Lessons about countries and cultures are part of the established curriculum for 4th grade students in our school. In the past, the project culminated with a slide presentation and a tri fold poster exhibit. The students looked forward to choosing a country to study, researching and sharing what they had learned. Although technology was involved in the research and presentation pieces, there was rarely a connection to someone living in the researched countries.
A blog proved to be just the tool to extend their learning and connect these students globally. As these are only 9 & 10 yr-olds, I opted to use kidblog, a simple to use, multi-user program that provides a range of privacy options. I wanted the blog to be visible to anyone, but all posts and comments are vetted before placing them online.
The students were given business cards to share with family and friends, with the intention of soliciting comments for the blog. We welcome and encourage comments from anyone, but are especially interested in comments from foreign countries. We reached out to our school community and asked them to forward the link to family and friends in far away places. Lastly I called upon my Twitter PLN for assistance.
On a few occasions, I tweeted the link while the students were watching the visitor map. Without exaggeration, they would jump out of their seat to marvel at the red dot on the map and at the realization that someone, thousands of miles away, living in a vastly different environment, was looking at their blog. It’s difficult to see in this photo, but the list of countries online at the moment these boys are checking the screen include India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Romania.
The response in less than one month has been phenomenal. The students’ blog has had over 900 visits from individuals in 42 countries. These 22 students have received over 200 comments. A student that posted about Ethiopia, received 2 comments from people living in Ethiopia! Another 9-yr-old student wrote about Israel and heard back from an 8 yr-old living in Zichron Yaakov. An entire class in Canada wrote to the student that posted about Canada. One student got a comment from someone looking at the blog from Islamabad, Pakistan.
In fact the response has been so positive that we have reached out globally, asking for individual students or an entire class to join us. We’d like more students to post about countries we haven’t already researched. There is a school in Canada that will be posting soon.
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I look forward to your comments, Kim