In my previous post I discussed the possibility of having my students create their own personal learning networks for environmental science class. After pondering this for a while longer I have decided to start the year by having them take some initial steps in doing this. The first thing I am going to have them do is to create a wordpress blog (If blogger becomes part of the Google Apps for Education I will use it) like we are using for class. In fact, I have “stolen” much of the directions for this assignment from this course. I set up the blog assignment on an environmental website I have been working on for class. Students will be required to blog a minimum of once every two weeks. Students will receive class time every other Friday to read each others blogs and comment on them. I envision using the last part of these periods to have a group discussion about what the class has blogged about. I modified the rubric from class a bit and plan on using it to grade blog entries.
One of the big issues for me was determining how I was going to keep up with reading three classes worth of blog entries and also give the students access to each others blogs. I believe I have solved these issues. As for keeping up with the students blogs, I plan on subscribing to them in Google Reader. By making a folder for each class following their blogs via their RSS feeds will be relatively easy. When setting up the website I posted a google form with two questions. Students will fill out the form adding both their period number and blog address. Right below the form I inserted a google spreadsheet. Once the students add their information to the form it will show up in the spreadsheet. Until Google Apps starts to include Google Reader (which the tech guy at school believes will happen soon), I will have the students access each others blogs from this part of the page. Once Google Reader becomes part of Google Apps I will be able to aid the students in setting up feeds. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I could set them up and share them with the students.
In addition to blogging I am also going to have the students set up twitter accounts. We are going to start by just following all the students in the environmental classes. Twitter will be used for various class activities at first. When Google Reader is added, I might have students start following some environmental bloggers and tweeters to aid them in finding topics to blog about.
Why do all this?
- The first answer that comes to mind is that it will aid at bringing current events and expert opinions into the classroom.
- There are a few major issues that act as an umbrella over almost every topic we discuss in class. Some students might find that they have a passion for one of those issues (recycling, global warming, etc.) and start to develop a voice and a love of learning for a specific topic as the year progresses. This is really the reason that excites me the most. I hope to find a few students that really become passionate about a topic in environmental science and start to apply themselves well above and beyond my expectations.
- Even if a student doesn’t become an avid self-directed learner of environmental science, helping them to see the value of these tools, and the application of a personal learning network, might prove an invaluable skill they later apply to another field of study.