In a world of high-flying, ever-changing, flavour-of-the-moment digital tools, the good old blog can often be an overlooked and underappreciated tool.

A blog has a lot of hidden potential though when you start to think of it less as an online newsletter and more of as versatile tool for enhancing learning.

For example, consider how a class blog might have the potential to help parents have more informed and purposeful learning conversations at home.

“What did you do at school today honey?” *grunts* “I dunno…” NO MORE!

Blogs can help parents have better learning conversations with their children. And when parents, students, and teachers are all on the same page, having the same learning conversations, everyone benefits.

Here are a few ideas for how you could use your class blog to encourage more specific parent – student dialogue at home:

  • Add posts to your blog as prompts for discussion. “With your parent at home, discuss this issue and record your joint reflections in the comment section.”
  • “Ask your child about one of the following… Record his / her ideas in the comments.”
  • Do a weekly “Prompt” post: “This week we’ve learned about X,Y, Z. Here are some questions you can ask your child about their learning…”
  • Embed different Web 2.0 tools into a blog post to gather feedback, opinions, and ideas. Padlet, Popplet, or FlipGrid are great for this. Ask students and parents to post together.
  • Make it the parents responsibility to comment: “Billy talked to me about X. He said that…”
  • Many international schools have parents with varying degrees of English, be sure to post lots of visual content – photos, videos – to remove that barrier. Make sure parents and students know it’s OK to comment in their first language.
  • After a field trip, post about the experience on the blog. Ask: “Parents who couldn’t make it, have you ever been to X? What are your thoughts / perspectives on this issue?”
  • “With a family member at home, give this image a caption. Record it as a comment.”
  • “Teach a family member one of the math strategies you learned at school today. Were they able to solve the practice problem you gave them? Leave a comment about the experience!”

You get the idea.

If you’ve only considered blogs as a one-way communication tool you’re really missing out on a lot the potential here.

Dust off the old blog, advertise it with parents, co-author posts with students, put in your homework grid, read comments together in class, consider how it can be used to facilitate conversations at home… and get blogging!

How else might we use blogs to enhance the student – parent learning relationship? Leave ’em in the comments!

After four and a half years of hitting the books, of forum posting, of virtual meetings… of one day weekends… this is my final critical reflection for the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) programme via Charles Sturt University. My views, knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments have changed dramatically in these long years of study and I’ve very much benefitted from this challenging learning journey, both professionally and personally.

 

The first half of the final subject titled “Digital Futures Colloquium” revolved around the concept of Digital Scholarship. I wrote an assignment titled “Digital Scholarship for our Youngest Learners” which explored how digital, networked, and open technologies are allowing young students more voice, and how it is of vital importance that teachers focus on developing students’ technical skills, knowledge, and mindset in order to thrive in this open, networked, and digital culture (Weller, 2011). Engaging with others on Twitter and through blogging greatly helped to clarify and extend my understandings on this subject.

 

Co-hosting a Digital Scholarship Twitter Chat

 

Blog comments on a Digital Scholarship post.

 

The second half of the subject focused on the final assessment item: an open-ended case study, where we could chose a topic of personal interest and, using a structured approach, conduct research and analysis of a particular context. The collaborative nature of the research question discussion in FlipGrid and the ongoing peer-support in VoiceThread proved vital in making sure the research focus was valid and specific (Tondeur, Forkosh-Baruch, Prestridge, Albion, & Edirisinghe, 2016). I conducted research into my school’s “blogfolio” programme and came away with some great plans for extending the programme further. I very much appreciate, and was motivated by, an assessment such as this as it allowed the exploration of personally / professionally important issues (Ong & Cheung, 2015).

 

Collaborative FlipGrid

 

Collaborative VoiceThread

 

My experience in this subject, and indeed in the wider Masters programme, has been incredibly beneficial to my current role as Learning Technology Coach. I have learned concrete knowledge: theory, research, ideas, but along with this knowledge has come a change in my “way” of learning too. My ability to be proactive, to seek learning – to know where to find it, to filter it, and connect with others – has increased. My collaborative ability has increased. My confidence and propensity to share has increased. I feel like I now have the skillset, mindset, and toolset to leverage our digitally connected knowledge networks and bend them to my information needs.

 

It has not been all roses and strawberries, however. The open-ended nature of the final case study tested my ability to self-direct and self-manage. I initially struggled to relate Digital Scholarship, which seemed at first blush to be more higher education based, to a K – 5 focus. I didn’t attend as many colloquium as I should have. I didn’t post enough blog posts as I should have. I feel like I should have worked harder to help others in the course and give them more feedback. I’m not offering any excuses here, I’m merely reflecting on where I should have focused more.

 

Questioning…

 

Through this Masters, I have also been given many opportunities to examine my own assumptions and actions, and have often bumped up against what I believe being not really what it should be. For example, I kept feeling defeated when it came to whole school change efforts. “My administration are just not on the same wavelength!” I’d say. But I’ve learned to take responsibility and remain positive – to be a visionary leader even if it’s not institutionally stipulated. Another example: I’ve learned to unwaveringly lead with pedagogy instead of being glamoured by the pull of shiny new technology (Fullan, 2013).

 

There is much more to critically analyse and reflect upon, but again, word count is knocking on my door. It’s now time to close Evernote, quit it with the Primo searches, end the theorising and researching, and pull down the post-it notes. I’m heading to school on Monday to get in the trenches and make a difference.

 

References

Fullan, M. (2013). Stratosphere: Integrating technology, pedagogy, and change knowledge. Pearson: Canada.

Ong, G. M. Y., & Cheung, W. S. (2015). Exploring Students’ Motivations in Using Blogs at the Primary School Level. International Journal of Online Pedagogy and Course Design, 5(1), 30–44.

Tondeur, J., Forkosh-Baruch, A., Prestridge, S., Albion, P., & Edirisinghe, S. (2016). Responding to Challenges in Teacher Professional Development for ICT Integration in Education. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 19(3), 110-120.

Weller, M. (2011). “The Nature of Scholarship.” The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice.London: Bloomsbury Academic,. 41–51. Bloomsbury Collections.