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Faculty meeting musings; a segue to a Blogger vs. KidBlog battle

Posted by phourigan on June 2, 2010

Last week at a faculty meeting, I was given the opportunity to speak to the faculty about professional development opportunities.  This is typically not my bailiwick, but I was very excited to give it a go because it gave me a chance to espouse a little of my educational philosophy to a captive audience.

It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that the best way to convince teachers that they need to start exploring how technology can help them become better teachers is to get them together with other teachers in their area of expertise.  If, say, a history teacher attends a history teacher conference, it’s my strong feeling that eventually those teachers will start discussing technology tools and how they help in and out of the classroom.  This is an entirely different approach than for me to appear at a history department meeting and say, “Here are some tools that I think you should use in your class.”

So I spoke for about five minutes and presented some research I had done on national departmental conferences, but I spent most of the time emphasizing the free opportunities available to all teachers.  Pennsylvania is fortunate in that educators have access to Intermediate Units – regional educational service agencies – that offer free training and professional development opportunities for public and independent school teachers.

At the end of my time, I emphasized that education needs to change.  Factual knowledge is readily available and we can’t confuse finding data with gaining insight.  I stressed that our job as teachers is to teach students how to take what they can find and make sense of it.

I thought it went pretty well, but as I returned to my seat I heard one of our upper school teachers mutter, “Oh yeah – like I’m going to have my kids keep blogs with all their wonderful spelling.”

Had this been lunch or a more intimate setting, I would have engaged in this conversation with great gusto.  However, it was a full faculty meeting that had already run over time, so I had the conversation in my head instead:

SO TEACH THEM HOW TO BLOG!!  Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do?  I guarantee that students who have a blog will write more than students who don’t.  This isn’t about spelling, and English teachers can hate me if they like, but spell check has taken care of spelling for us.  Instead, we need to teach context and meaning.  Having the correct spelling is akin to having the knowledge.  Picking the right word is akin to knowing what to do with that knowledge.

Now the segue —

I’ve been testing out Blogger and KidBlog this morning to see which platform will work for my CEC class next year.  I’m looking for a way to have my students keep their own individual blogs but have them under some kind of administrative control.

On the one hand, Blogger has the potential to fully integrate with Google Apps, since it’s also owned by Google.  Although that functionality isn’t there yet, I suspect it will be at some point.

On the other hand, KidBlog has the administrative control I’m looking for.  I can create a class and each student gets his own blog under my class heading.  I can approve postings, comments or both and students don’t need to provide an e-mail address to get an account, unlike Blogger which uses a Google Account.  My colleague, @ksivick, used KidBlog successfully in her 4th grade project earlier this year.

My fear is that 8th grade boys will be too cool to use a site called KidBlog.  I asked one of my current 7th graders what he thought about using a tool called KidBlog and he said he wouldn’t mind, “as long as it looks cool.”  In my opinion, KidBlog looks like it was designed for eight year olds, so I don’t know how that will go over.

Right now I’m leaning towards KidBlog and hoping they’ll change their name and give us some more templates.


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