EC&I 834 - Designing for Online and Blended Learning

Authenticity is the Key

This week I feel the need to wear two hats when responding to our blog prompt. Not only am I a graduate studies student but I am also a grade 2 teacher and I feel my views on the openness of discussion forums and blogs vary depending on the hat I am wearing. For the purpose of today’s post I will primarily discuss my experience as a classroom teacher.

Although my views change depending on the perspective I am applying, there are two pieces that I believe are key to creating an effective online discussion space. I believe, as Sarah points out, that whether a discussion forum is intended for grade 2 students or graduate students practice is the key! Now what that practice looks like is going to be very different at the different levels. Students should be provided the opportunity to grow and develop as a member of that community.

The second focus I believe needs to be around the idea of authenticity. This week Logan points out the need for educators, at any level, to provide their students with opportunity for choice in how they interact and that we need to give them an audience. I couldn’t agree more! Whether that audience comes from an open or closed space, I really don’t think that matters. What I think does matter is that we allow participants of these communities autonomy. That’s not to suggest that their doesn’t need to be accountability as Ashley discusses.

Do my grade 2 students understand that once they post something online, it’s there forever?

I am not positive that they do. However, as their teacher I make a concentrated effort to ensure that I am helping them to build their understanding about what it means to have a digital footprint . My experience as a teacher with blogging or discussion forums has come in two forms. Prior to learning about Seesaw, I had a classroom blog hosted by WordPress.

I used this blog in a little bit of different way than we traditionally view blogging. I say different because the students did not actually write the posts. When I was using this blog I would write a post that either had a question or a task for the students to complete. Once the task was complete or they had formulated a response to the question they would create their own “post” by replying through the comment option.

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Photo Credit: traumatrigger Flickr via Compfight cc

Parents in the classroom had the link and could see when their child had commented so long as they visited the blog. They were then able to reply to their child’s writing. All of the comments were moderated by me and were not seen by the public until I said yes. This was an open  blog that required no log in. At the time I felt this was the best option for my students because it was open for the world to see and there was potential for feedback.  However, the traffic on the blog was limited to our classroom and the few parents who visited it. There was very little feedback outside of our classroom community. When I look back I can see the limitations. Students could only respond via text. There was no other option and same went for the families. Was this the best way? At the time, this was what I knew and the students were engaged. However, I am not sure that they were truly engaged in the actual blogging . I do think they liked the idea of sharing their thoughts in a new way. There was definitely excitement in the air when they knew their parents had viewed and responded to their post. I would venture to say that this, at the time, was better than not having my students interacting with in an online space at all.

Fast forward to my classroom today with the addition of Seesaw…

I no longer use the blog that I mentioned earlier! In our classroom we have  5 iPads available at all times. This means that students can access their Seesaw journal at pretty much any time. It is very rare that I will say no to a student who asks to post something on Seesaw and they ask on a daily basis!

Today my students are able to share their thoughts and understanding through 6 different options all hosted by Seesaw. I do still have to approve their posts and I think that with younger students this is important. It allows me as their teacher to have a discussion with them about a post. Generally their posts are not inappropriate however they may be unnecessary or confusing to the viewer. Once their post has been approved their parents receive an instant alert on their parent account! Often within seconds of posting parents are commenting and providing feedback.

If you’ve ever been curious about what a parent sees when they log in to Seesaw, check out this video tutorial!

Recently I have sort of opened the door for commenting. My students have specific tasks while at the iPad stations for Daily 5 and math however, I do give them the option to check out their journal and comment on a classmates post before getting going on the days activity. They also have time to check out their journal during snack or indoor recess. I  make a point of giving them time at least once a week (and more when I can) to interact with the class feed. Whether that’s just viewing or commenting on a classmates posts, they love it!

Although Seesaw in and of itself is a closed space, I think my students today are benefiting even more than the ones who I used the blog with. So I do think the question about open or closed perhaps isn’t the best question to ask. I think both have merit. What I do think we should be asking is, are we providing our students with an authentic learning opportunity?

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7 thoughts on “Authenticity is the Key

  1. Great post, Nicole. I had a similar experience with a blog that had a classroom audience but was limited outside of that. It was very poorly used. I think that was my fault now that I reflect on it. I agree that if it’s authentic and students can see purpose behind the task, they will be more invested.

  2. Nicole!
    I love hearing other primary teachers point of view on blogging in the classroom. SeeSaw is the best. I love it so much. Have you taken part in the #seesaw chat on Twitter? Teachers throw around lots of great ideas on how they use it. Who knows, maybe you will find a space for blogging in your classroom again at some point!

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