As a technology mentor, we exert a tremendous amount of energy not only helping faculty and students learn the skills necessary to complete the current projects, but we also devote time to seeding faculty with new ideas and approaches that we know will help them accomplish their educational goals. More recently, these approaches and ideas include the incorporation of of a variety of Web 2.0 tools including wikis, blogs, podcasts which enable faculty and students the opportunities to share with a larger audience.
Earlier in the year, I helped one of our French teachers, Beatrice McKenna (firstname.lastname@example.org), and her students
set up a class blogs. I cannot claim much credit for her willingness to adopt this solution, other than a willingness at our school to experiment and implement new web based tools. Last year, she began to play with Gabcast with students phoning as a way to get more student oral work accomplished throughout the year.
Late last week, I received and email from Beatrice. Here is an excerpt from the email:
You asked about the blogs the other day, and after parent-teacher conferences I thought I should get back to you in more detail – the reason being that many parents mentioned how much their children enjoy their French blogs! Since it’s my first time doing it I didn’t really know how it was going to turn out, but after being up and running with it for 4 weeks now, it really has proven to be a positive experience. So I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet because the students are the ones doing the work, but here are a few things you could mention if you ever want to use them as an example of how we integrate technology in the classroom:
- In French 2 we started using the blogs as a way to replace the traditionally notebook based journal entries. Students post a blog entry every week.
- The blogs provide an extension of our French immersion environment. Students are not allowed to post in English. Initially, I allow the interface to be in English for setting up purposes (blogging is new to them and the setting up takes a little bit of trial and error which would be too lengthy in English only). Next week, we are switching the interface to French for a completely French environment. The idea is that their French skills are naturally expanded every time they use their blog as they navigate a totally French virtual environment.
- The blogs provide an interactive environment. Each student’s blog is linked with all of his/her other classmates’ blogs (and mine), and students can either post on their blogs or they can read and respond to their classmates’ posts, depending on the assignment. So the blogs offer a great opportunity for collaboration and peer review on our writing work which wasn’t there before with the traditional journals. The fact that everyone else in the class can look at the blogs is also an incentive for students to post quality work.
- The blogs are easily used as an extension of class activities. Students can use them to upload any work they want to share (projects etc …) without having to save their work on an external drive, so all their work is easily stored and accessible from their blog. We can post links to YouTube for songs, set up feeds with French sites for news and educational/cultural material etc …
- The blogs provide an environment that the students are right at home within – it fits their own world where many things happen electronically and they respond to it with great enthusiasm. Actually, they are the ones driving it and they are proud of their own French space as well as eager to share it. Many take it to the next level, uploading extra information they want to share with pictures or animes etc … A couple of parents told me that they do not allow their child to have a Facebook account, so their blog is their outlet into the world of virtual communication … only in French!
While Beatrice is not willing to “blow her own trumpet”, I am more than willing to do so. You can access the complete set of Beatrice’s French 2 class on one of my public NetVibes pages (www.netvibes.com/vvrotny#US_French_2) if you are interested.
As technology directors, we have to allow for inspiration and growth and it often comes at us in unexpected ways.