is usually an “About” or “Bio” tab in the blog’s theme where the students can write this information. The teacher will need to review with the students the importance of maintaining online privacy, so the students will need to use critical thinking (along with the guidance of their teacher) to determine what types of information is appropriate for publishing on the web. They should not include actual photos of themselves; provide their last names; or give other identifying information (address, teams, or neighborhood). This will become their first post, so they need to begin thinking about the possibilities of their brand!
Homework (Post these assignments in Edmodo.)
- Publish your first post. Today you completed an autobiographical post that included some of your strengths and interests. Share that post with your parents. What do they think about what you have shared? What qualities do they think you should include? Revise your post if necessary and publish it.
- Discuss in Edmodo. What other ways do you think we could learn with blogging this year? Discuss this question in Edmodo by posting your suggestions as a “Note.”