21st Century Communication

MISD Librarian Training


Blogs are versatile tools. Many people characterize blogs as rambling, rants over something that interests the writer. Blogging purists tend to push for this style, but teachers do have options when setting up blogs, so you shouldn't be restricted by the style characteristics people expect.

Discuss student naming conventions to protect student identity. I like the idea of having students create a username that isn't associated with them in anyway. You can also set security settings to make sure comments do not appear until the teacher approves them.

One example of a reading circle style blog is Mrs. Espinoza's blog about The Great Gatsby. Another example is the Chapa Library Blog. A library that uses a blog as their web page on the Books and Beyond blog. An elementary example is the Wildcat Books blog. An interesting plug in for your blog is Lookybooks. It allows you to browse an entire book in the blog. They also used a blog to prepare for an author visit. The students read the authors books and discussed them on the blogs to prepare for the visit. The librarian contacted the author and the author participated in the blog with the kids. She even mentioned the blog posts during her visit.

A good resource for blogging is the Support Blogging website.

Joyce Valencia websiteA common use of a blog is a Literature Circle. Although the individual teacher can vary the structure of the blog’s design (Discussion Forum or Author Involvement), the concept remains the same: students are actively interacting with others to widen their knowledge base on a particular literary work. Here are some examples of how a Literature Circle could function:

1. Discussion Forum
The MISD 4th Grade ELA curriculum, first 9 weeks, deals with many novels, including Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. The concepts of its writing workshop cover “analyzing patterns in what you read” and “comparing organization of different texts.” As the teacher, you could set up your MISD blog as a major pipeline through which your students could respond to statements/questions regarding patterns and organization as they apply to this story. Students could either reply to your statements/questions OR they could respond to another student’s comment. It would be wise to set up the expectations ahead of time and make sure that students understood the requirements. Asking them to respond to each of your posts at least once (or another student’s comment to one of your posts) would be parallel to having students write in journal. It would also allow them to see what other students think about the topic, often those students who would not normally speak in class. This forum could then act as a centralized discussion area for important concepts, all of which are directed and controlled by you.

2. Author Involvement
Since Judy Blume has a blog of her own (http://judyblume.com/cgi-bin/dagongb/guestbook.html.php ), it is not inconceivable that she would welcome an opportunity to interact with your students. Again, it would be wise to set up the expectations ahead of time and make sure that students understood the requirements. Think of the impact it could have on your students to ask questions regarding patterns and organization to the author of the book. Students could submit their questions to you for review, and then either you or the students could send these to her through her blog. I would probably consider consolidating questions so that Judy isn’t hit with 22 questions a week from your students. To avoid conflicts with choosing a suitable question, you could have them submit the questions to you and then have the class evaluate the questions (names withheld) and choose a “winner.”

Either of these examples has added benefits: writing improvement and ownership. If I was a fourth grade student writing to a global audience rather than just my teacher, I would tend to be more attentive to my grammar and writing style. For a student to take ownership of his/her learning, there has to be value in it. Becoming part of the global community through the guise of a blog and/or interacting with the author of a book he/she is reading are powerful draws to encouraging ownership.

Where in ...

A blog like the project below can be used with a geography unit.
Here the students are posting requests for information. They are able to read each other's questions and the answers that they received to solve the mystery. They aren't working with a specific group on a specific project, but they were all sharing information with a larger group that shared a common goal.

They needed to frame their own questions according to the information that they needed. They get a lot of experience sorting through clues that they are provided for them to solve puzzles, but they need to get practice generating questions to get a specific piece of information.

The teacher is able to edit each question before it shows up on the web page so that the question and answer are both part of the same comment. You can also hold back on approving some answers so that others can have more time to solve the mystery.

Natural Resources

This blog can be used for this activity from the 3rd grade Social Studies curriculum guide.

Suggested Activity: In pairs students review a several pictures from magazines depicting different environments. Students describe the environment in one column and list possible modification in another column.

Place a picture of an environment as part of the post explaining that you want students to leave a comment describing the environment.


Another example is this effort from DP109.
This class used the blog to pose questions to two businessmen in different parts of the world. They were examining globalization and how it affects the workplace. Students posted their ideas of what questions should be asked. The teacher put them together and came up with a list of questions they would ask in a Skype interview with the businessmen. The teacher then asked the students to formulate a thesis statement for their paper on globalization and post it.

The questions could have been submitted and answered though the blog. It isn't the same as the discussion was, but a few more people might have been able to participate. The students could have asked more questions to clarify, and if the businessmen had a blog, they could have received notification about any new questions. The dialog might have been able to continue throughout the project, and the businessmen could have tracked the project as it progressed. The students could have discussed their conclusions and even shared their paper where the businessmen could access it.
A blog is a very easy way to place information on the Internet. The interface, called a wysiwyg looks like a word processor and saves directly to the web page. The information is also organized in an easy to read structure.
A post is an easy way to store links for Internet research, scavenger hunts or even webquests.
The ability for students to leave comments can make a blog a great structure for discussions like literature circles, revising or evaluating writing.
A blog can also be used for students to detail their progress through a project or experiment.


Wikis are slightly different from a blog. A wiki may or may not allow users to leave comments. They are not organized in as strict a structure as blogs. They are as easy to publish as a blog because they generally have a wysiwyg also. Wikis have a more interactive ability. Another user can actually edit the document.
Use a wiki for groups to work together on a project. Group members can work together to add research data, type a project, or prepare a report from any computer that has Internet access.

An interesting project using a wiki is the Nutmeg project. This project allowed students to write guides to the books that had been nominated for the Conneticut Nutmeg Children's Book Award. Their goal for the project is displayed below

Wikis can be used for translating a foreign language, practicing sentence editing or proofreading. The following resources are provided should you want to conduct further research.

A Wiki is another tool to collaborate across a distance. A wiki is a bit more versatile since anyone can edit it, so students from across a great distance can actually work on the same paper or project. A 3rd grade class in our district and another 3rd grade class in Avon, Ohio are working on writing a chapter book together. They set it up for the students in Magnolia to write the first chapter and then the Avon students write the second chapter, and so on.
That could be easily done though a blog with the students leaving comments for the writers to edit the chapter, or with a wiki, the students could actually edit the chapter that their counterparts wrote. The students could read their partners chapter and add a paragraph that makes an important twist in the story smoother.

Some students used wikipedia for a project to tell about the Pitot House in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Some community members picked up the project and made it a part of their project to promote New Orleans.

In the Flat Classroom Project a class in Georgia and a class in Bangladesh participated in a book study of Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat.
Each student was paired with a student at the far site to write a "paper" exploring some of the topics in the book. The "papers" were wikis.


The goal of this project is to create an encyclopedia for the Nutmeg Book Award 2008 nominees. Each book will have its own page full of information related to the book. As they read the Nutmeg Book Award 2008 nominees, participating students are encouraged to add information, ideas, comments, opinions, pictures, maps, and anything else related to the books. Students will collaborate on the same pages, editing, enhancing and revising each other's content where they see fit.

This same idea could be conducted in Magnolia with the Bluebonnet Book Award.

A wiki would be an excellent tool for teachers who want their students to work together to learn and practice writing skills. First grade students could type their stories in the wiki. Then second grade students could edit their stories to show the first grade students how to expand and elaborate in their stories. This would demonstrate where could they add details and what words might make their stories more interesting for others to read. Students in higher grades could continue to expand these stories. What a great teaching tool for creative writing!

Twitter and Plurk

Twitter and Plurk are social networking sites (technically microblogging sites) that many educators are using for personal learning networks. http://www.plurk.com/jgustin/invite . Plurk is a micro blogging site with a threaded discussion system. There are several librarians on Plurk. Plurk has several education members, but it is not a particularly large community. The members of Plurk share teaching resources. You can join Plurk and view my friends and fans. Look at their profiles to decide if they are people that you would like in your PLN. If they are you can become a fan. They will receive a message that you have become a fan. Usually they will check your profile and either become a fan of you, or request friendship. If their profile won't allow people to become fans, then request friendship. They will decide to approve your request based on your profile.

Twitter is another microblogging service http://twitter.com/ . Twitter has a larger community of users. It doesn't have the threaded discussion system so a complete conversation is less likely, but the larger community has the potential to provide more resources. You can joim Twitter and search for members. Then check the list of people that the user is following and the list of people that are following them. Click on thos people and view their profile. If they are similar to yours, you can follow them and build your Twitter PLN.


Skype is a Voice over IP service for making Internet calls. You can communicate via text message, audio chat, or even video chat. Skype provides an alternative to our larger video conferenceing system. Since it is a direct connection to the Internet from your computer, there is no need to coordinate your conference with the video conference facilitator. If you know someone on Skype, you can decide to dial them when it benefits your lesson. This way the conference (text, audio, or video) is driven by your lesson, rather than the lesson being driven by your conference.

There are several resources that you can use to find resources for conferences. People that you know like other teachers and websites like http://www.epals.com/ and http://www.cilc.org/ can all provide resources that you and your students can contact for information.


Animoto is an online photostory application. You can upload photos, choose transitions and music, then publish your photo stories very easily. You can create an account at http://www.animoto.com . Animoto will allow you to upload photos for 30 second videos. They also have effects that you can apply and music that you can use for your video.


Jing is a desktop screen capture utility. You download the Jing application then register for an online account and you can record tasks on the computer to make video tutorials.

Ustream, Youtube, and video sharing sites

Ustream is a video streaming system that allows you to stream live events and record them. The video clips that you record are saved to your Ustream channel and can be posted on other sites.

Youtube, Schooltube, and Teachertube are video sharing sites. These sites will allow you to upload your videos. You can also search the videos that others have uploaded and use them in lessons.

RSS aggregators

RSS aggregators are applications that allow you to follow the updates to any site that is enabled with RSS.

social bookmarking

Social bookmarking sites like Diigo and Delicious allow you to bookmark websites and share them with others.


Flickr and other photo sharing sites have many community features that allow interaction with viewers.


Podcasting is an audio or video file that is made available on a regular basis and with an ability to subscribe via RSS.

Video Conferencing

Another common tool for distance learning and collaboration is instructional videoconferencing (IVC). MISD has an IVC system on each of its campuses, so availability is not an issue. Let’s look at a few examples of how the IVC system could be used in conjunction with the ELA curriculum.

1. In the Third Grade ELA curriculum (2nd 9 weeks), one of the foci is on “Cultures, Analyzing Characters.” This provides ample grounds for utilizing IVC to bring your students together with a class from another part of the country/world. Any work that you choose could be the subject of the IVC session(s). Once you have decided upon a work and delineated the goal of the collaboration, the MISD Educational Technology Department would find a partner for you. It is best to allow at least two weeks lead time to secure a partner (a month is better).

Here is how it could proceed: You select a novel/story with an outcome project based on character analysis and cultural differences – the project could be a PowerPoint presentation, an oral presentation, or a poster with accompanying oral description. Then, you would inform the MISD EdTech Department who would then find a partner school. Once your partner is selected, you would proceed through your unit and prepare your students for the culminating IVC session(s) where they would share their project with another class. During the entire process, you will need to be in contact with your partnering teacher to insure that your outcomes are compatible and that time is used effectively (the EdTech Department can assist with this).

It is recommended that, during the course of the selected project, the students on each end collaborate with one another through e-mail, blogs, wikis, or good old snail mail. You could organize the collaborating students in individual pairs or groups, but it is important that you, as the teacher, keep control of the communications to avoid any missteps. The culminating IVC session would consist or students sharing their projects back and forth.

2. Another possible IVC session(s) could focus on the analysis of poetry, its elements, or dramatic interpretation of a poem. Here is a template that you could use for a poetry slam: http://mail.magnoliaisd.org/~cbrown/poetry.pdf. As you can see, this could also be modified for other genre of literature as well as any other aspect of a particular work (character analysis or cultural differences, to name two). This type of IVC session provides many opportunities for writing, speaking, presentation, and project construction.

An IVC session(s) is a powerful tool that your students can use to explore your assignment as well as the way others see the same topic with a different flair.

Web 2.0 Activity


1 - Go to wikipedia. Hit random... Read More... Read More or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random

The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band. (alternatively, if the first article you hit is short, hit Random Article two more times.)

2 - Go to Random quotations or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3

The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on explore the last seven days or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
4 - Use photoshop or Picnik.com or other photo editor to put it all together.