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AKA: Create Your Own Newspaper

I was lucky enough to have two teachers visit my classroom today who were pretty inquisitive about both the hardware in the room (hard to ignore a beautiful SmartBoard with a wall mounted projector) and the content the students were tackling. One of them questioned if I was a ‘blogger’, and, while totally unintentionally, implied that there were certain people, or types of people, who blogged. I became totally intrigued by the perceptions of the ‘outside’ world as to who blogs, and for what purpose.

While I think it’s true there used to be a very small, specific community of people who blogged (in my mind they looked like your traditional techie who sat in a dark room and never left their computers, however not having been a blogger until recently I’m not entirely sure who they were), the idea of worldwide blogging is so powerful when thinking about communication, so many more have jumped aboard. KIPP NEEDS TO BE NEXT!

There are so many great things going on in so many of our schools across the country, but minus a few cross-campus visits every year, and of course KIPP Summit, our ideas and innovative approaches to teaching our content often stay within our schools. While KIPP teachers are famous for working hard, we need to start taking advantage of technology to work smarter. Here’s where blogging comes in…

There are these brilliant inventions available for free on the web now called AGGREGATORS. Many of you may even be using one and not know it (think iGoogle). They have the power to organize all your favorite websites and blogs on one convenient page (that can also easily be set as your homepage) and feed you new updates as soon as they’re posted. This allows you to see new blog posts to all your favorite blogs in a matter of seconds, all on one page. Now bear with me here…

Picture if a lot of the brilliant minds leading KIPP schools, and teaching in KIPP schools, started blogging. Doesn’t have to take much time, even small posts with random thoughts about school culture, middle-school social life, and brilliant misunderstandings that hit you mid-lesson and you wish you had prepared for. Now KIPP teachers nationwide open up Internet Explorer (or Firefox or Safari for all you brilliant Mac users) and see your post pop-up. Maybe it doesn’t relate to them or doesn’t interest them, so they ignore it. But for many blog posts, there will be many teachers who are immediately intrigued by what they see and venture to read the whole post. Now they add their own comments to the post, and BAM! A discussion is born. So easy, and SO beneficial to everyone involved. The blogger now has an audience outside their own school. The reader now has resources and conversation bringing in different perspectives. Either way, we’re communicating with each other, and continuing to think about how we can do what we do better. Isn’t that what we’re all about? Why should it be limited to 4 days each year at Summit?

While it’s easy to set up, and you’ll quickly fall in love, the bigger picture of cross-school communication can’t happen in a meaningful way until we get more (ideally 100%) of our teachers aggregating, and many of our leaders and teachers blogging. So here’s where to start:

http://www.netvibes.com (if you want to check out my public aggregator to see what it looks like when it’s set up, here’s the link to the one I use in my classroom with my kids. http://www.netvibes.com/saltinerockstars Saltine Rockstars is the name of our Tech Team, and the tab called Saltine Rockstars is a collection of all their blogs… I HIGHLY encourage you to check them out and leave comments… they need help understanding there IS a real audience out there! There’s also some education blogs on there to get you started… I’m working on making a public aggregator for KIPP this weekend, so I’ll put that up here when it’s created)

Here’s a quick video to show you how to actually subscribe to blogs/websites once you’ve set up your aggregator/reader. This one is showing Bloglines (another aggregator), but it works the same way:

If you want to start a blog, I use http://www.wordpress.com, but there’s a ton of other providers out there.

Also helpful, http://blogsearch.google.com/ can help you find a variety of blogs to get your aggregator started.

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2 Comments

  1. i intend to use your links to set up my own! It seems like a great way to organize your online ‘thoughts.’ I will let you know how it goes.

  2. Blogs are the first step to a much bigger need in both KIPP-dom & education. Teachers & students alike need more opportunities to share not only their ideas & opinions, but more importantly their resources online.

    What I am envisioning is an educational wikipedia or google of sorts. How powerful would it be for a teacher teaching about a certain book or math skill to find copious amounts of lesson plans available at their finger tips?

    How awesome would it be for a student struggling with a certain content area to be able to find practice problems and feedback all on one site?

    There is a definite need, but perhaps what is missing are the skills, resources, and incentive for someone or some organization to take the charge on this.

    Education needs to get over IT-phobia and concerns about sharing resources so that all students can benefit. While blogging is a great tool, it is just one of many IT tools that need to be better utilized.


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