Whew! Didn't think I'd ever "see the light of day" again, but after a marathon work session, my latest project, Ontario Blogs is now ready to receive bloggers!
Supported through legacy funding from the former Education Network of Ontario, Ontario Blogs provides teachers and students in Ontario,
Canada with a vehicle for reading, writing, discussing, debating, sharing, exploring, collaborating, connecting, creating, reflecting, learning...province-wide.
The project consists of a series of connected blog sites:
The first three sites in the list above are self-explanatory; they are intended for elementary, secondary and English/French as a Second
The Professional Development blog site is for consultants, coordinators, workshop leaders and interested groups of teachers to use
in support of professional development activities. Registered participants are invited to:
- post their “workshop” agendas on the blog and get feedback from teachers in advance of the face-to-face PD sessions
- poll PD session participants to gather information in advance of the sessions
- post session notes
- continue the discussion long after the face-to-face sessions have ended.
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) blog site is intended for the use of pre-service teachers to share reflections of their learning experiences.
All teachers who register for any of the Ontario Blogs projects will also be given a login for the Ontario Blogs “Home” blog. There are no student logins on this site. It is intended
for teacher conversations: lesson ideas, writing prompts, inter-class collaborations, literacy, communication across the curriculum, web 2.0 applications etc. etc. Teachers are encouraged to consider this blog as their provincial staffroom - grab a coffee, pull up a chair and dive into the conversation!
There are some key features of the project that are worth sharing.
- Ontario Blogs is both a protected and public space. It is protected in that only registered users may post or comment, and all posts and
comments must be approved by a teacher. It is public in that it is read-only by anyone on the web, and all posts are profiled on the main page of the blog.
- The blogs are single owner, multi-author Wordpress installations that have been modified for our use. The major
programming change has been to tie user logins to categories. When a teacher registers for the project, he/she is assigned two default categories, one for teacher posts and one for student posts. Teachers are free to create as many more categories as they wish, but their students’ posts will always default to their class category first and then to the additional category that is chosen. As this version of Wordpress was not intended to be multi-user, the categories provide the tool teachers need to manage their students’ posts and comments. When teachers login, they manage just their own categories, approving drafts and moderating comments.
- So why not just use WordPress MU, the multi-user version? While this version is great for creating
separate and distinct class blogs, it doesn’t promote inter-class collaboration. To me it feels more like keeping the classroom door closed. Each Ontario Blogs site is a single blog with many classes posting to the main page as well as to their own class categories. This feature gives students an audience beyond their own classroom and gives teachers a chance to see what other teachers and classes are doing. In past years we have had many students commenting all throughout the different class categories. For example we had a class of very weak grade eight writers connect with a class of very strong grade six readers. It was amazing to see the conversations emerge between the two classes as interests, likes, dislikes, and books were shared and discussed! These were discussions that emerged naturally and were not orchestrated or assigned by teachers. I don’t think either class was aware of the grade level of the other; it didn’t matter. What mattered were the shared interests and the thrill of learning about each other.
So…the blogs are ready…the teachers are registering…let the conversation begin! If you have a spare moment, drop by and watch the
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