Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts this week about how I try to support learners in my room by using mentor texts for digital writing. These posts, plus writing by Bill Bass, Katie DiCesare, Troy Hicks, Kevin Hodgson and Franki Sibberson are being collected at Mentor Texts in the Digital Writing Workshop
In previous posts in this series, I have shared things I have already done with kids in my room. I thought it would be goos to share something that is in process in my room currently and two things that will be coming up soon.
For the last two years I have been inspired by the work of Katie DiCesare and others I know that have their kids "blog" on a regular basis, but incredibly frustrated with the fact that it is nearly impossible to blog without an app on iPads, I haven't really had the chance to explore blogging with my 4th graders. However, sometime in the fall, I discovered Kidblog made an arrangement with Wordpress so that you could link up a Kidblog accounts with the Wordpress app. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I realized that, yes indeed my students were going to start blogging.
About two weeks ago, I created our account and started to play with the app version of blogging. To be honest I had some difficulty with it. Primarly because blogging on an app does not have the same look or feel as using a web-based portal to blog. After I worked on figuring out what some of the issues for me were, I started looking for potential problems for the kids. Then on Tuesday, we as a class started "playing around" with the app. Not surprisingly, most of the kids had none of the issues I had. The class has no concept of what it would be like to blog without an app.
For our first "post" they are publishing the literary essays (a required form of writing in our district) As I write this most of the class is about halfway done with their revised version. Next week we are going to pause and revisit how we have been conferencing with each other on our writing, then we are going to work in small groups to post comments on each other's work. Before we do this I am planning to have a quick mini-lesson on thoughtful comments. I have already started collecting lots of examples of comments from this blog, other blogs I follow and from a list of great kid blogs that Katie references in her post I linked above.
I am intentionally slowing down on this work of commenting, because I want the kids in my room to see the power of what strong comments can do for a writer. I feel that using the mentor texts of both good and bad comments and encouraging the kids to think, "What would this do for me" or "What would this do to me" will be a powerful step in moving toward a place that when they start to comment on the blogs of their classmates we can get beyond, "Hey! You rock!"
Besides using the iPads to blog, I loaded two more free apps recently that will take me some time to find good mentor texts for the kids to use when we start to explore them. I have never tried podcasting with my class. I know that this can be a powerful tool to share thinking and ideas, but I couldn't quite figure out what to do with it. However, having the iPads has pushed me to jump in. The app audioBoo is a neat little recorder that instantly sends an audio file to the web. After playing around with this app at home for a while, I discovered that not only could you send a web-based link to share the podcast, but you can embed an audioBoo into a blog. I am thinking my class will love this. We will probably start slow, like maybe adding a few podcasts about what we have been doing to our class blog, but then build into what ever direction the class leads me. I am definitely excited about this tool and it's possibilities.
The second app we will be exploring is Show Me. Like audioBoo, this app uploads work to the web that can be embedded into a blog or shared with a link easily. The difference is that Show Me uploads a narrated video you make while using a whitboard like app on the iPad. I am still trying to figure out how to use this app, but one way could be to share thinking about diagrams or pictures. Here ia an example of a mentor text I might use if I go that route.
This work of creating digital texts can be very messy and it can be frustrating at times. I would not want to list all the times an idea didn't work out the way I thought it would. So the three things I shared in this post, our journey into blogging, podcasting and using ShowMe to create simple narrated screencasts could end up being a mess. However, I think that the risks of trying these new tools will be dwarfed by the reward of the kids being able to see or hear their work online and receive feedback from peers and family members about their work. It is important for children to see that their work can be viewed, appreciated and critiqued by a wider audience than their teacher and a select few others. It builds their self-efficacy as producers of content.