Back in the Classroom

After working for five years as a district-level technology facilitator, I am now returning to the classroom. It's my goal to make my 5th grade class a model for how technology can be powerfully integrated into instruction and learning. Join my students and me on the journey! It's sure to be bumpy, but exciting...

Location: Schaumburg, Illinois, United States

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Call for Help to the Blogosphere

On Monday, November 13th I'm making a presentation to my district's Software Review Committee in defense of blogging technology. Currently all blog sites, including those specifically created for the educational community, are blocked by our filters. I will speak about my goals for blogging which include wanting a place for my students to publish and get feedback on: reflections, writing pieces in progress, and independent research. I will also go over how blogging fits with the Illinois State Standards, NETS standards , 21st Century Skills and our District Technology Plan goals. The goals and the educational rationale are easy to cover. What's difficult to explain is the way blogs create communities of learners; it's a community that I'm seeking for my students. I believe children deserve a true audience for their written thoughts and ideas. I also believe that people do their best work when they have the opportunity to share ideas with multiple people who have similar interests.

The purpose of this post is to ask the Blogosphere to help demonstrate HOW blogging creates a community of learners. I'm asking that people who share my passion for educational technology comment on behalf of blogging. What are examples great classroom blogs? What are the observed benefits of student blogging? Why is blogging an example of powerful learning rather than "technology fluff"? Please add your voices to mine so that I can show the power of blogs in education!


Blogger Kymberli Mulford said...

Student blogging has immense potential and is being used around the world in remarkable ways. Here is one example:

"...Blogging has been brought into the classroom at St Ives school in Haslemere, Surrey. Each student in year 6 has their own blog in a secure, walled setting using Elgg software. Deputy head and information systems manager Miles Berry explains: 'We wanted students to learn how to express their views, and it's been a success. We also wanted them to develop an acceptance of other's contributions, to appreciate others' perspectives. They are learning and being inspired by each other's writing in a far more immediate way than if we just stuck their work on the wall.'..."

Education World ran an article two years ago about the power of this tool in the elementary classroom:
"Blogging -- or Web logging -- most often is thought of as an activity for high school students. Did you know, however, that students as young as kindergarten now blog on a daily basis in a variety of exciting ways? ...Blogging in the elementary grades is an exciting and doable activity."

As a colleague of Tracy's, I share her passion for opening the doors to the potential of Web 2.0 tools for students. There are numerous blogging tools available that safeguard students and allow for complete teacher control over all postings. Most blogging sites also allow teachers to create "closed environments," where only invited readers can see postings.

Part of our responsibility as educators today is to teach students to ETHICALLY use the technologies that they are already exposed to in their hours outside of school. This can be best done if those tools are available to us in the classroom.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 6:32:00 AM  
Blogger said... has lots of resources that you might find useful.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 8:52:00 AM  
Blogger Anne Davis said...

Hi Tracy,
I wish you the best as you present to your committee. I have prepared a post with concrete examples that will help demonstate the value of blogging with young students. See it at

Also, take a look at my wiki on Safe and Responsible blogging at:

If I can be of further help please contact me:

Anne Davis

Thursday, November 02, 2006 9:57:00 AM  
Blogger Karl Fisch said...

In addition to the educational reasons you state above, I think it’s also important to talk about teaching our students how to be safe and responsible users of these new tools. It’s the old argument about learning about something in school versus learning about something on the (cyber)street. You teach fifth graders, so presumably they will soon be going off to middle school/junior high and then on to high school – where they will be using these tools. Even if they are blocked from using them at school, they will use them at home. Even if they are blocked or monitored at home, they will use them at the public library or a friend’s house. Even if they are blocked or monitored there, they will use them from their cell phones. Do we want to block blogs and other social networking sites and pretend that that protects our students, or should we instead teach them how to use them safely, responsibly and productively? Obviously I believe the latter. Not everyone will agree – but I still think it’s imperative you have that conversation. This is a conversation that needs to occur no matter what the final outcome is, just to educate everyone – including staff, parents and students – about both the good and the not-so-good side of these new tools.

As far as successful examples of blogging, there are a ton out there, but let me throw a few more in from my school (where we’re just getting started).

- How about the Biology class that is blogging about genetics, and the teacher invited in the parents to “observe” on the web – and participate if they want to? (

- How about the Assistant Principal who stops me in the hall last spring and said, “I just observed one of your teachers ( [“your” meaning in my staff development], and I saw something I’ve never seen before. She got to the end of the class and a student said, ‘We’re not done talking about this. Can you post it on the blog so we can continue the discussion?’ I’ve never, ever heard students ask for homework before.” And there were 72 comments by the next morning?

- How about the Social Studies class that blogs about lots of different topics in their curriculum, but also about topics like What do grades mean and are they helpful?

- How about the Language Arts class that has a fishbowl discussion (, with the inner circle talking and the outer circle live blogging – and somebody from the University of Delaware is “watching” it live on the web? ( and

- How about the Government class that had over 200 comments on two posts that were optional? (

- How about the Language Arts class that recorded “This I Believe” podcasts, posted them on the class blog, and had a comment from New Zealand by the next morning. (

- How about students commenting so many times on a non-class blog about using laptops ( that we had to create a new post? (

- How about the 12th grade Language Arts class in Colorado that will be blogging with a 12th grade class in Alabama (once they are reading the same or similar novels at the same time)? (

All of these are communities – communities of learners. They are students who are engaged in and care about their world – and blogging allows them to participate in the conversation in ways that just aren’t possible in the limited class time we have. It allows their voices and ideas to be heard – by their peers and by others around the world – and for them to hear other voices and ideas. They learn from each other. And these are all examples from the first year of blogging in our school, where we are still trying to figure out the best ways to do this, and haven’t yet actively sought out others around the world. Students going above and beyond the requirements, students taking an active role in their own learning, students sharing their thoughts and ideas and listening to others’ thoughts and ideas – this is not fluff, it’s powerful learning. And these are critical skills for them to have in order to be successful learning, working and living in the 21st century.

Thursday, November 02, 2006 7:28:00 PM  
Blogger The kids in room 35 said...

The following websites contain information that will be useful to you.
There are fabulous examples of the uses and benefits of blogs in education at this website:

Sunday, November 05, 2006 9:51:00 AM  
Blogger The kids in room 35 said...

There are fabulous examples of the uses and benefits of blogs in education at this website:

Sunday, November 05, 2006 9:52:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy Fowler said...

The amount of information submitted is wonderful! I love this community. Hopefully, after Monday afternoon, everyone in the software review committee will understand the value of blogs. Thanks to all of you who took time out of your day (and nights!) to post!

Saturday, November 11, 2006 7:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Ahlness said...

I'm a third grade teacher in Seattle, Washington. - blogging with my third graders again this year at The community of learners that developed last year - and that is developing now with a new class - is unlike anything I have ever seen in the classroom. I've been using computers in my classroom for over a dozen years. I am in my 26th year as a classroom teacher. I have never seen anything come along to motivate student writing like blogging does - it's not even close.

Students write from home. They stay in at recess to write - yes, even the boys! They read the writing of others from different parts of the world. They exchange ideas with students and adults from different cultures. Third graders.

Would this be possible without blogs? Maybe - but certainly not with the immediacy, frequency, and voice that this medium provides. It is the medium students choose to use today. If we teachers do not guide these young learners along the way in this medium, teaching as we go - about safety, ethics, community, academic content - well, then I believe we are doing them a disservice.

My third graders from last year wrote some incredible pieces. Some of their writing was about blogging. I encourage the reading of The Class of 2015, from my own blog, where I quote and link to their articles (their writing is all still there, of course).

I would also encourage the reading of a series of posts I wrote about blogging with my third graders:

Blogging through the school year, part 1

Blogging through the school year, part 2

Blogging through the school year, part 3

Please remember that every single word that appeared on these student blogs (including all the comments) was approved by me, before it appeared there.

Finally, in order for this new community of learners to exist at all, teachers in school districts need to have access to these writings, to the blogs of educators who are helping to build it now.

Tracy, good luck. See you out there - Mark

Mark Ahlness

Sunday, November 12, 2006 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Dean Shareski said...

Blocking is done to protect schools, teachers and districts...not kids. If we were really interested in protecting students, we'd be teaching them not simply isolating them from issues they experience the second they leave the school grounds.

Blogging is all about reading. It's about connecting. We can choose to create a school where learning only occurs inside the four walls of the classroom, or provide students with the opportunity to stretch learning beyond. If we continue to block and filter we need to abandon the phrase "lifelong learning". Let's instead be content to teaching students about a world that doesn't exist. A world where we are protected from potential danger. I would argue that more students have been hurt by their time spent in school athletics than any danger the internet has ever brought simply by blogging.

In all of the predator cases, students responded to the predator. Let's have these conversations with our students. We are obligated to do so.

As long as districts are more interested in protecting themselves, it's always easier to block than to teach.

Sunday, November 12, 2006 5:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Darren Kuropatwa said...

Tracy, I just found your blog and "call for help." It's late and I should really be in bed but I wanted to add something to the resources you've already collected here in the way of some links.

I expect my senior math students to write the textbook for the course, not read it. You can read about it here on my blog. They do this on a blog. That post is a year old ... the practice has evolved way beyond even that.

You can read how my classes have evolved in their use of blogs and other web 2.0 tools in our learning here. Mind you, that's from June ... things have changed. ;-)

The best stuff is from the kids own mouths. Read the comments on this post and this one. And finally, here is a podcast where my kids talk about The Scribe Post Hall Of Fame ... listen for it, one of them says that "the ordinary in this class is extraordinary" ... all because of blogging.

There's so much more and so little time and you've already collected some fatastic resources from the other edubloggers that dropped in before me. I wish I could be there with you tomorrow or at least in the audience for support ... in my own way, I will be. ;-)

Good Night and Good Luck! ;-)

Monday, November 13, 2006 1:42:00 AM  
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Blogger Monica Edinger said...

Hi Tracy,

I'm relatively new to all this, but am having a blast blogging with my fourth graders. They each have their own blogs and they are really turning into electronic portfolios and much more. The class blog (with kids' blogs on the right side bar) is

I've also been posting about all of it at my blog educating alice ( under the tag Teaching with Blogs.

Sunday, March 04, 2007 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger nicole said...

As a college student preparing to teach, reviewing teacher blogs has been an invaluable way to gain insight into the profession. Blogs serve as a medium for teaching professionals to exchange ideas and build community. As a student myself, blogging has allowed for extensive introspection and reading about other phenomenal teacher's thoughts has been immensely motivating and inspirational. I have full faith in the ability of blogs to help students grow in communication skills, technological adeptness, intrapersonal skills and learning skills. This technology is the future and we are teaching for the future, shouldn't the two go hand in hand?

Monday, November 03, 2008 12:29:00 PM  

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