I have spent a significant portion of this summer holiday reading and re-reading journal articles, book chapters, blog posts and tweets to become familiar with the practice (and questions) around assessment, 21st century skills and blogging in our classrooms.
Since introducing blogging to my students only two years ago, my thinking has changed as I came to understand several things about what its potential for teaching and learning holds.
In that time-frame I have begun to move from using the blogging screen as 'paper-and-pencil' replacements for school assignments/journalling, though I still see that as part of what can carried on. Instead I have begun to establish my students as members of blogging communities, whether it's in our school or through interacting with other bloggers much farther away!
Of course, many of the AHA moments came from becoming a blogger myself! And I'm not at all convinced I would be so far along in my understanding, if I hadn't taken that leap into the blogosphere! (Thanks to Dr. Bobbi Hammett!)
- It is the conversation that makes a difference! The impact of receiving comments from peers, parents, seconded adults or visiting classrooms is immense! However, it's more than the comment factor; when blogging students engage in a conversation with their readers, when they have to reconsider what they have posted, that is what can transform the learning for all involved.
Interestingly, it doesn't always matter if you actually get feedback (though we all know it certainly helps and it DOES motivate), the idea of truly writing for your audience is definitely different than writing for the 'teacher'!
- Creating a blog, and building the'how-to' skills related to this new rhetoric, can be determined through play but seems to best achieved by seeing strong models. As I began to read blogs and more blogs, certain styles of writing and presentation quickly became noticeably appealing to me. While the content was obviously important, how it was constructed visually and what additional features make blogs more reader-friendly was a factor in wanting to follow certain bloggers. As I looked at many of my favourite bloggers, I figured out some of things I wanted to do with my own blog.
- Students (and teachers) need access to such 'role models' and to begin discussions about the particular features of 'great' blogs before we can expect such incorporated into student blogs.
- Related to the questions around the skills and capabilities many of our students have or develop while blogging (and other online activities) is the idea that we have to know what we are looking for. And we ought to have a common vocabulary to share with students, parents, our colleagues and the public.
- Actually we have to have some knowledge and understanding (and I think, a willingness to be bloggers), before/as we teach to, and with, these tools to really get what they bring to our classrooms. Like other 'subjects' we are asked to teach, don't we learn what we need to in order to do our jobs well?
- Blogging is not the same as journal writing or completing assigned tasks on a digital screen (though these are terrific and have obvious merit). While students often begin by recording personally selected topics, blogging moves beyond that with opportunities to create and follow threads of dialogue around interests that engage with school topics... or above and beyond.
In other words, students need PLNs too.
So ...how do we show what we value about blogging and how will we actually value it?