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Teachers, Students Find Tumblr Clicks in the Classroom

by cnewman
Tue, Jan 24th 2012 10:55 am
Business First  [ View Original Article ]

So much for writing down homework assignments or taking home a handout, then turning in that completed assignment on paper.

Students are going green by using less paper and they're doing it in a high-tech way, thanks to Tumblr, a blog hosting platform used as an educational tool by many teachers these days.

In Jennifer Licata's art classes at Mount Mercy Academy, Tumblr blogs are used for all homework assignments.

"I view it online, they submit it online, I grade it online and then it goes to our online grade book so students can access grades and parents can access grades on our school website," Licata said.

She teaches digital photography and advanced digital media at the all-girls private high school in South Buffalo. Licata also uses Google Docs to create handouts that students can access via a link on Tumblr.

"It's very straightforward. I can put a reminder on it for them to bring in special supplies," she said. "If they so choose, they can get the reminder right to their phone. It's very convenient and easy."

It was actually classroom waste that led Licata to Tumblr. She was so fed up that she took several steps to go green.

"Just watching the waste ... students were taking globs of paint and using only a dot of it and they'd toss it," she said. "And in terms of recycling, the paper alone."

Each student signed a pledge to go green to try to reduce waste. The response has been phenomenal, she said.

"It's exciting to be a student that is in a classroom going green," said Jackie Kane, a senior at MMA. "It is like we are a part of something that will change the world completely and make everything more economical. I have learned that by recycling the paper, as well as using sources like Tumblr, we are lowering the chance of more pollution."

For her thesis in graduate school at Buffalo State College, Licata studied ways for classrooms to reduce waste. She found MMA open to her new ideas. Since Tumblr is considered a social media site, Licata had to get permission from the school to use it and students had to set up their own accounts.

Some of her students are required to blog regularly as homework assignments. In fact, she had them blog as part of this Business First story.

"It's interesting to see how they gear it to themselves, but they are doing what I ask of them, as well," she said. "I'm very rarely missing homework assignments."

That's because students can do most of their work from their phones.

"What I like most about it is that I can re-blog and post pictures from my phone. That makes it a lot easier than having to find a computer to do it," senior Ellen Calmes said. "I also like that it's easy to use and it's fast."

Some students, including Jessica Miller at Mount St. Mary Academy in Kenmore, take things a step further by using Tumblr in the college application process.

"I use Tumblr as a means to put together all the work I've done through high school," Miller said. "I used it to make an online portfolio. I put it on my resume when I applied to college as an extra incentive."

She said she is planning to study communications in college, adding that she has several on-camera video interviews posted on Tumblr that were easy to upload and demonstrate her developing communication skills.

"You can start it in high school and continue into college, and it can show a progression of your work and how you matured," she said. "I figure the interviews I conducted are a stepping stone for me to get into a more prestigious public relations job in the future."

Students such as Julia Hardick of Orchard Park High School, meanwhile, use Tumblr to blog about businesses they've started.

"I started a blog on Tumblr with pictures I liked and jewelry I make," she said. "I got more followers. People all over the world follow me."

She credits that exposure for online orders she received from across the globe for her clothing and jewelry line, which will be featured in an upcoming Business First story.

As students embrace Tumblr for classroom assignments and more teachers are looking to utilize it. Licata said many colleagues have asked for her help to set up a classroom blog. In fact, a religion teacher, who requires students at MMA to keep journals, is now using Tumblr for those assignments. Licata said it makes grading papers easier and students enjoy it.

"I like the fact that when you're on Tumblr, it does not feel like homework," Kane said. "It actually makes me want to do my homework. It also goes by faster and was simple to learn."