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Ontario Blogs!

Inside/Out

Ideas, resources and inspiration for teachers taking part in the Education Network of Ontario's newest program.

by Paula Boon

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Article posted December 1, 2005 at 12:59 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 460

Hi everyone,





Just a quick note to let you know that Ontario Blogs is switching to a different platform.





From now on, please look for my blog entries at

[LINK]





This is the Ontario Blogs community page. To see just my blogs, click on my name under 'categories' on the right.





Looking forward to your comments in our new home.

Article posted December 1, 2005 at 12:59 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 460



Article posted November 24, 2005 at 10:05 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 40

Hi everyone,





Konrad Glogowski always says something that makes me think in his “Blog of Proximal development.” Two days ago, the elementary teacher and OISE/UT PhD candidate made some comments about how “classroom blogging is first and foremost about creating a community of writers,” and I wanted to share them with you.





He said, “Blogging is not going to miraculously transform struggling and reluctant writers…. Merely giving students blogs and time to write can never be an effective strategy. What needs to develop first is a sense of community. And yes, the students need to go through that process first before anything valuable starts happening - they have to learn to be a community - and we have to show them how. Once that sense of community is in place, the students will realize that the community itself is an organic entity, a growing organism which develops with each new post, each new link, each new node. They will realize that the community grows only because its members continue to push, to question, to challenge each other and themselves. They will learn that social, communicative interactions among community members keep the community growing and its members thinking. They will see their learning as part of an ongoing discourse which continues to expand as its contributors continue to search for understanding. "





See the whole thing at [LINK]





The aim of Ontario Blogs is to foster a community across grade levels and schools. We're hoping our new format will foster that feeling, since each person who posts, whether it be a student, teacher, or me, will enjoy a brief moment in the spotlight on our main page.





We’re also working on gathering community volunteers to comment on students’ work, and on getting classes with similar interests linked up.





Once we get all the teachers who have signed up actually blogging, the future for our community looks very exciting indeed.





What are your concerns, questions and/or suggestions about making this community as supportive as it can be?

Article posted November 24, 2005 at 10:05 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 40



Article posted November 19, 2005 at 06:58 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 41

Hi everyone,





A posting by Anne Davis earlier this month called 'Guidelines for Blogging' [LINK]

really struck me.





In it, she talks about how student blogging guidelines she has seen in various places all tend to focus on the things students shouldn’t do, like use full names and give personal information. She suggests more of a focus on what students should be doing and on all the exciting possibilities presented by blogs.





Here’s part of her list for students:

• practice writing your thoughts about what you are learning, what you understand and don't understand, why it is meaningful or not

• make connections to your learning by exploring what others have written about it on the web

• strive to improve your writing and take risks with expressing your ideas and bouncing those ideas off of a much larger audience

• develop a distinct voice that will make a difference

• strive for writing that matters

• express your opinion but backing them up with well thought out reasons

• learn to collaborate

• ask questions that will make a reader think and want to comment





I think she has a point that, once we’ve made sure students know how to be safe online, turning our attention toward positive guidelines is a good idea. After all, most of them haven’t done this kind of writing before and will probably need guidance to take full advantage of the opportunity.





What, if anything, would you add to Anne's list?

Article posted November 19, 2005 at 06:58 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 41



Article posted November 12, 2005 at 03:15 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 49

Hi everyone,





Grade 6 teacher Martha Martin is still looking for other Grade 6 or junior level classes to team up with for some literature circle-related blogging. I hope this blog might nudge someone to respond.





To me, this is an ideal use of blogs: taking something that has already been proven effective in individual classrooms and extending student motivation and learning through collaboration.





If you haven’t taken up Martha’s invitation because you’ve never used literature circles in your classroom and/or aren’t sure how they work, why not peruse the information found on the site for the Greater Essex County District School Board's 'Just Read' project (which I found on Martha’s blog)? It' found at

[LINK]





The ‘Now What?’ section describes how literature circles work, suggests culminating learning events and provides links to literature circle resources.





Another source of information can be found at ReadWriteThink:

[LINK]





Martha’s blog address is



[LINK]





Take the plunge. Your students will thank you.

Article posted November 12, 2005 at 03:15 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 49



Article posted November 5, 2005 at 08:47 PM GMT0 • comment (2) • Reads 178

Hi everyone,





Here’s an article by David Huffaker exploring the notion that blogs are useful literacy tools because they encourage storytelling and dialogue. As the abstract says, “This paper explores the importance of literacy and storytelling in learning, and then juxtaposes these concepts with the features of blogs.”





See the entire article, entitled “The educated blogger: Using Weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom,” at

[LINK]





The first ‘Ontario Blogs!’ classes are just getting going. Kirsten Corson and her Grade 12 class are having a blast. Take a look at

[LINK]





Martha Martin’s Grade 6 class at

[LINK] should be posting messages any day now as well.





While you’re visiting, why not thrill a student by posting a comment?

Article posted November 5, 2005 at 08:47 PM GMT0 • comment (2) • Reads 178



Article posted November 4, 2005 at 12:45 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 40

Hi everyone,





Today in Will Richardson’s blog, Weblogg-ed, there’s an interesting post about an article in today’s New York Times (gotta love RSS feeds… have you subscribed yet?).





Will says: "From today's New York Times, "The Lives of Teenagers Now: Open Blogs, Not Locked Diaries," a really interesting article about how teens are beginning to use content creation as a way of public expression. The stat graph is:





“According to the Pew survey, 57 percent of all teenagers between 12 and 17 who are active online - about 12 million - create digital content, from building Web pages to sharing original artwork, photos and stories to remixing content found elsewhere on the Web. Some 20 percent publish their own Web logs.”





See the rest of his comments at [LINK]





I read the entire article at [LINK]



and I was quite interested in the part that talks about how this new generation of ‘screenagers’ interacts with media:





“The Pew survey shows "the mounting evidence that teens are not passive consumers of media content," said Paulette M. Rothbauer, an assistant professor of information sciences at the University of Toronto. "They take content from media providers and transform it, reinterpret it, republish it, take ownership of it in ways that at least hold the potential for subverting it."





“Professor Rothbauer calls this kind of engagement "emancipatory" because "it helps young people fashion their own identities, on their own terms, using whatever content they choose."





I wonder how quickly the number of teenage bloggers will rise now that blogging is really catching on among educators… It will be interesting to see.

Article posted November 4, 2005 at 12:45 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 40



Article posted October 30, 2005 at 02:56 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 104

Hi everyone,





There are some great examples out there of blog use in k-3 classrooms. Here are a few:





Mrs. Cassidy, a Canadian Grade 1 teacher, can be found at

www.classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=1337





An American kindergarten blog called Dugas' Doghouse, which also contains links to three third-grade blogs, is at [LINK]





Canadian Grade 1 teacher Val Paley has only posted three entries so far this year, but they're interesting ones, and she has a really good list of links for the children to refer to. Her blog is at

www.classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=136





Green Meadow Elementary School in the States has blogs for k-5 classes. The school's main page is at

www.gmeadowelementary.blogspot.com







I can't wait to see what you do with your own classes.

Article posted October 30, 2005 at 02:56 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 104



Article posted October 30, 2005 at 02:35 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 157

Hi everyone,





To this point, blogs appear to have been more popular at the elementary and post-secondary levels than in high schools. However, I’ve been able find a few examples for Writers’ Craft teachers of blogs being used in similar courses.





[LINK]

This is the blog for a fall, 2005 creative writing class at East Carteret High School in Beaufort, North Carolina. The teacher is Sidhe Wrights.





[LINK]

Although this blog is from a college-level creative writing class in the States, it’s one taught by a weblog-using guru named Barbara Ganley. It’s not active (must be from last semester), but it is a good example of a writing course with a focus on using blogs to create a supportive, collaborative community. There are plenty of examples of student posts and comments.





[LINK]

This blog is the home of awZ, the Arts Writing ‘Zine of Middlebury College in the U.S. It provides some good examples of both student writing (in a variety of genres) and comment exchanges.





Barbara Ganley, the Middlebury professor who teaches the creative writing and arts writing classes and is involved in other innovative, writing-centred projects, has a very thought-provoking blog at [LINK]

She posts reflections on her teaching practices which are always rich and insightful. I’d highly recommend checking in regularly for inspiration and ideas about directions for your own writing class.





[LINK]

The Open Classroom is a reflective blog by a writers’ workshop teacher. The last blog was posted in September, so I don’t know whether this person is planning to continue; however, there are some ideas here about where to send high school students online for writing ideas.





If you are aware of other high school-level writing-related blogs, please let me know.

Article posted October 30, 2005 at 02:35 PM GMT0 • comment • Reads 157



Article posted October 27, 2005 at 12:47 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 46

Hi everyone,





First, I’d like to say how excited I am that we now have 11 classes signed up for Ontario Blogs. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions at any time, or to leave a comment for me about what kinds of resources/posts are most useful to you.





Those of you who now have blogs will notice an orange ‘RSS’ button near the top. If you’ve never heard of RSS before (as I hadn’t until August), fasten your seatbelts. I’m about to tell you about something that is being called as revolutionary as e-mail and has unlimited applications for you personally and in your classroom.





RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication, and it's a way to subscribe to various weblogs, news feeds, and other online information so that it all comes to you in one spot.





You use a free, online type of software called an aggregator (bloglines.com is a good example) that checks the 'feeds' you subscribe to and collects all the new content. Then when you're ready, you check the aggregator and choose what to do with the new stories (save for later, delete etc.) The key is you check only one site instead of many, and you're presented with only the information that is new to you.





It's great for keeping up to date with sites of personal interest, for research purposes and for quick and easy tracking of, for example, other participants in Ontario Blogs.





For a full explanation of RSS, how to set up your own feed, and how RSS can be used in the classroom, take a look at Will Richardson's "RSS: A quickstart guide for educators" at





[LINK]



Article posted October 27, 2005 at 12:47 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 46



Article posted October 22, 2005 at 01:09 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 40

Hi everyone,





You know it’s going to happen, don’t you? You’re going to talk passionately to your students about how blogs will give them a chance to explore their voices as writers and build a community of learners, and inevitably they will ask, "Are we going to be marked on this?"





At least, that’s how it was for elementary teacher Konrad Glogowski, who is also a PhD candidate at OISE. In his blog, there’s a thought-provoking entry about his students’ reaction when he introduced them to the exciting new world of blogging.





At first he was crushed by their focus on how they would be evaluated. He goes on to say:





"Here I was trying to do something new, to get away from the traditional approach to writing and literacy, and my students seemed to cling tenaciously to the old ways. Why? Why were they asking all these questions? Wasn’t it exciting to find out that you’re getting your own blog, that you’ll have more freedom as a writer?





"And then it hit me - we do this to them. They are asking these questions because this is what we do to kids - we train them to ask these questions. We make learning feel like deadlines and paragraphs and constant evaluation. In fact, most teachers think that kids who ask these questions are conscientious and diligent. This is the standard that we ourselves set and they learn it very well. They learn to follow our rules.





"The next day, I explained the concept of community- and knowledge-building. I avoided the issue of evaluation and deadlines. I wanted them to immerse themselves in writing and I knew - I had a hunch - that once the sense of community emerged, their questions about evaluation would stop.





"Well, of course they didn’t - not entirely. But most students found blogging engaging, interactive, and very rewarding. Many wrote more than they ever did before. They have learned a lot about writing, being a writer, about researching and meaning-making."





See the whole post, called 'Adopted Voices,' at

[LINK]

Article posted October 22, 2005 at 01:09 AM GMT0 • comment • Reads 40



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About the Blogger

I am a freelance writer and educator with a passion for reading and writing in all forms. I'm also the coordinator of Ontario Blogs.

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