One of the most common questions we’re asked in our Edublogs live webinars is how do you encourage educators to engage in the use of technology with their students.
Many of us face this challenge.
So when Ryan Turner, an Elementary Principal, was telling me about the success of his school-wide blogging program I asked if he would share his story.
Please note that while Ryan’s School District is using one of our Edublogs Campus sites, which makes it easier to take a coordinated approach, the principles of the processes he uses are applicable to any blogging platform or technology.
As your reading through the questions and his answers, watch out for how the administration model technology use and that the blogs are also making it easier for fellow teachers to collaborate and learn from each other.
1. What has been the outcome of your program so far?
The teachers are loving the blogs. At first I had to require them to update at least once a week. Now they are posting often without prompting. Plus they are using each others’ blogs to teach their students.
More and more, parents are turning on to the subscription feature that turns our blogs into a dynamic site that works for us, from a static site that was inactive. The blogs are loved by the School Board as well.
I have not gotten the teachers into advanced blogging, but they have really embraced the ease of posting as well as the ease of uploading images. They’ve begun to view our other teachers’ blogs and borrow and steal ideas for use in their classrooms. It’s very exciting!!!
2. How did you introduce them to the blogging program?
I had previously mentioned blogs to the staff in a meeting about the migration to blogs as an effective form of communication.
The link was sent out the last day before school began to all faculty to the home of the Blogs site for our District and got them to explore the blogs. During that time, I encouraged them to sign up for a blog and begin to explore the dashboard.
I set a date for all faculty to have a blog set up by. At that point I put on a training for those who needed it.
In the meantime, I set up an Elementary School blog where I began to post important information and images, videos, etc. I encouraged the staff to subscribe to the blog, using the subscribe by email option.
3. How much time did you give your staff from the time they were sent the link to they had to have a blog set up?
The teachers were given 6 weeks before the blogs were required.
Each week, I sent out an email to the teachers outlining the events for the week.
Each message encouraged the teachers that if they had not yet set up a blog, that the time was approaching where the blogs must be set up.
3. What training did you offer and when was it provided?
The training was provided at the end of the 6 week exploration period as a workshop that lasted about 1 hour and took place at the tail-end of a faculty meeting.
If the teachers were already comfortable with the blogs, they were not required to attend. The remaining were assisted in everything from setting up the blog, to learning the dashboard, to widgets to appearances. When the teachers began, it was a great training with the more advanced assisting those who were not so advanced.
The only thing that I showed the teachers how to do was make one post, add one image, and showed the website Smilebox.com. After that, several teachers would come by during their planning periods and get assistance on a one to one basis.
4. How many of the teachers out of the total number of teachers in the school did you require to set up a blog?
The only teachers that I have control over are the ones at the Elementary School. Our Superintendent really spoke highly of the blogs and encouraged the use of the blogs, so we put the effort in at the elementary school. Other schools within our district, the Junior High and High School, have access to the blogs, but they have been slower taking off.
Only the regular population teachers in our school were required the blogs. Special populations: Special Education, Dyslexia, and English Language Learners were not included within the launch of blogs because of privacy issues involved and protections provided through Federal and State Laws.
There are 27 teachers on staff at my campus who are regular instruction. Each of these have a blog, with the addition of the Aide who teaches Music and the Library Aide.
5. Have even the most resistant become involved?
Being a new principal in the district, I spoke of the need, the positive opportunities that the blogs would provide, and the need to advance technologically.
I did not give an option as far as the implementation. Those more seasoned teachers were a little behind the learning curve, and their blogs still do not have the amount of flash or appeal of those who have been more receptive along the way.
6. Also how did you make it a requirement to post once weekly? Did you use any incentive?
With weekly lesson plans, I wanted the parents to have a place to turn to that would allow them to have a window into our classroom. We are pushing to have a more transparent classroom, where the parents are more active in the classrooms.
With Smart Phones and so many portable Email devices, we really wanted to make sure that we provide the opportunity to have in their hands the information that will allow the students to be more successful.
No incentives were offered. I am including, however, the blogs as a part of their summative observation for the end of the year. I do check the blogs on a regular basis and have the blogs set up on our Blogs Directory to reorder based on the latest blog updated being located on the front.
The blog site is also set up to show the latest posts and the latest comments site-wide.
I visit the teachers blogs and comment on great things that I see happening. Our Superintendent also visits and comments, encouraging the blogs to continue achieving.
7. What other small things have you shown them that have made a difference?
The biggest thing that I’ve seen make a difference in our blogs has been the teachers viewing other teachers’ blogs. They see what things are out there and try to imitate and even improve upon.
The other thing that I’ve see in previous settings, as well as the current setting of myself being a principal: Technology cannot progress unless campus leadership provides an example and buys into the technology.
Our superintendent has a blog and he sets an example that he won’t ask others to do something that he is not willing to do themselves. Leadership must be in a position that they lead by example. I try to do that through example and also through prodding along and providing assistance.
The other thing I would say: keep it simple.
Don’t introduce too many concepts at once. The reason that I showed how to make one post: they will figure out what they need to make the blogs more useable for them. The teachers will develop their own style and techniques.
Would love to hear your stories!
- What has worked well?
- What hasn’t worked?
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