We are always searching for ways to connect students, parents and community members. At the BHS ICE Centre, we are committed to using available technology tools that will engage students in their learning journey while having the ability to share their experiences with others. The creation of the ICE breakers blog is an opportunity for staff and students to take ownership of a site devoted to discussing projects that make a difference in our community. Blogs are more about authentic, honest voice; people read them to connect and learn with the writer (Sackstein, 2015). The addition of a blog to the BHS ICE Centre website adds another element of interaction. This initial post will discuss ways to link all stakeholders, ways to promote student success, and strategies to improve learning.
Blogging is an opportunity for all stakeholders to become actively involved with the learnings in our MakerSpace. Teachers can use the ICE breakers blog to create individual or class blogs for students and parents. I created a page for my Coop (MAKE) 120 course where students can reflect on the design process and showcase their prototypes. The class blog starts the exploration of critical thinking with the kids and also enables the teacher to open the classroom to the outside world (Whitby & Anderson, 2014). Collaboration and communication are two pillars in the course so blogging provides the platform for students to express themselves to an audience. Prompts to extend the learning allows students to go beyond the classroom. Whether it be individual or collaboratively, students can use the blog to reflect on their project work and showcase their achievements. Many times parents as well as community members enjoy following the work of our students. Class blogs offer parents a glimpse in real time of their children’s experiences and their personal reactions as well (Whitby & Anderson, 2014). Cooperative learning is promoted in the MakerSpace so it is only fitting to have an application where students can further engage with participation from a larger audience. Blogging opens the door to potential mentors or experts in the field to respond to a post and contribute to the development of student projects. All too often education is kept private without opportunities for community members to contribute to student learning. The ICE breakers blog encourages those who want to become involved to respond to the posts and support the work of our students. I also created a page called the BHS Makers where passionate students can further develop their projects. Our students take great pride in their work and enjoy sharing their projects. A blog that is public provides students with an opportunity to reflect on their learning. Many times, their reflection will lead to active discussions with their peers, teachers and interested community members. We hope that the addition of ICE breakers blog will generate interest with all stakeholders and transform the students work into passion projects.
Success of the blog is dependent on the participation of the students and their responses. The same way classroom conversation and questioning skills must be learned, there is a level of etiquette that comes with participating in feedback and discussion online (Sackstein, 2015). We as educators need to model these behaviors with not only our students, but also any respondents online. It is important that the online learning environment is free of ridicule. I would use the moderation tools available to ensure the conversations are on topic and respectful. A positive learning environment is a must whether it is in the classroom or online. Moderating the posts will delay the posts and create more work for the administrator of the site. However, a website hosted by a school needs to put protections in place so that the learning opportunities are not comprised by those with lack of respect. We want students to be able to post content that they are passionate about and freely share their experiences without hesitation. The content of the blog is also a determinant for success. Student-led posts about their interests in a topic helps create a blog inspired by passions. One is more willing to discuss a topic that they are interested in with an audience as they are comfortable with the content. These conversations can be enriching for all those involved. In a MakerSpace, communication is one of the crucial elements in the engineering design process. A blog allows for a variety of readers to provide both reflection and insight into the development of a project. As well, blogging increases the quantity and depth of students' writing (Wickens, Manderino & Glover, 2015). Writing for a purpose allows the student to take ownership of their post and allow readers to hear their voice. When a student is hooked on the topic, writing becomes an opportunity to share rather than a task that needs to be completed.
In order for the blog to have an audience, one must promote the site. In a school setting, staff can share the site on their teacher webpages and administrators can post on their social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As well, the district may share the link their their media channels or email distributions. Many times a like and share contest through social media is an effective strategy for building a following. Once the reader finds the site, the content is what matters the most. It's all about creating a culture of reading and sharing (Sackstein, 2015). Keeping the content interesting, relevant and current will captivate your audience. There is a RSS feed on the blog so readers can be updated when new content is published. Students will be the driving force in making the blog a success and the teacher will act as a facilitator in promoting students to contribute. Over time, the blog will grow in popularity as readers themselves will promote the site to others. There will be some growing pains as with the application of any new technology. Take advantage of any success stories and use them as opportunities to further promote the blog. This could include documenting the experience through video or a podcast. It is important to celebrate the champions of using the tool and use their success to encourage others to contribute and participate.
Blogging in the classroom makes the student learning more authentic as they are sharing with an audience. Not only are reading and writing skills practiced, but also life skills like communication, collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking. Educators seek opportunities where a variety of skills can be practiced from a given activity. Student blogs provide the opportunity to share their experiences and reflect on their learning. The BHS ICE Centre is proud of the work being done by our students as well as staff members. The new ICE breakers blog provides a platform to allow others insight into our learnings and contribute to the content. We hope that this interest will inspire our students to extend their learning and continue working with their projects. Making a difference in our community begins with conversations. Access to a blog can be beneficial for all the stakeholders involved.
Sackstein, S. (2015). Blogging for educators: Writing for professional learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Whitby, T., & Anderson, S. (2014). The relevant educator: How connectedness empowers learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Wickens, C. M., Manderino, M., & Glover, E. A. (2015). Developing disciplinary literacy through classroom blogging. Voices from the Middle, 22(3), 24-32.
Mr. A. Hallihan
Blogging provides a platform for students & staff to express themselves and generate conversations that make a difference.