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Ec&I 831: 6. Final reflection on my digital project: enjoying the view from the top
Me on top of a mountain

I was hoping to be here…
Photo courtesy of Tristan

Instead, I am here…barely hanging on! Photo courtesy of Lesfreck at en.wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

The digital project I chose for my EC&I 831 class has had me riding a roller coaster of emotions.  I chose with enthusiasm, to help a grade 8 classroom teacher in my school division set up a classroom blog as a way to help students see writing as purposeful and interesting, as opposed to just another thing to be submitted and graded.     

I was excited about this project, as blogging was something I was beginning to enjoy.  I knew I had to be organized and had to know what I was doing to the best of my ability so that I wasn’t wasting the classroom teacher’s time nor adding stress and frustration to the students in the class.

In the beginning there were challenges that were out of my control. For example, I followed my school division’s protocol by using the blogging platform that was housed on our school division network.  I studied the video that explained step by step how to set up classroom blogs.  This is where the first problem began.  Not only was the video I was requested to follow missing key steps, those who were expected to know the ins and outs of the school division based blog platform did not.  No problem- the more people on this learning journey, the better.  Together, my IT co-worker and I set out to investigate how to create a blog that would have student blogs linked to it.  Through this process I learned how to add users, links and give them different permissions. I also learned how to set it up so that only those on the school premises were able to see the blog.

Unfortunately, as time moved on, the problems went from from a level of frustration to the onset of anger.  In order for our school division blog to remain as restricted from the world wide net as possible, the students were only able to write posts and comments, they could not embed any form of media!  Not only would this create a boring blog, but it was not allowing me the opportunity to teach students how to legally use the work and ideas of others.

After much discussion, it was agreed that I would be allowed to purchase a subscription for a student blog account from Edublogs.  In addition, I knew I could contact Sue Waters and the support group at Edublogs for help.

Well, that need for help came faster then expected.  Again, I had to ensure that this blog platform was indeed secure from those outside of this project.  Then I ran into problems of students not receiving the emails that were sent by Edublogs when a student is added to the blog class.  But I kept at it.  Again, I learned how to add student blogs and how to change or add security measures, among many other behind the scenes tools available.  Unfortunately, there were still two students I could not seem to connect.

I was literally at the point of pulling out my hair.  I had lost way too many personal, class and work hours trying to get students up and blogging. Even with the help of others who are very qualified, the process was so incredibly painful, that I do not foresee myself setting up another classroom blog in the near future.  

This is extremely disappointing for me as I have read and spoke with many other teachers who have classroom blogs. These teachers have been very happy with the process and success.  I have also spoken with other teachers who have in the past had great success, but find that due to how some of the blogging platforms have become more complicated, the media release expectations and accountability factors, that it is just not worth the time and effort.

If teachers are not able to use such social media sites with a level of ease and confidence, they won’t.  And if they don’t, then how are we preparing our students to be able to use social media for meaningful purposes in a safe and accountable manner?

I have a plaque that sits on my desk at the office that reads “When everything seems like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top”.  Even though I may not be ready to tackle this mountainous project again any time soon, I do have a glimpse of the view.  I anticipate that these grade 8 students will become more capable and competent writers who are willing to take risks in their writing.  I believe they will learn how to post comments and ask thought provoking questions that will push their classmates to reflect on their thoughts and beliefs.

I also can safely look back at my journey, and though it has left me slightly wounded, I have learned a lot about myself as a learner.  I have learned that this project meant more to me than just passing a graduate class.  I sincerely wanted to help this grade 8 teacher become more comfortable with the social media tools available so that she could help broaden the way in which her students interact with it.  In addition, I learned that I need to play with what I am learning before I can understand what it is that I am trying to do and how to do it.

I am very thankful that the classroom teacher did not see my behind the scenes antics.  In fact, she has been thanking me for my patience and perseverance in helping her students become bloggers.   This teacher was so motivated to learn about blogging that she read all the articles and watched all the videos I sent her.   She was determined to not only be able to blog alongside her students, she wanted to be able to help them when they had a question, or at least know where to direct them for help.  This teacher started out as someone who wasn’t really sure what a blog was to now being able to write her posts and moderate student posts and comments.  In addition, she has learned how to add and delete members.  I couldn’t have asked for a better team to have begun this journey with! 

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