Thursday, May 9, 2013

4º Encuentro de Profesores de Español de Alberta: Education Blogs

At the Encuentro de Profesores de Español de Alberta I did a presentation on blogging and its pedagogical values. My plan was to demonstrate ways to use blogs with our students in the computer lab. We were to experiment with the Blogger software a bit and how one may maintain an education blog. Unfortunately, we did not have access to computers so we simply discussed examples of best practices. In addition, we talked about how to use certain elements such as tagging in blogging .

In the last years we have seen an exponential increase in the number of blogs related to education. It is great that educators have access to information and are in touch with colleagues working in the same programs and encountering the same challenges. Having said that, I find it more and more difficult to keep so much information organized on a daily basis.

What I try to do is follow only a handful of blogs that really interest me and are relevant to my blog. Keeping up with around six or seven of them regularly can be manageable. I try to select blogs from different countries and diverse educational and cultural realities. So far they have been great sources of information for me.

To keep updated in technology developments relevant in education I follow two blogs:

1.Free technology for teachers: Richard Byrne supplies an amazing amount of information daily on ICTs and how to implement them in a school. He also offers access to many of his workshops and presentations on various technological and pedagogical topics. There are many blogs on technology but this is for me the most useful for anyone working in a school.

2. En la nube TIC is a blog kept by a group of teachers in Spain who collaborate on the posts and maintain the blog. The blog also offers other educators the possibility of publishing their posts. The idea of keeping a collaborative blog with teachers working in the same programs is very attractive. The blog can be a good tool to learn about blogging and ICTs with our students in Spanish.

During the discussion with teachers, we reflected on the pedagogical value of class blogs where a teacher provides information for students and families or the collaboration between two schools is showcased. Good examples of class blogs:
- A pie de Aula: It is a blog kept by Lourdes Domenech, a Spanish language arts teacher in a high school in Spain. She provides a lot of interesting information on resources for a SLA class, samples of lesson plans and projects students are working on, materials created by her students and many more. The blog has won several awards in Spain and the teacher updates it regularly. She also provides a link to her two other blogs where we can find most of her lessons plans organized by topics. Apart from all the information I also find very attractive the layout and the inclusion of numerous technological elements.

- Hablamos de literature infantil. Although I am not a specialist in kindergarten education, I follow this blog for several reasons. First of all I like the high quality of the posts. Second, it is a blog with the participation of several teachers from two schools, one in Spain and another one Italy. The blog is a diary showcasing the conjoint activities and projects by the two schools. Third, the blog has been going on for six years and this is not the general practice in education blogs.

To find resources for the Spanish class I often visit a very interesting blog kept by Jose Ramon. He has been a Spanish teacher for 13 years and has published text books and other resources for Spanish as a second language. The motto of the blog, Reflexionando para compartir. Compartiendo para evolucionar (Reflecting for sharing. Sharing for evolving), tells us a very interesting rationale behind it. The author shares with us numerous resources to be used right away in the class, e.g. the Game of the Goose boards with prepositions, verbal tenses in Spanish etc.

Naturally, I keep on searching for new interesting and inspiring blogs. A good way of finding more examples of best practices are the organized competitions for educational blogs. There are always interesting examples.
  • Best practices: Site from the Ministry of Education of Spain that includes examples of best practices in education blogs.
  • Espiral: This is an award on edublogs that takes place in Spain every year and it is open to blogs from all Spanish speaking countries. The blogs are organized by levels and categories and their links are available for us to visit. 
  • Buenas practicas lecturas: A site dedicated to literature for K-12 education. One of the sections is dedicated to introduce blogs form schools to introduce
The last suggestion is to have a look at the lists provided by different sources of the most influential blogs in education. Most of them are in English and very few of them are related to second language acquisition or bilingual programs. There are very good examples on technology, literacy and many more.
Blogs can be a very powerful tool to work with in our classes. We can use them to work collaboratively with other teachers, introduce resources or research projects to our students,  work collaboratively with another school... the possibilities are almost endless. In the links provided we can find inspirational examples that can give us ideas to start our own blogs.