Friday, April 26, 2013

"The Wonderful World of Wikis, Blogs, and Podcasts" - Jamie Diamond and Meg Gaier, District 220, Barrington, IL

So in February I promised some follow-ups on what I learned at the CCIRA Conference this year. So let's talk about Jamie Diamond and Meg Gaier's presentation "The Wonderful World of Wikis, Blogs, and Podcasts."

The first thing I had to say is that these ladies made the use of these technologies seem easy, rather than cumbersome. I have yet to tackle blogs and podcasts, but next year I would like to push them a bit more. Podcasts in particular intrigue me because they seem like a great way to follow the advice of another presenter, Johnathon Mooney, and de-emphasize reading and writing, while supporting literacy. Podcasts allow students to work on vocabulary through word choice and voice as they share what they know verbally. I can also share things with my students via podcasts. Two students that I have right now made me very interested in this because they are great kids but deal with dyslexia in one case, and a severe case of LD reading struggles in the other. As I have learned from these boys, however: open these opportunities up to all students, so some kids are not singled out. Wikis offer a great way for kids to collaborate and because it's essentially a website - it seems more purposeful than simply creating something in a google doc with peers.

One thing they did that made teaching the use of these technologies so much more doable was the use of videos from Common Craft. I knew I could go back to my students, share a video like "Blogs in Plain English" and have a springboard for a discussion about Blogs and how we use them. I built my blogs and got started in both my science and social studies class. The kids were engaged and the beauty of it was - every kid turned SOMETHING in. In the future, I intend to use these more, as my school did a fundraiser to buy chromebooks and we now have a set of 20 that I can check out and use regularly.

Warning: Do your research first! I started blogging, having checked with my school tech teacher to see if he thought this would be okay. The students are all under an "umbrella" account which I run and thus do not have their own accounts (but they do have their own logins). Since I teach 6th grade, my students are under 13. He thought it was fine and would not break any laws, but then our district tech leader heard about it (because one of the district tech people has a daughter in my class - she loved that we did this and was bragging about it) and he shut us down. I'm still not sure if he knows how the logins work, but we were asked to include this site in our list for our tech agreement that parents sign at the beginning of the year.

The site I used: Kidblog

I picked kidblog because these presenters said it was friendlier for young students than sites like Edublog. Since my students are under 13, I try to stick with the elementary friendly sites.

Personally, I think this site is great because if a student forgets to "publish" their work, I can look up drafts and still see their work. Also, kids get to personalize their individual blogs -so they like it. Its a great place where I can comment (public or private), kids can see the work of their peers, and edits can be made at any time (school or home). I have complete control over what is posted, comments, usernames, passwords, etc. Also, I can set the site to be hidden, so external viewers cannot see the posts my class has made. We can have conversations about each others' work and learn more through each other.

Here are a couple examples of how it could be used:

  • Reporting class news: individual students can report what they learn or what they think or feel
    • In my Science class, we reported our evidence about why different geologic time periods began. For example, students might talk about the emergence of life on land and what new era that ushered in. They had to use the "CER" (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning) response.
  • Current event reports: Students can report about world events, sharing news that interests them and commenting on things they discover through each others blog (a great way to do this is assign weeks for reporting and then kids who aren't reporting, have to comment on the news reports).
The beauty of this: Students can practice their writing skills with a clear and real audience. This type of writing feels purposeful, real-world, and not contrived.


  1. We are so happy that you were able to use some of the things that we shared during our presentation. And, we are honored that you blogged about your experience with them. Our book, Literacy Lessons for a Digital World, was just recently published and is available for sale on Amazon and/or BN. You can also find more helpful information about using tech in the classroom on the following link from Instructor Magazine: