Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

How to Foster Virtual Inclusion in the Classroom With a Teacher Blog

How to Foster Virtual Inclusion in the Classroom With a Teacher Blog

By Nicole Long

Like many of my greatest personal achievements as a classroom teacher, this also stemmed from frustration. I am a firm believer in daily reflection on practice and purpose, and when I don’t like something I take steps towards changing it, even if those steps require more work in the process.

This past year, for instance, I began teaching middle school after six years in the high school classroom—a change that stemmed from feeling like I wasn’t growing anymore.

“This confirmed my instincts. Take frustration and invest in change.”

When I accepted my new placement, I also inherited a long-standing, yearlong reading project. However, after my first round of entries I quickly realized I wasn’t happy with the outcome.

Despite the potential for confusion amongst my young students, I knew the long-term results of overhauling the program would be worth dealing with the short-term chaos. I assumed the risk and re-scripted the entire project, a significant undertaking that resulted in a far better performance.

This confirmed my instincts—take frustration and invest in change.

More: 10 Tech Tools for the Classroom

The Start of Something Big

I started my teacher blog in 2011, at a time when I had just realized two things:

  1. How difficult it was for my students to access materials outside of the classroom.
  2. The amount of time I spent preparing for and keeping up with absent and make-up work.

I felt like I was spinning in a wheel, not making any progress toward getting students what they needed on a regular basis. At the time I was working on my accreditation and was enrolled in an integrating technology course through McDaniel College. My professor introduced me to Edublogs and the idea of fostering a digital learning environment for my students.

This forever changed my footprint in the classroom.

Creating A Sense of Purpose

A kindergarten teacher and close friend of mine, Casey Keenan, had already started a blog of her own when I started on my original website. I saw how she was connecting with colleagues, students, and parents through her site, Fair Winds Teaching, all while creating a teaching resource from where she could share lesson ideas and curriculum connections. It was a window into her classroom, providing a sense of inclusion for anyone who wasn’t part of her daily routine.

This sense of inclusion continues to be the most important aspect for students, who can keep up with what’s going on within the classroom from any device with an Internet connection.

Connecting with Students

My need for a blog was slightly different. I knew I wanted my students to use the blog for missed work and review.

I created a page where I could post daily lesson plans, homework and reminders. I encouraged students to use the website from home, before returning from an absence, hoping it would increase completion of make-up work and decrease the time I needed to spend managing the process. The results were dramatic and my investment paid off immensely.

QR code - nicoleFrom there, theQR codes 2 - Nicole idea blossomed. I felt inspired. Creating the website also allowed me to tap into my creative side.

Knowing that students were using cellphones, I created QR CODES that link directly to my website and taped them to their desks.

This allowed students who didn’t get the work online before coming to class could access the work from their cellphones as soon as they returned. The phrase “Did I miss anything?” became virtually extinct in my classroom—and pleasantly so!

More: Inspiring Q&A With Tech Teacher Vicki Davis

Showcasing Student Achievement

One of my favorite pages on my teacher blog is the student spotlight page, where I share information and artifacts from any digital projects my students complete. This gives them a sense of purpose when I publish their work, while allowing parents and other educators to see a project in all the stages of completion.

“This has become a place where parents know they can find important information, whenever they need it, without having to send an email…”

It’s a place students know they can go to, at any point in the future, to see a portfolio of their work and accomplishments. This fosters a sense of ownership and pride in what they’re doing.

I frequently visit the page as well, using it as a reference for students who are working on projects in the present.

Providing A Resource for Parents

Over time, I began adding to the website and eventually created a page for parents. I used my parents’ page to post hard copies of emails, newsletters and information about grades and class policies. There were also links to curriculum connections and practice.

Mrs. Long's Blog

The parents’ section.

This has become a place where parents know they can find important information, whenever they need it, without having to send an email and wait on a response.

Start with the End in Mind

When I host professional learning sessions on the idea of creating a teacher webpage, I am always careful to share that in addition to the platform you choose—Edublogs, Google, Weebly or Wix—the setup is also entirely up to you.

To make these starting decisions, determine your outcome objectives. For example: Do you want to share resources with other teachers? Do you want to strictly focus on your classroom? Is it a little bit of both? This will help you determine layout, pages and style.

Remember, your blog will be an ever-evolving window into your classroom, so don’t be afraid to start slow with something that’s manageable and easy to maintain. Always consider whether your investment—in money or time—is worthwhile.

I feel a sense of validation when I can see how and where people are accessing my website, knowing that these visitors are seeing what my students are accomplishing on a daily basis. I also find the investment worthwhile in that I know I’m communicating with both parents and students in a global way, getting information to the community as opposed to just the individual.

Ultimately, my desire to maintain a teacher blog isn’t just a personal choice; it’s a choice that I know has helped to create a better experience for the students and parents who come through my classroom.

My frustration with time spent collecting and distributing make-up or absent work, answering emails, and repeating the same reminders time and time again have been replaced with the affirmation I feel every time a student comes back from an absence with their work already finished.

Learn more about your fundraising Read-A-Thon at Learn2Earn.

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