The admin and I returned to school last week. Near the top of the itinerary for the start of classes was to get the SDLT blogs up and running; despite some vocalized misgivings from a few faculty members, the wheels were in motion. We had addressed some of our earlier questions during end-of-year meetings and disussions: it was decided that
- the blogs would be public. These blogs represent one of the first 'professional digital presences' for our kids, so we wanted them to learn to post appropriately, with the proper voice and the audience (teachers, peers, parents, board members) in mind.
- structured time WOULD be granted during counseling seminar classes (where most of the focused teaching about the SLRs would take place). However, these times would be better described as 'deadlines', where kids were encouraged to have already written their blog entries and could talk about them with each other.
- the question of assessment was premature. These are much more important than just something that gets a grade, so over time we would continue to emphasize that these are being read by people in the 'real world' rather than merely being graded by a teacher.
- responsibilty for the blogs would lie with everyone. Counselors would focus on the SLRs, teachers would capitalize on opportunities to remind the kids of their blogs, and even occasionally create tasks that would support them, homeroom teachers would spend some time with their kids reading each other's blogs, parents would be asked to look through them at various times. Something like this needs to be an institutional process or else it gets lost in the cracks.
- the blogs will be dedicated solely for the SLRs. Blogs have purposes: if we muddy the water by using these for their PE reflections, or use a Humanities blog as the forum for the SLR reflections, then the kids would miss out on lessons about voice and context, and readers would not clearly see the growth with respect to the SLRs.
So we had a big faculty meeting with the Gr 9 teachers and let them know that all the freshmen would create their blogs and link the URL to their myDragonNet profiles on the orientation day on Tuesday. A great part of that pre-meeting was that the entire talk came from the Admin; it's imperative that initiatives like this are led from the top, so it was great to see our admin team taking ownership.
Then came the big day. We have an Orientation day where the 9th graders go through four 45-minute sessions to get introduced to the High School. My session was dedicated to discussing the Student Use Guidelines for HS, and then creating the blogs.
But unfortunately, we discovered that having 50 kids at a time try to create a blog overwhelmed the google provider, and all were denied! The could create their blogger profiles, but when they went to actually book their URL, they got an error message denying them access. Oh no!
Fortunately, after freaking out a little bit, I decided to go into the smaller counseling seminar classes on the first day and see if a group of 15 kids could do it. And the great news is....they could! So now I am dropping in on the seminar classes for two days (3 today, 7 tomorrow) and all the kids are finally creating their blogspaces.
Next step: first posts, voice, audience, and technical details (format, template, gadgets, etc). Then to see what type of intrinsic faculty support starts to happen.