Chapter 2: Getting Started with Digital Writing in My Classroom
2.4 Moving Forward
How do I model internet safety for my students?
In twenty years of teaching, I’ve never questioned the safety of my students or the safety of their writing using traditional writing workshop tools. We’ve shared our writing with each other, we’ve shared our writing with families, and we’ve hung our work out in the hallways to expand our audience. This always felt safe and looking back I realize that safety was never really a consideration. Previously, the only aspect of writing I worried about was how we might tell a story including other people and guiding responses so they were effective in a kind manner. Our traditional writing workshop pieces were always shared with a community in which we were members. Maybe that is why I panicked a bit about taking our writing beyond our four walls to a larger community with members we didn’t personally know.
This is another area where my twitter conversation with @KristinZiemke and her nudging to think about letting go slowly had a great impact on our journey. I didn’t have to have my student’s blogs open to an unknown community right at the start! We could keep our sharing within our classroom community of writers as we were currently doing in writing workshop. I found myself imagining us taking small steps and our digital literacy community circle could increase in size as we became more experienced in our learning; and digital writing. When you read the work of digital literacy teachers much farther down the path than yourself it’s easy to want to be right where they are RIGHT THEN, in that professional book, presentation, blog or tweet. We have to remember they too probably started with small steps and are further along on their own journey as digital literacy teachers.
How do I assure parents their children are safe online?
I communicate with parents about our writing workshop standards, learning targets, mini lesson goals, and examples of our work frequently during the year. However, I felt a responsibility to explain our digital writing launch and work in more detail. I was worried families might not be digitally engaged themselves and/or they would worry about their own child using digital tools. I also wanted to ease any concerns about Internet safety. I read a variety of resources from the Internet and put tidbits together for a parent newsletter. While this took a bit of time to research, think about and create, it was worth the investment of my time because each child was a successful blogger from home and parents had helpful information in case their child needed help. I shared with parents how the students would log in and how they could join our community and provide comments on our writing. I wanted to let them know they might see typing errors and why. “Writing and keyboarding are two different skills. I want to honor the writer while giving my students the opportunity to use the keyboard in a meaningful way. You may see spelling errors and you may see mechanical errors. The students are being encouraged to check for both of these errors. I believe with more time and practice these will become more natural for them as digital writers.” I also shared with them aspects of being a digital citizen; digital communication, digital security, and digital etiquette.
How can I feel more prepared?
A writing workshop format is within my comfort zone for several reasons. My undergraduate studies were about a workshop format: mini lesson, independent practice/conferring, and sharing. I’ve read lots of professional books about writing workshop. I’ve taught various writing units and have experience using mentor texts to lead our work. I’ve seen over and over the importance of allowing students to choose their own topics for writing.
As I thought about my background and experience with writing workshop, I began to realize I was more prepared for a digital workshop format than I thought. I had read a few books about digital literacy and had blogs I frequently visited for ideas and mentors. I had some friends via Twitter and locally I could use as a resource. I could still use a workshop format but needed to consider the digital device as another tool, along with our paper, pencils, markers, and paint for creating and publishing student work. I could also still have my students choose their own topics. As I thought about all of my reasons for hesitating, I soon realized that I already had answers to some of my questions. I began to feel more confident to begin our work.
The Final Nudge
It wasn’t long before my students started giving me clues they wanted to participate more within our digital writing experiences. Sam started leaving comments on the posts we did together and I felt he wanted to foster more conversations around our writing. After Sam left a few comments Addison stopped by to share some thinking. Chihiro was excited one day during indoor recess when he created a domino train in great length and watched each domino tip over. He wanted me to create a video of his domino train falling and post it to our classroom blog. I wished I had stopped to ask why but based on his excitement I believe this may have been a new experience for him. I did this at his request but it didn’t feel right to me because it was something personal and specific to him. This was not a common experience for all of us. It would feel better if he was creating the video and he was making his own blog post. I believed through these experiences that my students were nudging me for more responsibility and opportunities to be independent. I knew I needed to take further action and release ownership for sharing our learning.
My students always enjoy going to the computer lab and working with technology. They travel quickly, they find their seat and are quite attentive for any directions we might need to get through. I didn’t anticipate the cheers and clapping that occur when I announced we were going to launch and start preparing their own site for blogging! It became apparent right away we had done the “we do” part of the gradual release model far too long.
I’m very excited to share with you we are expanding our role as digital citizens! We are using a new digital tool to produce and publish our writing. Kidblog.org was introduced and launched this week. A blog is defined as a website containing the writer’s or a group of writers’ own experiences and observations. Teachers with the intent to make blogging safe for elementary and middle school students created Kidblog. Kidblog allows the teachers to monitor the publishing and commenting within our community.
Kidblog is very safe. I have control over the student’s blogs and comments. Our blogs are only viewable by classmates, the teacher, and the guests we invite at this time. No personal information is collected to create student accounts.
I like Kidblog’s no advertising feature. The screens are simple and easy to navigate. Kidblog is perfect for helping us produce and distribute our writing. One of our language arts standards states, “With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.”
Writing and keyboarding are two different skills. I want to honor the writer and the while giving my students the opportunity to use the keyboard in a meaningful way. You may see spelling errors and you may see mechanical errors. The students are being encouraged to check for both of these errors. I believe with more time and practice these will become more natural for them as digital writers.
You may find our writing at – http://kidblog.org/MrsRobeksClass/
This link will take your student to our home page. In the top right corner they will find the words Log In, click this and another screen will pop up for you to use to log in. Each student is using their first name as their username and we have a guest username account.
They must be logged in to comment or create a new posting as a writer. Next, they will be able to find their username from a list and then enter their own password.
It is my hope as you see our efforts and read our writing you might be willing to comment. Writers grow and are encouraged by receiving feedback. Therefore, I’ve created a general guest account for parents to use. To use our guest account you will need to click on the Username – Guest and type in the password – guest. Once you have logged in, you will be asked to leave your name. I’d like to ask everyone whom comments to sign their name in a format that will help the students connect to who you are. For example; Addison’s Mom or Annalee’s Uncle, or Keelin’s Grandma. This will also model digital security and we can find out who is reading our work.
Digital communication is a big part of digital citizenship. The students are very excited about our commenting feature within Kidblog. Today we discussed there are three types of comments; compliments, connections, and questions. On their own the students discovered they could reply to a comment and we also discussed if there are a lot of questions maybe that is an idea for another post.
Digital security is another area of digital citizenship and is defined as “electronic precautions to guarantee safety.” You will also notice the students have created their own avatars using the software Pixie to help with our digital security. We’ve discussed not sharing our username or password with anyone but you, to help with our digital security.
Digital etiquette has been another area we have discussed while launching Kidblog. Digital etiquette is defined as “the electronic standards of conduct and procedure.” We are talked about choosing kind when we share our stories and our comments. We have talked about how mad and angry feelings might be better in a paper notebook and not on a blog. All posts and comments are to be approved by me first to help foster digital etiquette within our community.
Kidblog does have an app you can download for free to your electronic devices. I just put it on my phone and ipad. You might need to find our class in one of the following ways – Mrs. Robek’s Class or email@example.com
Welcome to our digital writing world.