This year we were lucky enough to be accepted into the Social Media Boot Camp for Jewish Educators. We were provided with a coach to help us achieve our goal of school wide classroom blogs. We met with our coach, Shira Liebowitz, about the milestones we met, the challenges we faced, and to chunk up our goals for month to month, measurable, small successes. Shira was a great sounding board and provided us with wonderful suggestions to help us reach each objective.
Through a combination of the Darim Boot Camp and our school's own 21st century learning initiative, we have made great strides in teacher blogging. We used WordPress to create an overall cohesive structure and designed look where we share classroom news, student work, and ideas with our parents, community, and the greater educational world. With our blogs, parents, and grandparents, without stepping foot in the classroom, have been able to see what we do and engage with their children in a meaningful way.
“With Darim's guidance, we were able to bring blogging to a new level,” said Sari Guttin, 2nd grade teacher. “Not only have our blogs replaced newsletters, but they have become a forum for discussion between parents and students, students and administration, and students and teachers.”
Blogs help to extend the school day by providing discussion topics for families to think about at home. Because all our blogs are hosted on the same platform, it allows for uniformity and connectedness between individual classrooms and the school.
“Starting a classroom blog this year has allowed me to be a reflective practitioner and invite others into the classroom,” said Jessica Perlman, Kindergarten teacher. “By composing the blog posts and questions for readers, I have been able to truly reflect on the learning and goals of each lesson, as well as the steps taken, allowing the curriculum to become a living document.”
Initially, our blog postings were weekly summaries. As the year progressed, they emerged into detailed accounts of classroom activity, complete with photographs and direct student quotes. Additionally, teachers incorporate questions aimed to encourage parents and students to want to engage in further discussions.
“Our blogs have enabled me, a part-time, specialty teacher, to stay connected with class happenings,” said Karolyn White. “I can easily check the blogs to learn what’s new. I especially appreciate the depth of the blogs, which frequently include explanations, goals, results and descriptive photos. Our blogs encourage me to reflect on the class updates, collaborate with teachers and modify content or format of my library lessons, making them more informative and pertinent.”
Our blogs have become valuable resources that promote our students, families, faculty and administration to stay connected. The mentoring provided by Darim has helped scaffold this process as well as provide a great sense of comfort and support. As a faculty, we are feeling excited about this "21st Century" way of communication and collaboration and we thank Darim Online and The Covenant Foundation for launching us on our way.
Shari Weinberger is the Curriculum Coordinator at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, and wrote this post with input from team members, Sari Guttin, Grade 2, Jessica Perlman, Kindergarten and Karolyn White, Librarian and Communications Manager. To view our blogs click on the link http://www.jcdsri.org/podium/default.aspx?t=142596&rc=0
This year JCDSRI participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, a year long program generously funded by The Covenant Foundation. This series of blog posts this spring chart the learnings of the 10 teams in this year's cohort.