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No teachers – a lot of pupils

At the ”Tell us…” blog we were three schoolclasses in grade 5, from three different countries having a four month exchange. This meant that we constantly had about 80 authors

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No teachers – a lot of pupils

At the ”Tell us…” blog we were three schoolclasses
in grade 5, from three different countries having a
four month exchange. This meant that we constantly
had about 80 authors and readers on the site, which
kept the blog interesting and ”alive” all the time, as
there was always something new to discover.

We had no teachers present on the blog, only pupils.
This maybe seems a bit strange for a schoolblog, but
turned out to be a rather good idea. We could see that
the pupils felt that the shared site was ”their” meeting-
place. They were really writing only for their peers and
not for the teachers.

When the expected readers was only other pupils, all
the writing of posts and commentaries was always for
a clearly defined audiance. Everybody seemed to feel
respectful and serious about their writings, both when
thinking about content and the form. Most pupils also
showed a strong wish to develop their language skills
to be able to express themselves more elaborated.

Our pupils were happily writing their posts and then
eagerly waiting for responses…and everybody really
got reactions too. In many cases we could see that
the commentaries developed into nice conversations,
which made the teachers happy as well. Communica-
tion was actually one of the goals with our blog.

We had no teachers present at the blogsite, but of
course we were present in our classrooms, trying
to encourage and support the pupils efforts. Some-
times this was a rather tough task, especially when
a lot of pupils were eagerly asking for help in their
hurry to meet the publishing dates.

Also when they were writing comments….many of
the pupils showed this sense of urgency, wanting to
give their reactions and answers to their new friends
abroad almost immediately :
”Can you check this…?”, ”How do you spell that..?”,
”What is the translation for…?”, ”Can my comment
be approved, right now?”…Uhhh !..any teacher can
become a bit exhausted by such intensive activities
in their classroom.

 

Use the web?

Internet has opened up new possibilities for teachers to
communicate and cooperate far beyond classroom walls,
actually even across the globe, in their daily efforts to
support their pupils development.

”Use the web” will be the main theme for this blogsite.
It will focus on teaching english as a foreign language in
the elementary classroom.

The intention here is an exchange of good ideas, experiences,
interesting links and useful online resources. Hopefully you’ll
find some inspiration by the examples from other teachers to
develop and enrich your ongoing work with the children.

Feel free also to share your thoughts and to contribute with
what you’ve found succesful in your own class. Everything
that can make language learning more motivating and alive
will surely be appreciated by others.

You’re welcome to use either the Comments sections or you
can register as an Author (see below) for your contributions
to this blogsite.

Some results and statistics

We started our blogproject with hopes that the pupils should
learn some english along the way. Rather soon we could see
quite a surprising development.
Through the blogging activities the pupils got involved in a
natural, ”real life” situation. They showed a personal and an
urgent need to understand and also to express themselves in
written english.

Our blog had between 20 and 90 visitors a day, watching and
reading 150 to 900 pages – the smaller amounts on weekends.
Most viewers were from Germany, Finland and Sweden, so
we suppose it was mostly our pupils, even if we had visitors
from many other countries too.

Actually the activities on the ”Tellus”-blog was constantly at
a high level. The statistics showed that after only about three
months we had more than 200 posts/”articles” published and
almost one thousand comments to these. All of this material
was written and read by our participant pupils. – Impressing!

We found out that the vast amount of reading and writing
our pupils were doing on the ”Tellus…”-blog is not so easy
to accomplish under normal classroom-english settings.

Of course such an ”immersion” in a foreign language will
make a difference when we think of the pupils learning.
A large quantity of text work, but with a communicative
purpose made the pupils constantly and actively ask for
more knowledge and chances to immediately practice it.

Another aspect of the blog’s impact on learning english
was the constant challanges for the pupils to go beyond
their ”active” vocabulary and other linguistic skills.
During the period we could see most pupils take quick
steps forward in their language acquisition.

Maybe the most important results, when we think of
learning english, was the pupils development of self-
confidence in using it. English provided them with
the tools for an ongoing, a ”real life” communication
with peers in another country and they experienced
that their hard efforts in using them was succesful.

Other learning the pupils got on the blog included a
lot training in using digital tools, handling media of
different kinds and using varying Internet resources.
The blog provided both motivation for learning and
a testing ground for how it can be done….read more
about these things here : ( link )

By the blogproject we also encountered questions
about copyright and how to use media in a proper
way. (see here: )

 

 

Creative Commons

When pupils get accustomed to the many
possibilities of blogging they soon will
start using mediafiles to illustrate their
texts. Some of the illustrations they make
themselves, but often they also want to use
media produced by others.

Here we as teachers should be very clear
about copyright issues. We also need to
provide a good training on where to find
material that’s legatemite to use and how
to refer to the sources. Otherwise we run
the riscs of getting involved in some Copy-
right infringement and this can actually
happen even when not expected at all.

Such an unexpected copyright case that
took place at an Edublogs site made for
preschool children is described here:

It’s a very good idea to give some direct
training on where and how the pupils can
find materials that’s legal to use.

Maybe the best startingpoint for pupils
will be at the Creative Commons search
page (see this link: ). To get more ”hits”
on your search you should uncheck both
the boxes for ”commercial” and ”modify”.

Here are some helpful instructions :

 

Copyright issues

During the pupils work with forming blogposts
they soon showed a strong wish to illustrate their
presentations with different kinds of media.
These possibilities to enrich their works spread
like a forestfire among the pupils, one inspiring
the other.

The ”Tell us… ”- blog quickly exploded with lots
of pictures found on the Internet and far too many
without any reference to the source or to the copy-
right holder.

With so many contributors on the blog as we had,
the production of new material went so fast that
we found it quite problematic to go back and do
any copyright corrections to the posts afterwards.

We felt that those kind of questions should have
been clearified as soon as we started the blog, if
not even before, otherwise there’s a risc to end up
by closing the blog because of copyright chaos.

Here we had encountered an urgent need to teach
our pupils about the Creative Commons licenses.
We also found it necessary to discuss copyright
issues to clarify under what circumstances it can
be appropiate to use others materials.

To use media material, like for example photos,
is an excellent idea and should be encouraged
among the pupils. We found that all pupils want
to illustrate their text works and are eager to try
a lot of creative ways to do this.

Our obligation as teachers is to show the proper
ways to use others works. Pupils will grasp and
easily accept the ideas behind copyright, if we
only point them out in a clear way.

Here is a lovely video from Linda Yollis where
she very pedagogically let her third graders face
these questions in a natural classroom setting :
”mrs Yollis totally shocked us!” – just make that
kind of arrangement the day before next parents
meeting and you’ll get all pupils to really under-
stand what copyright is all about!

When the pupils have understood what’s proper
use of media material, they need some training
on how to apply it.
Here are some helpful instructions on this :

 

Internet and English

In classrooms of today we’ve got new opportunities
never seen before, especially when it comes to teaching
and learning the english language – we’ve got digital
technology and we’ve got the Internet.

By combining these two: the Internet and the english
language , teachers and pupils have got very powerful
tools in their hands -
Tools for communication and tools for finding informa-
tion on almost anything of interest in different areas of
a specific subject.
A vast ocean of resources and possibilities is nowadays
only some ”clicks” away.

The Internet is built as a worldemracing and efficient
network for communication. Anyone can instantly reach
out with information, communicate ideas, opinions and
experiences and it’s possible to have have ongoing con-
versations even across the globe.

The english language has nowadays become the foremost
communication tool in the world at large. English is taught
as a foreign language at schools in most countries of today.

It’s also no surprise that the main goals for every english
language curriculum are evolving around the development
of the pupils communicative skills.