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April 1 Webinar Notes – Blogs, Wikis, and Other Social Media

April 3rd, 2010 Comments off

No fooling! Our April 1st webinars included lively discussions about the value of students’ online communication with written language. I especially want to thank Sherry Connally for allowing me to drag her away from her brand new grandson to join us. Sherry described her doctoral dissertation about how middle school teachers and students use social technologies for communication, collaboration, and building relationships. This dissertation will be published in a few months and made available through ProQuest.

Social Networks

Image by Plus Delta, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

We talked about ways teachers can give students opportunities to use written language for real communications (not just writing an assignment for the teacher) and looked at a wide range of possibilities, from simple email to using social networking sites like FaceBook and Ning. When we asked if the participants felt that texting, chatting, and other kinds of online communication were having a positive or negative effect on student writing, the results of our poll were mixed. Here are some of the comments:

  • I have heard of studies that say that texting etc. are good, and I have heard of studies that say it is bad.
  • Students develop effective communication techniques through trial and error.
  • When students write/key reports, they are using “web” language.
  • The grammar and spelling are negatives, but I have used blogs and it really encouraged my students to use their writing as an interactive communication tool with their classmates.
  • The students use “u” instead of “you” etc.
  • “Web” language has a long tradition – read the letters of Jane Austen and Lord Byron – written in ‘code’
  • If social networking is used in the classroom and focus is put on language skills, then texting, chatting and tweeting can be very useful.
  • If we think of it like braille or morse code.  Both have shorthand. We used to teach shorthand in school.
  • My student’ academic writing contains “LOL” type stuff.
  • -Love using “forums” with my Spanish classes.  They are communicating in Spanish which is what I want them to do.
  • They need to know when it is appropriate to use that kind of language.
  • Kids today speak two languages.  The traditional English and chat.  They just go between the two.

Ruben Puentedura shared links to two articles about the effects of texting on student writing (Thanks, Ruben!):

Other resources we shared:

The webinar participants also had a lot of ideas about filtering and teaching digital citizenship. Here are some of the ideas and resources that were shared in the chat box:

  • Chats and BackChannels
  • Digital Citizenship
    • Common Sense Media (another partnership with MLTI)
    • For all things Chat/Skype/Video Chat – obviously educating parents and students about how to use them and how to stay safe is important.
    • I include Common Sense tips every week in my newsletter to parents.
  • Social Networking
    • I have a classroom Ning site set up for my computer apps classes.  Students blog, answer forums and add comments to their peers’ discussions.
    • Edublogs and WordPress for blogging with students.
    • My daughter’s class uses Blogspot to respond to weekly assignments.
    • Twitter is a great way to provide professional development. Following educational leaders who provide lots of resources and links is most beneficial.
    • I’ve used Facebook profiles as a way of creating character profiles during writing and reading activities.
    • One school uses FB to facilitate the iTeam meetings, another choir rehearsals.
    • Facebook is blocked in our school.
    • We (teachers) have overrides to get througth the blocked sites.
    • Google Docs is better for this and easier to manage
    • Check the Terms of Use to determine if children under 13 can use ePals or Google Docs
    • Pew Internet – great resource for research on what social media looks like, and what teens are doing with it.

Thanks to all the participants who contributed their ideas, opinions, and resources on this topic. It was a valuable opportunity for us to learn from each other.