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Edublogger Alliance Wack Wall

In the last year I started two edubloggers alliances (you can learn about them here and here).   I have had wonderful teachers from around the world join me on this journey of blogging, commenting, and supporting fellow educational bloggers.  As it stands, there are nearly 200 educators who have committed to reading, commenting, and encouraging other bloggers.  I am still truly amazed at the results of this “crazy” idea I had.   Many have asked me when I am going to start another alliance or when I will open it up for more to join.  My answer, I have NO idea.  You see, when I started the edublogger alliance, I committed to commenting on each and every post that members of the alliance posted.  I did really well with this until the end of the school year hit.  I am still commenting, but I can’t seem to get through the 400+ edublogger posts in my Google Reader.  It made me re-think the reason I started the alliance in the first place. My initial goal was to encourage others in their blogging.  It can be hard for those new to blogging to break into the “club” and stick with it long enough to gain readers.  My thought was, if we could encourage each other from the beginning of the blogging journey, more would stick with it.  The problem?  There are teachers who are new to blogging every day!  I can’t keep up with it on my own and yet I still have a desire to help those who are new to blogging.  My solution?  Create an edublogger alliance social network on Wack Wall.  I know what some of you are thinking: “is she out of her mind?  I already belong to 15 social networks, subscribe to countless numbers of blogs, follow people on Twitter, how in the world am I going to keep track of one more thing?!”  This isn’t my intent.  For those of you who feel overwhelmed by the prospect of joining ANOTHER social network, don’t.  It won’t hurt my feelings.  I get it…I feel the same way every time a new social network pops up.  It is too much, I can’t keep track of it all.  But, I also know that there are thousands of educators out there who would like to try their hand at blogging but need a support system.  You need someone to encourage you, answer your newbie (or not so newbie) blog questions, help you figure out how to blog with your students, help you navigate the blogging platform choices, etc.   You need a place to be plugged in with others who are working through all of this themselves.  Don’t misunderstand, the Edublogger Alliance is for everyone; of course I would love to have all of you join!  I just don’t want you to feel an obligation to sign up for one more thing if you are already overwhelmed. Let me be clear, I am by NO means an expert of any sort on blogging, I just know that I wish that I had someone to guide me in my blogging journey.  I wish I had someone to ask questions, and sort through WordPress and blogging etiquette with.   My hope is that this will be a place where blogging educators can come together, share what is working and what isn’t, ask questions, and get answers.  I want it to be a place where those who have been blogging for a little while can help those who are just dipping their toes in.  I want it to be a place of discussion and encouragement. If this social network isn’t for you, if you are already stretched in a million directions, that is fine…I truly do understand.   I will ask you to keep your ears open and offer it as a suggestion for those new to blogging, or those looking for a place to connect with other educators. Below are a few screen shots of the new iLearn Technology Edublogger Alliance with some explanations about how it works and what you can expect to find there. The dashboard is your On the blog tab you can write, share, or read a blog post. Add the link to your blog on the link tab. Join a group to find others using your same blog platform, or to share blogging tips, tricks, and ideas. Start or add to a discussion on the forum page. If you are interested in joining me on this journey, you can sign up here.  Don’t forget to pass this on to all those teachers who are deciding to try blogging for the first time this year.  They are going to need help!

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Smithsonian Quests: Learning through discovery and collaboration

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, PE, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 07-05-2013

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What it is:
Smithsonian Quests encourage students to explore learning through discovery and collaboration.  As students learn, they can earn digital badges for their quests.  Students can explore their own interest through a series of online activities while incorporating knowledge and skill-building in the online quests.  The quests ask students to explore a topic of interest as part of a standards-based curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity.  By signing  up for Smithsonian Quests, you will receive an invitation to join a grade-level based group in the Smithsonian Quest Community.  Students from kindergarten through adult learners can join Smithsonian Quest and collect badges.

How to integrate Smithsonian Quests into the classroom: Smithsonian Quests is a great program that connects transdisciplinary learning with digital badges.  As your class works through the site, they will start to realize how they have been learning, exploring, connecting and acting.  Students can unlock a badge by completing a set of quests that go with it.  Some Quests are independent and others are collaborative.  Quests get reviewed by a group of “specially selected experts” before badges are awarded.  Badges include: oral historian, historical biographer, cool curator, cultural storyteller, portrait reader, community historian, symbols spotter, correspondent, dirt detective, art advocate, environ-scientist, culture keeper, eco-journalist, time traveler, H2O hero, conservation campaigner, invasions investigator and tree hugger.  Quests include things like listening to audio, taking pictures, recording, etc.  As you can see, there are quests for every interest!

When students sign up for quests, they get invited into a group (class group when the teacher sets up the account), can add friends, see the badges they have collected, and view friends who are online.  Students also get an online journal where they can reflect on learning or update their status with the kind of learning they are doing.

I like that these quests can be done collaboratively (a whole class goal to earn the digital badges by learning?) and that they are  largely discovery based learning.   The quests really challenge students to dig deeper in learning and often lead to additional questions.  Quests can also be completed individually by students.  Students can explore areas that are high-interest for them. These Smithsonian Quests would be a fantastic end of the year project where students are driving their own learning but working toward a known goal.  Spend the last week of school with a time for students to share their learning with others.

As we head into summer break in the United States, consider suggesting Smithsonian Quests to parents as a great summer-time learning opportunity.

Tips:  Register for free and have a look around to see all of the cool opportunities for your classroom!

I’ve been nominated for a Bammy Award for Educational Blogger.  I’d appreciate your vote to help spread the word about iLearn Technology.  Vote here.  Thank you for your continued support!!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Smithsonian Quests in your classroom.

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