Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jump In and See What Happens!

In early April, inspired by this Div1Edtech in EPSB blog post we, Caroline and Marge, decided to jump in and try Kidblog with our respective grade 1 and 3 students.

Our setting is unique, as all of our division one students are distance learners, online.  Our students are spread across Alberta and around the globe. We connect in real time with our class each week through an online collaboration tool called, Blackboard Collaborate and instruct our students asynchronously  through a learning platform called Moodle.

Getting Started with Kidblog - Things We Learned

We  purchased a premium membership as this enabled our students to use their Schoolzone and Google account passwords to log on. No need to worry about another password. Simplicity is the goal.
  1. Enrolling students: Once we set up our Kidblog account we received an individual class code. Students go to the  Kidblog webpage one time only to enter their display name and the class code to create their own individual blog within our class blog. Several students thought they needed to use the class code each time resulting in several pages under that student's name. We corrected this by creating a video demonstrating how to log on to the class blog once the students had enrolled.
  2. Finding the our Kidblog web page and creating a post: Once our students had enrolled themselves they needed to easily find the blog, know how to log in on the page, and most importantly learn how to write a post.  Once again we created a video for our distance learners to view.
  3. Use the Blogroll Widget: We added each other’s class  to our blogroll.  This allowed the grade threes to see the grade one blog and visa versa - each class could comment on each other’s posts.  Consider the potential benefit to students as they connect with other  grades within our district, across the province, country or internationally.

Grade One - Engaging with Learning

Grade ones were beginning to explore and investigate Needs of Plants and Animals so to model for the kids how we are actively engaged in research everyday I took them through a mini-lesson on what Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels in their book, Comprehension and Collaboration Revised Edition call parallel annotation.  
Using a simple piece of nonfiction text projected on our online whiteboard, I showed students how I left tracks of my new learning that come right from the text on the left side of the page, and then how I recorded any new questions or connections on the right side.  For grade ones, I used colored Post-its as suggested in the book;  pink for the new learning and yellow for the I wonder questions.  

Here’s my parallel annotation:

I then told the students that we engage in research every day when new learning prompts us to ask questions and find answers. When I find the answer to my new question, ‘What food can I see for animals in the wetland habitat that I run in tomorrow morning?’ I will blog about it.  

This got students really excited!  It was time to have them practice. Students were now provided with their own piece of text to make a mini - inquiry.  

Here’s an example of what one student came up with:

Once this activity was completed, students were ready and eager to track their thinking as they asked questions, found some answers and satisfied their curiosity through mini-inquiries of their own as they related to plants and animals. The motivation was high because of the opportunity to share their discoveries with others through our class blog.

Students were asked to complete the following for a blog entry:

  • Take a photo of your plant or animal.
  • Write at least one sentence about what you learned or observed.
  • Write one I wonder question that came up for you.

Here’s an example:

Students were not done yet!  They were then asked to practice collaboration with others by making specific comments on a classmate’s blog.  Grade ones have learned that they practice collaboration when they use considerate language and listen carefully to what another student is saying.  

Students were asked to include the following in two comment entries:

  • Write at least one sentence about what you learned from a classmate.
  • Write one I wonder question that came up for you.

Here’s an example:

I am so excited to report that grade ones are off and running with their mini-inquiries. The comments from peers are motivating them to dig deeper and uncover new learning as they keep the conversation going. The strongest part of the learning is that they are demonstrating that research can be 

Grade Three - Students Sharing Excitement

Grade threes were beginning a study of Animal Life Cycles. Our purpose for blogging was to keep a journal to record observations of, and learning about, the growth and development of a living animal. Students followed individual interests under this common topic. They found tadpoles to observe, studied sow bugs, learned about chickens, observed caterpillar larvae, and one student who was unable to obtain any of the typical life cycle creatures to observe, focused her studies on Triops.  For these students who live across the province and around the world, our class blog was an opportunity for meaningful sharing and learning from each other.This wider audience made kids eager to share! 

I asked another class to respond to our posts and a grade 8 class wholeheartedly jumped in.  It was an opportunity for these junior high's to practice digital citizenship by giving constructive and encouraging comments to grade 3 students. Suddenly I had an avalanche of comments to approve! (Beware of this, it is a good problem to have.) Grade threes were intrigued and asked the next day in our online class, just who these commentators were. They were delighted! 

Grade threes are also focused on inquiry using two column notes to track their thinking, another strategy from Harvey and Daniels book, Comprehension and Collaboration .

The engagement and enthusiasm took off as curiosity extended beyond the original topics. Students began to notice and wonder as you will see in the following posts.

There you have it,  we jumped in and used Kidblog with delightful results for our students. We discovered that it is ideal for kids at a distance, as it gives them the opportunity to see what others are doing and to learn from each other.  We encourage you to jump in as well. It’s never too late!

Next, we are considering using Kidblog for student math journals and we're very interested to hear your ideas for math journals using a blogging format.

And by the way, if you wish to encourage young scientists, feel free to leave a guest comment on our student’s blogs.

Caroline Schollaardt Marge Kobewka

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