Chris Harbeck’s class blogging practices: 8th grade math

Another blogger, Canadian teacher Chris Harbeck, has taken up the call to reflect on last year. The result is a detailed analysis of this year’s classroom experience and plans for next semester.

Like most good 2.0 Teachers, he has a “teacher central” hub for students in all classes to see messages and instructions from the teachers. He shares this with the grade 7 math teacher, Mr. Reese. (I do this too but I use my wiki which pulls RSS feeds from various sources of info.)

He then has four blogs, one for each class of thirty six students:

Chris shares his Scribe Hall of Fame with Darren Kuropatwa,and Mr. Reece (7th grade bloggers). This great tool recognizes good work and points out why. It gives students something to strive for and promotes the sharing of good information.

He uses a unique “growing post” concept which seems to be almost like a web quest for writing a blog post. I’ll have to understand more about that one.

Plans for next year
He is planning to use wikis to create online study guides and textbooks this year. I am saddened to hear that the incredible work being done in his eighth grade class will not be continued next year. Although Mr. H is tersely ambiguous about this, I can speculate that he is faced with an old schooler who feels new methods are a waste of time.

It would be interesting to have an interview with those students after ninth grade to see how they feel about having blogs and wikis and then having them removed. Did their presence help the learning process? Did they miss them?

Proposed Web 2.0 Teaching best practices

For those who study best teaching practices, I propose these four items to be included in best practices of a Web 2.0 classroom:

  1. Central Hub
    A central hub of some kind for sharing of information from the teacher across all of their classes.

  2. Centralized Recognition
    A “Hall of Fame” recognizing good achievements and the reason the students are being recognized. All classes should see this to share the synergies of excellence.
  3. Searchable student results
    Leave behind a record of searchable information to assist others in the achievement of that subject. (Ideally, they’d leave behind information that is editable by the next group, but many are not yet ready for wikis.)
  4. Teacher Summary: Practices and Plans
    The teacher should self analyze their classroom practices, hyperlinks, and plans for the next year. If this is done soon after school is out, the teacher can review it and build on it in the fall when their memory is a little hazy. Also, it is conducive to sharing best practices with others around the world who need to see it working!

    I think teachers should be required to write such a post in post planning and that those “Practices and Plans” posts should be required reading for ALL administrators and technical support personnel so that their efforts can be supported and assisted. It could be beneficial to do on a semester basis.

It is inspiring to see these three visionary Canadian math educators. Someone needs to go look at their classrooms and spend time with their students.

Eighth and seventh graders posting freely
I also like that they have used blogger, a free tool without the ability to pre-edit the student posts. I think that training students to post well and holding them accountable for their posts will create good net citizens.

Zero tolerance for mistakes is limiting our growth

I also think that the legal system in America will hold back our schools from giving such liberty to students. We will bleed on the cutting edge, however, we’ve create a zero tolerance for allowing mistakes to happen. Kids should be informed up front of expectations and consequences. Their behavior should be monitored vigilantly. When they do not meet expectations, they should experience consequences. Thus, we create net citizens who realize that their actions on the Internet have consequences.

The Trapeze Artist Metaphor

If our students don’t understand that there are consequences to their blog postings, it would be like a trapeze artist who trained with nets until he was 18. Every time he fell, he landed in the soft net. When he turned 19 and went to a circus, no one told him that there was no net. So, he was unafraid of the consequences of falling. And when he fell, it did permanent damage. He knew how to use the tools but did not understand consequences of making mistakes.

Conclusion

We need to teach effectively. We also need to create good New Net Citizens.

Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)

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4 thoughts on “Chris Harbeck’s class blogging practices: 8th grade math

  1. I just finished reading the entire post about reflecting on the year and the part about in the US keeping students accountable for their actions. For my 3rd and 4th graders this year, I had a zero strikes policy for their think.com blogs. No Bullying was allowed. For them and their parents this has worked. Last year 4 students lost their blogs for inappropriate messages to others. This year, they are all proud that they have not lost any peers to this process. They moderate themselves and question me about some posts. This is the teachable moment we all hope for and so far it is working.
    Cheryl

  2. Digital divide issues? I love all these proposals for the 2.0 classroom. What about students who do not have home access to either a computer or the Internet? That is my only caution with some of these ideas. And, if we are to guarantee them class time to interact online, can we guarantee computer access in the building?

    This sounds a little nit-picky, but it’s just a fact for schools that do not have laptops for all or sufficient computer lab space.

  3. Pat-

    A recent Pew study showed that over 90% of American teens are online at least once a week, so they are getting online somewhere. Yes, we must work to bridge the digital divide. We have computers being thrown in the dumpster (can anyone say lead poisoning) that could be reconditioned to go in homes. Something must be done about the digital divide issues. I have so many ideas on this. However, we cannot hold ourselves back because of inequity. We must do what is right for the classroom and then help those who are stuck in the rut of the underclass.

    As a college student, I was a research assistant for Dr. Danny Boston at Georgia Tech and helped him do extensive research on the plight of the underclass. There is one way to break out of the cycle of poverty and that is education. That is why we must take steps to give these students access to the best educational tool ever invented: the Internet.

    You raise a good point, however, not one that should stop us from doing what is right! Its going to take more than money to fix the problems we have in this country, it is going to take the engagement of our citizenry in doing what is right and less “me-ism” that has everyone just looking for more money and forgetting about the person down the street who is afraid to walk on the street at night.

    It is a fact that neighborhood watches do more to deter crime than more police officers. They have taken ownership of the problem. Likewise, neighborhood teams looking at these problems can make a difference.

    Problems are opportunities for growth, never excuses for the status quo!

    Thank you, pat, for echoing a common concern.

    PS. I do a survey of students at the beginning of the year to see who does not have access at home. I make sure that they have extra time with me or in the library to do work, however, most of our work is done in class.

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