Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blogging: "Play The Whole Game"

Recently, I have been reading interesting articles from MindShift on visions of educational technology and thinking about the new BCEDPLAN's emphasis on digital literacy. The following quote from  Three Competing Visions Of Educational Technology refers to playing the whole game when integrating technology in a meaningful way. As we finish our second school wide write I contemplated what playing the whole game looks like in my class, and in particular as it pertains to writing.

Three competing visions of educational technology. Which is yours?

"Used well, the computer extends the breadth, depth and complexity of potential projects. This in turn affords kids with the opportunity to, in the words of David Perkins, “play the whole game.” Thanks to the computer, children today have the opportunity to be mathematicians, novelists, engineers, composers, geneticists, composers, filmmakers, etc… But, only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative." 
 I have been trying to empower students with the new competencies we are moving to in our quest for digital literacy.  Our iPads and computers are important tools in our daily learning. We use them to create movies, ebooks, and to share our work. We work in partners and teams and collaborate with students in other schools with Skype. Working together to understand, create and solve gives us purpose, guides our learning and teaches respect...but has it enhanced our learning? Has it done more than motivate and engage us? Is "playing the whole game" important to student achievement?

One of our school goals is writing. We are using school wide writes to assess student progress in this area. Our first write was in October. We had another in January and will write again in term three. Since October, we have blogged extensively, created ebooks, and are about to embark on writing and producing movies as part of our study on First Nations legends.  I am looking for validation that the time spent daily on blogging and creating books was time well invested prior to proceeding with new unit plans. I reviewed our writing progress using the two writing samples and this is what I learned.


• Students are writing more - especially my lower students. In October student writing ranged from several sentences to a page in length. In January, most were writing three to four pages.  
• Their writing is more fluent. They are more focused and have a better sense of what they are trying to accomplish, or what their story is about.  Now they have a beginning or starting point and a sense of direction while they write. They focus on the story and follow a logical path from introduction to end, with less repetition and are not adding irrelevant information.
• They are less focused on "video game" writing. Fewer students are caught up in writing about fighting with little regard to story or character.
• They are starting to add their own "voice" and making an effort to engage the reader rather than simply listing a series of events.
• They are starting to use conversation, vary their sentence structure, and more detail to explain and add interest.

Areas needing focused support. Now that we are writing more we will focus more on editing.

• Sentence structure. Although they are writing more and trying out new ways to engage the reader, many still have run on and incomplete sentences. They need to work on editing their writing to add the punctuation after they get their ideas down.  As we write our legends we will work on peer editing. Scripting their legends for their videos will help with conversation and focus them on setting and character development.
• Organization - We have not yet spent time on paragraphs as our writing was too brief. Now that we are becoming more fluent we can organize our writing into paragraphs. We will work on this through a research project, and in our daily blogging. We will use subtopics to research owls and to separate scenes for their movies.
• purpose - As we  continue to work on our blogs and use our sites we will focus on the reasons we are writing or presenting. We will work on combining information, sorting out the relevant, and ensuring that what we write is important to our purpose. We will continue to work on commenting and discussing other blogs with each other.


Overall, I was very impressed with the progress we have made. I think that blogging has given students both opportunity and a purpose to write (to play the whole game). This has resulted  in increased confidence and direction. They enjoy writing now and often add more as they blog. We always write rough drafts in our journals first and then move online and I think this has made students more willing to edit and add "more" as they write. Having time to re-read their drafts as they blog gives them the opportunity to enhance their writing.  Having their own sites and blogs gives them the audience and purpose to enjoy writing. They often ask to add more or write extra blogs. They are choosing to write from home now and to add extra blogs if they are finished early.

At our last diner series we talked about giving students authentic work to inspire and motivate them. For us it is our blogs. There is a sense of purpose during class time and students are acquiring a sense of independence. They work at their own rate now. This provides the opportunity to individualize projects to fit student abilities.   They use the iPads to upload their artwork and help each other when problems arise. 

As we research and making movies I expect we will develop an even deeper understanding of story and our voices will become stronger. This was my experience last year and I am confident we are on track to do so again this year. Students will have another choice in how to present their writing  and become better at collaborators. 

As I look at these results with an eye on the new draft competencies from the BCEDPLAN I feel that we are headed in the right direction.
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking and innovation
  • Personal responsibility and well being
  • Social responsibility

Playing the whole game has promoted social responsibility in class. It has helped students to self-regulate as they become responsible for their own work, and for their part in group projects. During blog time they are often all in different stages of publishing and this required them to take charge of their time and work independently. Some will be drafting while others are illustrating or working online. Students need to rely on each other for technical support and often work at home. They move from one task to the next and are comfortable working together to accomplish tasks. They have learned to appreciate the strengths of classmates, ask each other for support, and provide the same to others.

My next quest is to find new ways to assess, self assess, and peer assess student work. Langwiches blog discusses this and offers an assessment rubric for blogs. This will be a starting point for me to begin creating class rubrics with students. 

Assessment in the Modern Classroom: Part Three- Blog Writing

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