1. Description of Our Community
Description of “Our Community.” Our community of St. Francois County is approximately sixty miles south of St. Louis. We are located in the Mineral Area region of the state of Missouri. Our city of Farmington has a population of around 16,000 people, and our county has a population of about 63,214 people as of July, 2008. Our school, St. Paul Lutheran School, has 200 students in grades 1-8. Other schools participating in our project were Jefferson, Washington-Franklin, Roosevelt and Lincoln Elementary Schools, Farmington Middle School and St. Joseph Elementary School. Population information from: Google Public Data.
2. Summary of Our Project
Our class sat down and thought about what we wanted to do for our CyberFair project this year. We came up with an idea that we mulled over and quickly decided that it was the right project for us. We decided a great project would be one that would bring other kids in our community together in some way. We created the Farmington Readers Blog! We hoped it would be a place for kids to talk about the books they enjoyed and recommend other books to various kids in their community. First, our teacher made building contacts, which means she contacted other schools’ administrators, librarians, and teachers. Together the building school representatives agreed upon and wrote the book review criteria. Then our teacher set up Kidblog grade level areas, and she also script-wrote the enrollment video so building moderators would know how to use the blog site. Kidblog is a Web 2.0 platform none of the participants, including our school, had ever used before. By October, most of the schools were active in our project. Our class immediately began work by making wall posters to share information. Next, our website “The Farmington Readers” was created so everyone could see our goal and progress towards it. Then we set up Google Doc spreadsheets online so that each school had their own spreadsheet. All the school buildings put their intended student bloggers in the spreadsheet and we made user names and passswords for them. Once everyone was enrolled in Kidblog, the blogging began and the building administrators moderated the blog activity.
Once everyone was blogging, we visited the schools that were participating to ask them questions. We had interviews with the students and the teachers. Everyone involved has been enthusiastic and supportive of our work. There are hundreds of students involved in this project in our town. This was a real community project involving students who didn’t know each other but they all came together with a common interest, the love of reading.
3. Our Computer and Internet Access
A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%
B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6
C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection
D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6
4. Problems We Had To Overcome
We had scheduled meetings with the teachers and students, and due to snow days we had to reschedule some meetings. Our public relations class team helped us reschedule these meetings. We were appreciative of the flexibility of the building facilitators while we were trying to set these up.
We learned appropriate commenting on blogs. This seems easy, but we needed to understand how to encourage bloggers to support their blog topics and express why they liked or didn’t like a particular book. It requires thoughtful commenting to develop a conversation on a blog and this was something we hadn’t considered before.
5. Our Project Sound Bite
Our experiences together have made us better people in the long run. As a team we have worked together to try to help our community. Our team has learned many things about ourselves and each other which has made us grow together. We have been united within our class, and we are uniting others by creating a site where students can write about the books they are reading, all the while developing their writing skills and social presence in a monitored environment. These are important skills for online presence and will help everyone by the experience.
6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?
Most standards of the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) NETS (National Educational Technology Standards for Students standards http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students/nets-student-standards-2007.aspx are met by this CyberFair project. We also follow guidelines as presented by iNACOL standards for learning (International Association for K-12 Online Learning http://www.inacol.org/research/nationalstandards/) Research and collaboration online allowed us to apply our digital skills. We will be better prepared for the future by securing these standards as daily classroom practices.
For our project, students had individual accounts at Kidblog. We created user names that would protect their identities. We wanted to be responsible in this. Kidblog requires educator moderation, so teachers at each building were able to advise students about their writing and commenting on blogs. Teaching students how to develop online presence safely is a standard met for their future interactions online.
Writing skills of grammar, spelling and mechanics, plus skill in expression were met in the Missouri Show Me Standards in Knowledge http://dese.mo.gov/standards/comarts.html and Performance Goals http://dese.mo.gov/standards/process.html.