The story of a blog

Here I am again, with the second assignment of our PLC (Professional Learning Communities) group: Let’s explain how a blogging activity in our classes went.

With my Integrated Sciences MYP (Middle Years Program) 5 class (year 10) I just finished a biology unit on genetics and as criterion D, reflecting on the impacts of science, end of unit task I asked my students to create a blog on how biotechnology might be able to solve a problem. They had the choice to research on Stem cells, cloning, gene therapy, epigenetic drugs, GMOs or pharmacogenetics.

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To do so, the students got a task specific rubric, a help planning table and the school adapted criterion D rubric. Students got 4 hours of working time in class when we discussed their initial research questions narrowing them down and making them specific and also got the opportunity to clarify the concepts they were researching.

On the day the project was due, the students uploaded their research on their blogs, they have a school blog that is used by different subjects, and then had time to comment on each other’s blogs. Whilst the research with information that was to be included in their blogs was scaffolded by the MYP criterion D requirements I found that they needed some guidance to comment mindfully on each other’s blogs.

We had an interesting discussion about this during our last PLC meeting and we all, teachers from different subjects, found that students need guidance to provide mindful comments, otherwise they will just limit their comments, at age 14-15, to “I liked your blog”, “good job”, “really interesting”, etc… Some of my colleagues have already experimented with blogging with their students and English teacher Phil created an interesting blog “On blogging: the journey” very poetic to start with but, as I commented on his blog, with lovely tips for us new on this process about blogging with our students, on the second part.

As a PLC group, we discussed the need to create some guidelines to help students comment mindfully on blogs and though these guidelines are still in process of being developed I liked the commenting part of the draft we already had. I had the deadline for my class blog post approaching and decided to use the draft to see what the students may create with it. here the draft commenting on blogs guideline I shared with the class:

Commenting on blogs

Commenting on other people’s blogs and replying to comments left on your own are vital elements of blogging etiquette. When commenting, be sure to consider the following:

  • Be polite. Thank people for posting or commenting.
  • Make one point per comment and keep it concise
  • Refrain from using one-word comments, but explain exactly what and why you love a post
  • Ask thoughtful questions that help to facilitate further interaction e.g. a request to expand in more detail on a point or to consider a claim from a different perspective.
  • If you disagree with a claim, justify why in your comment. Consider posting a link or suggesting another source for the writer to review.
  • Your comments should be polite and constructive; as a blogger, you will also be a blogpost reader and commenter.

These example sentence starters may help you get going.

Once all had their blog uploaded, they were given 20 minutes to read one of the other student’s blog and leave a comment and then they had 5 minutes to go back to their blog and read and re-comment on what they got. We repeated the activity twice. I am happy with some of the comments they created and here I want to share an example of a comment on Griffin’s blog on stem cell use to cure type 1 diabetes.

I think you did a great job with this blog, you clearly state your view point on the issue you discuss and thoroughly explain the solution, including its benefits and drawbacks. One question you could have included the answer to is how effective has this treatments been and how common it is and its success rate. Overall you wrote a clearly structured report, include references, in text as well as listed with clear scientific explanations which are supported through images. Nice blog – Lisa

And Griffin’s answer

Thanks a lot for the feedback, Lisa. You’re right; I probably should’ve emphasized that treatments aren’t very common, so there aren’t many accurate success rates. good stuff

So I think we are getting there and moreover, we are helping our students to create a digital portfolio which might come to use when they apply to go to uni, as I discussed in my post “Why Blogging???”

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Why blogging???

imgresAt the beginning of this school year I joined a PLC (Professional Learning Communities) group at my school called “Blogging in the classroom” with the aim of experimenting with blogging and how it might help in education.

I started this blog a couple of years ago, my main objective then was to post students work, but not any kind of work but mainly visual one, pictures and videos of what we do in class so the students could revisit it afterwards. I also thought that it might give ideas to other teachers and though I rarely, if ever, got comments on my blog, as I had it linked to twitter I got other teachers following me there, re-tweeting and commenting.

My blogging activity got however less and less frequent till the point it has disappear. There are many reasons why this happened:

  • We implemented Schoology at my school, so I could use this platform, a private one, to share pictures and videos with the students.
  • The start of the year was quite overwhelming from me, I restarted teaching after a sabbatical year and the volume of things to do was simple too much.
  • I also realised that I needed a healthier balance on my life between the time I spent doing work stuff and my private life; and maybe blogging was not one of the priorities anymore.
  • Sitting in front of a white page, being a second language speaker and a scientist, has never been easy for me

 

So why blogging then?

There are several reasons why we should blog and I really recommend it.

  • Putting together your thoughts in writing is a great way to reflect and, thus, improve what you are doing and to get new ideas. I have simple started journaling on my private life instead of blogging about school activities; if I come back to one of the reasons of why my blogging has almost disappear.
  • It is a great portfolio of your work and yourself for the future, to show university entry offices if you are a high school student for example. This is one of the main reasons of why I wanted to develop using blogging in the classroom because I think it could be very useful to my students. If you are not a student anymore but are thinking about a career change, it might be an excellent way to show your next possible future employee what have you been doing and are able to do.

Let me span a little bit more on this last point.

I allow myself to share here my colleague Valerie wonderful post about why blogging dedicated to a friend thinking about a career change, I find it really inspiring and worth a read to anybody considering a career change.

 

Why do I do not do it then?

 After 12 years teaching science I do not consider a career change, I love my work and I am very happy with what I do. What about a school change though? Of course, I cannot be sure about it, I work as an expat in Switzerland and maybe one day I would feel the urge to explore another country or return home… Won’t be a blog then good for me as a portfolio?

Probably yes, but on the other hand I know I can present a portfolio to a possible future employee with work of my students and documents I have created that I saved in my computer. And here is when priorities and balance come into place again and I am using my time to do some other things at the moment, this might change next year, but this is the reality right now.

 

So, blogging? Not boggling? Why blogging?

 Yes, go ahead, BLOG!!!! Especially if you are a high school student or somebody envisioning a career change, create a digital portfolio for your future and reflect and grow on your daily activates whilst doing it!

And me for now, I will try to improve my knowledge to help my students doing it, meeting in my PLC group every several weeks and someday maybe blog myself more frequently.

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I just hope you enjoyed this post, I have tried to be as honest as possible about what is going on my head and with myself about blogging at the moment, I am only sorry if any of the persons that used to like my tweets on activities have missed them this year, they might be back or they might not but there is so much out there in the www, go and explore!!!

 

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Cell Division: Mitosis

Another great creation of students on their task to explain Mitosis.

The challenge: create a visual representation using the model chromosomes.

Well done Megan, Ezster and Clara

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School Newsletter Article on our Antarctica Trip

Good summary of our adventure.

Thanks to Rose, Evelina and Sofia for their inside.

ISZL students to the Antarctica

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#MYPSci Criterion D: Refecting on the impacts of science. Enzymes Projects.

Grade 9 Students (MYP4) were asked to research about enzymes.
They could choose an application of an enzyme in industry or an enzymatic disease were science has found treatment or is trying to treat.
The project meant to follow MYP new criteria in Science D: Reflecting on the Impacts of Science.

Here some examples of what they produced:
Daniel did a good job creating a PowerPoint on the applications of lactase enzyme in industry. He then did a video whilst he was talking over his PowePoint to give more detatil information.
To fullfill all strands of Criterion D, Daniel should have worked on in-text referencing both for text and his figures. Overall quite a good job Daniel!

Zhi Feng decided to create a PowerPoint on the use of Pectinase in industry. He added sound buttons where he explained what it can be seen. Again a great job on the content but needs to wrok of the in-text referencing of that content and given credit to the figures (organising them) as the images appear.

enzymes in juice making

Iona also talked over her PowerPoint recording herself as she did it. Her project is on Krabbe Disease. Overall a good job although a deeper evaluation of how Science interacts with a factor could have been included, and once more that in-text referencing.

Aurore also chose Krabbe Disease. She included all the information necessary directly on her Powerpoint so no additional voice was needed.

Aurore Krabbe disease

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Twitter – Why should educators use it?

Teachers at ISZL are tweeting!

Cate Jarvis

Twitter – why should we use it? This is a question that I am often asked by teachers as the high school technology facilitator and a teacher.

At first I found it a struggle to come up with reasons why a teacher would use this source. However, the more I discuss it the more possibilities I can see. So I thought I would share a couple of great uses from my colleagues at school:

Mr Dalesio – Economics – He asks every pupil in class to follow him on twitter and whenever he finds a good article he posts it on twitter. He then encourages pupils to tweet reactions and to write reports on articles that have been tweeted. He also gives the pupils a list of twitter feeds that they should follow and encourages them to find others. In this way economics is a living and breathing thing. It is not…

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Very interesting article: New species discovered last year, some of them quite big!

Top 20 New Species Discovered in 2014

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