Tag Archives: blogging

The connection between learning and passion

Image by Tracy Rosen, original photo by Flickr user spinster cardigan CC-BY-2.0

Post by Tracy Rosen, Education Consultant,  RECIT Provinicial Service for General Adult Education

A while back I began to prepare for a workshop on Blogging with Passion and I soon realized that I was not going to be able to deliver what I promised. The problem was that the more I thought about it the more I realized that one will only blog with passion if two very critical elements are in place:

A passion for something and a desire (or passion) to write about it in public.

This will not be true for every single person in your classroom – it may not even be true for one person in your classroom!

When we talk about blogging, there are too many different implications –  Why do we want to bring blogging into the classroom? Because we think we can trick students into being engaged in the writing process through technology? Because we like to write online so we think our students will too? And, in this day of media sharing – what exactly is blogging anyways? Does it have to be only about writing?

So I decided that I needed to look at a slightly different question: how do we cultivate passion in learners? This was an important question for me because we know that passion – that fire that raises the velcro on our brains and makes us want to learn – is the key to motivation.

And I realized that it has to do with our passion as teachers.

Have you ever been inspired while watching a TED talk? This one does it to me all the time:

It is inspiring because it is so obvious that Rita Pearson (1952-2013) loved what she did – that she had a true passion for relationship-based teaching and her passion was contagious. Each time I watch that video she connects with me on a deep level with my own passion for the same. She modeled relationship-based teaching through the stories she told about her own teaching experiences. She made me care about what she had to say.

As teachers we are our students’ primary models for learning. So how do we make our students care about what we have to say? How do we cultivate passion in our learners? We model it. If I want passionate learners, I need to model passionate learning. By showing how important learning is to me, by being excited about the learning process, by making a connection to my students through the stories I tell as I teach, I am modeling passionate learning. I am also modeling how to give voice to what I care about, whether it be through public speaking, writing, or multimedia.

Once I do this, then what? I need to provide an outlet for them. Blogging could come into play here because blogging is a fabulous tool when you have a passion to share, when you love something so much you want to write, talk, show – create – about it.

The secret here is that the blog is not the star of the story. It isn’t the point of what is happening in the classroom because it is just a tool, one of many, to help someone share their story.  A traditional blog could be the tool used to share stories through writing but stories can also be shared in so many other ways – through video documentaries or animations, spoken word, public speaking or even via twitter! The point – regardless of the subject you teach – is to model a passion for learning as well as different ways to share this passion and then to allow students to do the same.

By Tracy Rosen
Education Consultant with the RECIT Provinicial Service for General Adult Education
I blog at Practical PD and Leading from the Heart


For more on passion and learning:

Passion-Based Learning by Ainissa Ramirez on Edutopia

The Carrot and Stick Approach (and everything else he writes) by Michael Doyle on Science Teacher Blog

What Students Really Need to Hear by Chase Mielke on AffectiveLiving Blog

3 a.m. blogging, and why social sciences (/school) should be social, and public!

Father as Multitasker by Stephen Poff
Father as Multitasker by Stephen Poff

First I will partially explain the title, as NOT being because my new baby boy woke me up earlier at 2 a.m.  It’s about what kept ringing in my head afterwards, and the fact that it continued to ring at all. In part it was because I knew I was going to be writing this blog entry for others, for public consumption.  That’s what made it important enough to keep me awake, to drag me out of bed, again, to seek out tea and cookies and finally a keyboard. And likewise, it certainly was not because I was being marked on it, or because my job depended on it.  It was instead because I had an idea I thought was worth sharing. And also, it was because something of me was about to end up “shared” on the web, and I wanted that something to be made up of my ideas, or at least in this case my slant on a lot of other people’s ideas.  I wanted to represent myself.

These two profound ideas resurfaced for me recently during a highly inspiring workshop I attended by Tanya Avrith, a Digital Citizenship Teacher for the Lester B. Pearson School Board, and a pioneer of their Digital Citizenship Program. On the one hand, she helped me reflect on why my other (teenage) son’s school assignments always ended up in the garbage. They were for marks, nothing more.  And as to the other idea, she alerted me to something very important that I hadn’t ever considered, to the fact that my older son already had an extensive digital/internet footprint, mostly made up things he wouldn’t be proud of, and more often than not of things others wrote about him, pictures he didn’t take, etc.  Not an ideal situation for someone searching for schools and jobs, whose college registrars and future employers would be Googling my older son’s unfortunately uncommon name.

For a Better Online Reputation, from LifeHacker
Better Online Reputation @ LifeHacker

The question is, why does this happen to him and so many others, this accumulation of embarrassing memories? It’s not for lack of information, not because he hadn’t been warned about the risks and told about the complexities of  life online. It was because, and I agreed with Tanya on this, that no knowledgeable adults regularly followed him there, to guide him and set examples.  And also… it was because none of his good work, his school work let’s say, followed him there either, to offset all the questionable traces left by others.

Already 5 a.m. and my work day about to begin, so that brings me back to thinking about my main dossier at LEARN, and if and how ideas like this might apply to the Social Sciences (History, Geography, Economics, Ethics in some programs, etc.). These subjects are “academic disciplines concerned with society and human nature” and as such they do serve to engage past and present events and issues, but usually from within the school walls. Obviously you can see from what I presented above I don’t think avoiding the internet during student activities is fair to our students on a personal and on a career-related level, but more than that, I think it is especially ineffective and inappropriate in the Social Sciences.

The Social Sciences Perspective

Bansky via Flickr user Ruben LC
Bansky via Flickr user Ruben LC

Let’s start with what I mean by ineffective. In the social science competencies we examine, establish and balance the facts, we interpret realities then we learn ways to voice our opinions. For me these basic skills read like a list of things one cannot do effectively, not in this day and age, by avoiding the digital, social and public space that is the Internet.

Examining what? Balancing exactly what facts? When it comes to subjects like history and geography, are we really talking about facts in textbooks alone? Are we meant to avoid current sources and interpretations, meant to ignore the news and the myriad opinions of the non-experts, the young and the old, and the stories from those who “were actually there”?  Sure, the number of sources in our digital world is vast, and many are even unreliable, but is that a reason to filter them out or avoid them altogether? Shouldn’t we be teaching students how to sift through them, how to use search engines effectively, how to compare online sources?

Interpreting, but how?  Voicing our opinions, but how, where, and for whom?  When we talk of creating good citizens, do we really mean to create citizens who avoid interpreting events, past and present, based on current representations of those events? Do we want to form students who can only write their opinions in a laboratory, for their teacher’s eyes only? In the real world, modern historians … Okay, I will get to that one a bit later, for now let’s say…people. In the real world people balance and reflect on all kinds of sources. They might read the Gazette, catch a clip from CNN, then watch a feature documentary on CBC. They might actually look it up in a library. In Quebec even Anglophones check out La Presse occasionally, or watch half of  Tout le monde en parle on Sunday nights.

From flickr user cliff1066™
Fleeing Kosovo. Flickr user cliff1066™

The world has opened up, and mobile devices help.  BBC and Al Jazeera now offer great English-language news services on devices like the iPad, and following a link from any of the above sources can now lead you to unexpected places, to bloggers and tweeters on the ground in Israel, Africa, China or Iran, to powerful and personal images shared via Flickr that scatter a thousand words worth of information across your screen in an instant.

Okay, not all people balance and reflect. In the real world, people also read short articles recommended by friends on Facebook. Are those documents the best sources of information too? Maybe, and maybe not. But either way this is one way people, probably even academics, get information, by sifting through even these social sources, through all sources.

So, given all that, then where do people, or let us now say citizens, effectively voice opinions?  Perhaps not on Facebook, which doesn’t lend itself to “reasoning historically” and doesn’t encourage one to really develop an articulate argument. But maybe, maybe even on Facebook, and that possibility is key here to what I am trying to say. What guides educators should be this:  any forum that allows and inspires students to articulate their opinion, and encourages and allows them to examine, establish facts, compare, accept and understand difference, any forum that does that is good.

For whom?

Okay, now it is a few days later and I am in the café across from my local, public library, and I am thinking about a conference I went to mid-April, which had also been what had inspired me to stay up all hours blogging this all down. To write, for whom?  That was the question.  For you, of course, is the answer! But also and in general terms for the larger public domain, to scratch out thoughts that inevitably become a small part of a larger history, that might take part in a dialogue, or that might completely disappear (but that’s okay, really) like the slow fire of so many old books printed on acid paper. Now, I am indeed talking about a kind of historian, and the conference that inspired me was the National Council on Publish History’s annual meeting in Ottawa, and in particular a workshop series I attended entitled “Connecting Communities: Social Media and Public History Practice.”

What is public history? Okay, I am going to swipe this one from the NCPH site directly:

“Public history describes the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world. In this sense, it is history that is applied to real-world issues. […] Public historians come in all shapes and sizes. They call themselves historical consultants, museum professionals, government historians, archivists, oral historians, cultural resource managers, curators, film and media producers, historical interpreters, historic preservationists, policy advisers, local historians, and community activists, among many, many other job descriptions. All share an interest and commitment to making history relevant and useful in the public sphere.”

Relevant, useful, local.  Archivists, curators, and jobs!  I really like those words.  In my eyes, this conference was about social science students (albeit life-long students) actively being citizens by “doing” history, and actually making a difference in the real world.

Here are a few quick examples I caught at the conference:  University students develop content for a mobile application that maps the history of Cleveland, process repeats for Spokane and other cities, regular users of the application can submit their stories and history becomes on-going and active. Facebook is used to disseminate unidentified photos of a ghost-mining town, so as to identify the places, people and experiences in them.  Twitter is used to present the diary entries of an individual farmer and soldier during the War of 1812, in daily entries that coincide with the same dates in 2012, in order to better represent the timing and sequence of events that occur in actual economies of war today.  Tumblr is used to reflect on historical ideas themselves, and on how social media techniques and popular culture are used to disseminate information in public life.


Public life=my students’ social world,  the community, their small tribe as connected to other small tribes, along paths I absolutely need to dare to cross.

And that’s it.  These are some of the many reasons why in the middle of the night I woke up thinking that school really should be more social, and that social sciences (and maybe all subjects) should be more public, and why now, finishing up this blog entry over a cold coffee across from the library, I might just walk across the street to see what that cryptic exhibit poster in the window really means to me, and what treasures I might find there to take home and read, contemplate, pass on.



Teacher Profiles: An Interview With Catherine Barnard

Happy New Year from the LEARN bloggers! At this time of renewal and rethinking old habits, here’s hoping this Teacher Profile of Catherine Barnard  inspires you to “upgrade” an area of your literacy teaching practice!  As Catherine and I have discussed many times there are countless possibilities out there to engage and support both your students and yourself in deep literacy learning.  We’ve written about blogging for literacy as well as the art of commenting on blogs – now meet a teacher who uses the full potential of blogging with her students.



Teacher’s name: Catherine Barnard
School: North Hatley Elementary
Subject:  General
Levels: Cycle 2
Experience: 6 years


Melanie:  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Catherine:  I grew up in the Eastern Townships, and though I studied at McGill University, I decided to come back and teach for the ETSB. I have been lucky enough to have various opportunities to travel. I have snorkelled the islands of Hawaii and discovered the vineyards of northern Italy. I am an avid racket sports player and enjoy running…on most days! I love picture books and use them often in my classroom to model various writing traits strong authors use.

Melanie:  What inspired you to start blogging with your students?

Catherine:  When I first started with the ETSB, the ability to have access to laptops in my class was an opportunity for me to experiment with multimedia projects. These types of projects gave students a chance to uniquely utilize their literacy skills, and more concretely established the idea of an audience. They helped students discover, develop, apply and establish links with the world around them. This also prompted students to not only engage enthusiastically, but it pushed students to communicate their ideas clearly and creatively.

However, I knew inside that these great learning opportunities were unfortunately limited to the time I was spending on the multimedia projects. And, the reality was that often, not all of my students were able to take on the same amount of responsibility! I started to realize that I needed to find a way to use technology more consistently in my classroom without always having to undertake a “big” media project.

Though I used my Smart board and various online tools to teach daily, I didn’t have something students could access and be contributors to on a regular basis. I had had a class website my first year teaching and enjoyed being able to organize great online tools, showcase my students’ work and have a means to communicate with both students and parents. The only thing missing was a place where ALL students could easily contribute! It didn’t take me long to figure out that what I needed was a class blog!

With a blog, I not only had a place to organize great online tools, display multimedia endeavours and a platform to communicate with both students and parents, but I also had a medium to showcase web 2.0 activities. Moreover, a blog was a way for my students to showcase their work individually, communicate ideas, points of view with peers and discuss through comments! Blogging is really a web journal of our classroom projects, activities and our “news”. By putting up posts, students and myself are able to reflect our unique perspectives and build relationships with readers and other bloggers. It truly is our interactive 5th classroom wall!

Melanie:  Can you give us a quick overview of how you use the blog in classroom?

Catherine:  Firstly, I’ve used the blog differently depending on the year. I teach a multi-grade cycle 2 class and the student needs, comfort levels, as well as my access to technology can vary from year to year. Consequently, some years students are contributors to our class blog, while other years, each student has been able to obtain their own blog to manage.

On a daily basis, I have also exploited the classroom blog in various ways. Essentially, blogs provide a communication space that teachers can utilize with students whenever there is a curriculum need to develop writing, share ideas and reflect on work being undertaken in the classroom. Sometimes it has been used for journaling, collaborating, sharing writing and other works, engaging in reading discussions, book reviews or ethical issues, and of course commenting to peers! Various web 2.0 tools available online help keep the blog vibrant and the students motivated!

Finally, I have used the blog in different subjects from Math to Art and most importantly, my students have collaborated with classes from around the world on multiple projects.  This authentic audience has greatly influenced the way they perceive the projects they undertake!

Melanie:  How has the blog impacted your teaching and evaluation practices?

Catherine:  The best way to express how blogging has impacted my teaching would be to show you a video my students and I made last year about Quadblogging (Four teachers agree to have their students comment on each other’s blogs in an organized fashion. Each week, one of the four gets a turn as the spotlight class. The other three classes visit and leave comments. Over the course of a month, every student’s work gets read and commented upon. Along the way, students learn about respectful online communication).

This video truly demonstrates the power of blogging and having an audience to share in your learning: (http://quadblogging.net/highlights/).

As for my evaluation practices, the blog has provided, for me, additional formative assessment opportunities. Through various web 2.0 activities and their comments, students are given a different medium to showcase their learning.

Melanie:  What did you feel was the greatest accomplishment that came from implementing this project in your classroom?

Catherine:  My greatest accomplishment or main goal is to have my students engaged in literacy and having fun! Blogging is just another way of allowing students to interact with print. I want them to have a way of communicating their thoughts, ideas, values and points of view in different contexts and through meaningful dialogue.

Even as a young teacher, I sometimes wonder about technology and I’m not always convinced whether its advantages out way its disadvantages. However, technology is not going away and I believe that as an educator, my role is to adapt to this growing presence in children’s lives and best equip them to use technology successfully and significantly. These days, students heavily depend on technology as a constant source of entertainment. The trick is to find a way to harness that innate quality of play children have with technology and apply it to the curriculum. I believe blogging can provide an enriched and innovative practice that helps students become more independent and successful literacy learners.

I don’t doubt that watching students involve themselves in the blogging process has been both exciting and rewarding. I have seen students who might typically not excel in various literacy situations, engage extensively. Hopefully this can continue to be a source of motivation for students and for me, as a teacher. Finally, I truly believe blogging has opened up forms of collaboration that have allowed my students to take their learning far beyond the walls of my classroom.

Melanie:  What words of advice could you offer another teacher who was interested in starting blogging with their students?

Catherine:  Well, the first step is to ‘blog surf’ as I call it! I spent hours visiting other people’s blogs, more specifically other classroom blogs! I was amazed with what I discovered. There are some incredible teachers out there with wonderful ideas and resources.

Teachers who would like to start a classroom blog need to have time to get their head around how to use the medium. They need to figure out how blogging can best be integrated within their own classroom reality and teaching practices. It is too easy to be “wowed” by the glamour of the platform and to lose sight of the fact that it is still best used as a tool for students to gain a deeper understanding of what is already being taught. Blogging, like any other tool should be used to enhance student learning. Without teacher support and guidance, I believe blogging can become meaningless and potentially a classroom distraction.

After visiting several blogs, teachers will need to find a blogging platform that feels comfortable to them. There are several excellent ones out there. I use Edublog, which in my opinion is a fantastic educational provider. A free Edublog account is available, but for about 40$ a year, an Edublog Pro subscription provides you with additional storage, priority email support, and much more.

Once a class blog is created, I suggest teachers spend time experimenting themselves with posts and become more familiar with various online tools that can be embedded into blogs. This experimenting stage is crucial and helps ensure beginning teachers don’t put too much pressure on themselves.

So, if I were to pick the 3 most important things to remember about starting a blog it would probably have to be:

1)    Don’t reinvent the wheel: Check out other blogs!

2)    Get your head around the lingo: posts, comments, widget etc.

3)    Start small!


Here is a useful link: The 10 Most Important Things To Figure Out About Blogging.


Melanie:  Can you offer some blogs that have inspired you and your students?

Catherine:  A must read is Nathan Turf’s class blog, Mr.Turf.ca and his own educator blog called Portable PD.ca

Of course, any of the blogs in our Blogroll are wonderful models:


You can also listen to Catherine talk about her experiences blogging with her classroom in an interview podcast she did with Susan van Gelder.  Simply click here and sit back and enjoy the interview.

As well, here is Catherine’s classroom blog Miss B’s Block.  Visit it and leave some comments for her students.  They will LOVE to see your feedback for sure!!  You can also check out her previous classroom blog here.  It is closed for comments but filled with interesting learning adventures all the same.

Why not take some time this holiday season to consider all that blogging can bring to your literacy program.  As Catherine reminds us, start small and you will quickly discover the enormous impact it can have on your students.

If you are intrigued, don’t hesitate to reach out.  Support and guidance is only a comment away.

Happy and Healthy 2013, everyone!

Continuing the Conversation: The Art of Commenting on Blogs

Photo by: Jabiz Raisdana under a CC license

I have been blogging for more than 5 years. I started because I felt, as a teacher, if I was going to ask students to write, I had to write myself. I was starting to read a number of blogs and that, too, pushed me to start one of my own. One of the unexpected things that happened was how important comments became to me. It made me realize that someone was actually reading what I wrote and that it was important enough to him/her to say something in response. It made me sit up and realize that my writing mattered to at least one other person. I had an audience. That in turn made me a more conscientious writer.

Of course, I had to reciprocate – visiting blogs, reading, commenting and always learning. Out of this relationships developed and there are a number of people I care about whom I have never met face to face. Comments start conversations, stimulate thinking and encourage growth.

If comments could do all that for me, imagine what it does for students. A post I read recently, It’s Never Just a Comment,  by Kathy Cassidy, talked about comments and her students (grade one) and what it did for them as readers and writers. Their audience outside their classroom was important to them, whether it was people they knew or strangers from other parts of the world. As a teacher, Kathy was able to moderate comments in case any came in that were inappropriate. Her students knew they were not just writing for the teacher but for the real people who are out there reading their work. When comments came from different parts of the world,  Ms Cassidy helped her students see themselves as part of a global community. Visit her classroom blog. There are links to all her student blogs – and don’t forget to leave a comment.

Receiving comments helps students become better writers. But this should be a reciprocal relationship. How do we, as teachers, help our students become good at commenting (i.e. leave comments that promote conversation, good writing and positive relationships)?

Just as we need to help students become better writers, we also need them to become better thinkers and commenting on blogs helps with that. Students learn to read blog posts with a critical eye and reflect on what they read. There are a number of educational bloggers who have written about helping students become good commenters. Some tips include:

  • asking questions to learn more
  • relating the post to something you are thinking about
  • stating what you liked in the post
  • be respectful of the writer

A much more extensive list was written by Ann Davis  back in 2006. She talked about how learning to make good comments leads to deeper thinking. Here is a link to a list based on her ideas. For some images – a great set on Flickr is available. For a delightful look at commenting done by some young students in California with teacher, Mrs. Yollis watch this video:

Their ideas, though aimed at elementary students have relevance for all. Still at a loss for what to say when reading a blog? Here is a great set of Flickr posters to inspire you.

Do you want to get comments for your students?

  • Consider joining QuadBlogging. Your class will be joined with three other classes so each can benefit from reading and commenting on each others’ blogs
  • Tweet when your students blog using the hashtag #commentsforkids
  • Find other class blogs and get your students to start commenting – usually you will get comments back: http://theedublogger.com/check-out-these-class-blogs/

How about adding a comment here. Let’s get a discussion going. Has this helped you think about using blogs in your classroom? How can you get your students to become better questioners? Do you think reading blogs and commenting will help your students become more critical readers and writers?

Striking my Fancy: Blogging for Literacy

(c) Todd Berman

Earlier this year, Susan van Gelder started the conversation about blogging with her post here. She then inspired me to tell a story.

A good friend of mine, we’ll call her Clarisse, has a son in elementary school. And, like many sons across the province, starting from first grade, there are a few things about school that he found hard to swallow, among these, the forced reading of books and the writing of book reports. He likes to read, don’t get me wrong, and reads with gusto… except when he knows that he has to write about his book… every day. Then, the heavy artillery comes out. Avoidance techniques: “let me just get to this next level, mom!”. Moaning: “But Mo-o-om!!”. Shouting. Tantrums. The things he would never dare to say at school get said at home: “This is so boring. I hate this. It’s stupid. You never have to write about what you read. Etc.” When he is finally cajoled or coerced into writing, his prose is wooden and basic, even for his age. Mid way through the first grade, Clarisse, armed with the haunting image of the next eleven years of homework hell, approached her son’s teacher to see if he might consider making some changes to the daily writing practice. Perhaps, she suggested, we might try writing about whatever is interesting to the child, while still continuing with daily reading. The teacher was quick to agree to try a new way (for him) of approaching writing and the students were off! Miraculously, the nightly grumblings subsided as Clarisse’s son wrote about Lego, Spiderman, his dogs, and anything else that struck his fancy. The teacher reported that by the end of the year, the quality of his students’ writing had improved significantly, and students were writing at a higher level than in previous years. (If this is interesting to you, check out Taking Action on Adolescent Literacy by Irvin, Meltzer and Dukes).

So what does this have to do with blogging (as indicated by the title of this post)? Clarisse’s son doesn’t need to use a blog to write about his Lego project, or his most recent effort to figure out how to get webs to fly out of his wrists. So how can blogging in any grade benefit young writers? There are three main, and tightly intertwined, reasons for choosing a blog for your students’ writing practice: 1) Blogs increase motivation for writing; 2) Blogs create a community of writers and 3) Blogs allow for a variety of text types.

 Note: A blog is a great communication tool and there are many wonderful teachers using blogs to reach out to students and parents – or other colleagues! This post, however, is about the second kind of classroom blog, the kind where students themselves are the ones writing.

Blogs increase motivation for writing


As educators, we all would like our students to want to write and to feel some gratification from the exercise. It would surprise many of us to realize that, in fact, young people are already prolific writers – in the genres of texting and status updates! And so, because of their relationship with other social media, blogs are cool. Using the computer, or your mobile device to do your homework adds a distinct cachet, as reported in this article in The Independent. Even with the proliferation of technology in our schools, regular computer use remains sparse and has not lost its pulling power. In addition, blogging technology goes beyond the capabilities of a word processing document. Students can add an image from the Creative Commons, or link to things that are relevant in their post, including posts from other bloggers. A blogging platform allows students to tag their work with keywords, creating categories and interrelationships seamlessly and easily. And, prosaically, professional writers these days tend to use the computer to write, and this resonates with young writers as well.

Another way that blogs, even those restricted to a single class, increase motivation for writing is by providing young writers with an authentic audience. The ELA and SELA programmes both mention linking literacy learning to the world through audiences of increasing variety. Through a classroom blog, students can write for their teacher, for their parents and for each other. They can write for other young people or people of all ages and from around the world. This kind of access to audiences is authentic in that it reflects the way the world communicates today.

Blogs create and nurture a community of writers


When students write for each other, and engage with each other in writing (through comments and discussion), they are participating in a community of writers. The beauty of blogging is that it is a one-two literacy punch: the writer writes an initial post, and other writers respond through the comments, or through references to the original post in their own blog entry. If you are worried about initial participation in commenting on the work of others, consider making commenting on other people’s work a requirement of your writing classroom.

Blogs also allow writers to witness their own progress as well as that of their peers, by easily providing a catalogue of one’s writing, much like a portfolio. Students are more likely than with a traditional writing medium to read works written by writers at their own level, or close to it.  They are also accountable for helping the community grow and prosper, and this sense of belonging is a powerful motivator for learning.

Blogs allow for a variety of text types


Gone are the archaic days of the early ’00s when a blog was limited to text+ pictures only! Today’s blogging platforms seamlessly (for the most part) handle audio and video files. Students can use a variety of media to express themselves and you, the teacher, can set specific requirements as to their frequency. A lot of the media choices made will depend on the type of blog that you have, and the type of blog entries you are expecting. Students might have an assignment to take a photograph as a text, or create a podcast interview or short video.

As with any pedagogical device, the devil is in the details. Legal, ethical and logistical considerations abound, not to mention issues around how to organize a blog for maximum benefit to young writers. The next post in this series will focus on these four interdependent categories and will hopefully leave you with something to start with in the classroom. Meanwhile, if you are interested in pursuing this discussion, why not join me for an online web event next week on October 15th at 8pm. All details here.

Sylwia Bielec
Resources linked
Youth Voices – http://youthvoices.net/
Motivation for Writing Through Blogs – http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi?bgsu1151331882

Learning to Blog – Blogging to Learn

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