Sunday, June 9, 2013

Howard Rheingold Interviews Mrs. Yollis

Originally published by Howard Rheingold on DML Central (Digital Media and Learning)
and the National Writing Project

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Usually Mrs. Yollis and her students are conducting, or carrying out interviews.  Today, the interview will feature Mrs. Yollis. She was recently contacted by the great teacher and writer, Howard Rheingold.  He was interested in learning about how Mrs. Yollis teaches young children to build a positive digital footprint through educational blogging.



Here is Mr. Rheingold's interview:



Mr. Rheingold writes:


Blogging, commenting thoughtfully on others’ blogs, staying safe online, creating a positive digital footprint, using audio and video to connect with students in other parts of the world, creating and publishing video – at what grade level should students be introduced to these essential digital literacies? How about the second and third grade? Linda Yollis, a teacher in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, remembers the classroom in which she started teaching in the 1980s: “Learning was confined to the four walls of the classroom, was entirely paper-based, worksheet-driven, and I was the audience for most of the written work in this classroom; parents found out what was going on by reading the newsletter that I would send out and maybe by looking at the graded projects their children took home. All of the learning took place between eight and three. I had a very closed classroom. That all changed in 2008 when I started blogging. Having a class blog has flattened the walls of this classroom. Now we have an online space where students, parents, and other classrooms all over the world can come together in an online learning community.”

Mrs. Yollis not only teaches her second and third graders to blog (some of whom came into her class with blogging experience from Mrs. Levy’s first grade blog), she teaches them – and her students make videos to teach others – about raising the level of online discourse through quality blog comments. Take a look at Mrs. Yollis’ introduction to blog commenting and ask yourself whether the online commons could become a much better place in a few years if more second and third graders were introduced to online discourse in this way. She even introduced a rubric for blog comments that eight year olds can understand: “A one-point comment is a general comment that doesn't add very much to the post. Example: I like your blog. Please visit mine! A two-point comment adds something to the comment conversation. A commenter might compliment the writer in a specific way or add new information. Another idea is to make a connection. Maybe the post reminds you of an experience that you've had. Share that connection! Try to end your comment with a relevant question. That way, an interesting conversation can develop.”


If you think this kind of higher-level thinking and digital skills are unrealistic goals for such young students, you can judge for yourself by inspecting the results: Here is the teacher’s blog post about making “reasonable estimates” and the comment dialogue among her students that followed, in which each student challenged others to try an estimate.

To read more from Howard Rheingold, head over to his full post at DML Central.


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Have you ever been interviewed?

Do you have any follow-up questions for Mrs. Yollis or Mr. Rheingold?



7 comments:

  1. Dear Mrs Yollis,
    A very informative and edifying interview - useful to listen to right the way through. You make a lot of very solid points, and this will help me move forward with my own blogging, particularly with regards to the way we comment. One of the difficulties we have is that, living in a remote rural area, many of the families struggle to access the internet from home, so everything we do has to be done in school time. AS you yourself know, it's difficult to fit in the regular stuff we have to cover, but I liked your idea of making the blog comment the actual focus of the writing unit, as you did with your biographies. Have you any other tips for overcoming this barrier?
    Mrs Monaghan
    A Room with a View

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    The interview was fascinating to hear and should serve well in encouraging others to take the plunge into blogging. The audience is out there. :)

    So much has changed since I started teaching in the 70s. With my first permanent teaching position being in an isolated school serving sheep and cattle properties a 100km (62mi) from a town, we were restricted to one television channel if the conditions were good. Our phone had a small handle we would turn to alert the operator.

    Internet and blogging in schools was years off but we did have access to a single Apple II computer we shared with five other small schools as a pilot program. Being connected with other schools meant a car or minibus trip and the world was something the teacher talked about. With more than thirty years since those days, the school now has satellite internet access and the teacher has an on-site house rather than a shearer's house on a sheep station.

    How much richer would their learning have been back then? The sense of isolation would have shrunk as they explored the world and interacted with other classes, something they are now, I am certain, exploring.

    There may be risks but there are in most things we do. Developing positive skills and good online safety sense is an important part of learning today no more or less than learning how to cross roads safely when we are young. Involving parents in the learning process is an important step along the way.

    Commenting, as you and I know, is an important part of online interaction. As I no longer have a class of my own, I hadn’t given much thought to teaching quality comments but your rubric is a good model for the young to learn. I suspect, inadvertently at first, my online commenting has developed in quality and I know I have made connections.

    Comments are like greetings, they can be brief or an invitation to share time together. I choose to comment and make connections. My life in retirement is richer for the experience and my virtual classroom is now global. :)

    Ross Mannell
    Teacher (retired). N.S.W., Australia

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Mrs. Yollis,

    I found your interview interesting and convincing. You provided an excellent example to your students on how to give a presentation without introducing filler words such as ummm. Public speaking does not come easy for everyone, but is an important skill to have. It is great that your students have been practicing presenting for the class.

    Your interview sold me on the idea of blogging, although I don't need much convincing. I have seen first hand the positive benefits of blogging. I hope you continue your efforts in getting the word out about this important teaching tool, and with time maybe more teachers will adopt it in their classrooms.

    I hope you enjoy your summer.

    Best,
    Victoria

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bennett, Ryan, and AbbeyJune 12, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    Dear Mr. Rheingold,



    Thank you for the interview with our wonderful teacher, Mrs.
    Yollis. We are some of her fabulous third grader students. We have blogged the
    entire year.

    We loved blogging for many reasons. First of all, it helps
    our writing skills become stronger. We practice using high level vocabulary and
    always proofread before we publish. We read a level two comment or an
    informative post every day, so our reading has improved.

    Second, it’s so exciting to start a conversation with our
    classmates or fellow bloggers from around the world. Some of the people we’ve met are Mr. Mannell from New South Wales, Mrs. Morris from Australia, and Mrs. Watson in Canada.

    Last, but not least, blogging is a great way to share opinions. If you see a post that you fancy, you can write what you think about it!

    Sincerely,

    Abbey, Bennett, and Ryan
    (Mrs. Yollis' students)

    P.S. Our readability statistic in Word was 6.4!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Mr. Rheingold,

    What an amazing interview with Mrs. Yollis!

    Our Reasonable Estimates post was talked about during the interview. We are incredibly proud of the blog post. Our inspiring Reasonable Estimates post, found on our Yollis 365 Blog, started when Collin and Bryce were talking on the phone after school. Then we asked each other if we wanted to start a conversation on the incredible Reasonable Estimates post. Of course the answer was yes, and we started the amazing talk. Our conversation went for approximately seven comments each, and then other pupils joined the fun. After the class saw our comments, the comment section gained energy. The rest of the class was inspired and started typing their own reasonable estimate challenges. That’s how we got thirty-seven comments! Now we are rich with comments from that incredibly inspiring post.

    Mrs. Yollis said that you have your own Wikipedia page, and we think that is very impressive. Also we have been inspired by your high-level vocabulary and amazing word use.

    We have some questions for you:

    What inspired you to write?
    What grade do you teach?
    How old were you when you started writing books?

    Sincerely,
    Bryce and Peter
    (second graders in Mrs. Yollis’ class)

    P.S. Our Word readability statistic was 8.0!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Mrs. Yolis and student bloggers:

    My name is Wendy Reynolds-Imundo, and I am currently studying for a Master's degree in Online Teaching at Wilkes University. As part of my coursework, I had to research a successful student blogging project that I could share with my classmates. I was very impressed with your blog, particularly your use of video and followup "thought questions" for visitors.

    I wrote my own blog post about your wonderful work. You can find it here:

    http://cozychatblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/mrs-yolis-third-grade-class-sets-the-bar-high-for-classroom-blogging/

    Thank you for sharing your terrific work with all of us in cyberspace. Enjoy your summer vacation -- and keep blogging!

    Wendy Reynolds-Imundo
    cozychatblog.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Mrs. Yolis and student bloggers:

    My name is Wendy Reynolds-Imundo, and I am currently studying for a Master's degree in Online Teaching at Wilkes University. As part of my coursework, I had to research a successful student blogging project that I could share with my classmates. I was very impressed with your blog, particularly your use of video and followup "thought questions" for visitors.

    I wrote my own blog post about your wonderful work. You can find it here:

    http://cozychatblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/mrs-yolis-third-grade-class-sets-the-bar-high-for-classroom-blogging/

    Thank you for sharing your terrific work with all of us in cyberspace. Enjoy your summer vacation -- and keep blogging!

    Wendy Reynolds-Imundo
    cozychatblog.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete

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