9 November 2013

Digital Citizenship through Paper Blogging

As mentioned in my recent post, Common Sense Educator: Digital Citizenship Certified, I believe all educators today must address information literacy and teach learners how to operate safely and effectively online.

Literacy today is more than reading and writing; as educators we need to teach netiquette, cybersafety and digital citizenship. I set up Blogs with my learners to showcase their writing and provide authentic audiences. My emphasis is on the need to create a positive online persona, and the Unit leading up to the creation of our blogs, asks learners to think about how they want to present themselves to the world.

The 'Snapshots' unit is a comprehensive unit that I teach to Year 7 (Grade 6) learners on entry into secondary school (middle school). The 'big question' underpinning the unit is

How do I present who I am to the world?

and the final outcome is a reflective learning blog that they use throughout their time in school. 

Example on learning site
The unit begins with Stage 1: Who Am I? and asks them to create an acrostic poem of their name; they must try to choose words that express who they are rather than just fit the letters. They create posters of their finished poems which must feature a photograph of themselves, which are hung across the classroom. At the end of the school year, the poems are returned to them and we examine how much they have changed - not just physically from the photo but also academically and emotionally from the choices of their words.

Next they use a writing frame to write a biographical poem. We learn about present tense and first person, as they construct a poem that states, I wonder, I feel, I dream, I hope etc. They are then challenged to present this in an honest way to the rest of the class in a medium that is NOT a poster. They are given the link to the page on my site that lists a variety of different tools and are free to choose technology or traditional methods of presentation. We negotiate a time frame and they focus on the writing first, get it checked and then create and present their work.

Next comes Stage 2: Paper Blogging Project. We learn what blogging is and how it can help our learning. Learners are then asked to write about a favourite food or drink. I give them some ideas about what to include in the style of a blog post:
How to write first blog post

I then get them moving around the room according to whether their food is hot or cold to demonstrate tagging or labels. It is really important that they use tags so they can document their work effectively and find it again when they need to.

I ask them to then 'publish' their work by creating a 'post' out of paper to be stuck outside the classroom. This will give them a sense of having an audience.

Once their 'posts' are done, they bring them to the front and lay them all on the floor. Then we talk about comments and how this is an integral part of a blog when it comes to learning, as it is like peer assessment. We go over how comments work using sticky notes, and talk about how to be helpful critical friends who offer ways to improve not mean or nasty comments. Learners are then asked to take away a blog post, read it carefully and then write a comment on a post it note and stick it to the bottom. They are to write something positive as well as a suggestion for improvement. They are to then return it to the front and take another.

Whilst this is going on, I whisper to a few learners. I ask them to write something mean, unpleasant and unhelpful about the work.

After each blog post has at least two comments/sticky notes on, we all gather together at the front where learners collect and read the comments. Almost immediately some indignant and upset learners will storm up to me pointing at the deliberately mean comment. I ask them to read it aloud, and then ask the class is this helpful?
Deliberately mean comments can be removed
This leads into a discussion about trolls and how to deal with them. It also leads to a discussion about ownership of the blog. I ask the learner if they want to keep the comment, to which they always answer no. I tell them to take it off, rip it up and put it in the bin. I reinforce the idea of ownership by saying that they have control of their blogs at all times and can remove any comments that are unkind or deliberately mean.

They finish by checking their work against the rubric, editing and finishing as needed and then 'publishing' by sticking up on the outside of the classroom. Sticky notes will be left outside and the school will be informed so that comments from the whole community can be made. Learners are encouraged to check their posts regularly and remove unwanted comments.

Finally, they write a reflection on their learning from the paper blogging project, and a set of guidelines then goes home, which learners read and sign with parents/carers. Only once this is returned can they set up a live blog.

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