Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Blog?

At the end of last school year, we began TLC: Teaching. Learning. Community. It is our first attempt at blogging. We've learned lots and have lots still to learn—about using digital tools, about communicating, and about 21st Century leadership.

Back in May we wrote: How do we communicate news and views about teaching and learning in westcler with more of you (teachers) and fewer of us (T&L staff)? And how do we make this news a give and take? Jodi D took a bold step this year and starting blogging with her fourth graders. It's easy. They love it. And we hope you will, too. Check out Sachi and Lee LeFever 's "Blogs in Plain English" on TeacherTube.

So far, we've averaged two posts a week. And though we only starting tracking visitors in January 2010, since then we've had over 9,900 visits—awaiting our 10,000th visitor.

But the best part is that teachers around the district are now using their own blogs to communicate with their families and community. Recently teachers Joe Stahl and Lori Van Eman taught fellow kindergarten teachers how to set up their own blogs to stay in touch with their families. Lori said, "I loved having the chance to work one on one with teachers to help personalize their blog. I think that teachers were excited, encouraged and empowered to try this 21st century communication tool. Everyone said the same thing when they created a blog, 'That's it?!' I don't think that people believe us when we say it is really that easy."

Lori Huntington, Cindy Srouf, Caroline Demoss, Barb Clark, Julia Smith, & Mona Wells. 

West Clermont's TLC was featured in a March Community Press and article:

By Kellie Geist • March 19, 2010

When the West Clermont Local School District teaching and learning staff was cut almost in half last spring, the remaining employees had to find a way to serve the district.

"We went from five people to three people, which is pretty extraordinary for a district with 9,000 students," said Mary-Ellen Steele-Pierce, assistant superintendent who works with the teaching and learning department. "We had to figure out how, with just three people, we could maximize our time and resources."

At the same time, Steele-Pierce and a number of staff members were learning about Web 2.0, which is the idea that you don't just use the Web for finding information, but for communicating through tools such as blogs and social networks.

Steele-Pierce decided a free blog was the perfect way to stay in touch with and serve the needs of teachers and administrators in all 12 school buildings.

"It was just a nice confluence of learning something at just the right time," she said.

So the teaching and learning staff put together a blog containing posts about teachers in the district, ideas for lessons and just straight inspiration.

Originally, staff put up about one post a week, but during their March Madness challenge, they created posts for every day in March.

Although keeping the blog fresh does take time, Steele-Pierce said they're not hurting for blogging ideas. Between brainstorming, conferences and professional development days, the creative juices just keep flowing. And their efforts are not without rewards. The blog received 9,130 visits from people around the world between Jan. 2 and March 18.

"Our target audience is the West Clermont community, but we're hoping people will see this as a place to get information, learn about us and talk. We love when people make comments," Steele-Pierce said.

Amelia Middle School Assistant Principal Tim McGonagil said the site is an excellent resource for the teachers and administrators both in his school and throughout the district because it gets people talking about teaching and learning.

For example, the site recently featured articles about two middle school teachers who are doing interesting things in their classrooms. Those ideas, including using the "Teen Tribune" online newspaper written for and by teenagers, have spread throughout the school.

"The teaching and learning site gets the creative wheels turning and it keeps the teaching talking about what's going on in the classroom. It creates that buzz," McGonagil said. "It's good positive reinforcement and a great resource."

Steele-Pierce said she plans to continue updating the blog and incorporate it into the daily workings of the teaching and learning department.

"This is something we would like to keep up. We're still learning and finding out ways to make it better and more user-friendly for our teachers," she said. "I think it has helped us think in new ways about our work and the way we communicate, but I also think it's inspired our teachers and principals to learn more about technology. It's helped people think in new and different ways."

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