While this session was presented for students learning English, the stages of this project can be applied to any classroom where teachers encourage reading and writing skills. The presenters have 4 stages to motivate students to find others to communicate with on line.
Through the use of writing on blogs, and then tagging the posts, students find other students with a common interest and communicate with them via the commenting feature. All students use an “anchor tag”, in this case “writing_matrix”, so that they can find other students involved in the project. Additional tags are added to their posts (descriptive words) that tell explain what they are writing about. Technorati is used to help search out the writing_matrix blogs. Once a student finds a blog from the project they comment and initiate the conversation. The synthesis of finding common tags increases language skills and global awareness. They also gain an understanding of their contribution to group learning.
Once conversation has been initiated, tags are organized in del.icio.us. Students can subscribe to the tags which leads to finding what other people are writing based on the tags. Bloglines is used to subscribe to the blogs that they want to continue reading and commenting on.
I would like to work with teachers in our class this summer on incorporating the 4 stages into their practice, as well as the students. The juniors in our school do a presentation in May on a public policy topic. I think the use of tagging and feed readers help students see the relevancy of the work they are doing. This could also lead to good practice around reading periodicals on line.
Perhaps the most important part of this presentation, for me, was the reference to Stephen Downes that the learning in these kinds of projects is ineffable. Since the beginning of our 1:1 laptop project, I have struggled with how to show what students are learning. I KNOW that they have improved their learning, I just can’t quantify it. I know that when they complain how hard writing a blog post is, they are stretching themselves in ways that traditional models wouldn’t. They know that people other than the teacher is reading their work. At the completion of a course, students often give us feedback that while difficult, they really liked the process of blogging, particularly for reflection. They say they truly saw their own growth over time. How cool is that?
Thanks to Vance, Nelba, Doris, Rita, and Saša for this enlightening session.