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Meet Stafford's international blogging All Star

TIDINGS PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Ethan Caba won second place in last year's Edublog student blogging challenge.The Internet has become inundated with blogs featuring just about every topic imaginable, from those filled with cooking recipes to blogs dedicated to sports teams. While there are millions of blogs across the digital realm, it’s not every day you come across one written by a third-grader. It’s even rarer to find one as informative and entertaining as the one created and managed by Stafford Primary’s Ethan Caba.

The genesis of Ethan’s blog came last year when his second-grade teacher Jodi Amri decided to introduce blogging and all it has to offer to her class. Using Edublogs, an education blogging platform, Amri taught Ethan and his peers the basics regarding blogs and what they can be used for.

She started out with a class-wide blog that everyone helped create together to get the hang of things. Students learned the basics of a good blog — including everything from informational, well-written content to enticing pictures, graphs, maps and even videos.

“I got involved (with Edublogs) through a global collaboration project I was doing and brought it to my class,” Amri says. “It’s set up so that students can engage in their learning and share about their learning beyond the classroom. It allows them to collaborate with one another and with other students across the world who are also using Edublogs.”

While students took to blogging at different speeds, no one grasped the new-age learning medium quite like Ethan. Inspired, he started a personal blog of his own using Edublogs. Blogging everything from trips he takes with his mom, Laura, to facts and history of various cities in Oregon, Ethan began posting entries about once a month.

Doing all his own writing, with some light copy-editing from mom, Ethan quickly mastered the craft, posting and adding widgets like videos and pictures on his own. He soon gained a following, with many fellow bloggers from around the world commenting and asking questions on his message board.

“I pretty much blog just whatever I think of,” Ethan says. “Whenever I travel I post about that and I’m just finishing my Oregon series on Oregon cities. I would say the hardest part is having to reply to all the comments I get.”

Ethan’s success gave classmates the courage to start personal blogs of their own, and soon the majority of Amri’s class was regularly creating entries. Before long Ethan was considered the class expert, helping other students with the tricky technology and with ideas. He became so well-versed in Edublogs that he even became Amri’s primary source for help when she came across difficulties.

“Last year he was constantly blogging about an exciting trip, a lesson we had in class, something he was currently interested in — and then he was sharing it with his friends and inspiring them,” Amri says. “It’s explosive in the way it expands to the whole classroom, and suddenly the whole class was immersed in it.

“If anyone ever has a question we know that Ethan has the answer. He is the ideal teacher. He listens to your problem, and sometimes he can see it on your face and will just come up and problem solve. If I have a question I can go to Ethan and he’ll figure it out for me.”

Ethan continued his blogging through the end of the school year and even into the summer. He and his classmates’ prowess prompted Ethan’s current teacher, Joann Fordyce, to continue the class-wide blogging with this year’s third-graders. With students engaged and excited to share their learning, she says she was thrilled to carry on what Amri started.

“I first caught wind because we had been doing classroom blogs for several years, just teacher blogs for sharing information with parents and students,” Fordyce says. “Then Jodi began to share with me that there’s this exciting forum for kids (Edublogs) to become involved. That blogging world is more interactive and open ... it’s a place for students to go and showcase their learning.”TIDINGS PHOTO: ANDREW KILSTROM - Ethan likes to blog about family trips he takes, like a recent trip with his mom to New York.

Ethan, meanwhile, was growing an even larger audience, prompting him to enter the Edublogs student blogging challenge. Students across the globe, as young as Ethan and as old as high school seniors, were in competition with one another. Only the best, most informative and most interesting blogs would earn nomination to be considered for an “Eddie” — given to a select number of winners. Ethan was given a mentor, who he’s never met in person, but who gave him advice during the student blogging challenge.

“My mentor is called Brad Menker and he’s from Malaysia,” Ethan says. “The mentors read all the blogs and comment in the comment section, and pretty much just mentor us through the blog. I just happened to get nominated by the mentors, which was exciting.”

A short while later, in December, the winners were announced. Ethan’s blog was awarded second place among thousands of applicants, most of which were middle school and high school aged.

“I think we were all a little surprised, but we were thrilled,” Laura Caba says. “Ethan was one of the youngest kids to be named a finalist, so I think we were all proud of the achievement.”

Ethan has continued to blog since receiving the national recognition, teaching peers about his studies and research through his writing. He says he enjoys reading classmates’ blogs as well as interacting with other kids from all around the world.

Fordyce says Ethan’s success inspired her class to continue their blogging, and estimates 75 percent of her class has entered this year’s student blogging challenge. Her class has continued to add to their repertoires, recently completing opinion writing assignments that they then posted to Edublogs.

“I would say 90 to 95 percent of my class are all experts in their own blogging and it’s because Ethan helped all of us,” Fordyce says. “

“Ethan is a self-motivated learner. He brings it to his blog, he shares with other students, students comment. It keeps the conversation going,” Amri adds. “The collaborating aspect is what makes blogging exciting for us as teachers, and for the students, their learning accelerates through the collaboration process. We could never teach this way if it wasn’t for the students being highly engaged and wanting to learn and share, and Ethan is a big reason it’s been such a success.”

Ethan says he hopes his blog does well in the student blogging challenge again this year, but admits he might have a little more competition than he did the first time around.

“I think when we first started I was the expert, but now tons of people in our class are almost as good as I am,” he says. “I think I’ll keep blogging for a long time. It’s just a fun way to share whatever you want.”

Contact Andrew Kilstrom at 503-636-1281 ext. 112 or akilstrom@pamplinmedia.com.