Archive for May, 2014

According to Wikipedia, as of February 16, 2014, Tumbler had around 172 million registered blogs, and WordPress had 75.8 million blogs in existence worldwide. These are only two of many blogging platforms available around the world, so you we can only imagine the true number of blogs being published on the Internet each day.  A blog, short for web log, is basically a website updated periodically by the author that shares information, a person’s interests, or…well, anything really.  Updates to the blog are called posts, and they’re arranged on the site in reverse chronological order.  Blogs are powerful tools because they allow for discussion and collaboration through commenting features.  Most blogging platforms will also allow you to add collaborators in order to create a shared knowledge base.

bloggingAs many teachers are discovering around the world, blogging is not just for people looking to share what they know, it’s also a great tool for motivating students to write and for enhancing a student’s writing abilities.  According to Alison Sawmiller, author of the 2010 article “Classroom Blogging: What is the Role in Science Learning?”, blogging has many benefits for students including giving the “silent student” a voice by providing a medium where they are not interrupted or talked over, encouraging critical thinking by requiring students to actively think about and reflect on what they’re learning in class, and allowing for differentiation of writing assignments.

As with any implementation of technology, the focus should be on sound pedagogical practices, not the technology itself, and this is true for blogging as well.  Our students already know how to use the technology tools, they’re just not familiar with how it can change their learning and their understanding.  That’s where we, as teachers, come in.  “Well, what, Lauren, can I get my students to accomplish through blogging?”  I’m so glad you asked!

The first thing we need to do is to make our learning activities and writing prompts are authentic and meaningful.  If our students can’t connect what they’re learning and doing to their real life, we’ve already lost them.  Allowing our students to become invested in what they’re writing by providing them with an opportunity to share what’s meaningful to them, we’re creating in them an interest and motivation to do more and learn more.  Next, we need to give them a real-world audience…other than you, Mom, and Dad.  Publishing a blog to the Internet does that!  Share your students’ blogs with colleagues at other schools.  Get them to share the blogs with colleagues in other states and countries even.  Encourage those readers to comment by posting feedback and asking probing questions.  As soon as your students know that they’re writing to a broader audience, they’ll begin to pay more attention to spelling and grammar.  You’ll also begin to witness them experiment with developing their own voice as an author.  Eventually, through consistent and structured blogging, you’ll notice a shift from self-centered writing to audience-centered writing.  They’ll remember a comment and tie it in to a new post, or let a conversation spark an idea for a new topic.  Everyday experiences now become spring boards for new posts, your students actually become excited about writing, and you’ll see their abilities begin to bloom.  Encourage your students to take risks, explore using humor, and share their own opinions, not just the facts that they’re learning.

What are some ways to get your feet wet without diving into the deep end of blogging?  Start by creating a class blog rather than having all of your students blog individually.  Post questions about a book you all are reading, an experiment you’re conducting, or where students are using the math they’re learning in the classroom in the real world.  Have your students blog by commenting on your questions and responding to other students’ comments.  Just get the conversation started!

reciprocal_teaching

Reciprocal teaching is a great instructional strategy to use with blogging!  Mainly used as a guided reading strategy in elementary school, students follow a series of activities before, during, and after reading.  A different student is responsible for each step in the series.  The activities are 1.)  Questioning, 2.)  Clarifying, 3.)  Summarizing, and 4.)  Predicting.  Why not designate students to blog specifically about one of the processes above.  It doesn’t even have to be about a book you’re reading.  You could use the four steps of Reciprocal Teaching with any subject area!  That gives your students a leadership role in the classroom by making them responsible for consulting the class before making their post.  Also, classmates will be responding to their (the student’s) posts, not just the teacher’s, which will also give them a sense of importance and purpose.

My point in writing this post (other than the fact it’s a grad school assignment 🙂 ) is to get you to think about blogging as something other than just students jotting down their thoughts of the day.  Get them involved in research, give them a specific purpose, and give them an authentic audience.  If you’re strategically planning your blogging activities/projects, students will be able to learn about giving credit to other people’s work through citations and linking, they will be able to develop their own voice as an author, they’ll begin to understand what it means to write for a broader audience, and they’ll hopefully begin to understand the power of communicating to a global audience.  When blogging, students are utilizing skills such as critical thinking, questioning, working with others, providing constructive feedback through commenting, and (hopefully) proofreading.  So give it a try.  Below I’ve linked to some easy-to-use blogging tools that will help you get started.  Please consider leaving a comment below if you’re already blogging with your students, if you use a different tool than one listed below, or if you have any questions about how to get started!

Blogger.com

Weebly.com

KidBlog.org

So far in the series, Putting the YOU in YouTube, we’ve discussed personalizing your channel, uploading your videos, and trimming out the parts of your videos that you don’t want.  In this post, we’re going to look at using the tools within the YouTube Editor that will help you put your mark on your movies.

I’m not sure why YouTube has made it so hard to find the Editor, but they have.  You can find a link to the Editor under the Enhancements option in Video Manager, OR you can simply type in youtube.com/editor in your address bar after you’re logged in.  Once at the editor, this is what you’ll see:

Video Editor - YouTube 2013-10-02 13-48-11

 

In the Editor, you can bring videos together to make one longer video, you can apply filters to your video clips, add music, titles, and transitions, as well as insert still photos into your video.  The image below shows what each of the icons in your “Options Menu” represent.

editor tools

 

The Video Editor is very easy to use because it is a simple “Drag & Drop”.  You’ll start by dragging all of your video clips you want to include in your movie onto the row of the workspace for the videos.  To add additional video clips, drag the clips down to the workspace and “drop” it beside the clip you’ve already placed.  You can click the Creative Commons icon to access video clips that have been licensed under the Creative Commons that you’re free to use in your own videos.  If you have still images you’d like to incorporate into your video, you can click the camera icon.  You’ll then be prompted to either upload images from your computer, or you can import pictures from your Google+ account.  Once they’re displayed beside the preview pane, again, just drag and drop them where you want them to go in your video.

When you drag a video clip (or any of the other options) onto the workspace, you’ll be able to edit those clips or elements further.  Below is a screenshot of what your screen will look like when you drag a video clip onto the workspace.  Notice that you’ll have the ability to make some quick fixes which include zooming in and out, change the brightness, stabilize, rotate, etc. You can also add text to your video clips.  Be careful with this, however, because if you add text here, it will display the entire time your video clip is playing.  If you’d rather just add a title text or a “slide” of text between videos, you use the text icon from the original Editor menu.  Keep reading to learn more.  To get back to the original Editor menu, simply click in the gray area of the workspace, or click the x in the upper right-hand corner of the clip editor.

video clip options in editor

The music icon will allow you add Creative Commons music clips to your videos.  Although there is a volume bar where you can tell YouTube to favor either the sound from the original video clip or the music, the music always seems to be louder than the sound from the video.  add music in editorSo just be careful and consider which is more important, music or sound from your video.  At this point, there isn’t a way to assign music to only certain portions of your video either.  You’ll drag the music clip onto the workspace under the videos and images.  Also, there is currently no way to upload your own music files…more than likely copyright issues.

To add titles and/or transitions to your movie, you click and drag the type of title or transition you’d like onto the workspace where you want them to go.  When you drag the element down to the workspace, you’ll see a blue line appear to show you where the element will be added.  You’ll need to be careful with the titles because if the blue line highlights the entire video clip, that means that title will play the entire length of the clip.  If you only want it to show before or after the video clip or image, you’ll want the skinny blue line.  To get back to the original Editor menu, you’l usually click the x in the upper right corner.  However, for some reason, that “x” isn’t present on the transitions menu.  To get back to the Editor menu, you can click in the gray area of the workspace.

If you decide that you don’t want an element in your video after all, or any element for that matter, you can hover your mouse over that element.  A small x will appear in the upper right-hand corner of the gray bar.  Simply click the x and that element will be removed from your workspace.  You can also reorder an of the elements in your video by clicking and dragging it to where you want it to go.

Once you’re video is like you want it:  all of your video clips are in the correct order, you’ve added any desired still images, you have transitions between the elements to make it flow smoothly, and you have inserted all the necessary title slides, it’s time to publish.  Directly above the preview pane, you can rename your video, then on the right-hand side of the screen is a blue “Publish” button.  Depending on how long your video is, how many transitions you’ve included, and if you decided to include music clips, it may take your video a little while to publish.  The beauty of the Editor is that until you publish, all of your work is automatically saved.  So if you don’t have time to finish your video in one sitting, you can log out of YouTube, come back to it later, go to the editor, and all of your work is still there.  When you publish, you’ll then have a blank workspace again.

Next Steps:

Making your videos interactive (Coming soon!)

Publishing your videos on YouTube (Coming soon!)

Did you miss the first three post in the series Putting the YOU in YouTube?  Check them out!

Putting the YOU in YouTube

Uploading videos to YouTube

Trimming your videos

 

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