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Doncaster Secondary College have made a commitment to blogging as a means to engage students. This semester they have devoted six full days to skilling staff with the view to engaging students in 2009. As a part of the process many queries have been made. Dianne Beever, Heather Blakey, Judy Harrington and Anne Mirtchin pooled resources to answer many of the questions.  This information may help you work with staff and students in your school.

Blogging Questions – September 2008

General Technical Queries

Answers

Could the wireless network be reinforced to allow speedier access for school computer blogging?

The DSC wireless network is continually being upgraded as resources become available.

What is the maximum amount of material I can put on a blog without slowing it down?

The blog can hold 50Mb of data. To keep the speed high, compress images, make sure images are .jpg and not .bmp, and embed videos.

Images over a megabyte have to be compressed. Use http://www.shrinkpictures.com/

which reduces your pictures to 20 Kbytes for uploading or emailing. Images don’t need to be high quality.

Internet was far too slow. One can imagine a difficult class going ape during an introductory lesson.

DSC is about to upgrade all PC’s in the school with faster processing machines. These should mostly be in place by the end of 2008.

When will internet access open up?

Requests can be made to the education channel for any appropriate educational website to be made available in a school environment. To make your request go to http://www.education.vic.gov.au/schools/

How does all this work with limited email IN boxes. Blogging seems to rely on a lot of stuff going through the administrators’ IN box. Can our school IN boxes take the traffic without a virtual melt down?

One option when setting up the security around comments on the blog is to have the comments come to your in-box. There are also other security options. If you do set up the comments this way, and email space is a problem for you, you should consider having your email reside on your C: drive instead of the server. This way you will never run out of space in your in-box. For instructions see

Publications for teachers

ICT and eLearning

Email Tips

Does blogging link in with the Ultranet format?

Yes, the Ultranet will have a web interface which means it is a similar environment to a blog and it will be compatible.

Pedagogy queries

Answers

What are the college’s expectations of my teacher blog?

The only expectation is that you become familiar with a web 2.0 technology like blogging and you develop some skills and ideas to use blogging or another web 2.0 technology in your classroom in the future.

Are all students in the class participating?

Yes, all students in a class can participate, either on individual PC’s or one shared between two.

Could you apply this to different groups?

Yes, blogging is suitable for a wide variety of groups and tasks. You can get some great ideas by going to

http://global2.vic.edu.au

Dianne, you deserve a medal for trying and introducing speakers – so enthusiastic.

Thank-you. Blogging is fun for teachers and students. I am just trying to get this message across.

Who is policing this?

Like all classroom management issues, you are responsible for what happens in your won class. If a students posts something inappropriate on a blog, it can be immediately removed by emailing Heather Blakey who has access to all global teacher blogs at

heatherblakey@fastmail.fm

Will this increase my workload? Answer – No, get students to be blog masters. Give them an authentic learning experience which promotes engagement. Rotate web master role among students.

Thanks for answering your own question. It is a great question.

The blogging isn’t relevant. Answer – Well don’t use it but there maybe instances where it might be appropriate for particular topics especially engagement while reducing teacher centre of teaching etc.

Another great question and answer – thanks. Also have a look at 20 reasons why students should blog– from a teacher’s perspective and reasons from a student’s perspective.

I believe we need to teach students more social skills and how to communicate on a personal face to face level. Value education, assertive behaviour, anger management etc. We are moving in the wrong direction. We are dehumanising teaching by focusing on machines instead of people.

There is room for both approaches in the curriculum.

What are some of the most effective ways to use blogging in class to improve and enhance student learning?

For inspiring ideas on how to use blogging in the classroom please visit

http://global2.vic.edu.au

which is not only a log in page, but is also a blog of ideas of how to use blogging in the classroom. Follow the links to Horsham West and Hawkesdale which are great examples.

Time and Resource Queries

Answers

Where do we get time and resources to construct and edit all the work?

DSC is making devoting six whole school PD’s in 2008. This is six hours dedicated to blogging. You could ask you KLA leader to make some extra time available during KLA meetings.

Is it time consuming?

Like all things new, it can be time consuming when you are learning the basics. As you become more familiar with blogging, you can streamline the process and reuse blogs from previous years with new classes.

What are we supposed to do i.e. following up our blog? Time is a major issue.

Blogging is a teaching and learning tool, like all the other tools teachers are familiar with. You may decide to use blogging for only one topic a year, and therefore your lesson preparation for that topic will include some time to organise your blog.

Whole experience has been very frustrating, difficult to get head around it when I cannot see its value for time at this moment.

Learning something new can at times be frustrating. You could see this as an opportunity to gain empathy with your students who are learning something new every day. DSC is providing time to learn some new skills. As other teachers start using these new technologies, you may start to get ideas of how you can use blogging in your classroom. You could also get some ideas from

http://global2.vic.edu.au

Information overload in tonight’s meeting. Meeting did not follow procedure – time keeper – critical friend etc. as set out in meeting procedure. We are tired and don’t want a meeting to go longer than an hour.

This session was not a meeting and therefore did not follow meeting procedure. It was a Professional Development session. I agree there was a lot of information and I will take your suggestion on board when planning the next sessions.

Unless I can find a real use of blogging in my class, I won’t be pushing it. It is not a priority at this time.

Love it or hate it; Information Communication Technology (ICT) pervades every aspect of our lives and our students’ lives. This was the theme at the ASPA conference in Perth Sept 2008. ICT and eLearning continues to be a priority.

I have difficulty getting students into a computer lab to do essential IT work assessment.

With the DSC Master plan, more computer resources will become available within the next 18 months. We need to continue to skill ourselves in readiness for this time.

With double lessons you are always behind subject content syllabus and to introduce another request – forget it at present.

Double lessons provide ample time and opportunity to introduce some eLearning activities into the classroom. Ask your ICT mentor / coach to “team teach” with you some time to show you how.

A time consuming activity and resource intensive.

Initially time consuming like all things new. Resources are coming with the master plan and the new computers and laptops.

With computer access unavailable due to library closure and renovations for many staff, how feasible is it to get a class blog operational?

The library will be open and operational in a couple of weeks. The renovations will only last for 18 months. We can continue to prepare for the future.

When can we make time to set up the basic framework of a blog? It does take time to get something set up for the kids to access and further develop. Can we structure this time into our school schedule somehow?

You could ask your KLA leaders to schedule some time or use your usual lesson preparation time to set up a blog in readiness for a lesson.

How much time should be devoted to a blog?

This depends on your level of blogging skills. You may have a steep learning curve at the start, but you will soon become comfortable with blogging and it will become much quicker.

Have we considered learning portals?

Learning portals are another great eLearning approach. There is room for both in our range of eLearning tools.

What do students learn from blogging?

Any topic or lesson can be delivered using web 2.0 technologies such as blogging. You are only limited by your imagination. Students find the blogging environment engaging and familiar to the social website environments they use almost every day.

Blogging Queries

Answers

How do I import a word file into my blog?

Copy and paste the text into a post or page on your blog. Alternatively, you can upload a word document from the “add an image” icon and then make a link in the text by using the “insert/edit link icon.

How do I embed Video’s / podcast’s etc.

Videos can only be uploaded from

http://edublogs.tv/ Copy the URL and go to your post. Click on the “add video” icon, paste your video URL and click on “insert into post”.

How do you do the “tags” Naomi mentioned?

When you have the post box open you will see a little box underneath named tags. Simply add the words you think most describe what your post is about. Think of the words someone might use when using a search engine

What happens from year to year with your blog? With a new bunch of kids can you update user lists?

How do you archive files/posts?

Given that you can have as many blogs as you like you can simply start over each year. You can delete users and add new ones when you want. Posts and files are all automatically archived. Make sure to add the archive widget to your blog and it will all be there on the side bar.

Do your students actually have to subscribe to the blog? If they leave a comment is that enough?

No! They can simply use the comment tool and in fact, the comment tool is very useful. It will support many characters and so they can literally write their answers to work there.

When you do a web search, does it lead to blogs as well as web sites?

A web search will lead to your blog but it may not be in the first few pages of the search results. Use the feedjit widget in your blog to collect detail about how viewers find your blog.

If you are doing this with a small group, could other teachers access the blog with their students?

If the blog is public then anyone can view it anywhere in the world. Other teachers can administer the blog depending on the level of access you grant them. See this post for information on user levels.

Does the blog grow to a conversation, or is it just a bunch of comments?

It is up to the individuals. You can have a conversation going. It is a very good idea to train students just how to use the comment tool.

How do you change a 10number/letter password to one staff can remember?

Go to USERS in the dashboard. Choose YOUR PROFILE. Scroll down and you will be able to change your password to one you remember. You will be asked to enter it twice.

I have actually put 1 item on my blog site and have no idea how to get back to it. In trying, lost password and finally gave up.

That can be so frustrating when starting out. Don’t give up, keep on trying. It can be such a steep learning curve. If you have lost your password, click on the ‘forgotten your password’ link underneath where you can normally log on. You will be emailed another password. Then go to the http://theedublogger.edublogs.org/ and click on the page ‘getting started’ and there are some good sites suggested there. The manuals at the top are great. Try Gail Desler’s manual.

Could you please put post a list of DSC Blog Masters so those of us who don’t have the expertise can get started with blogging?

Go to http://doncastersc.global2.vic.edu.au

Any blog listed on this site will be managed by a teacher at DSC who would be willing to help you.

Also go to http://theedublogger.edublogs.org/ and click on the page ‘getting started’. Also the Education Department’s Knowledge Bank are holding an online forum called “Talk-It Tuesday” each fortnight for sharing, seeking advice and general information from 3:30-4:30pm.

We can easily set up ourselves as administrators. How do we set up the students so that they can add material of their own?

Students can apply for their own blog as an individual, but make sure you are an administrator as well. Also

1. Students just comment back and paste their work into the comment

2. Teacher grabs their work and copies and pastes it into a post

3. Add students as an appropriate user from the suggestions in this post.

4. Students must be a member of the Global Student site. Once they are members you can add them as a USER to your blog.

Can I ensure that student images on blogs are safe?

When student images, we don’t usually identify the student by their full name. For DSC policy on using student images go to

Publications for teachers

eLearning

Policy and Permissions

Here you will also find a “parental permission letter” if student’s full names are to be used on a blog.

Avatars are another way of students to share their images. A student can modify their image substantially using a site such as www.befunky.com

Can I use software that doesn’t allow students to download images?

When an image is on a blog, anyone can make a copy of it. Constant monitoring, reminders and following DSC policy keep them as safe as possible.

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