After 20 years of teaching students from 1st grade through 6th grade, I have found that students love to tell you about things they have done. But, when I would ask them to write down their thoughts and their stories, I would often hear the question, “Do we have to write it?”
This year finds me in the midst of a new endeavour: creating a STEM class for 6th graders! As you know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. My task: create a hands-on program where worksheets are out and technology is in. This year, students have been designing rockets, learning coding, and participating in competitions, and they are excited to share what they have done—even when it comes time to write about it.
Kidblog has been a valuable tool in changing the mindset of our STEM class in many ways.
A Broader Audience
In the past, most of my students felt that their writing was for their teacher only. Kidblog provides a way for students to share their results with peers outside of their own class, helping change students’ mindsets. Just knowing that ‘everybody’ can read it has offered increased motivation.
Accountability and Motivation
Educators must seize opportunities in the classroom to help students learn how to be responsible for what they post! Occasionally, students don’t take their work seriously, fly through it, or show little concern for quality. By using Kidblog to share thoughts/reflections, I have noticed many students respectfully question their peers about the quality of their work and/or lack of thought/data they included. These ‘peer corrections’ as well as the ability to see some great peer writing samples has led to more change in my students than my own words ever have.
As we designed rockets, student teams tested different variables and analyzed other teams’ models. Teams posted their findings on Kidblog along with a picture of their final design. Teams of students from various classes reviewed the blogs and posted both comments and questions for each other. Having to defend their findings with evidence caused many to go back and retest—without me having to ‘force’ them to! (A teacher’s dream.)
Connections to Professional Engineers
Kidblog has been a useful way to connect students in class with engineers outside of the classroom. Many technical and engineering firms in our community want to help the schools in whatever way they can. Kidblog has helped provide a format to connect the classroom with the outside world. There are currently four engineers checking out our Kidblog class on a weekly basis. They are able to access students’ posted reflections and provide feedback on their design solutions. This ‘real world’ feedback has really helped in the area of motivation!