Sunday, May 4, 2008

Increase Student Engagement With Widgets

Like many tech oriented teachers, I maintain a blog for my students with my students. Blogs are great tools for keeping students and parents informed of important information for your class. Blogs are also great for continuing classroom discussions beyond the classroom. As good as your class blog is, there are always going to be students or parents who don't read it for one reason or another. The challenge as a teacher is to increase student and parent engagement with your classroom blog.

This is where widgets come in. Almost every major, mainstream, sports and news website has free widgets that you can embed into a blog. Putting one of these widgets into your class blog, might give the disinterested student a reason beyond academics to check your class blog more often. If the experience of checking a class blog is fun, perhaps those disinterested students will to check it more often. Anything that increases student engagement in academics is a good thing. Adding a widget is a quick and easy process so it's worth trying.

Here's a widget from ESPN that serves the latest top sports stories.

Inside the FBI - Lessons About Crime Fighting

The CBS Sunday Morning Show always features interesting, educational, and entertaining stories. While looking for a CBS video this morning, I came across their interactive investigation of the FBI. Inside the FBI features diagrams of the FBI's organization, stories of the FBI's successes and failures, and a timeline of the FBI's history.

Applications for Education
Inside the FBI could be a good pre-teaching resource for teachers using the CSI Crime Scene investigation game. Inside the FBI is also a good resource for students studying the legal system and crime fighting in the United States.

An American Teacher in China - Olympic Thoughts

The 2008 Olympics is sparking controversy around the world. As a Contemporary World Studies teacher, I always try to expose my students to multiple perspectives. Fortunately for me and my students, my friend and colleague, Jason Long is teaching in China this spring and sharing his observations and experiences via a blog titled Viking in China. In his most recent blog entries Jason shares his observations and experiences regarding the Olympics. One of the more interesting pieces of news from Jason is that some Chinese are boycotting American and European goods in response to the protests in the United States and Europe.

Jason also reports on less serious topics. In his latest writing he reports about his experience playing baseball with his Chinese students. And in earlier blog entries Jason talks about his difficulties overcoming the language barrier and the challenges of sticking out like a sore thumb amongst a sea of people.

Applications for Education
Blogs like Jason's are fantastic resources for exposing students to multiple perspectives on global issues. Jason's blog also has nice stories that can be used as conversation starters about culture and international travel.