This morning, I started off my day as I always do, reading Doug Peterson‘s blog post. Today’s post really resonated with me because it explored social media and classroom communication. After commenting a couple of times on the post, I realized that I really needed to blog about our workflow. While we follow much of Doug’s advice, we have a few changes to make it our own.
First Step – Start with Twitter, Instagram, or both. I love the idea of hashtags, but have never had the best of luck with them. I often forget which one I chose, and then add in an extra character or two, which produces multiple hashtags instead of just one. So my teaching partner, Paula, and I skip the hashtag step, and just move right onto posting. We love using both Twitter and Instagram. Twitter is great for longer video recordings. But with Instagram, we can create learning stories by combining photographs and videos with text. We are also not limited to characters (or at least not as much), so we can share the lead up to the story, what students said, and even some possible next steps. Best of all, we can use an IFTTT recipe to link Instagram and Twitter, and share across multiple platforms. Technically, creating this recipe is the first step, but we’ve kind of combined the two here. Many of our parents are also on Instagram, so they follow along with our posts throughout the day before seeing them merged together later on our classroom blog. A few parents are also on Twitter, but not as many. Linking both social media spaces allows us to meet parents where they’re at. By also having public accounts, parents can use the links to view the posts without needing to create their own account. This leads to even more parental views.
Second Step – Blog it! This is actually the easiest step. All of the posts are now out there thanks to Twitter and Instagram. We then use Wakelet to collect these posts, provide a context in an introductory paragraph, and then add in a possible extension activity at the end. (A special “thank you” to Aaron Puley, who taught us the value in providing these home extension activities for parents: helping them see how they can use the documentation that they’re viewing.) After publishing the Wakelet, we embed it on our classroom blog. An email notification sends this post directly to parents. As an aside, we have explored how to create this post directly on the blog with a WordPress plug-in (thanks to the incredible Jared Bennett), but the size of each post seems to be beyond what our site can handle. Until we work through this problem, we continue to use a third-party option, and hope that we will not have another Storify experience on our hands.
Third Step – Reap the rewards! There is so much value in this classroom blog.
- Parents use it to talk about the day with their child.
- We use it to inspire new learning each day in the classroom. It’s our greatest provocation!
- The posts provide photographic evidence, recordings, and quotations that we use for our Communications of Learning. So much growth is noted here!
- We use this documentation for planning. What are the students’ interests? What might we try next? Lots of great conversations come from these posts.
- I use it for my T.P.A. (Teacher Performance Appraisal). Five years ago, my principal at the time, suggested that I tag my blog posts according to the Domains for the Teacher Performance Appraisal. I did this for my professional posts and our classroom ones. I’ve kept up with this tagging, and can now use these posts as evidence for my appraisal.
Our classroom blog is how we document, support, converse about, and celebrate learning. I’m not going to say that this workflow is easy. Yes, it’s time-consuming. I use most of my prep time uploading documentation, and Paula and I discuss even more after school each day. But the time is worth it! It allows us to be very targeted in our instructional practices and provides a great place to reflect on learning. It includes student and parent voice, and always opens itself up for home discussions. After a challenging day, being able to look back at all of the good that happened and celebrate growth — no matter how small that growth may be — often changes our view in a positive way.
Thinking about what Doug shared this morning though, and what we do, shows that there are different workflow possibilities. What do you do? What else might you want to try? As a new year begins, what a great time to explore various sharing options.