Interacting in online spaces – comments

From this ….

OMG …. that’s soooooooo coool! cu l8r

I loove yr blog ūüėČ ¬† ……

To this ….

I have had many discussions with students¬†about the protocols on¬†interacting in online spaces in an academic¬†or professional manner. ¬†Whether they be commenting on a blog or giving feedback in comments on a Google document or interacting in Edmodo or Google Classroom, students need to be modelled the ‘professional’ way to behave. ¬† Commenting within an academic context is in fact providing feedback and as such quite a complicated skill for a young student.

Their previous experiences whilst quite valid in the online environments they exist are often quite informal Рfrom games and online social chats.  We discuss that there is nothing wrong with text talk or friendly chat but when they are working in some environments, some behaviours are preferred and expected.

Academic digital etiquette is akin to formal letter writing and knowing how to construct feedback needs to be explicitly taught.  I have used guides including : Kind, Specific and Helpful.


I stumbled upon this guide which is one of the best I have seen and quite adaptable to all ages.    It is from Out of Eden project An initiative of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

INTERACT MOVES   Out of Eden Dialogue Toolkit

   Notice: What stands out to you or catches your eye in this person’s post? In other words, what do you notice in particular? Be specific.

¬† ¬†Appreciate: Share what you like, appreciate or value in the post you’ve read. Be specific.

¬† ¬†Probe: Probe for more details. Ask questions that will help give you a better sense of another person’s perspective. (See Creative Questions & Sentence Starts¬†below)

    Snip: Cut and paste a phrase or sentence from the original post into your comment. Ask a question about it or say what you find interesting or important about what is being said.

   Connect: Make a connection between something in the post and your own experiences, feelings, or interests.

   Extend: Describe how the post extended your thoughts in new directions or gave you a new perspective.

Creative Questions & Sentence Starters 

Brainstorm a set of questions about a student’s post. Use these question-starters to help you think of interesting questions:

  • ‚ÄúTell me more about‚Ķ‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúI wonder if‚Ķ‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúHelp me understand‚Ķ‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúI was surprised by‚Ķ.‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúI connected to‚Ķ‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúWhat I found interesting was‚Ķ‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúI learned from your post that‚Ķ‚ÄĚ
  • ‚ÄúOne sentence you wrote that stands out for me is‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

A few other images and ideas that I have used :

blogging comments


Do you have any other suggestions or ideas on how you teach students to interact in online spaces ?

References :

Silvia Tolisano : Learning about Blogs
Chris Harte :
Anne Kenneally via
Project Zero :

Just another day

I believe in the statement that

“Technology should be like oxygen, ‚Äúubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.‚ÄĚ Chris Lehmann

 I think it was today, but it was also powerful, enabling and engaging.

9 am

Moderate 90 student blogs to approve comments received overnight due to being part of Student Blogging Challenge.


Senior students gather to share their personal research on Health related issues Рall using Google Slides to present their learning.  Later published on their blogs. Teachers create an impromptu reflection task using Padlet Рshare on class blogs for later review.  Push out the Padlet site to all student chromebooks using Hapara Highlights tool.


Middle students welcome their older buddies to help them set up their Global2 blogs. 1:1 chromebooks enable this interaction.  Use Flag widget site to create widgets for all sites.  A few pets get adopted too !

12 noon

A group of students gather to attend an online webinar on ‘Communicating Online’. ¬†Using GoToWebinar software student listen to presentation and individually respond to questions via Today’s meet. ¬†

Use school Twitter account to share our experience.



Lunchtime meeting to work with Student tech leaders to create plans for Code Club lunch time sessions next term. Share possible sites, tools via email to team.  Students create shared doc for collaboration and planning.




Why you should consider being a mentor for the Student Blogging Challenge


I spoke very briefly about the Student Blogging Challenge at a Teachmeet Melbourne Event last night.

I have been working with teachers and students for many years around the area of blogging.  I learned over the years that blogging is often not successful if the blogger, be that a teacher or a student is not aware of ways to connect their blog to an audience.  The Student Blogging Challenge provides one way of doing that and has multiple other benefits as well.  In a nutshell, the challenge goes like this :

  • Students from around the world register to be involved (approx 2,500 last year)
  • Mentors register to guide, encourage and comment
  • the wonderful Sue matches students to mentors (see this post)
  • Ten¬†weeks of suggested tasks are issued (beginning March 6). ¬†These tasks provide stimulus for writing as well as embed cybersafe and digital citizenship skills. ¬†At our school, we review the task and select what we think is appropriate and achievable for our students.
  • Posts are written by students
  • Mentors visit student blogs and provide suitable comments to encourage and extend the students experience.
  • Students are encouraged to connect with other students – create their own networks by commenting and leaving links to their blogs. ¬†List of student blogs

This will be the fifth year I have guided students through the challenge at my school and mentored other students from around the world.  Not surprisingly, I have learned a lot along the way:

  • Not¬†all students will complete all tasks and that is fine
  • Some students¬†who receive comments will not respond
  • Commenting is a skill that needs to be explicitly taught (See Langwitches ideas)
  • Students (and teachers) are very motivated by watching flag counters grow
  • The structure of the challenge can be adapted to suit your classroom timetable.
  • The learning a student takes is well beyond the mechanics of blogging, beyond the technicalities. They are experiencing a network of learners beyond their school, a new way of interacting online in an academic space.¬†
  • A comment from a mentor – a person from beyond the child’s usual network is extremely powerful and motivating.

Mention must be made of Sue Wyatt (@tasteach) for all her work in managing this amazing opportunity and thanks given!

So, do you want to make a small difference in the life of student ?  A small investment in time, a simple piece of encouragement is all it takes.  Let Sue know by commenting on this post Mentors needed. 


End of an era

The end of the 2015 school year marks the end of my role as an eLearn Coach for the CEM ICON project.  I was in this role for a short 3 years and as the year draws to an end, I am becoming more maudlin.

My role saw me involved in schools in a variety of ways; discussions with leadership groups, small group coaching sessions, whole staff professional learning sessions, mentoring and planning etc.  It also allowed me to support the wider network through connections with Learning and Teaching and eLearning networks.   I was able to develop and build relationships and in all cases I learnt as much as I was able to offer.  I considered it a privilege to be invited to share and learn alongside teachers who are doing amazing things in schools.   It was a time of great change in our schools and in the ways technology is being used (but I guess when is that not the case in the past 15 years?).  The ability to be agile, to adapt and keep on learning was essential for me but also for all the people I worked with, including my fellow coaches, from whom I learned so much and received a great deal of support and to whom I offer my sincere thanks.

I am glad to say that there were many times when I was able to share my passion for being connected via Social Media and I am happy that the impact of that is obvious when I browse my Twitter and Google+ feeds.   The experience has most definitely whet my appetite for developing my coaching skills as I have come to realise the depth of that potential and my lack of knowledge about that whole concept and skillset.

2016 will see me spending more time in my own school and hopefully connected to a few others in some way or another.  The potential, as well as the challenges of learning and teaching in modern classrooms continues to energise me.

As I read Edna Sackson’s latest post “To Teachers Everywhere”, I recognised people from my own school, my visiting schools and myself and would like to say “I see you too” ¬†¬†






Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story : Social media in schools


I have had some interesting conversations recently about school’s use of social media. ¬†Opinions range from the¬†very hesitant and quite wary to very positive and amazingly enthusiastic. ¬†I have read articles about the downturn in interest in Twitter, the swaying audience of other tools. They are good conversations and ones I hope to extend by sharing here.

My conversations with teachers usually steer towards the particular tools;  Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc and then a discussion around the purpose behind the activity.   The intended consequences are varied but quite easy to define, but it seems that the unintended ones, or the fear of them, are what become the roadblocks to what I have experienced as a wonderful gateway to connections.

There are people much better trained in communication strategies than me but what is clear to me, is that whatever the tool we are using, we are talking about communication and in most cases relationship building.  The intended audience will in many ways determine the best tool Рwho are we trying to connect with and for what purpose? are we intending to broadcast news or promote interaction and feedback?

In today’s world of immediate access to information and news, some¬†older methods of communicating with our communities are becoming defunct or redundant. ¬†A weekly printed newsletter is not enough for most of of our parent communications and it will never connect our students to other stakeholders in their learning in the way online communications can.

I maintain and am convinced that if we expose students to the concept and reality of working in a space that is not limited by their physical surroundings, that we are doing them a great service.  Our access to information is 24/7 and global and so too should be our learning experiences.

In this short interview, Stephen Heppell is asked for advice to using Social media and my precis is as follows:

  1. Turn on your common sense
  2. Acknowledge that ‘acceptable’ behaviour is the same online as face to face
  3. Research and then trial your own pathway

Listening to Stephen, I heard “Let’s tell a story – Let’s build a story”¬†and it struck me that it is the building part people need to focus on. ¬† ¬†As a school, we have been using Twitter along side an extensive blogging program for quite some time and I believe we are building our story as a consequence. ¬†Different things are happening as a consequence of being connected via social media. Some of the benefits include:

  • affirmation of teacher practice through feedback from local and global peers
  • drawing on a much wider field of resources
  • deepening of experiences by sharing them with other stakeholders
  • exposing our students other ways to find answers to questions
  • immediate sharing of school events
  • we all experience the value of a wider audience for our thinking and the interactions that occur as a consequence
  • modelling connected learning

I am very aware that the concept of an online Professional Learning network is entrenched in many people’s lives, but it still does not appear to be the norm and all I can say is that I think that those not involved are missing out.

Note:  School based Twitter account @slblackburnsth is managed by teachers only as our students are Under 13.  The students contribute ideas and text that is published by staff in a modelling process.  

Relevant further reading:  

Why are Schools spooked by Social Media 

Forget coding – we need to teach kids about digital citizenry ¬†(although I don’t agree about forgetting coding)

Thanks again to Sylvia Duckworth for once again synthesising ideas into such a wonderful format and Amanda Ronin.

Postscript (Jan 2016) :

Since writing this, I found this post by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano which encapsulates this topic much better than mine.