The way teachers communicate with students and their parents has changed from just parent-teacher interviews.
Now parents can get a bird’s-eye view into their children’s classes as teachers start to use the Internet to lay out their lesson plans. Educators now communicate important aspects of students’ education though applications such as Twitter and blogs.
But for some the idea of building a blog is daunting. This is where Chris Oram, assistant principal at Rimbey Junior/Senior High School and social studies teacher, steps in to help teachers.
Oram was one of 70 Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) educators presenting his expertise in a certain area Aug. 26 and 27 during the school division’s Summer Institute at Ecole Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School. He provided useful tips for teachers on how to get started with Google’s Blogger application. “Technology’s changing and it’s becoming very user friendly.”
There are other applications for blogging, says Oram, but with Blogger a person can start publishing in minutes. Users do not need to learn complex Internet code, which is used to build a website, Blogger has taken care of that. With the difficult tasks already handled, teachers can take more time to plan their site.
“The planning process I think is one of the most fundamental steps,” explained Oram.
He recommends defining what the site is going to be used for. Information must be targeted to a specific audience; in Oram’s case, content is for his social studies 8 class. Teachers who want to drive interest in the course and blog must be willing to post two or three times a week. “If you’re posting once every two weeks, no one’s going to check.”
“This is what I’m doing anyways when I’m planning my class,” explained Oram.
He recommends writing down the purpose behind the blog, who is it for, what resources will be needed and the style and tone of the website. “You’re creating a digital personality for yourself.”
“You will be evaluated by your community,” he added.
Once signed in, teachers created a blog with a web address, Google automatically checked to ensure the address was unused. Oram recommended a simple name that was easy to remember. As soon as a site was created teachers were given the chance to explore the Blogger templates.
“You’re all going to realize just how easy this is and you’re all going to tune me out for a while,” he said.
There are some positives to having a ready-to-start website: users do not need to worry about technical jargon and can get going almost immediately. The flip-side is Blogger’s templates are relatively simple. Oram says they are WYSIWYG: what you see is what you get.
Once a lesson plan is ready he suggests teachers make sure they post regularly but check and take some control over the comments. He advises moderating comments before they are accepted on the site. Proofreading is important too but blog posts can be edited after they are published. Oram suggests if a user is unsure, save the draft and publish later. Edits and posts can even be made on a smartphone or tablet.
Being aware of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act is important as well. He advises teachers know who in their class is on a FOIP list as they need to ensure the protection of students.
A useful tip for teachers wanting to keep students interested is to keep the blog post short and to the point. Using bullet points helps get the necessary information across and if there is detailed information then Oram usually provides a link to information sites such as Wikipedia.
Another way is through videos. “Kids like video content.”
Oram uses YouTube to embed education videos and sometimes goofy videos to give students a break.
The next step is promoting the site. Oram would post his site on report cards and he is considering adding it to his email signature as well. “Don’t assume people know about your website.”
He mentions the website to students in class and emails updates to parents, and makes regular blog posts.
“They’re not going to take it seriously unless you take it seriously,” stated Oram.
Check out Oram’s website at http://www.mroram.ca/ to see how he presents his course lessons.