What I have been blogging about these past two months

Some of you have noticed that I have not been blogging lately. I think that I have not posted to this blog in over two months. My excuses are many. The chagim, Jewish High Holidays, which came early this year and took up most of September. The new school year which engulfed me wave by wave with numerous time sensitive projects. Setting up my students and teachers on Google Apps for education for the first time and gradually teaching them how to integrate this in class; setting up, deploying, and training our almost 160 freshmen on their iPads; together with all of the usual beginning of the school year technology stuff. I have barely been able to stay afloat let alone reflect on my practices in my personal home in cyberspace, this blog. So I have not blogged for a long while.

I know my excuses sound pretty lame. I would agree. But here is a much better one. Actually, I have been blogging (and helping to set up blogs for others) quite a lot these past two months. Only in different venues.

Since the start of the school year, I set up a blog for my Nach class at The Frisch School, helped our talented art teacher, Mrs. Ahuva Mantell, set up a blog to showcase our partnership with a school in Nahariya, Israel, and assisted our indefatigable math department chair, Mrs. Sabrina Bernath, to set up a blog for The Frisch School math department. Each of these blogs share the common purpose of providing an online space to share, colloborate, and reflect. At the same time, each has its own specific goals which (hopefully) can be a model for some of the many types of schools blogs that this incredibly multi-faceted platform can foster.

1. My Nach class blog: http://frischnach10t1.blogspot.com/

I set up a blog for my Nach class as our common space to post student projects and flipped classroom videos. I almost use it as a Learning Management System (LMS) as I can post my assignments for students to read and comment and students can post to the blog their projects using the blog to email trick. I debated whether I should use a blog or a formal LMS like Edmodo for my class. Ultimately, I chose a blog since I am much more familiar with the platform and I wanted my students to have a public audience for their various projects which would be a primary focus of this online space. Please take a look at our blog. My students would especially love if you could comment on some of their oral presentations for their first project on Jeremiah and Free Will.

2. The Frisch Ulpana Art Blog: http://frischulpanaart.blogspot.com/
This blog was set up as the common space for a joint art project between The Frisch School and our sister school, Ulpanat Harel in Nahariya. Technology has always been a natural facilitator for these types of long distance partnerships since on the Internet we could tear down the walls of the classroom and achieve the one-room global school.

In the past, we used wikis for these partnerships, however blogs have many advantages. Blogs can easily be used to showcase student work like art and videos. The chronological diary-like nature of the blog makes it a natural fit for following the various stages of student projects. Also, one can easily comment on each blog post so others can reflect on the student's work. Finally, and most importantly, with the blogging to email feature, one does not need an elaborate sign-in process to blog. If you can email, you can blog. This is very important when partnering with different schools in different countries since one cannot control the level of technology proficiency at a partner school and something as simple as a login can be a serious impediment to keeping a partnership working together.

You will notice on the Frisch/Ulpana art blog that both Mrs. Mantell in her classes in Frisch and the Ulpana have already posted descriptions and pictures of their beautiful work. We would LOVE if you could take a look and share your feedback on this exciting project.

3. The Frisch Math Department Blog: http://frischmath.blogspot.com/
One goal for this year has been to help teachers become aware of the vast world out there beyond the walls of their classroom. If you read this blog, you probably already know much about the benefits of creating a personal learning network (PLN). Just today, I was able to recharge my batteries at #JedCampNJNY. I met some old friends and made a few new ones as we learned and shared from each other. What made this event and similar events so special is that most of us, who felt that we knew each other so well, have only met maybe a few times in person at various conferences, but have conversed regularly online through our personal learning networks.

We have tried to foster this at Frisch, encouraging teachers to follow blogs in subject areas they are passionate about using apps like Feedly to automatically broadcast the latest postings to their iPad. The natural next step is to encourage our teachers to not only be lurkers in the online space but contributors to this world of ideas as well. One strategy for this is to create department-wide blogs like our Math department blog linked above which is being driven by our math department chair, Mrs. Sabrina Bernath.

You will notice when you check out the blog that once again, it seems like there have only been two authors to the blog, myself and Sabrina, when in reality 4 teachers have posted, 3 of them using the blog to email trick. The postings have varied from reflections on using iPads and smartphones in the math classroom, to an example of one of our flipped classroom math videos, to reflections on our student math team. This blog is also our platform for the math department to participate in the Math Twitter Blogosphere, another project to help our teachers be aware of and active contributors to the vast world of math teachers sharing online. You can read Sabrina's personal reflections about her missions in the Math Twitter blogosphere on her own blog here: http://mathwithbernath.blogspot.com/.

These are just three different examples, the class blog, the school partnering blog, and the department-wide blog, of the varied world that blogging offers. So this is what I have been up to these last two months when I have been remiss in sharing on my own blogging space. I encourage you as readers of this and other blogs, to become contributors as well. Create your own blog using any of the models above or one uniquely your own and increase the level of knowledge and sharing in our personal and professional learning networks.