Having a Great PLN Benefits Your Students (thanks to @jacbalen)

Last week was report card week. That means high stress for students. Especially for new grade 9’s. This is their first report card and they are unsure what to expect. My Learning Strategies Class (GLS1O) was no exception. I knew that I would need to have some learning activities around mindset and resiliency planned for the day our report cards were handed out.

As i sat there pondering what would be interesting, meaningful and engaging for my class, I saw the familiar flash of light at the bottom of my screen. A great way to procrastinate… go check twitter. The following twitter conversation happened between myself and Julie Balen.

you can learn anything


Julie knew that I would enjoy reading the post she wrote for her students titled “You Can Learn Anything. Really“. Julie and I have had conversations around the idea that often before we can teach our students, we need to convince them that they CAN learn. Julie is my “go-to guru” on metacognition in secondary and in particular for writing.

In class we worked through Julie’s blog post together. First, I set the stage for my students with a few stories of how Julie and I met, where she taught and things we had in common. Then we worked through her post and watched the linked videos. My students then received their report cards and we conferenced on what they meant. As a reflection, they were to comment on Julie’s blog post about how it helped move their thinking along. My students wrote some of their most honest reflections yet. By the end of the day both of our classes had posted reflections and other people from Ontario had joined in the conversation. Our students had an audience.

People often comment on the amount of time I spend creating, supporting or developing my “professional learning network”. They are correct. I do spend a fair amount of time developing my network. I share my learning whenever I can. I spend way too much time on twitter. However, every week this benefits my students or saves me time somehow. In this case, our students automatically had an audience, who helped them push their thinking and it took very little time or technical skills. It was simple commenting on a blog. There was no learning curve for using the technology. The learning was truly focused on improving writing and reflecting on learning.

Thank you Julie for saving me the time I would have needed to put together a class activity, but more importantly, thank you for creating the rich learning opportunities for my students.

Magical Moments in Blogging

Spending time in my favorite Grade 3 class is always magical, but yesterday it was taken to a whole new level by @mswift . Her class blogs all the time. They’ve taught me so much this year about how blogging can be used by students of this age (and any age) as a tool to support literacy, critical thinking, collaboration and reflection.

During my visit, the initial plan was to spend some time with the students while they finished up their blogging for the year and to document some of their thoughts on the process. As they often do in education, the plans changed. The grade 7 and grade 3 classes had been trying to co-ordinate for quite some time in order to do a shared blogging activity. All of a sudden their schedules worked. Rolling with the changes, the grade 7’s came in and the magic began.

Students were given the task of creating a blog post or commenting on other posts (on their own class blog or the site 1000awesomethings.com) in pairs (one grade 3 and one grade 7). As we watched the grade 3’s demonstrate to their grade 7 buddies how to post, how to comment, how to embed files and what the “rules” were (including digital citizenship rules and that a blog post needs to pose a question in order to generate discussion), I was memorized by how engaged the grade 7s were. Once the pairs decided what to post or comment on, the grade 7s became more confident and lead the grade 3’s to extend their thinking and writing to more closely match some of the abilities of the grade 7 students.

One group of three girls decided to join their three names together into one nonsensical but personalized name to sign off their post with. The whole experience lasted maybe 20 minutes, but I can’t think of a better way to spend the last 20 minutes of a week. Thanks @mswift!