When sixth-grade teacher Rachel Yurk created a blog for her classroom this year, she began the online learning experiment with a simple, engaging question: “What’s your favorite book and why?”
By that night, Yurk’s e-mail had exploded with about 200 messages – each one notifying her that another comment had been posted to the online discussion.
Safely nested in Virtual Office, a secure system that New Berlin Public Schools is piloting and plans to take districtwide by next year, Yurk’s classroom blog engages students in a common discussion tool without exposing them to uncensored activity in the real-world blogosphere.
“The students are more willing to talk about things, and they can type so fast,” Yurk said. “Pencil and paper is boring to them. The first day we opened up Virtual Office, one student’s sister – a high school kid – thought it was cool and put up a post about what book she thought the younger students should read.”
Blogs, or online discussions that usually host time-stamped entries in order of newest to oldest, have struggled to gain acceptance in mainstream K-12 education.
This is a very useful example of why it’s important for us not to continue to be caught up in the Frederick Taylor style education process as the world changes around us.