The headline is taken from one of my students’ recent blog posts. I want to share some recent developments and feedback from my students about both blogging and using Twitter. Let’s begin with the blogs.
Each year I start by introducing blogging to my students, and it takes about 10 minutes before they all are up and going. In the beginning some are a little reluctant to post in public spaces but they soon get excited when they find they are writing to a wider audience.
When you start using blogs in your class the first apparent advantage is that the class is sharing their work. Here are some comments from my students:
“The whole idea of having a blog is something I now find fun and useful, as it is exciting being able to share your work with others, and comment on other students’ work.”
“Every week I have to share a blog post as homework. I think that it is quite educational to write an article each week, both for my writing and to reflect on new topics”
“When it comes to using blogs in education, I actually enjoy it a lot. I think it’s a cool, and creative way of making English classes more fun.” [Remember that my Norwegian students are studying English as a second language.]
“I think this is a great way to document my work, and also receive useful feedback from the teacher, friends and readers. To me, it makes the whole process of writing more exciting and rewarding. We are all really excited when we see the amount of visitors we have [on our blogs] and all the different countries they come from. I also think it helps me improve my writing skills, in addition to writing not only for myself, but also know that other people are actually reading my posts.”
“While using the blog, I also know that my blog posts will be online and I can find them later if I need to, and I will never lose my files, which I think is comforting to know. I can easily see what other students have written on their blogs, and it is easier to expand my vocabulary. Furthermore, I get more choices of what I want to write about, and I am freer to express my own opinion.”
“There is an ongoing competition in class of who gets the most visitors on their blog and from most foreign countries. At the moment I have had visitors from several corners of the world. Norway and USA are highly represented, but, I also have visitors from Germany, Britain, France, India, Russia, Australia, Brazil and Chile.”
The Edublog Awards
The purpose of the Edublog awards is to promote and demonstrate the educational values of social media. The best aspects include that it creates a fabulous resource for educators to use for ideas on how social media is used in different contexts, with a range of different learners.
A few weeks ago I introduced the EduBlog Awards competition to my class and we decided to enter. We started off by looking through all the blogs in class and then deciding on which ones to nominate. Four blogs were chosen and the students wrote their nominations (nominating is done by posting your choices in your own blog). Today I was very excited to see that one of my students made the list! There are 31 nominees, and the competition is tough! I have to say that making it on the list is an accomplishment in itself, and we will certainly celebrate this week! If you have the time please vote for my student Sara.
If you ask your students to write blogs, you really should be blogging as well. It’s a great way to share resources, lesson plans and other materials (and to put them in a place where they are easily found again). I was honored to make the “shortlist” (51 nominees!) in the EduBlog Awards category Best teacher blog 2011. One of my PLN friends, Shelley Wright, is also a finalist in that category. She blogs at Wright’s Room. Shelley and I both blog for PLP’s Voices from the Learning Revolution, which is nominated for Best Group Blog this year. And more educators associated with PLP are finalists in other categories — read about them here. I hope you’ll vote in the EduBlogs Awards!
Twitter in the Classroom
Using blogs is a great way to motivate the students and since I am not the only one who reads their material, they are eager that I correct their mistakes. I used to copy and paste their content in Word, correct and send it to them. But I recently devised an easier way — the only “catch” was that they would have to use Twitter.
I had never considered introducing Twitter to my students; I tended to think of the microblogging tool as something mostly for adults (and in my field, for professional development). Well, I was wrong. After what happened in Norway in July I came to realize that many young people are tweeting, so last month I decided to give it a go. After some objections they all went ahead creating Twitter accounts and getting into it. And of course it didn’t take long before they were following celebrities and rock bands. One student wrote this about the experience:
“Today we were all introduced to Twitter. We had to make an account and follow our classmates and teacher, and from now on we are going to also use this website to communicate with each other. To see people’s tweets you just push the button “follow” and then every update they post is shown on your Twitter page. Actually I think Twitter is not a bad idea, you can choose who to follow and easily contact those who follow you. I enjoy the Twitter updates from my friends! I recommend everyone to go and create a Twitter account!
Setting up the Twitter accounts was easy, and then I asked them to link their Twitter name to their blog. I did it the way I always do when introducing new technology. I say what I want them to do — wait 10 minutes — then ask if anyone did it. I usually have at least one who figured out how to do it, and that student immediately becomes the class expert. In no time they all knew how to find a Twitter widget and tie it to their account.
Correcting student Web posts
I think I’ve found the perfect solution on how to comment on my students’ blogs WebNotes lets you highlight and add notes to web pages right from your web browser. Just go to The WebNotes site and download the software. You get a menu on top of your browser that looks like this:
My students send me a tweet when they have a draft post ready for review. When I find a mistake I would like to highlight, I just click on highlighter. Sometimes you want to explain and comment — that is when you use Sticky Note. When you are done you chose “Share this page” and get a link that you can then share with your student using Twitter’s direct message option. All corrections and comments are private, only you and your student can see it. Here’s a short video I’ve made to explain my process.
You can read more about this at my recent blog post, “Blog, twitter and Webnote”. Since my students have ready access to their online blogs, they usually correct the posts at once and I even get thank-you tweets back! I’m not sure about students in other countries, but in Norway it’s pretty unusual for students to thank their teachers when they correct their papers. It certainly makes my day!