Tuesday, May 20, 2008

student run blogs

I recently reactivated a class blog called Third Grade Thoughts that I started last October. Between then and now my hope was that our students would be writing and managing our news on this site. Today I added photos of our recent field trip to a beautiful county park on the Potomac River. I also added a podcast of students making daily observations about their butterflies in various stages of their life cycle over the last two weeks. Prior to that, I added a podcast of our field trip and a lesson that kicked off our butterfly unit. Sounds productive but, I have a little teacher's guilt about it.

I didn't achieve my original goal to have students directly produce the blog. They are indirectly "writing" the blog by adding their voices in podcast form but... Okay, so I have hopes for next year. I spent about a month and a half on a language arts unit of study last quarter informally titled, "writing for the web." The writing objectives, drawn from our district and state objectives, were all geared toward publishing on a website. Our technology resource specialist co-taught some of the lessons. Our students had great ideas: a food column, a winners column, a games column, a favorite animals column, etc.

I loved these kid-centered themes and the kids mostly loved working on a team to produce a bit of the website. There was a lot of collateral learning on this project. I learned a lot about my students and how they work. I realized we have a lot of strong personalities who need lots of support to work on a team project like this. Students learned they have strong personalities and have to sometimes let go and work toward consensus. It's all good, but, this unit was much more time consuming than I expected. So, now after many weeks, after abandoning the student blog idea, and working to get in other reading and writing lessons, I have caved and put our news online, without student help. I don't like the idea. I am determined to work next year to help students get their own news online. In the meantime, student's voices on a couple of podcasts are helping me assuage my guilt and reconcile the fact that the blog is not as pure as I'd like it to be.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Olympic Torch Relay- Slice of Life

The other morning I woke to a piece on NPR about the Olympic Torch Relay finally getting on Chinese soil. Today it is on the mainland enjoying quite a following. To say this ritual carried from the ancient games has ignited more than the current Olympic flame, which began March 24, 2008 at the ancient Temple of Hera in Olympia, is an understatement. Every leg save the current legs in China have been accompanied by huge crowds protesting against human rights violations, the sovereignty of Tibet, and the political support Chinese has offered the Sudanese government. Accompanying the protests have been intense security, tactical diversions, and hot media. Now that the torch is in China the protests are gone, the security is more relaxed (or is it?) and the media is state run. So if there are protests we might not know. Hmmm. The AP has headlined an article, "Olympic Torch Enjoying a Smooth Relay" (May 7, 2008). Well, there are around 100 legs of relay ahead til this symbolic flame reaches the Olympic venue in Beijing. Personally, I'm waiting for televised coverage of the Mount Everest climb. Historic in so many ways.

The image in this post is my torch from the 1984 Olympic Torch Relay. The Relay traveled the United States, starting in New York City and ending at the Los Angeles Coliseum, traversing 33 states and Washington, DC. The torches (each runner keeps theirs) in the relay were only carried by runners on foot, covered more than 9,320 mi (15,000 km) and involved 3616 different runners, including 200 runners from the sponsoring company AT&T, and one runner from San Jose, CA who won her one kilometer leg in the San Jose Mercury (love that paper!) 10K road race. None of my memories in that kilometer, which I milked for every second I could, included protests, zealous security or left out media. If there was a protest somewhere, I missed it. The Olympics are a political event after all. After a much delayed start (actually scheduled for 8pm) due to the crowd who came to watch, I ran at midnight on a country road in bucolic Carmel Valley, CA. Friends ran beside me along with some AT&T employees, escort cars, and a few local police. I really felt I was part of the Olympic Torch ideal; I was "spreading the Olympic spirit, the message of peace and friendship" and helping to "ignite the passion of the people around the world." There was no stress. Just sheer joy! As I watch the relay via online video I only hope the runners have that same sense of Olympic spirit and joy as they dodge a multitude of distractions.