Digging Deeper – How to Introduce Blog Commenting

How to Develop Blog Writing: Brainstorm Session

Sometimes our questions may be “how do we start our classes blogging past the basics?”.  Here is one way that may help to introduce the students to the idea of commenting.  (We did this at our recent SCIT gathering.) This starts in the classroom with good questions.

  1. Record some questions or statements on slips of paper.  Give the students, scratch pads of paper (I use recycled paper from the recycle bin) that they can scribble thoughts/comments.   (*Using small scraps of paper help those students who may not enjoy writing or have difficulties with writing.)
  2. Read the questions aloud; then tape them up on the walls around the classroom.
  3. Have the students do a GALLERY WALK to read the questions and discuss some that interested them enough to comment.  They do not have to comment on every question.
  4. Students record their comments on the strips of paper and tape it under the questions.

Building Criteria and Chances to ‘Redo’

(This is an opportunity to include collaboratively built criteria and engage in self assessment.)

  1. As a class, brainstorm what elements would have to be included to create a comment that is detailed enough for others to understand.  (*Writing is all about communication.) 
  2. Use Inspiration program and a Brightlinks/Smartboard (if you have access) to take the notes.  The tool – Rapid Fire within Inspiration can aid in the interactive process.  (Invite students to articulate their thinking.)
  3. Use colour coding to group thinking.
  4. Have students return to the wall questions and select one-two comments that they wish to add more details/change/edit…  Students use a different coloured pen or marker to add/change/edit/re-write.  They may wish to refer to the brainstorm web.  (They may also wish to ask a ‘walk-about partner’ for help in adding vocabulary to make it clearer.)  Repost these onto the wall as examples.  The use of colours clearly separates “off the top of head” writing and writing that is expanded.
  5. Discuss how this is like blog commenting – developing written or even oral comments that is clear and detailed takes practice.   If the questions allow for further deepening, have students research or find other texts that support their comment.
  6. Reflect how using a criteria helps with the end result.
Capturing the flow of learning for web retrieval or for students who were away: 

  • Using the Brightlinks or Smartboard, one can mark the screen, use the camera tool to capture it (jpg) and upload to your blog.
  • If you don’t have an interactive projector, simply use a digital camera and upload the jpg image to your blog.


Connecting Journey

Questions to consider in the connecting process:

  1. How does the tool support or enhance the learning process?
  2. How does it meet the needs of all learners?  (Think about your class.)
  3. How do you plan to address the management of technology in your teaching environment?

Cultivating Conversation – Spoken Ink

Moving from the last post on Reimagining Conversation, I wanted to dig deeper into the importance of oral language as foundational to literacy development. We are creatures of connection and we use language to communicate our needs, ideas, feelings and discoveries.  The abilities to express ourselves grow over time and practice…lots of practice.  Yes, I know you’ve met those who seem to have an incredible command of spoken language.  But for most of us, it is through practice that we become comfortable with organizing our thoughts and articulating it in such a way that lead to understandings.

The “art of speaking and listening”  plays a critical role in the development of writing and reading skills.   How do we effectively provide the experiences and practices needed to truly strengthen this area?  One obvious way is to use technology as a vehicle.  The key would be to find a way to “say what we want to say, then freeze that in some way in order to reflect upon it, then change/recreate it to give it deeper meaning”.   So we’re after a device that will ‘record and freeze words in time’…hence “spoken ink”.  Using technology, we have many options that offer not only engagement but flexibility.  Consider the following as starting points for rethinking what we currently do.

Talking avatars:  These are online and definitely engaging (visually, kinesthetically, musically, linguistically) and can easily be embedded in blogs and wikis.  Further, avatars take the place of students and thus for the very shy student this is a definite plus.  BlabberizeVoki, and Build Your Wild Self  are sites that you can create or upload images and use them as voice recorders. Some of our teachers are already using them to share their weekly vocabulary content.

Online Sound Recorders:  Vocaroo (simple),  AudioBoo,  Aviary’s Myna (audio editor like Audacity) are available audio recorders.

On the Computer:

  • Photostory – this free software can be downloaded at home. You will need to upload an image but all recordings can be edited and re-edited.  As well, background music can be created and inserted.
  • Audacity – this free tool has an extremely flexible sound editor for those higher end editing needs.
  • Windows Sound Recorder (in Accessories > Entertainment) – this is a basic sound recorder that anyone can use to save short recordings.

How would I use this?

  • Create one classroom account so all students have access. This makes life easier for you to manage the content.
  • Build an activity that arises out of your content area, something the students can really sink their teeth… (eg. something important to share,  something controversial that needs some research … discoveries or important learnings of the week?)
  • Use partner talk to expand/clarify missing details; record ideas using a graphic organizer (eg. Inspiration); practice and practice;  record and post to the world; self assess according to a criteria (and redo).  (*Nothing like having an authentic audience to encourage “redo”.)
  • Inform other teachers or other professionals  (depending on your topic) or students to comment on student recordings.

Assessment – Critical to Knowing?
Consider using the performance standards for oral language to help students reflect upon their learning. Criteria that is clearly outlined and anchored with examples go a long way in supporting students  to identify what to do next.
Click here to download.

What tools are you using or how are you facilitating opportunities for practice in oral language?  Please offer your comments or suggestions.

Epson Brightlink – Interactive Projector – What do YOU think?

There is no doubt, that when we are delivering digital content, a projector is a must! Once our content is delivered digitally, we can incorporate rich media, photos and imagery, and internet-based content quite easily. So when I look at this, I break it down into 2 pieces:

1. Where are you on your journey in moving content/instruction and teaching/learning in the digital realm?
2. What hardware/software will cost-effectively support this?

So if we are committed and have placed an investment in the journey and growth, what hardware/software could support seamless integration? What could this look like?
– a mounted projector?
– some interactive technology with the projector like a SmartBoard or Tablet?

I am presenting the Epson Brightlink Interactive projector, not as a promotional ad for it, but just an informative piece on it.

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So what? I want to hear what you think about this. Tablets, projectors, and SmartBoards…these are big-ticket items. Why not just a laptop or pc and a projector?  Why interactive?  Why is annotating or writing on the screen essential?  How are we using them now? How should we be using them? Post your comments on our blog below.