A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called ‘Blogs for Classroom use‘. At the time, I’d recently started blogging and I was in the super enthusiastic stage. Evangelic really, convinced that everyone should be doing what I was doing because it was so exciting and I was learning so much.
At the time of that post, I was presenting a session to my staff, focusing on the connections that could be made for students on a global basis. Here’s a little of what I wrote at the time;
Now, you may ask, how does this relate to blogs for classroom use? Well, the connections I am making through this blog have made me realise that we do now have the ability to offer our students the experience of connecting with others in different parts of the world. I see the kick my own students are getting out of seeing my cluster map grow and wonder why can’t we offer them the same experience. It’s possible now to have our students act as true global citizens and have a voice in this world. If I can do it in the space of six weeks why can’t they. Many of our students already have an online presence in the form of a myspace or facebook page and are aware of how to use technology as a social tool. We now need to harness this same technology for educational purposes.
My thinking has never changed about the need to harness this technology for learning purposes. What did change along the way was my experiences with students. In the early days, I set up a class blog with my Year 7’s, with pages for each student, but they really weren’t interested. They liked the home page blog, but they didn’t want to work on their own pages. Over the last two years, I’ve suggested to students who seem to me to be prime candidates as bloggers, the idea that they should be blogging, but they haven’t been interested. Over time, I’ve come to think this is because the lives of teenagers is just jam packed. They have school commitments, family commitments, sport commitments, too many commitments! Expecting them to devote time to a blog, despite the fact that it could potentially be their springboard to something else, is to some extent asking too much of them. I also think that blogging is a bit of an art form of itself; it requires dedication, commitment, drive. Not everyone is a blogger.
So where am I at with my thinking now? Interestingly, contemplating the idea that next year, I just might be suggesting to my students that blogging is something they should seriously think of doing. So why the change?
I’ve been listening to my Year 9 students this year as they grapple with essay writing. I’ve been very impressed with their development of skills over the course of the year, but I think they need more time perfecting their writing skills. If they were writing a blog, and not a blog about random stuff, but a blog focused on something they are interested in and can articulate well, then I’m figuring this is going to prove beneficial for them when it comes to the expectations of the English curriculum. Often, they just need more time to write, to figure out how you structure something that sounds interesting to others, how you write a carefully structured paragraph that’s not too long so that people get bored, how you say it in a word count that isn’t going to tax a reader’s concentration span.
A couple of my current students have been asking me about my blog, and talking of setting up their own so that they can spend time focused on writing. So my current thinking is this. Next school year, I’m going to suggest to my students that writing a blog about a subject matter of interest to them is going to be beneficial for their writing expertise. I’m going to make it optional, not compulsary, and I’m going to help them understand how you write effectively to attract audience. It may well be that I have to run classes outside of regular class to impart these understandings, but that’s fine by me. It may well be that no-one wants to be involved! We’ll see how it goes.
Over the last term I’ve been running a blogging class for one 60 minute session a week with some Yr 8 students. It’s another factor in my changing mindset. The class only had three students, and two of them have really shown me what can be achieved when young students set their minds to something that means something to them. If you have some time, and feel like sharing some comment love to two aspiring young bloggers, take a look at Liv to Dance and Sing a Song. Both of these students have demonstrated very quickly an understanding of how blogs work and how you write to gain an audience. They adopted so quickly and I could see their skills growing from week to week. Both of them are writing about what they are passionate about. This is so important. All too often in our school systems we have students who explore their passions outside of school, because school doesn’t cover what interests them in the curriculum we offer. I’m pleased we were able to offer these students the opportunity to invest time writing about their passion, even if only for a short time. The class has finished, but both tell me they are committed and will keep writing. I will definitely continue to follow their progress.
If you have students who want to improve their writing skills and make meaningful connections along the way, encourage them to blog. I suppose what we need in schools are teachers who understand how blogs work, so that they can impart this understanding to the students. Once again, it’s a human capital question. Do our schools today have the human capital to assist our students with new methods of communication?