In order to comment on a number of education blogs that I have read, I saw it necessary to state what a blog is. I found a tutorial by Brian Brown of Pyjama Market very informative. Please view this tutorial before you read the rest of this blog.
Now that we are aware of what a blog is, how does this impact the teaching and learning environment? Will every blog found be beneficial to you? How could the use of technology impact our students? These and other questions will be answered as you read this blog.
I must say that I found all the blogs on the reading list interesting. They all appealed to me in different ways. Let me look at them individually as I attempt to say why I found them all interesting in different ways. The first that I will look at is Dr. Scott McLeod's Top 50 P-12 Edublogs? What grabbed my attention initially was the title of the blog. After reading the blog I saw why he had a question mark at the end of his title. As Dr. McLeod points out, there are a lot of education blogs. If this was the case, how did he qualify that the blogs that he posted where the actual top 50? He answers this question of mine by saying that "...the very notion of what constitutes a ‘top’ edublog is very personal and individual..." I definitely agree with this comment. It is a fact that, what I deem as being important or a must have may differ from another individual. As a result, my top 50 may not be the same as another individual.
Jason Falls blog titled Determining the Top Education Blogs supports the previous comment made by Dr. McLeod and my strong belief that what I may find as my top blogs may not be the same as another individuals. Falls believes that one has to "find the education blog that writes about what you are pitching". It should be noted that, Falls used a very meticulous process in order to determine the top education blogs that he discusses at length in his blog. He "gathered blogs for consideration by doing a couple of searches. When Googling “Top Education Blogs” ... [Falls] .. found a couple of lists here and here that gave ...[him]... a good start. [He] did searches in Technorati and Google Blog Search as well as Bloglines to collect and add to the list. At this point ... [he] ... had just over 100 blogs. [He] ... then parsed through Alltop’s education listing to ensure ... [he]... didn’t miss any listed there. Interestingly enough, several of the blogs listed on Alltop weren’t on [his] list already. This makes [him] question Alltop’s requirements for adding blog". Again, what an individual or website may deem as being important may not be the same for another. That fact was evident in his findings as he determined the top education blogs.
Jason Falls meticulous process for arriving at the top education blogs takes me to another point, it is simply the mere fact that, not all blogs may outline what the individual is looking for. Therefore, it is imperative that even though one may get a wealth of information, one has to be able to sieve the amount of information and "run" with the one or ones that may be relevant to us. The information is available, it just may not be what one is looking for. One just has to ensure that what we find is relevant to us. That is a criteria that should be foremost in our minds. An example of this is evident on Siobhan Curious's blog titled 10 education blogs I have been reading. She like, Dr. McLeod and Jason Falls, highlights the fact that these blogs are her favorites. I found the fact that they all had different listing as being of interest to them which validates my point that as individuals we focus on what is of interest to us.
On the other hand, how does a teacher who may be busy have the time to analyze the wealth of information that one may find? The answer to that question may be easier than we think! There are blogs that actually sieve the information and leave us with the easy task of just choosing what we want. I found that phenomenal! This takes me to Miss Bliss whose blog was titled Top 20 Websites For Teachers. This blog was a teachers dream. If you want a technology tool to use with an explanation of its useful before even opening that link, then this is the blog for you. This Canadian teacher broke it down from online bookmarking, to teacher scheduling tools, movie makers, resource blogs, lesson plan assistance sites, and the list goes on. This blog I would recommend to the teacher who may not be cognizant of how to use the various technology tools, as well as those that just don't have the time to search on their own. One could visit the sites from this link and get practice until he or she becomes confident enough to find other sites on their own that may also suit their needs. Also, in the case of the teacher that may be too busy to search on his/her own for specific information, this blog serves to have a wealth of options at that teachers fingertips.
Last but by no means least, I loved Vicki Davis' blog titled Kicking off the school year:Web 2.0 Style w/Cell Phones. Here I was thinking that I was doing so great with technology in my classroom. Like Vicki Davis, I have assignments posted online where parents and children alike can keep track of the assignments for the semester. Like Vicki, I give the students the opportunity to complete differentiated assignments. However, she took it a step further, her class was described as being "wiki-centric". The students had access to not only assignments, but also the teacher's lesson plan. The teacher could easily access the students posted assignments online. The students even had the accessibility to their cell phones in their class. I was awed by the fact that they actually had it as a learning tool and not as a class disruption. I definitely found that as a great idea. The use of cellular phones in class has to be monitored. As was pointed out in the blog, the use of mobile phones is banned at the school with the exception of in Vicki's classroom. There too they are still monitored. The use of mobile phones is an inexpensive tool for the school to acquire because most students have a cellular phone prior to coming to school. It was also a way to get the students motivated. As she pointed out, they did not want to leave when class was over due to the technology that they were exposed to and loved.
I know that it may be said that mobile phones are a disruption in schools. On the other hand, as Vicki pointed out the students had so much to do that the time for doing something else seems minimal. The use of the varied technology in her class is applicable to our society. The students through Vicki as she pointed out are exposed to "things that ...make my life better..." such as how to use "Jott, Remember the Milk, Twitter, Google Cal, and Timebridge..." Additionally, the students behavior are monitored, they are taught self control, and the obvious appropriate use of mobile phones.
I have always believed that if a child finds something interesting then chances are he/she would pay attention. If Cell phone use in class is what interests the student then maybe it is not such a bad idea. If you click on the link about cell phone use in class you will read where "during the 2007-2008 school year, Wireless Reach began funding Project K-Nect, a pilot project in rural North Carolina where high school students received supplemental algebra problem sets on smartphones (the phones were provided by the project). The outcomes are promising -- classes using the smartphones have consistently achieved significantly higher proficiency rates on their end of course exams".
Now I am sure all teachers, parents, and administrators want the students to do well. If the use of mobile phones and other technology is the way to boost attention, interest, make it more participatory, make it interactive so that the student can be able to get reaction to his or her responses on an interactive website, then so be it. As Mark Mabrito and Rebecca Mebley pointed out in their article Why Professor Johnny Can't Read: Understanding the Net Generation's Texts many of the students now born after 1982 were born in a world that is "...digitally enhanced world...". As a result one has to learn how to teach a "wired student".
This is where the education blogs come in. Though it may not have been acknowledge, many of these blogs can actually teach educators, who may not have been born after 1982, how to become technologically astute. One may not know the internet and the use of technology like we may know our assigned course textbooks "inside and out", however, I believe that we learn everyday. Things change and we as educators can't be resistant to change. We may use blogs such as Miss Bliss, as was mentioned before, as a way to have some links at our disposal. We may, like Dr. McLeod, Jason Falls, and Siobhan Curious and a host of others, and post blogs of our own and help lead the way for colleagues that we may never have met other than through cyberspace.
Finally, I must say that education blogs are essential. We can use them for so many things, namely, to find new ideas that we may not have thought of, to get clarification on topics that we may have needed help on, for reinforcement that would serve to let us as educators know that we may have been doing a technique that may not have been out in the left field as we may have thought. There are a number of other reasons, some I have mentioned previously. Watch this link for the Top 10 Reasons to use Blogs in the Classroom. Educators must embrace technology as life advances. The classroom should hopefully mimic this wide range of technology that will not only boost learning, but also make it fun. Let us be on the band wagon that has the 21st century learners. Let us boost the creativity of students with the use of technology. Read this link about textbooks that the student in Korea wrote. Tell me that this is just not wonderful! Technology is here, let us embrace it!