Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bloggers becoming gardeners

Konrad Glogowski recently expressed regrets about not hanging on to the blogs of his 8th graders for the last three years:


...However, I was never able to experience this sense of growing community because, like most teachers, I have been programmed to divide learning into yearly or monthly episodes. The blogging community begins in September, it grows until June, and then gets deleted because September will bring another batch of students and another community.

.....Last June, ten of my former students asked to remain part of the community. They had grown so attached to their class blogging community that they asked me not to shut it down and to give them access to the new community that they knew I would be building with my new grade eights in September. I was thrilled that they wanted to remain in the community. I knew that as grade nine students, having already gone through the grade eight programme, they would greatly enhance the experience for their younger friends.

...And yet, I chose to shut down the community and restrict access to the new one. For the past three years, in fact, I have been creating communities only to dismantle them every June.

I struggled with much the same crisis. And I am only now, halfway through the following school year, approaching a way to effectively and appropriately deal with this, as a teacher of third grade bloggers. I started by letting my kids from last year blog through the summer, with permission from their parents. When the new school year started I changed the passwords on their blogs, so they couldn't add content. We of course talked about this many times as the year was ending (there were pleas and tears), but I figured, as Konrad did, that it was time to move on to another group. One difference was that I left their blogs alone, and set up a new site for this year's class. So you could visit their old blogs, but it was kind of like reading a book - there was no life there, no heartbeat of writing...

Just last week I offered to let the kids from last year back on to roomtwelve.com - as alumni - and they can blog again. With parent permission, of course. I have heard from four, and they are now part of a new class, "Alumni". I still will approve every word they write on their blogs and every word in every comment sent to them - and edit, within reason, and offer behind the scenes feedback on writing that needs to be improved. The first thing I set up for them on their new blogs was a link to their blog from last year.

This was complicated. I'm not their teacher anymore, and I had to check with their teachers from this year to be sure it was OK with them. More issues will come up, I'm sure.

I am a saver, an archiver, especially with Internet stuff. For whatever reason, I save almost everything I have had a hand in. I have archived versions of my school's home page over the last dozen years. I've archived Louis Schmier's Random Thoughts, going back to 1993. The student newsletter (now a podcast available on iTunes - there is a blog of course) is archived back to 1994. I even have an email I posted to Ednet in 1994, encouraging teachers to create web pages for their schools (ohmygosh). I'll post it when I get the nerve - it's a little embarrassing to look at these days...

But the work I feel most protective of and will work the hardest to maintain is the writing of my students - on the Internet. This is real stuff, for a worldwide audience - and sometimes that worldwide audience is involved in that writing. The best writing I have ever seen in 24 years of teaching third graders is from the blog from the 2005-06 school year. I am happy to welcome those kids back.

Konrad closes I Will Be a Gardener with this:

I feel that like an architect or an engineer, I have been too preoccupied with the act of building communities and have not paid as much attention to sustaining them and giving them the nourishment they need to grow. Clay Shirky says that "To create an environment conducive to real community, you will have to operate more like a gardener than an architect." I have been an architect for too long. Now, I will be a gardener.


It's definitely worth a read.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 5:05 PM   7 Comments

7 Comments:

At January 15, 2007 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ughh somehow a comment I just wrote disappeared.
What I don't know about the whole thing I'm doing...

Hi. That said I was thinking about sharing students. Mine that have ventured on from me often wish to come back and be a part of my classroom. This is because I think of the journey we take with students, mine is not an experience based on drill and kill but on future and lifetime and I suppose inspiration. I felt motivation needed really to be the job of the teacher. But not cheerleady, just here is the place we can dream. And let me tell you I've had my share of touchy moments with certain staff over both that view and children coming back. But we all know I'm a little mean if I have to be and I assert that right to associate, tho I suppose I could learn to do it in a nicer way. I'm learning.

Your technology and site is just awesome. I wish my other post would not have gone, i've got to learn all the things you and Doug know. I swear it makes my toes curl with envy how smart you both are. Anyway motivating...Right now I am trying to figure out how to blog with kids when the District blocks it, how to do what I can. I see ideas. Next year I will be 3rd grade again where I will stay, but we will be in total take-over unless scores climb which judging by peers actions seems unlikely as they seem universally to believe "these kids" can't score due to poverty. The deck is rigged but you can always get the kids there,and tech writing really helps anyway I am going back to third and thinking hard forward about what I want to do. It'll be fun. I read this laughing thinking of how it does cause staff "issues" when kids come back to you from the last year but I was thinking in an After School setting, I'm going to be teaching art now till 5, maybe on the side my computers could be hot writing spots as now lots of kids will be allowed to be with me. Kind of have to work that into whatever we do, the kids will have to be the writing part of the art experience..oh yeah I have it, art blog.. I get away with lots going in an hour early when peers don't so lots of my old students show up early and work then. Of course I built on MyTeacher Pages a site that they can access even now with links and lots of room for inventing and now it allows a blog component that the District isn't blocking. Anyway thank you for sharing this and sharing all you do. It's absolutely wonderful. Inspires me.Let's see if I lose this post too. Yikes I'm really dumb. I wish I worked with you or Doug, man then I could get somewhere.I can't do this as my blogger self it throws me to my blog page,its driving me nuts, made me do this new blogger thing. So i'm anonymous, but I'm Sarah

 
At January 15, 2007 , Blogger Sarah McIntosh Puglisi said...

Now I figure it out....so I'll do it again
Ughh somehow a comment I just wrote disappeared.
What I don't know about the whole thing I'm doing...

Hi. That said I was thinking about sharing students. Mine that have ventured on from me often wish to come back and be a part of my classroom. This is because I think of the journey we take with students, mine is not an experience based on drill and kill but on future and lifetime and I suppose inspiration. I felt motivation needed really to be the job of the teacher. But not cheerleady, just here is the place we can dream. And let me tell you I've had my share of touchy moments with certain staff over both that view and children coming back. But we all know I'm a little mean if I have to be and I assert that right to associate, tho I suppose I could learn to do it in a nicer way. I'm learning.

Your technology and site is just awesome. I wish my other post would not have gone, i've got to learn all the things you and Doug know. I swear it makes my toes curl with envy how smart you both are. Anyway motivating...Right now I am trying to figure out how to blog with kids when the District blocks it, how to do what I can. I see ideas. Next year I will be 3rd grade again where I will stay, but we will be in total take-over unless scores climb which judging by peers actions seems unlikely as they seem universally to believe "these kids" can't score due to poverty. The deck is rigged but you can always get the kids there,and tech writing really helps anyway I am going back to third and thinking hard forward about what I want to do. It'll be fun. I read this laughing thinking of how it does cause staff "issues" when kids come back to you from the last year but I was thinking in an After School setting, I'm going to be teaching art now till 5, maybe on the side my computers could be hot writing spots as now lots of kids will be allowed to be with me. Kind of have to work that into whatever we do, the kids will have to be the writing part of the art experience..oh yeah I have it, art blog.. I get away with lots going in an hour early when peers don't so lots of my old students show up early and work then. Of course I built on MyTeacher Pages a site that they can access even now with links and lots of room for inventing and now it allows a blog component that the District isn't blocking. Anyway thank you for sharing this and sharing all you do. It's absolutely wonderful. Inspires me.Let's see if I lose this post too. Yikes I'm really dumb. I wish I worked with you or Doug, man then I could get somewhere.

 
At January 15, 2007 , Blogger Sarah McIntosh Puglisi said...

Sorry Mark. I'm hopeless today.

 
At January 15, 2007 , Blogger Mark Ahlness said...

Sarah,
Hey, I don't think you're so hopeless - you left three comments, right? And unless you've got a photographic memory for what you're written, it looks like you managed to copy/paste most of what did not make it (but did) the first time, before it all went away...

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. You write about wanting to get better at the tech thing. Well, I think that's what keeps us all fueled - that wanting to get better, to master, and so on. Heck, if I could write half as well as Doug or you, I'd be a very happy guy. Maybe that's why I am so passionate about using the blog thing with my kids. It's such a powerful motivator, and I've watched many kids absolutely flower in the medium.

Yes, kids coming back is tricky. I have stepped on toes and been accused of not being a team player. Not nice stuff, but I believe my motives are true - and will even help the team. I'm rambling. All the best, and good luck with that art blog. - Mark

 
At January 16, 2007 , Anonymous Doug Noon said...

Mark and Sarah, this is a fun thread. (Thanks for the props, BTW.) Since you're writing about a couple things that I've been over myself, I thought I'd jump in here to say that I hesitated posting an "opposing" viewpoint comment because it seemed just negative to me. But I'll say this this much: you are both way more magnanimous than I am. And you should be congratulated for your efforts.

I admire your dedication to kids and to doing things beyond your normal duties. Taking on after school activities, and monitoring blogs for students who've moved on is a great thing to do, and I applaud you both!

I set up a special group on the system that I use with my students, which coincidentally, I call "alumni" and the kids have permission to comment under with their old ID. A few have done that. I wonder if I just left their original permissions in place, how many would continue? I may try that next year. Over the winter break only one student posted anything, so there's probably not a lot of danger of me being overwhelmed by the the volume that comes out of my current crew. I agree that there should be some opportunity for the kids who want to continue, to do so.

As for losing comments to the blog glitch demon, Sarah, that has happened to me MANY times. It's discouraging, and I've learned to "select all" and "copy" before I hit the "Publish" button. Looks like you did the same. And you know, we are working together :)

 
At January 16, 2007 , Blogger Sarah McIntosh Puglisi said...

Yes, Doug...we are working together but you two....ah...I'm a bit green with envy, you make it look so easy.I know how far
i have to go and I know how much time you take, it's enormous.
Funny,
I just today had a teacher stop in to say my last year student could no longer "see me" until all "work is done" this a child with severe emotional issues and they just come in to work a bit after school usually on their homework. The team player thing but I said, "How long have you been teaching?" which was mean...and rude. Then I said , "Go see the Principal." And that will stir up a nest but I will win, but at a price. I think all students know who their allies are. I can't imagine stopping a child from such a positive thing as continuing to work with tech.
And I swear if this post disappears...it's some kind of karma. I'm so enjoying your blog, my Mom was a birder and I lived for it too. In WestVirginia my favorite Cedar Waxwings used to sail in in winter. But the IndigoBuntings were by far the most favorite...and rare.Here I see a good many sea birds. Not quite like it was, but interesting.
Sarah

 
At January 22, 2007 , Blogger Wesley Fryer said...

Mark and Doug, you give me hope that perhaps web 2.0 tools like blogs CAN have a very tangible effect in transforming education-- You already are doing it by continuing to serve as teachers for your former students who are blogging as alumni. Great work that inspires me, and I hope others.

 

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