Teaching in a Participatory Culture

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Recently I read,Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom“, by Henry Jenkins and Wyn Kelley.  It was an excellent read and it made me reflect on how I first started blogging with students.

In the book, Jenkins talks about traditional reading and writing skills still being important, but traditional ways of connecting with the text are not sufficient in the participatory culture that we currently live in.  This made me realize that there were some things I had been experimenting with, in my language arts classroom, that are teaching my students to respond to text in a more participatory way.  I also learned that I need to push my students even further in this regard.

One of the projects I used to teach on voice, had my students reading remixes of the story of the 3 Little Pigs. When I started this project back in 2007, we only had the desktop lab, but I started having students respond in less traditional paper and pencil kind of ways.   I would read 3 different versions of the story to my students.  We would start out with the classic version, followed by The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and lastly The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, by Eugene Trivizas.  I used these books to show my students that good writers get ideas from other people’s work.  I had the students follow up the reading by creating a blog as one of the characters, from one of the stories we read.  They had to fill in their about me page and add a couple of posts as their character.  I encouraged my students to respond to the original story by filling in the “holes”.

Here is a link to an example I showed my students the first year (http://bigmomma-christine.blogspot.ca/).

Here are some student samples (http://atriptograndmashouse.blogspot.ca/ & http://myownstoryofthethreelittlewolves.blogspot.ca/)

I have not done this project on the 3 Little Pigs in a few years.  Now that I have more access to iPads and laptops, I have my students creating things like movie trailer responses, vlogs, Telligami’s (avatar’s), Toontastics, Storybirds, Animotos, ToonDoos (comics) and more.  Looking back, I could do this project again, but on my students’ blogs they could respond in more ways than adding just images and text like we did back then.  Now they can use the tools available to them to respond in many different ways and of their choice.  Pretty much anything they create using an app or web 2.0 tool can be embedded to their blog.  If they choose to create something more hands on (not digital) they could then video tape a reflection about their piece or use a screencasting tool like Educreations or Explain Everything and that could be embedded to their blog.

In the beginning, I only used blogs for publishing their language arts work.  Since 2007, my students’ blogs have evolved into a portfolio of their work across subjects.  It is no longer limited to writing.  The apps and web tools mentioned above can be used to represent learning across subjects.  Let your students be creative and then upload their work to their blog.  Use Tellegami to let your students take on the role of someone else for social studies.  Have them create a commercial on why people should visit Alberta or Canada (thinking about social studies again) using Animoto or WeVid.  Video record them explaining how they worked out a math problem.  Let them video record their group doing a skit or role play.  You are probably doing some of these activities already with your class.  Just think though how can you make them digital and then students can share them on their blog or any other web publishing platform for that matter.

The commenting feature on blogs lend themselves nicely to getting feedback.  Not only can classmates be giving feedback, but parents and families can be encouraged to engage by commenting on student blogs too.  I have found that opening up my blogs publicaly also allows students to get feedback from others students and people from anywhere.  I started doing this by connecting my class to another same grade class in our division.  We created links to each others blogs and our students began connecting and reading each other’s work.  We talked about giving constructive and positive feedback to each other.  My students were so motivated by this.  They loved hearing what others had to say about their work and they really took what the other students had to say, to heart.  It was no longer only me saying the same things over and over to my students.  Other people were giving them the feedback and they seemed to take this more seriously.  A bit annoying for me but it worked!  Later on I added more classrooms to our blogroll.  This included classes across our province and throughout Canada.  You could even open this up to classrooms anywhere in the world.  In grade 5 students learn about Canada.  Why not connect your class to students blogging across Canada?  Where do you find these connections?  Start with teachers or people you know or try Twitter.  There are so many educators on Twitter looking for classes to connect with. Search the hashtag #comments4kids to find people blogging with students.

Blogging is one way I am able to get my students engaging in the participatory culture we live in.  How do you do this with your students?  Please add your suggestions in the comments sectionI would love to hear them;)

For more information on blogging/eportfolios see our resource page: http://phrdconnections.weebly.com/eportfolios.html
Nov. 7 PHRD PD day- Blogging Session


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