Sunday, April 13, 2008

Blogs for Professional Development

Blog Posting # 10
After much thought and deliberation on which of the fascinating Web 2.0 tools would be most beneficial to introduce to my staff I have chosen the first and last one that this class introduced me too-Blogs!
There is a substantial reason for my choice; I think that blogs and blogging have the potential to enhance learning and incorporate reflection; also you can literally create links to ALL of the web 2.0 tools we have learned throughout EDES 545! For example blogs can contain links to wikis, photo sharing (Flickr), podcasts, multimedia sharing sites, virtual reading (including virtual books), voice threads, social networking sites. So, because of these potentials, it seems to me that blogs would be best web 2.0 choice to introduce to my staff!
Most of us are aware that this “Information Age” we are living in requires us to be more information literate than ever before. We are living and teaching in a new and complex generation in which technology plays the leading role. We, as teacher-librarians need to instill information literacy skills in our students to prepare them for their futures in this world. When questioned about how Web 2.0 tools, like blogs, can help with the teaching of information or literacy skills Joyce Valenza responded that they allow students and teachers to “... record, manage and reflect on major research projects. These make the chaotic process more transparent and more interactive. They allow teacher, librarian, mentor, and peer intervention. They can also prevent research disasters.” I agree that web 2.0 tools, specifically blogs, can make learning way more interactive. Francis Harris suggests that blogs can transmit a sense of voice and personality. She introduces us to an example of this transmission with Northfield Mount Hermon’s School library blog site. The website contains blog entries and pictures of students in the library doing various activities. It really does transcribe a feeling in users as they read the blog entries and look at weekly “library lounge lizards.” This site is a good example of one of the many benefit class blogs could provide. Harris also reminds us that blogs are great tools for “self-expression, communication and information exchange.” These are three very important factors in my desire to push for the integration of this web 2.0 tool.
I also think that reflection plays a major role in good teaching and learning practices. I would like to remind my staff that through reflection, they themselves have likely come a long way in their profession. Introducing blogs to their classrooms could allow teachers to reflect on their own, and their student’s ideas, suggestions and opinions. Blogs are essentially electronic journals, and journals have a use in mostly every classroom I have ever been in.
As well as creating their own blogs for classroom and personal use, teachers and students can learn how to use educational blogs for professional development. In initiating my proposal to introduce blogs I would showcase some of the professional blogs I have come across. There are many educational blogs that I would introduce and stress that could be beneficial to learning for both students and teachers. Joyce Valenza has a “NeverEndingSearchBlog” that is an incredible resource for teachers and administrative staff. The TL-DL Blog that we were introduced to through EDES 545 is another great example of a blog I have used for professional development. There are also many educational blogs for students to discover and be able to comment on. They include KW Zone (Kids World Zone), which is a fantastic site for kids to discover blogging. This site is not purely educational, but it definitely has the potential to get kids excited about blogging. Also 21Classes is a great student-centered resource for educational blogs. Most of these blog sites are free; you simply have to register to become a member. Therefore another great reason to incorporate this learning tool is that it is cost effective. This would also appeal to administration who may present a challenge in the implementation of this tool if it was to be costly!!
I also think that blogs are a great introductory web 2.0 tool for teachers because of their potential in the future integration of more of the web 2.0 tools. As I mentioned earlier, all of the other 2.0 tools that are beneficial in the classroom (wikis, podcasts, and multi-media sharing sites) could later be integrated to classroom or individual blogs. In EDES 545 we were first introduced to blogs and then step-by-step we integrated other web 2.0 tools into them. By the end of the semester we had created blogs that looked professional and would be great learning tools for others. So I think that this same idea would work with my staff. I would share my idea that teachers could firstly introduce their students to a simple blog site like The teacher could have previously set up their own blog to get students interested in blogging and then have their students each create their own. Once students were comfortable with the blogging tool, the teacher could incorporate another web 2.0 tool like a wiki. Teachers could lead by example and slowly build up these tools along with their students to eventually integrate many web 2.0 tools. I think this would also be a great idea for a teacher workshop. If I had the time and administrative support I could introduce teachers to one web 2.0 tool at a time, all through our blogs, and they would learn of the benefits to their classrooms by actually using the tool. I could also use an aggregator to link together some of my favorite blogs so that teachers would realize that blogs were also great social networking tools. An aggregator would also make it possible to connect all of the individual student blogs to a central class blog or school blog…I don’t know anybody that wouldn’t be impressed by that!
I think that it is important to create something impressive so that you could capture teacher’s attention immediately. For example I would create a library blog site and send the link to teachers so they could learn about new resources in the library, author’s visits, collaborative schedules etc. This would likely capture teacher interest in this teaching tool by showing them some of its benefits. One of the first teaching techniques I ever learned about successful teaching was to begin every new unit with an attention grabber!!!
I understand that one of the challenges in incorporating this tool includes some teachers being uncomfortable with the thought of incorporating technology into their classrooms. Many teachers, including myself several months ago, may be fearful of integrating tools they know nothing about. Maybe they cannot figure out their DVD player at home and so cannot even imagine technology as having a place in their classrooms. I would encourage these teachers to give blogs a try by introducing simple techniques to get them started. If they did not feel overwhelmed they may become more open-minded about this great tool. . “Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts…Oh my” would be a great introductory video to introduce staff to blogs as a web 2.0 tool. The video discusses that blogs are one of the tools that can be very beneficial to learning because “students respond to technology more quickly than they respond to pen and pencil.” I think it is important to remind teachers that these web 2.0 tools are not only beneficial teaching tools, but they really do help students learn better. I also discovered a great web link called “The Year of the Blog…” which gives teachers great ideas for introducing blogs to their classrooms. I would definitely incorporate this site in my push for reluctant staff to integrate this great web 2.0 tool. “Using Blogs in the Classroom” is also a great video on YouTube because it interviews real teachers on why blogs are beneficial in the classroom. I wouldn’t use this specific video as an introductory video to blogging, but it does state some incredible benefits of blogs in the classroom from a teacher’s perspective. The video also addresses the importance of blogs in allowing teachers to “live something from a student’s perspective.” I think blogging is an incredible way for students to be able to voice their perspectives. Teachers can gain valuable insight into their student’s perspectives by reading their blogs.
So, I think I have created a sense of what I would do to integrate blogs as a Web 2.0 tool to introduce to my staff. I have mentioned several articles, websites and videos that would aid in my journey to do this and I have also discussed the importance of blogs in professional development for teachers and students. I have included ways to motivate reluctant teachers and also a bigger plan for the future of my technical integration. I have also addresses potential challenges in the integration of this web 2.0 tool. Let’s take this blog and implement it!

No comments: