Monday, October 7, 2013

Blogging in our Classrooms: Do We Practice What We Preach?

Image from here

Many who read this would agree blogging is about writing for oneself ...but with an audience in mind.  Readers who share interests, experiences, passions ...or not.

Where is that audience for our students? How do our students find those readers?

For those who blog, most would acknowledge blogging is also about receiving feedback.  Blogging provides an opportunity to hear from others who may be moved to respond to your post... readers who may then engage you in conversation and perhaps pull you into re-examining your thoughts and ideas, though not necessarily changing them.

Where is that audience for young bloggers? How do students find those readers?

Blogging for our students has to be more than a paper-to-screen swap in order for it to be the writing/representing/responding endeavour we envision. Many teachers talk about 21st century learning and 21st century literacies but how do we support our students really with the [limited or not] technology they have at their fingertips? How can we help them "Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts"  or "Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought" as NCTE suggest in its definition of 21st century literacies?


And for those of us who have been able to facilitate blogging within our classrooms, there are still real issues around fully exploring the opportunities it holds for intentionally connecting with others. We may spend time within our own classroom community building skills with our students as respectful commenters on their peer's blogs, however that is, in my opinion, insufficient. Our digital manners, like those learned at the table, need to be used out in the world!  Our students need opportunities to be 'polite', add information, ask questions... really engage with others.

To do just that, many of us have sought feedback for students with #comments4kids, a terrific source for bringing our Twitter network to our class blog sites.  Many connected teachers do indeed read and comment on student blogs.  Though we have made many students deliriously proud by the comments posted, I am not convinced we've done enough as educators to develop the conversations or the networks we espouse on our own posts and Twitterfeed.

As I have discussed before here and here  it is that wider circle of readers who visit and leave feedback that can be quite motivating. My class has been thrilled to read the comments and questions left by adults; for example, they truly appreciated Mrs. Jones, who dropped in regularly with feedback! 

This feedback from other teachers is an essential part of the modelling of what we would like to see our students eventually do. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, talks about it as reciprocating, coming from being teachers who are committed to "connecting, conversation and amplification" with someone else's students!  Linda Yollis describes in her comment to this post that ending her reply with a question was her way of trying to engage classes in conversation.

But in order or our students to feel that they are writing for more than a positive comment do they not need a little more?

Teaching our students to reply to comments also has to be integral to the process; it's not just about the positive experience and 'pat on the back' feeling they receive from getting a comment. It's not just the thrill of mapping where your readers is from. It has to be about our students going out and giving comments to others too.

 Comments4kids asks  "Does Commenting Make a Difference?" and the response was clear:

Marie put it this way: The power of blogging! Opening ourselves to the world to share ideas, receive feedback and learn from each other. 

 Greta Sandler added:  Leaving comments on other students' blogs has been really powerful too. We have expanded our classroom walls by blogging and commenting, and this has made a difference for my students.

There are great strides made in doing just that when students connect through such activities as the Global Read Aloud. Here they are able to share reactions and responses to a shared reading/listening experience with their peers in other parts of the world. Many teachers support the development of an extended community with the classrooms they link up with, and through, the purposeful use of various programs and apps such as Edmodo, Kidblog, Twitter and the wiki for the chosen book.

However, I am wondering why the conversations 'stop' once we've done sharing the book.

Why do we not continue to provide opportunities for students to connect with [these] students?

How are you trying to build longer and deeper conversations for your students?

How do you support students in the back-and-forth of comment threads?

How do you feel about this aspect of blogging with students? Is building a learning community outside the classroom valid for you?

Image from here

Are we practising what we preach?