Thursday, February 27, 2014

27 Blogging Ideas: Catching Students' Voices

Previous Park Hill ITF posts have outlined 4 Reasons Students Should Blog in the Classroom and tips and tutorials on managing student blogs using Google Forms and an RSS reader like Feedly in a post called My Students Have Created Blogs . . . Now What?.

So you might be wondering, why another post on blogging? Simple!  Blogging is a platform that provides students with a forum to develop 21st century skills, including inquiry, research, communication, creativity, collaboration, and digital citizenship skills in any content area.  In addition, students take ownership of learning because blogs allow students to find and develop their voices by investing in real-world writing in a published forum.

Are you ready to enter the blogging forum?  Let the "Blogging Games" begin!

Below we have listed and briefly explained 27 blogging ideas that can be incorporated into various content areas and grade levels in order catch students' voices!

1.  Create Exploratory Blogs or Vlogs

Students create a blog or vlog (video blog) about a topic or theme that interests them.  Ask students to post during exploratory or enrichment time and develop their theme or topic through each post.  Throughout the year, we have worked with 5th graders to develop individual exploratory blogs.  Topics include blogs about golf, creative writing, coding games, daily life as a fifth grader, a sportscasting blog, vacations, books, etc. Encourage students to utilize widgets such as polls, quick links, and lists so that their blogs attract and engage a regular audience.  
Sample Exploratory Blog

Sample Exploratory Vlog

2.  Write on Demand

Blogging provides a forum for students to simulate CCSS writing task assessments. Based on Kelly Sassi, Anne R. Gene, and Leila Christenbury's resource Writing on Demand for the Common Core State Standards Assessments, teachers can use a blogging forum for students to practice performance tasks similar to PARCC and Smarter Balanced approaches to writing assessment.

3.  Rewrite a Text

Students can use a blog to rewrite a mentor text. Based on Kelly Gallagher's instructional practices outlined in Write Like This:  Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts, students can practice real-world writing purposes like expression and reflection, informing and explaining, inquiring and exploring, analyzing and interpreting, and taking a stand or proposing a solution---all by modeling a mentor text.

4.  Reflect on Content or a Process

Use blogs as a space for students to write reflections on specific pieces related to content or processes and 21st century skills integrated into the learning environment.  This process develops students' abilities to become reflective thinkers and develop reflective practices.  This type of blog entry also develops an avenue for bloggers to communicate with blog followers and potentially develop a reflective conversation through the commenting feature.

5.  Facilitate Book Clubs

Blogging is a perfect forum to facilitate book clubs.  Students can post their reactions to readings, address specific prompts, post questions, and reply to other students' posts on the book club selection.  They can also collaborate to create a book trailer to post in the blog.  

6.  Document Students' Learning

A great way to use a blog at the elementary level is to create a class blog in which students or the teacher post videos and pictures documenting each individual student's learning.  Teachers could set up the blog so that each student has his/her own page within the blog.  This makes it easy to access the student's page and add pictures and videos in chronological order.  Ms. Cassidy's Classroom Blog is a great example of what this could look like--even for six year olds!  

7.  Globally Connect with Classrooms and Students

Blogging provides students with a global audience, but connecting with another classroom or community allows students to collaborate and share ideas through blogs.  Your class could connect with other classes in other schools, in other states, or even in other nations and share content driven knowledge, questions, etc. from topics like World War II to Romeo and Juliet.  Students can comment to posts to answer questions, elaborate on a post, or debate facts with specific evidence.  In addition, consider epals and quadblogging to locate blogging communities and topics.

8.  Post a Prompt or Respond to a Prompt

Blogs provide a perfect forum for students to address a weekly prompt.  Another idea is to use a biweekly post/comment rotation.  Students could create a post based on a prompt the first week and then the second week students could read other classmates' posts and choose one or more posts to respond to through the commenting feature.  Bill Ferriter, @plugusin, has great resources for teaching students basic tips and processes for leaving good blog comments.  

9.  Review the Week or Weekend

At the elementary and middle levels, students could collaborate in teams to craft a weekly blog entry to describe the events of the week in the classroom.  This also provides parents with an avenue to catch a glimpse of their child's learning through their student's eyes.  It also provides parents with an avenue to reply to their student.  In addition, this type of post allows those students who were absent due to illness to still be connected with the classroom.  Another idea is to have students begin their Mondays by individually posting descriptions of and reflections on their weekends.  This provides students with an avenue to share their weekends with an audience and tell their own stories, providing an avenue for every student to share and be heard! 

10. Encourage Creativity and Creative Writing

Blogging provides students with a forum to express their creativity.  Students can create poems, short stories, personal narratives, write songs, etc.  This expression doesn't have to be in written form!  Students can create video recordings too!  We have students who have created Note Card Confessions, MozillaPopcorn pop-up videos, YouTube Capture videos, etc. to express their creativity!
Sample Creative Writing Blog

11. Respond to a Text

Using a blogging forum for students to respond to a text provides practice with reading strategies, comprehension checks, and application of skills.  This also provides students with an avenue to view other students' responses to the text and reply to those responses utilizing communication skills and authentic academic discussions.

12. Find the Facts

Students love this activity!  Post a statement with no supporting facts.  Then have students utilize the research process and research skills to find facts to support or even refute the statement.  In addition, you could allow students to use the blog as a forum to evaluate sources.  For example, you could post a link to a site or resource and then students could evaluate the bias, credibility, etc. of that source.  Students could also reply to other students' comments to ask questions or add thoughts regarding their evaluation of the source.  These activities encompasses many CCSS Literacy Standards for science, history, ELA, and technical subjects.

 13. Write a Newspaper-Style Story

Blogs provide a perfect spot for students to experiment with newspaper-style writing for school events. This could include news stories, sports stories, or even feature stories on teachers and students.  This type of blog builds on the school culture and provides students with opportunities to experiment as newspaper writers.  In addition, be sure to tweet your students newspaper stories; we have found that local newspapers will pick up your students' stories and retweet them to their followers!

14. Create a Language Blog

Blog in other languages?  Absolutely!  Students can engage in communicating in a second language.  Not only can students create posts in a second language, students can also comment on other students' blogs in order to facilitate asking questions, writing in various verb tenses, and utilizing the language correctly.  Also, encourage students to create vlog (video blog) entries so they can practice oral communication by speaking in the second language as well! 

15. Create a Historical Content Blog

Create blogs based on historical events and time periods:  World War II, The Civil War, women's suffrage, etc.  Students take on the persona of a person during the time period and write from that perspective as they relate events, experiences, reactions, fears, actions, feelings, and emotions.

16. Create a Novel Blog

Love, love, love this idea!  Create a blog for a novel (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, The Giver, etc.).  Students create posts by taking on the persona of characters other than the narrator and write experiences from that character's perspectives as they read the novel.  Classmates can then comment on those posts as other characters in the novel.   

17. Respond to Current Events

In addition to writing newspaper-style stores from #13, students could use a blog to respond to current event news stories.  You could post a link to a news story and ask students to connect the main idea and supporting details to their own lives or to their community.  This provides students with the opportunity to connect to current events in the news.  If you are looking for news stories written at various Lexile levels, consider using  This is a great resources on its own or in conjunction with a blog!

18. Post from an Educational Trip or Virtual Field Trip

Blogs are a great way for students to report on an educational field trip or a virtual field trip.  You can facilitate the direction of the post by providing students with guiding question, or incorporate inquiry based learning by having students create their own questions before they experience the field trip, whether on-site or online.  This also provides students with the opportunity to interview other students, collaborate on posts, or collaborate with an expert in the field.  There are hundreds of virtual field trips online; check out National Park Foundation or Colonial Williamsburg.

19. Continuing Vocabulary

Use a blog for students to develop vocabulary usage by having students write stories.   Provide students with a prompt that encompasses creativity and vocabulary.  If you are looking for ideas for vocabulary writing ideas, consider prompts similar to the "Super Challenge" activities in Randy Larson's and Amy Rider's AbraVocabra series.

20. Create a Continuous Story

Elementary students love creating stories together!  A blog provides a digital forum students to create collaborative stories.  Each student can write their own endings to a class read aloud, or the teacher can give students a menu of options for the setting, characters, initial situation, and story starters.  Then each student can choose from the menu to create his/her own story.  For older students, consider having groups collaborate to create a portion of the menu!

21. Collaborate on Lab Research

Attention middle school and high school teachers:  Blogs are the perfect avenue for lab groups to document their labs throughout a course.  Students can publish their lab data and their lab report.  Students can then comment on other students' lab data and reports by asking questions or comparing data/reports.  In addition, this is a perfect resource for students who are absent and miss all or part of a lab activity.  Also, consider a blog for courses like foods!  Students can simulate a restaurant blog and publish their recipes, photos of their prepared foods, incorporate food tasting descriptions, rate the recipe and their final products, and reflect on the process and product.

22. Create a Question Blog or a Course Cafe

Elementary levels might utilize a blog that invites students to submit questions about content, ideas for the class, inquiry-based questions, etc., This could be utilized before a unit or during a unit to check for understanding.  Students could also reply and provide answers or responses to each other's questions. Secondary levels might utilize a blog that allowed students to ask questions and then answer each other's questions through the comment feature.  Even though the teacher monitors the blog, a Course Cafe is really a facilitated Q & A.

23. Create ePortfolios

If your district does not have ePortfolio as a part of the Learning Management System, consider using blogs as an ePortfolio.  Students can add videos, photos, and written work, including reflections.  Individual students can manage their ePortfolio blog, but teachers might want to create a classroom or course blog and create Quick Links to each student's ePorfolio/blog.

24. Publish a Neighborhood or Community Tour

A blog is also a perfect opportunity to create neighborhood and community relationships.  Students can use a blog to research and report on local history, important community groups, or even create "community tours." Students can include pictures of community activities!  This provides students the opportunity to practice informational text features including subheadings and captions.  Many local Chamber of Commerce will include your links in their Chamber of Commerce website!

25. Participate in eLearning Days

Snow days or unexpected days off provide a perfect opportunity for students to interact in learning activities from home.  The key to eLearning Day participation is to simulate your blogging processes and activities before that snow day arrives! Also, make sure that the blogging activity for the eLearning Day incorporates creativity and is one the students will view as fun!  Otherwise, they might not be interested in participating! 

26. Role Play a Point of View

Blogs provide a place for students to write from different perspectives.  They could write from the point of view of an inanimate object, an animal, or even curriculum-related characters from literature or people from various historical time periods.

27. Debate a Real-World Hot Topic

Create a blog for students to debate real-world hot topics.  This type of debate forum allows students to practice making claims and supporting claims with evidence.  Other students can reply and add to the claim with additional supporting evidence or refute the claim with rebuttal evidence.  Middle level students are usually more successful with local and school issues while high school students are more engaged when they dive into cultural, national, and international topics.

Many of these ideas were adapted from Teachers First.

Happy Blogging!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to Create a Video Note Reflection in D2L ePortfolio

Many teachers are diving into the tools in ePortfolio.  One of those tools is the Reflection tool.  A Reflection in ePortfolio can be added to an Artifact or a Collection, or it can be created as a stand-alone item.  Click here for the steps with screenshots to create a Video Note Reflection in ePortfolio and to share that Video Note Reflection with other D2L users. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

5 Tips to Flipping

If you have never flipped a lesson, I am challenging you to flip one lesson during the month of February. Flipping classroom instruction allows students to engage in Quadrant A instruction at home or, depending on your flipped model, 10 minutes during class.  Quadrant A instruction is traditional teacher-guided instruction that typically introduces content and lower levels of thinking such as acquiring knowledge or understanding a concept, skill, or a subject's basic content. Then teachers have more class time to engage in higher-levels of thinking and engagement which requires students to "think and do" by analyzing, evaluating, and creating real-world projects.  Flipping classroom instruction is one shift that can help you transition your classroom from a traditional classroom to a student-centered learning environment.

Tip #1:  Use an Easy Screencasting Tool

Not all screencasing tools are equal!  Two screencasting tools that are easy to use and are free include Screencast-o-matic and Doceri.  Screencast-o-matic has a free version that allows screen capture with both audio and video without downloading additional software.  Screencast-o-matic's free version also allows for up to 15 minutes of screencast capture and can be exported as an MP4, AVI, or FLV file or directly uploaded to your YouTube channel.  Another screencasting option is Doceri.  Doceri is an iPad app that combines a virtual whiteboard and screen capture tool which allows teachers to create a screencast on an iPad with writing and audio voiceover. This tool allows for creative options with colored pens, tools, etc. and works extremely well if you would like to write on the screen as you screencast.  This app also syncs to your computer so you can use the app on both the iPad or your computer and allows you to upload directly to your YouTube channel or Google Drive.

Tip #2:  Post Screencasts in an Easily Accessible Location

Make sure that you post all of your screencasts in a place that is easily accessible for students.  Think about creating a YouTube channel to house all of your videos and then linking those to your learning management system such as D2L.  Also, make a plan for students without WiFi access.  Set up procedures for these students to download the flipped lessons to a jump drive/USB so that they can access the flipped lessons from home.

Tip #3:  Make Reentry to Class Engaging and Meaningful

If students are completing the flipped instruction at home, the reentry classroom activity must be engaging and meaningful to students; otherwise, students will not have a reason or motivation to complete the flipped lesson.  If your classroom activity the day after a flipped lesson is a lecture or a traditional activity, students will not see the value of the flip.  Why sit through a flipped lesson at home if the lesson in class the next day is the same information?  Use class time after a flipped lesson to incorporate application of the skills from the flipped lesson at higher levels and in real-world situations.  Utilize project, product, and inquiry-based lessons and incorporate 21st century skills like collaboration and communication through discussions and group projects.  Also, consider using a formative assessment as an entry event to check for understanding. Quick and easy-to-use tools like Mentimeter and Poll Everywhere can be used for quick formative assessments.  Then teachers can use these results to then differentiate classroom instruction the day after a flipped lesson based on individual student's understanding. This works extremely well if you utilize the workshop model within your classroom.

Tip #4:  Have a Plan for Student Who Don't Complete the Flip

Like traditional homework, have a plan for students who don't complete a flipped lesson assigned as homework.  Make sure that you have a way to hold students accountable for the flipped lesson content.  In other words, how will you know if they completed the flip?  Some teachers send students who do not complete the flip to "exile island," so they have to watch the flipped lesson before they can participate in the class activity.  Depending on your grade level, building's schedule, and your classroom schedule, consider other times during the day in which students could complete the flipped lesson if they don't do it at home. Again, student motivation for a flip assigned as homework is dependent on the reentry activity!

Tip #5:  Think About Flipping During Class

Some flipped lessons can be done during class. This gives all students time to do the flipped lesson.  What is the advantage?  Teachers can quickly and concisely deliver Quadrant A information.  Students can pause, rewind, and review the information multiple times.  The teacher can also use this time to facilitate the flipped instruction and confer with students as they finish.  Flipped lessons during class provide more opportunities for students to work at their own pace with teacher support.  Also, since a flipped lesson is no longer than 10-12 minutes, students still have a majority of the class period to engage in higher-level thinking activities, and teachers have the opportunity to shift roles to that of a facilitator rather than lecturer.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

That's Pinteresting!

 I will be cursing it the last week of May, but when my phone rings at 5:00 a.m. I cannot help but get excited.  Seeing "Park Hill" on my caller I.D. on a cold winter's morning can only mean one thing. A Snow Day!

For me, a Snow Day means some of my favorite things. Sleeping in, sweats, sipping loads of coffee, and Pinning on Pinterest!

Pinterest is a social-media platform where you can search, collect, and organize things you find on the web or from other peoples' Pinterest boards.  You "Pin" a photo of what you like to a particular board(s) that you create.  This pin will link you to another place on the web (i.e. a blog post or website).

I got started on Pinterest about two years ago.  At first I created boards for recipes, fashion, dream vacations, and creative ideas for my home. But as I branched out, I found that many Pinterest users were teachers and pinning ideas for their classrooms -- not just cute bulletin board ideas, but actual lesson plans, tools, and links to great blog posts that connected me to teachers across the country.

If you are new to Pinterest, it is easy to get started.  You can sign-up with your email or Facebook account. You can then create boards and begin following friends or colleagues that have the same interests as you. When you find something you like, you can "re-pin" so the item will then be saved to your own board.

The Instructional Technology Facilitators have recently created a Pinterest account where we are Pinning some of our favorite things.  Follow our boards to stay up-to-date on our tutorials and other great resources we come across.  

Park Hill ITF's Pinterest Boards

Happy Snow Day, and Happy Pinning!


Monday, February 3, 2014

3 "Better Than A Conference" Professional Development Resources

Like teaching, professional development has undergone a transformation due to technology.  Instead of attending a week-long conference once a year, instructional professional development is now a daily, year-long "unconference."  Now, professional development is available as you stand in line at the post office, wait in line at the DMV, sit in a doctor's waiting room, or relax on the couch on a Friday night.  Utilizing the three online professional development opportunities below allows teachers to be one click from the latest instructional ideas, teacher blogs, professional learning networks and communities, resources, collaboration opportunities, and webinars to inspire ideas, redefine instruction, and revive your passion for teaching.

#1:  Twitter

Twitter is instant professional development created by you and specifically for you.  Follow educational gurus who share your vision and pedagogy.  One question that I hear from teachers regarding Twitter is "I don't know who to follow."  This can be the hardest part about getting started with Twitter, but once you find educational experts who can provide you with tips, ideas, links, blogs, other websites, videos, and research, you will be hooked!  From curriculum topics like Common Core State Standards to Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and from educational technology like Google Apps to content-driven lesson plan ideas and templates, Twitter is a hub for educational resources.

Consider following some of the educational professionals below to get you tweeting.

@ianjukes     Ian Jukes is a speaker, co-author of 14 books, consultant, self-claimed educational evangelist, and co-developer of the 21st Century Fluency Project.  Jukes tweets about 21st century learning and teaching through transforming direct instruction, tools for teaching, and using technology to offer real-world experiences.

@tncollins97     Nate Collins is an Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Virginia, USA.  He is a collaborative and reflective leader who tweets about tools and strategies for fostering 21st century learning and includes a lot of Google Doc tricks and tips.

@kylepace     Pace is an Instructional Technology Specialist, Google Certified Teacher, the 2013 Ed Week leader to Learn From, ASCD emerging leader, and educational presenter from Kansas City, USA.  Pace is active in #edchat, #edcamp, and #moedchat.  He focuses on developing the web 2.0 classroom and effective tools for curriculum integration.

@TDOttawa     Tom D'Amico is a Twitter guru with over 4,000 followers who focuses on learning and teaching in the 21st century with a focus on edtech, web 2.0, innovation, technology and creativity.  He is a superintendent in Ottawa, Ontario.  He also updates his page iGeneration-21st Century Education, another great resource, through Twitter.

@classroom20     Classroom 2.0 is a network that provides resources for a student-centered classroom and global classroom, including videos, templates, tool tips, etc.

@isteconnects     ISTE tweets are from @Heidi Ellis and @BritniHartford as they provide tips to advance learning and teaching in regard to Common Core, flipped learning, and blended learning.  They also offer webinars and whitepapers.

 @edtech_K12     EdTech K-12 Magazine focuses on issues facing K-12 IT leaders, administrators, and educators.  They partner with @EdTech_HigherEd and provide resources on tools that engage learners and provide individualized and differentiated instruction to meet individual student's needs.

@Desire2Learn@D2LBarry, and @D2LBarbthoeming     Join Desire2Learn to stay posted on new tips to transform education with innovative teaching and learning solutions that go beyond the standard offerings of a traditional LMS. Also, follow @D2LBarry and @D2LBarbthoeming to become a part of the Desire2Learn Community, which consists of educators who work together to share resources and collaborate on effective practices for e-learning.

Don't forget to add the ITFS:  @parkhillitf@jillwatkins1010@erinsmithITF@lstutzman13@carlsonmrc.

In addition to expanding your following, use #hashtags to search for information related to a topic and to tag your tweets.  The Park Hill Instructional Technology Facilitators will be using #phitf.  If you tweet a tool, tip, or resource that would benefit our team, please add our hashtag to your tweets.  Below I have listed some popular and useful hashtags used by educational professionals.  Use these hashtags to search for relevant instructional technology resources.

Also, Twitter hosts educational chats!  You can follow (or, as I call it, "stalk") or participate in a Twitter chat by a hashtag.  Consider trying one of the many Twitter chats using this Google Calendar with educational chats for all content areas.

#2:  Blogs

A second professional development "go-to" is the educational technology blog-o-sphere.  If you are thinking, "I don't want to follow a blogger!"-- think again!  Many of the most respected and innovative edtech leaders have blogs that provide instructional technology news, integration ideas, tool reviews, and reflections and insights from the trenches.  If you become a blog follower or a blogower, you might want to use an RSS reader, such as Feedly, to organize and access multiple blogs from one app.  Once you are ready to launch into this blog-o-sphere, consider following some of the blogs listed below.      

Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom:  A Blend of Technology and Education
Steven Anderson is the Director of Instructional Technology for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Anderson is an ISTE, ASCD, and NCTIES presenter and created the weekly Twitter education discussion #edchat.  His blog won the 2009 and 2011 Edublogs of The Year Award, he was named the 2011 Twitterer of The Year, and he was named as an ASCD Emerging Leader in 2012.  Anderson's most popular blog posts include "Going Global-Tips and Resources for Global Collaborations" and "The Summer Series of Learning (10 Posts To Learn Something Over The Summer, or Anytime)."  Anderson is also responsible for introducing me to one of my favorite global projects called QuadBlogging, which allows students to blog and comment with other students in another country.

Free Technology for Teachers
Richard Byrne is a Google Certified Teacher with teaching experience in the 1:1 learning environment in English Language Arts and global studies.  His blog focuses on free tech tools and how to integrate those tools into the learning environment.  His blog posts include links, video tutorials, and suggested applications in the classroom.

Learning with 'e's:  My Thoughts about Learning Technology and All Things Digital
Steve Wheeler is an associate professor, past e-Learning conference chair and school board member who advocates for the use of blogging in the learning environment.  Wheeler shares insight on using blogging and collaborative tools to produce students into writers by communicating with real audiences.  Some of his recent blog posts include "Learners Promoting Change" and "Backchannels, Hashtags, and Learning."

#3:  Sites and Boards

In addition to Twitter and blogs, websites, Facebook, and Pinterest boards are also quick resources for professional growth.  The following sites and boards are definitely bookmark worthy! is sponsored by The George Lucus Educational Foundation and focuses on K-12 learning strategies that empower teachers to improve education.The site includes specific sections for project-based learning, teacher development, and technology integration.  In addition, you can browse by grade level, access blog posts from multiple bloggers by topic, and access educational videos.  The site also has a Facebook page, Pinterest boards, and a Twitter feed.

The Ed Tech Round Up
Michael Karlin writes the The Roundup as a one-stop source for regular updates on the latest educational technology news and reviews.  Karlin's site includes reviews, editorials and press, weekly podcasts, ed tech links, and lesson plans.  The links tab is organized by both sites and apps (presentation, creation, web design, organization, and mobile).  The Ed Tech Round Up also has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning
Meb Kharbach has created a resource of educational web tools and mobile apps for teachers and educators.  Kharbach's site includes categorical browsing capabilities so teachers can browse tools and ideas specific to task, purpose, or tool.  The site also features a section with instructional ePosters to embed in sites, an LMS, blogs, etc.  Other key pages in the site include YouTube4teachers, teacher tools, and free downloads. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning has a Facebook page, Pinterest boards, and a Twitter feed.