A number of teachers have been blogging, sharing their best practices and examining their teaching. I know I have learned from many and continue to do so. Students, too have been blogging, some on their own by choice and others as part of their classes.
Blogging initially got a bad name as many individuals navel-gazed about their private lives. Will Richardson was one of the first educators to see the tool as an avenue for reflection, for conversations and for learning. I started reading his blog in 2005 and was inspired. I have tentatively blogged since then, trying on different blogs over the years (one reviewing all the early music concerts I went to, another reflecting on education, a couple of travel blogs and one, inspired by a photo a day on Flickr which is a combination of photography and writing). Each provided an opportunity for writing for different purposes and each helped me grow as a writer and as a learner. The bonus was that each brought in an unexpected audience and that affected how I saw myself as a writer. I became part of a community.
I just read an interesting post “ Can writing online make students better writers” by Jayme Jacobson. She quotes from a book by Cathy Davidson, Now You See It. This is what struck me as she spoke about students…
“I discovered something curious. Their writing online, at least in their blogs, was incomparably better than in the traditional term papers they wrote for the class. In fact, given all the tripe one hears from pundits about how the internet dumbs our kids down, I was shocked that elegant bloggers often turn out to be the clunkiest and most pretentious of research paper writers.” (p. 101)”
I am sure much of that has to do with writing for an authentic audience and having a real reason to communicate.
I now have the book on my iPad and will be reading it. (Incidentally, when I went to find the link to Will Richardson, it was on his page of books that are influencing him).
Students, too can benefit from writing for others. There are some great blogging platforms for students that build in the security needed to monitor unwanted comments.
Each year Edublogs holds two periods of student blogging challenges – ways to make for better blogging (you do not have to be using their blogging platform to take part). Some of their ideas include using other tools to enhance the blog. The students learn to communicate well, to comment on the blogs of others and to learn from the comments they receive. This is a great opportunity to get your class involved in blogging, whether it is the first time for your class or if they are already bloggers. The challenge builds in the possibilities of getting comments from other students as well as from mentors. Students are from a variety of countries so you can build in some cultural exchanges. I’m planning to sign up as a mentor for the first time. If you are not yet ready to blog with your class, you, too, can try mentoring to see the kind of work others are doing.
If you are interested in starting to blog with your students, here is a leaflet that will help get you started. It was created by Silvia Tolisano of Globallyconnectedlearning.com Still not convinced? Have a look at this blog post on the benefits of blogging.
Learn more about blogs and blogging from the LEARN site
Susan van Gelder