Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Student Blogging

Over the last six months I have had several people approach me about the topic of student blogging. Not because I am expert, but due to the fact I am truly passionate about what the process of blogging has bought to my classroom. During these conversation there are a couple of questions that consistently come up:

1. How do you fit blogging in when there are so many other academic area to cover?
I believe that you do not have to give up other academic pursuits when you begin to blog. The wonderful thing about the blog format is that it is so open-ended and it can be used for a variety of purposes or different subject areas. I think the key here is to make the purpose or educational objective guide the content of a blog. With that said, it is important to make sure that the purpose for each blog is well spelled out before students begin the process. I believe that blogging with a purpose gives students a focus and the opportunity to collaborate with each other to develop their knowledge and understanding of the subject at hand. Also with blogging, students continue to develop their writing, reading and higher order thinking skills.

2. The other question is what advice would I give to those interested in getting started with student blogging?
As far as advice on getting started, I would say don’t expect too much from your students’ post right off the bat. It takes them a little while to get use to the blog format and at first they just want to get something posted. Due to that reason, and the fact that I want to teach them that it is privilege to post something on the web I have them type their comment and/or post in Word (or Pages) first. I do this so they can save it in draft form. Then the post can go through some peer conferencing, revising and editing before it is posted to a blog. Again, this will continue to help develop their writing skills.

Another thing, I would suggest is to start with a blog in which the students are only making comments on post rather than posting themselves. That way they can see that blogging is really about collaboration and not just about what they have to say. We were lucky enough in the spring of 2008 to work with someone who was a true model of this two way communication. Mr. Holliday (a father of two of my students) blogged for us when he traveled with the US Soccer Team to both France and China for the Olympics. He was awesome and he did a great job of incorporating their questions and comments in his next post.

Also, I would say make sure that you are going to be active on the blog and find others who are willing to interact there too. If there is no one responding (esp. teacher) it sends the message that what students had to say didn’t matter. Part of the fun about a blog is interacting with your audience. This past spring I reached out to my social network and asked them to comment on a few of my student blogs. It was amazing to watch the students’ reactions to the comments from around the world. This totally helped them to see that they now had a worldwide audience. It is one thing to post something to the web, but it bring things to a whole new level when you know someone is listening. Personally, I would like to again thank those educators who took the time to communicate with my students on their blogs. You all Rock!

In the past, I have heard others recommend that educators blog first before introducing it to their students, but I disagree with this. Truth is, my students and I began blogging together. It has been my students who have been the inspiration and if I had to be a blogger first I do not think we would have started at all. Personally, I would hate to see any students miss out on this experience, because their teacher had not gone there first.

Finally, I thought I would leave this post with a few other articles, resources and examples of some student blogs for those who are interested to look into things further. Please feel free to post links to any resources or examples you would like to share in the comment section below.

The Prose of Blogging and a Few Cons
The Journal-November 2008

Hot Blogging: Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher Order Thinking
The Reading Teacher-International Reading Association- May 2009

6+1 Writing Rubrics
Created on the Rubistar website.

Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Story Element Blog

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Students wrote as characters of the story.

Niki's Italian Christmas Blog
Student documenting her travel experiences.

Digital Citizenship Blog