Dividends on an Investment.

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

"GotCredit" by Invest
“GotCredit” by Invest

When I first started out on this COETAIL journey, I was seeking enrichment.  I wanted to invest in my own learning, I wanted to invest in myself.  Was I worried about finding the time? Of course.  Every COETAILer will tell you that working through the courses is time-consuming, all great learning is.  How we spend our time matters.  What we make time for communicates our values.  As a teacher, I must make time for learning.  As a learner, I must make time for disruption. 

 

Throughout my own bloggings during COETAIL, I was able to reflect on the ways I have shaped blogging in my classroom.  When I first started blogging with students six years ago, it looked much different.  It was messier, I was experimenting.  Today, I’m still experimenting.  If I want the blogging culture to be relevant, it has to keep that experimental vibe.  This leads me to one of my biggest take-aways from this final COETAIL project:

Blogging must fit your specific context.

Every class, cohort, school is different.  Honor that.  When I first joined my current school, blogging as a habit–as a network, wasn’t a thing.  I had moved from a school with established blogging, and bubbling bloggers to an environment which was much more conservative.  Change needs to happen slower in conservative schools.  But conservative schools also need risks to be taken, and examples to be provided.  If you are going to be that risk-taker, you need to have a thick skin.  But hey, don’t all educators need to have a thick skin? If we want students to take risks, it is nice if they see teachers doing the same.

Sadhinota 26/40 by Shumona Sharna
Sadhinota 26/40 by
Shumona Sharna

It took almost a year to have the blogs in a place where the momentum was pushing ahead.  At the end of my first year, I shared the progress at a full staff meeting, where different departments were asked to highlight specific achievements made under the theme of ‘technology.’  Here is the video I shared:

Essentially, I wanted to rebrand the blogs as a space for collaboration.  Blogging isn’t solely about the tech.  Blogging is about the community, the creativity, and the many, many skills that go into braving the act of learning in the open.

As I neared the final course for COETAIL, I knew I wanted that time investment to be about student ‘thought-leadership.’  In order to have the blogs empower student ownership and voice, choice was going to have to be at the core of the routine.  I also knew that in order to make this pivot palatable, the blogs would also need to reflect ‘academic’ outcomes.  In the MYP Language and Literature course, there is a specific assessment target which highlights ‘production of text.’  I developed ‘Semester at C’  as a way to target Criterion C, and invest more classroom time in blogging.  I introduced this new wave in blogging to my students in a similar way that COETAIL mapped out the course for us.  Students were asked to track their posts, use the menu–or go out on their own.  They were also asked to leave comments on a set number of other posts.  The most important tool in this step?  Time.  Without providing time at this stage, it would not have worked.  Did I have to sacrifice other aspects of my course?  But do I have many dividends to point to now?  Absolutely.  Do students engage willingly and enthusiastically in writing? Yes.  Do students feel more confident taking creative risks? Yes.  Are students forming networks, and building community? Again, Yes.

 

So what were my specific targets for my final project?

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 19.03.21

A way of rephrasing those goals is to say that I wanted students to feel intrinsically motivate to blog.  I wanted students to invest in their own ideas through blogging.  In attempting to do this, I learned even more about the power of audience.  This is something Kim Cofino recently blogged about here.

I love this TEDx which takes that sentiment further:
  Weeks from now, I’ll still be thinking about this take-away:

How do you galvanize your creators and your audience?

If I could go back and do any one thing differently, I would have put more time investing in our potential audience.  I think a great step forward for schools new to student blogging is to recruit readers.  What if I had asked a set of parents, teachers, and administrators to sign up earlier to leave at least one comment a week? 

I did send individual posts to targeted readers, and almost every time, the teacher I asked to leave a comment did.  Comments matter to students.  Nothing motivates student writers in the making more than the feedback of their community.  And as a community of learners, there is a moral obligation to be a community of idea sharers.  I think this post from @langwitches sums that up even better.


An indicator of success in meeting my goals is that students have moved past my menu of blogging prompts, and are now opting to come up with their own.  The key redefinition is that they are now writing for students beyond the boundaries of our campus.  As a month long initiative that I promoted via Twitter using #March2C, I managed to connect with two teachers in Abu Dhabi (thank you: Mary Lawson and  Matt McGrady!!!) and our students commented on one another’s posts which are still gathering here.

When my grade 9 students served as ‘mentor bloggers’ connecting with those 6th grade bloggers in Abu Dhabi, their comments demonstrated a level of what I’ll call empathetic engagement, have a look:

A sample comment from one of my 9th grade students connecting with a 6th grader in Abu Dhabi
A sample comment from one of my 9th grade students connecting with a 6th grader in Abu Dhabi

Encourage students to target a specific audience.

The reality is, our bloggers are not ‘writing for the world.’  This doesn’t mean they can’t target specific readers far and wide.  When one 9th grade student did write a post inspired by best selling author, Austin Kleon, it is certainly a redefining moment when he takes a moment to appreciate her work:

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 12.55.29

While time and resilience are essential tools in building better blogging communities, there are also practical (clickable) helpers too:

Resources / Materials:

DESIGN

BLOGGING

INSPIRATION

PERSPIRATION:  tools to allow your blog to launch

 

For a full look at my UBD unit planner, click here.

Without further ado, here is my final COETAIL Course Five Project.  All photos/videos are my own, the music is Creative Commons, as cited at the end of the video, but if you would also like to use “Dig the Uke” by Stefan Kartenberg via ccMixter in your own video, here is where to find it.  Thank you to those of you taking the time reading this, and watching my ten minute recap.  If you are passionate about student blogging, and you’d like to connect to talk about future blogging projects, please do connect with me on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you!

As I prepare to publish this post, I’m wondering what COETAIL could do to set up a COETAIL jr program for students…if you have thoughts on that, please leave them in the comment section below.

  Thanks again to Flickr for providing the following amazing images used in this post:

Got Credit by Invest

Sadhinota 26/40 by
Shumona Sharna

Three teachers: Five Thoughts

For my final project, I tapped the shoulders of two of my favorite online colleagues:  Uzay and Michelle.  Uzay is a brilliant DP teacher in Singapore, and Michelle is an incredibly gifted DP teacher in New Jersey.  Between the three of us, we span three continents.  We’ve been connecting through Twitter for the past three years, and I am a better teacher for it.  I recently posted about the influence they have had on my teaching as a reflective ‘Teacher Appreciation’ e-nod to the many educators out there kind enough to share.

Through Google Docs, Twitter, and Facebook, we discussed the direct implications our IBDP subject Language and Literature has for unpacking digital citizenship.  While many schools have policies in place, the reality is, unless classroom teachers make direct connections for their subjects and their students, the policy will remain unread.  Students aren’t interested in policy.  Our job is to make the right values come to life through our planning, presentation, and modeling.

This is something Michelle, Uzay, and many risk-taking teachers do on the daily. We do everything we can to offer our students creative ways to engage in collaborative activities.  We see developing a community of writers and readers as an opportunity.  Ultimately, if we see our students as ‘makers,’ and we enable them to build and show their ideas, we also must teach them to do it ethically.  How did my grade 9 class remix Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” this week? Take a look at their unique approach to building their own resource.

The best way to learn about digital citizenship is by experimenting as a creative learner out there online.  Learning about the ways ideas build on one another means you must engage in the process of creating.

Thank you again to Michelle and Uzay for their insight and their encouragement.

Without further ado, I present:  Five things the #langNlit teacher can do to level up on digital citizenship:
Check out How to Inspire Digital Citizenship in the Classroom. by Tricia Friedman on Snapguide.

 

Photo by Tricia Friedman
Photo by Tricia Friedman