I was pointed to this widget maker from the Digizen website by one of my students recently. Its an interesting tool and one I think I'd like to use to indroduce and support discussions around what it might mean to be a global as well as a cyber citizen. Rather than an outcome though I was wondering how it might function as a starting point for work with students. As an embeddable device, this widget, by copying the embed code can be inserted quite easily by many students to their personal blog spaces. This has lead me to wonder how I might use the widget maker with the support of VLE based student blogs and commenting to share and explore our thoughts and values.
This week my Y4 and 5 groups have been using their blog spaces to write about and share their experiences from a school journey. As part of the session plenary students were asked to visit each other's blog spaces and to read what had been said. They were then asked to leave a simple comment on each of the posts they read
1. about something they liked about the post, perhaps how the text was presented, how they had enjoyed a particular part of the journey mentioned too, or focussing in on the literacy aspect of the presentation and perhaps the way the author had used particular words or phrases and why they liked them.
2. to suggest one thing that they might do if they were the author to improve what they had read.
I was interested to see how unprompted some students had begun to take part in short conversations as they worked. Replying to comments left. This notion of commenting as a conversation has left me wondering about the possibility and potential for using short outcome based tasks such as this as a way to promote online discussion, and using commenting around the text free post itself as the vehicle to drive the central learning outcome for blogging activities.
Previously I have used Think.com discussion widgets to promote this type of activity, collecting student views around particular issues allowing chained and direct comments to be made that are visible to all. I am wondering about how allowing space for students to select from a limited menu of options such as that provided by the digizen widget maker, embedding the completed object to a blog post before initially providing students with particular spaces to visit and comment might be an interesting way to develop learning conversations through commenting.
Following the process the students have begun, perhaps they could find something as digizens they share with the author. Being limited to choose a particular number of items from the provided list need not mean they they do not share ideas presented in other digizens displayed. To break the ice and start the conversation they could ask questions about one or some of the choices that the blog author has made seeking responses and to identify what choices made by the author mean to them.
As a starting pont for work combining citizenship, literacy and ICT this could be an interesting stimulus for a longer term piece of Persuasive or Discursive Writing, the notion of an ideal world or a starting point to ground and discuss the many changes that are going on around us right now and how we see them. I am sure there would be much disagreement about some of the more personalised possibilities, but this would provide opportunities for students not only to express their "wldest ideas" but perhaps more importantly to be asked to explain, explore and express their reasoning behind them opening up space to debate and see more than one side to the argument, while identifying some of the shades of grey. As a collect and store process the blog comments also could form a useful resource as the presentation of a wide collection of modelled thoughts and opinions to be drawn upon in later writing, reading and speaking and listening activities. Something to further pondered.