Tag Archive for Blogging

Extending the learning community

Publication of student work on the website extends the learning community beyond the classroom to the entire school community. Key to this effort is a school website that includes a community publishing platform. Students and teachers choose whether to make the work viewable to the school community only (students, staff, parents, alumni) or the public, depending on the pedagogical goal of the work. Learning becomes a community endeavor rather than only a classroom pursuit, increasing authenticity and mutual understanding of the work that happens at school.

Click on each title to view the content at Catlin Gabel.

Urban Studies blog

Students tackle topics of sustainable development in Portland, “The City That Works.” During the school year, we offer a semester elective. The summer brings an intensive program with students from different schools.

Science Projects blog

Students report on their independent research plans, progress, and results. The teacher provides feedback in the form of comments. Only one of the students has made her blog public, so you won’t see the work of the others on this page.

The Catlin Coverslip

The science department invites all Catlin Gabel community members to contribute items of interest to this blog.

Nepal 2010 blog

Blogging about global trips increases the sense of community experience. The 15 lucky students who go on the trip become ambassadors for the rest of the school, no longer the sole beneficiaries of the experience.

Spanish V Honors blog

Students get out into the community to research the hispanic presence in Oregon. Through the blog, they report their findings back to the community and help educate us all. This project includes a lot of primary audio and video footage from Portland.

Honors Arts Projects portfolios

Students attach photo galleries to their blog posts to create a portfolio, in this case to support their  college applications.

Fifth grade Fractured Fairytales

Students create “alternate” versions of classic fairytales, then we publish them so that parents and others students may read them as well.

Sixth grade Language Arts Poetry Box

Students write poetry, but then the teacher publishes both the text and an audio version for parents and the rest of the community to enjoy.

Senior Project blogs

We have now collected two years’ worth of blog posts from seniors reporting and reflecting on their spring projects. Up until now, all of the posts have been for the Catlin Gabel community only. This year, students will make the public/community-only decision for each post. Watch this page in May 2010 to follow their progress.

Finally moved to WordPress

I like sticking with the underdog. In 2005, I compared several blogging platforms and settled on Nucleus CMS. For five years, I have happily blogged with that software, enjoying its fast speed and sufficient range of plugins. Many thanks to the Nucleus development team for producing a superb, low-overhead blogging platform.

Over that time, the WordPress plugin library continued to grow. Finally, the gap between it and Nucleus became too much. I had to work around Nucleus’ image embed codes and email notification systems. I repeatedly cleaned up rogue HTML inserted into template. It was awkward to post from my phone. I wanted social media plugins. I finally capitulated and migrated to WordPress.

Migration went really smoothly. Thank goodness for structured content, self-hosting, and the open source community! I installed James Sasitorn’s import utility and added some code to copy images to the new installation. Because I hosted my own blog, the script was easily able to migrate content from one set of database tables to the other.

WordPress was really easy to set up. I had the blog running and old posts imported within about an hour. I spent another hour researching, installing, and configuring a half-dozen plugins. I even migrated the old Nucleus item ids into the WordPress database and wrote a tiny script to permanently redirect requests to old Nucleus URLs to the new WordPress ones! This should keep links from Google and other websites from breaking.

I plan to keep this blog simple. Let me know how it works for you. Please let me know if anything breaks from the old site.

Blog Use

Happy New Year! To commemorate the end of the year, I took a look at this blog’s web statistics. A comparison of the number of posts to the number of pageviews is very interesting.

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I wrote the most posts but received the least pageviews in 2006. I wrote the second most posts and received the most pageviews in 2008. In 2009, I wrote the fewest posts but received as many pageviews as in 2007, when I wrote twice as often. Without running the graph, one can see that the number of pageviews per post has increased significantly from year to year.

I don’t know exactly why this happened, but I can speculate that this blog has been carried along the wave of increased global readership of ed-tech blogs, or perhaps interested readers have simply found me. It is difficult to say for certain.

Before running the stats, I had wondered whether Facebook, Twitter, and Ning had taken all of the steam out of blogs. Does anyone really read blogs anymore? These results suggest that plenty of people at least came and visited, and perhaps even read, more than ever in 2009. On the other hand, did I post to Facebook and Twitter when I could have written more blog posts?

I can explain that I have written less frequently on my blog as I have become more deeply engaged at my school. In 2009, I built a new website for the school and assumed fourth and fifth grade teaching responsibilities. These are good developments that positively affect teaching and learning at my primary place of work. I know that I can support people more effectively through direct, personal contact than through blogging.

Nonetheless, I have picked up my blogging in the last three months and hope to continue this trend into 2010. Please do posts comments to keep up the conversation!

Good luck with your new year!

Sharing Is Good

In my previous blog post, I shared a video produced by second grade teachers and students about the brain study project they just completed. I also posted a link to the article to Twitter. Two days later, I received a comment from the All Kinds Of Minds CEO congratulating us on the video! She shared it with her organization’s leadership staff and board, bringing our school a lot of attention and rekindling our relationship with All Kinds Of Minds. We circulated the notes around our school, giving the teachers who worked so hard to assemble the project deserved recognition and building more excitement for brain-based curriculum development.

Publicly sharing student work can lead to unexpected, positive consequences!

Focus on your school!

As I caught up on two weeks’ worth of blog reading tonight, a few thoughts struck me (yes, that’s all ;^). First, I’ve seen an increase in the number of school-based educators writing online, but it’s still not enough. The ed-blogosphere is dominated by people who don’t work in schools, and I want to hear about what teachers and students are actually doing in schools. So if you blog and work in a school, please keep writing about what is actually happening in your school!

Second, if you blog and work in a school, please remember that you have the most impact in your school! Fortunately, most school-based bloggers I follow seem well-rooted in their schools, but a few seem to have forgotten their local context when writing. It’s okay if you only post a blog entry once a week (or fewer). We know that you are spending your work hours meeting with teachers, keeping up a computing infrastructure, helping students, or building a new tool.

This past week at Catlin Gabel, our new Global Connect site gained its third, fourth, and fifth groups. We created Global Connect in order to have a Catlin-hosted, but not Catlin-branded, place to group blog for global ed. The site was originally for exchanges, but now pre-trip planning groups have also joined. I figured out how to use taxonomy access control lite to give groups the choice of whether they wanted their discussions to be public or private. Interestingly, the two groups actually talking with students in other countries opted to go private, whereas the three groups using the site for pre-trip planning went public. We’ll see whether that distinction holds up going forward. Next, I need to put a public commenting system into place, so just hold your horses (or use the contact form) if you were hoping to post a comment.

global connect

One man’s struggle to restore real-world issues to the core of the school program took another step forward this month with the launch of the Economic Crisis Reading Group moodle site. This one is private (sorry, legions of interested members of the public). 34 students have signed up for the Moodle course, which includes news and discussion about the most compelling post-inauguration teachable moment of the year. I hope this takes off, to prove that students are indeed interested in chatting online about serious issues in a school context.

moodle screen shot

This week will be dominated by (yet another) presentation, this time to our board of directors. Seriously, it’s been a great year for our IT team to discuss social networks and other compelling issues with teachers, students, and parents in the school community.

Learning from blogs

I continue to search for a persuasive way to describe the value of blogging to people who don’t blog. Leaning a bit on connectivism theory, I have decided to explicitly identify important information I have picked up from specific blogs. I went through my aggregator to note just one for each author. While some leaped into mind right away, I found that I could not remember an item for others, even though I knew I had picked up invaluable knowledge from them before. I have no good system to track those borrowed concepts that I have either kept for myself or passed on to colleagues. As a result, the following list remains incomplete. However, look at all the good stuff just in this short list. My, how my life would be different without this knowledge.

D’Arcy Norman: 50mm lens for my camera
Chris Sessums: Connectivism
Danah Boyd: Why students spend so much time on Facebook
Ewan McIntosh: Informed planning is more important than a pilot phase.
Steve Hargadon: Suffering from information overload? Create more information.
Garr Reynolds: Simplicity makes for better presentations
Miguel Guhlin: Follow your passion
OpenCulture: University podcasts
Jim Heynderickx: Structured middle school laptop program design
Chris Lehmann: The unconference
John Phillips: Single-day start of year laptop prep
Bill Fitzgerald: Web Site Baker (ironically)

If you didn’t make this list, I’m quite certain that you will chalk it up to my feeble memory rather than the relative value of your blog!