Thursday, July 12, 2012

Looking Back at Blogging

I have been thinking and re-thinking about blogging with my Grade 5s.  Most of them enjoy it. Many of them do it regularly. The majority of the kids chose to write on their blogs without prompting or poking from me.

But in light of some reading and re-reading I have been doing for my grad research, I am wondering if I have achieved what I wanted by having my students participate in this on-line activity.

Will Richardson  says that in-school blogging isn't really blogging, that due to the "contrived" nature of the task, students are not really engaged in blogging. That they are really only writing for the teacher, for the grade (that's another post topic, for sure!)

I get that.  And for some students, that is probably true. 

 But isn't that the case for writing, too; that despite Workshops and Author's Chairs and 'publishing' pieces of  student work, that many, most, will not choose writing as a personal activity?

 I have chosen to assign an open-ended prompt - a comment, a photo or video, articles for their reaction.  Blogging was one of many choices made for individualized responses to their reading selections. As well I have included a few content area prompts for the class to consider and work through.

We do have a class blog "Our Learning Scrapbook" where students, as individuals and in varying small groups, post pictures, captions and descriptions of learning experiences and events in our classroom.

Post about our study of the Beothuk

Richardson points to the passion of the bloggers whom he reads regularly - "the sense of purpose for their spaces".  These bloggers are not required to do it.

That's a valid point.  Would our students, young ones and teen-aged, blog, if they were not required to do so?   (Would they write? Read? Be active? There are many things we try to instil an appreciation for!!)

I feel, like many other teachers, that we have to strive to find a balance between what is modelled, practiced together and then gradually released to take on independently.  This includes blogging.

When I introduce the platform (We use Kidblog but there are other teacher/ kid-friendly sites) and how to navigate its features, I do set some simple requirements; I assign a post topic or two - an introduction, a post about something of interest to get students started. 

 As the year progresses I continue to avail of the blogs to be able to share posts quickly and easily with all the students, and  expect responses. The ease afforded me as teacher to access this community of bloggers is terrific and it works so well in a variety of teaching and learning situations.

BUT generally speaking the blogging has been a choice activity, selected by many students as the place where they wanted to document their thoughts, record in  journal-like entries about their life and put some of their creative pieces out for a wider audience than me.  These posts usually included images - their own photos and artwork or purposefully-selected images.

June's topics unassigned blogs covered diverse topics:
lots of entries about the Stanley Cup (We are in Michael Ryder/Adam Pardy's hometown!), 
plans for summer vacations, 
the end of blogging with our Grade One buddies,
many posts about our field trip,
a poem about soldiers,
a invite to the 'team' from our own expert videographer to attend a barbecue, 
several about our classmate from Korea and her imminent return home and,
 numerous book responses!

These bloggers chose to write in school and at home.  They had no other purpose (with the possible exception of the book responses) than to share their thoughts, opinions and information.  


So if I don't introduce these young students to blogging, how will they come to it? 
 How will the ones who may flourish, find their strengths, in this 'new' world of creating, composing and publishing find it?
 How will I have knowledgeable students about digital literacies if we don't blog (or something similar)...actually get on-line and go global? 

I understand Richardson's point about students not truly being able to write with passion on "high school-served weblogs with their inherent censorship".  It's obviously true that in schools they will be unable to  share publicly any and all compositions... without moderation by someone.  (Kidblog supports this by allowing the teacher to have control over what goes public and to be able to communication with the author of posts and comments.)

Students of all ages need to have someone who sees the big picture and knows what the risks are but is willing to help them find their voice, their path. 

I get, that dealing with older students the things that motivate and drive them are not always of interest or considered 'suitable' by other adults in their lives, or by the school's governing bodies. 

Not having to deal so directly with issues about subject manner, use of school-appropriate language and such makes it easier for me to comment, I know.  As a teacher I can strive to accept the wishes of my employer while also providing a safe and supportive environment for the differing points of view and expression  that would be part of the classroom.

(And cannot older students be introduced to such sites as LiveJournal, Pinterest or Tumblr?)

However, the discussion around voice, word choice... that too, is part of our role as their teachers.  How can they learn to pick and choose the time and the place, form ...and audience  for a particular topic?

 How can they become aware of  their digital footprint and grow into respectful bloggers without actually getting out there and doing it?

It's got to start somewhere and I think, no I know, it's got to start with teachers.

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