Sunday, September 2, 2012

Learning from our Mistakes

How many times do you come across someone willing to announce to the world the mistakes they have made?  

Mistakes made in their classroom?  

Little boo-boos, yes, maybe, but sharing several BIG mistakes?

I was struck by an article  about blogging  I read recently that was all about just that. (see citation at the end of this post/no link available)

The authors, all instructors at a teaching college, stated that they made several assumptions when introducing blogging into their university courses for pre-service teachers:

 ..."that this generation of tech-savvy kids would enjoy this particular medium for discussing their reading."

... there was little need for direct instruction

... blogging would appeal to the wanna-be teachers who would be incorporating technology into their future classroom


Holly Hungerford-Kresser, Joy Wiggins and Carla Amaro-Jimenez were surprised at the results - quantitative and qualitative- they got back after including blogging as a regular feature of the courses they were teaching. 

After more than two years and several attempts along the way to improve what they were doing with blogging, the results indicated that blogging had done little to facilitate the  deeper engagement with the content they had hoped for and more surprising that the students thought the blogging was the least important tool in their learning of course content!

Well, being  researchers, and being very curious as to why or how they got what they got...
the instructors looked a little more closely at what the bloggers had to say in the anonymous focus group sessions.  They learned quite a lot about their teaching methods, about assumptions they had made about the comfort level of these students with technology and about how they had failed with including blogging as a useful way to share learning.

By sharing the struggles they went through and by letting others know about mistakes made, they felt there was much to gain.
"While we [all] know the benefits of from the narratives of successful teaching, we are hoping our experiences as successful instructors who were unsuccessful with technology can benefit the field of literacy."

So what did the students (and the authors) say?  
Advice for Action:
*Don't make blogging just another task to complete.
*Don't make it such that it carbon copies a paper-and-pencil task you also have on the go.
*Provide more guidance. Prompts and questions, topics that may be different from what is covered in class.
*MODEL what you want.
*Participate in the discussion. (Step back sometimes.) Bring it up in class.
*Promote conversations that follow interests, not timeframes.
*Encourage a variety of responses that could be inserted into the blog. Capitalize on different means of expressing what is learned.  (Writing on a blog is still "just writing".)
*Help conversations get going by establishing smaller groups (that could rotate)so we can get to know who we're talking to and get comfortable in the talk.

So as I begin to prepare for school for the 2012-2013 year, what can I take from this article? I have made mistakes and there are definitely things I am reconsidering.

What part of this advice speaks to you? 

What mistakes have you made with blogging in your classroom?  

Any advice you would share?

For those who may wish to read the full article, it is available through academic logins.
Hungerford-Kresser, H. & Wiggins, J.  (2011).  Learning from our mistakes: what matters when incorporating blogging in the content area literacy classroom.  Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(4), 326-335. doi:10.1002/JAAL.00039

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