Reflection: High Quality Task Viruses in the News: Ebola - Section 3: Student Activity: Summarizing what we know so far


We use our class blog as a teaching tool. Several years ago, my sister-in-law approached me about starting some type of online media geared towards upper elementary to early middle school students. Hence, our class blog was born. We pick a topic as a class and then decide how we are going to present the material in a fun, yet insightful way. This year I am using blogging with several my classes (grades 9-12). We have two class blogs: one for Earth Science (it is the oldest) and one shared by all my Life Science courses (Genetics, Biology, and Anatomy & Physiology) and Chemistry. The life science classes' blog (to which my biology class posts) is called Keep Calm and Science On. Several times a year, my classes write a summary post or posts about current events happening in the world. For this unit, Biology drafted a series of posts about the Ebola crisis in Africa and how it spread to the United States. They also discussed more real threats to Americans, namely influenza and perhaps measles (although time will tell.)  

When working on the blog, students draft a blog post in a shared Google Docs document. Each student group can work at the same time on their post. Students can also peer review each others work. I act as editor and science expert. Many times we work on the blog in class, but Google Docs allows students to work on the blog post from anywhere. Also, I can monitor my students' activity by using the tools within Google Docs. In this way, I can make sure that all students are working on the writing assignment and not wasting time.

Like the technical writing assignment discussed in the previous lesson, blog posts are highly scaffolded throughout the unit. I ask students' opinions about what they would like to include in the blogs. I also encourage them to keep a daily log of news stories that apply to what we are studying. It is of great interest to them so they do this without me prompting them. I also model this skill and keep a daily log myself.  

I am the only one with administrator privileges so students submit their final draft to me with images. I post everything to the blog. My administration encourages this policy so nothing inappropriate would be posted. A line is set as to what can be posted and what should not be posted. Posts to our class blog are strictly monitored. I am very mindful about what gets posted. In fact, all posts must come through me as the blog's administrator. They do not go live without my approval.

We use Blogger which is part of the Google suite of online tools. It is very user friendly and it is free. You can have multiple blogs on the same accounts if you would like. It does have some administrative management tools which allow for comments to be monitored before they are posted. I opted for the no comments to be posted option. Recently, Blogger has added some interactive tools like the ability to link to Youtube or upload short videos. I have also encouraged students to take pictures that would enhance their posts. 

Since we start this project in Earth Science, students have an understanding of the guidelines for blogging and they also understand the importance of a positive online presence. In the past, we have just used it to explain the science behind unusual events (i.e. Superstorm Sandy and the Oso mudslide). This school year students are going to post to it more frequently.  With everything that is required of the new standards, we typically have been blogging at the end of certain units.  

What I love about the blogging process is the blog is designed for students to teach other students or the general public. I assign the topics, but students decide how to present those topics. It's not perfect, but perhaps it will give you another example of how to use social media in the classroom. All of my students are engaged even if they are not amazing writers. I "advertise" our blog on my personal Facebook page when new blog posts are ready.  Since my community members are my Facebook friends, we have a small, mostly local readership. However, that is our intent.   

Students are online 24/7. I see this project as a method of teaching a responsible online presence to students. The class blog is a way for them to show themselves as professionals and we are able to discuss what is appropriate. Also, as a class, we do have real discourse about how is the best way to teach the topic and what are the implications to everyday life. It has been a very positive experience. It has made most of my students think about the implications of what they put online before they post to other platforms. The fact that high schoolers are giving prior thought to what they post online is huge. 

  I'm Blogging This--Creating a Classroom Blog
  High Quality Task: I'm Blogging This--Creating a Classroom Blog
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Viruses in the News: Ebola

Unit 2: Viruses
Lesson 11 of 11

Objective: Students will explain how viruses spread by researching the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and its transmission to the rest of the world.

Big Idea: I'm blogging this. In this lesson, you will research current events in science and write a blog post.

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ebola virus
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