Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Class Blog--Is it ever finished?

After playing with the idea for years, finally, this year, my AP US History and AP Econ and Gov classes are going to produce, build, and write class blogs.
I did like my daughter does, I resisted suggestions to make a class blog until I KNEW EXACTLY how it would work.  (Well, not exactly, but much better than I did before)
Below is a picture of my daughter being thrown through the air into the pool even though she isn't quite ready to dive...  She's quite happy for me to throw her, but she's not quite ready to dive on her own... One of these days she'll be ready to dive and then it will happen.  Until then...

Why did I finally make the leap?  After years of tinkering and playing, I finally saw how our blog could be interwoven into our insanely time-intensive classes and how they would help us consistently answer our most basic questions.  I finally understood how they would work.
Opening Credits from "Run Lola Run"
My driving questions are central to the blog.  How do we get 100% of our students to work together to a common goal that helps all of us somewhat equally?  How can we blend responsibility with freedom of opinion to help us learn better?  How can we learn to think, write, and communicate better?  How can we learn the writing and creative process in a group manner>?How can we learn to see issues, ideas, and attitudes from different perspectives?  And finally, how do we know if "IT" is ever finished?
Opening Credits from "Run Lola Run"
We are going to watch the opening to the 1998 movie, "Run Lola Run" to give the students a visual understanding of the different constraints under which we are going operate, the types of questions we
Opening Credits from Run Lola Run
need to be good with answering, and the pace with which we need to move.  We need to understand that our challenge is daunting, no question, but at the same time, the reward is great if we work together to reach our goal.  I could follow our friend Thomas Paine in "The Crisis":
By each student publicly communicating his/her understandings and allowing him/herself to be critiqued in a positive manner, I hope we can reach our goal of all our students learning and understanding enough of US History and historical thinking to be able to pass the APUSH test in May. Likewise with AP Econ and Government, we need to understand macroeconomic and government concepts and thinking well enough to be able to pass the AP Macro and AP Gov tests next May.
Finally, we will also have a place for civil discourse regarding what we're learning and how we're learning and understanding it.
For years my students have used Google Sites to build their own personal blogs which have worked as a simple place to turn in their work and keep it as a portfolio of sorts.
These have worked very well at streamlining the turn in process and keeping the students' work in one place as well as teaching the students how to manage a personal blog and keep their work organized. However, now we need to go bigger time, now we need to get all our thoughts and ideas together and see where it takes us.
How are we going to do it?  We're going to use Blogger as we're a Google District and we've given all students access to this very flexible and powerful tool.  I've set up a very basic blog for both my APUSH and APEG classes and it's up to them to decorate it in a manner they decide.

 In order to get started, I go into Blogger and click on my Minarets APUSH 2014-15 blog and I get the overview screen.  From there, I click on settings

After that I add my students' emails to add them as authors and then I can decide on how "public" I'd like the blog to be with public as the default.
OK, so what's the assignment, you ask.  Here it is:
When all is said and done at the end of the year, we hope that we'll build a place for all the students to use as their voice as well as a resource for them to reference when they are studying for midterms, finals and the AP test.  We also hope to prove that the sum of the individuals is greater than the whole and that we can learn more together than we can separately.
Finally, the above blog post is something of an experiment from an idea I got from David Theriault's blog, The Readiness is All.  He had his students build presentations from blog posts, which is an idea I would like my students to pursue in order to gain a more multimedia aspect to their blogs.  As you can see, I could keep working on this, which brings us back to one of the main questions, "Is it ever finished?"  Well, I'm going to post this now, which means on one level that it is finished.  However, if you see something you like or don't like, you could comment on this post and thus continue the process.  This idea of ongoing debate or inquiry is a concept I'd like my students to pursue.  On one hand, they have to finish their work and turn it in, but they can continue to debate and question what they are learning in the never ending quest to find out how they know what they know, which is a question we are constantly looking to answer in my classroom as seen below:
What do you think?  Please let me know because as the blog says, "Learning is my Business."