I informally survey my students at the middle and at the end of the year to inform my instruction. I want to know what’s working, what’s not, and better understand each individual’s needs. It is a part of my continuous effort to get feedback to will allow me to adjustment my teaching, improve learning outcomes, and build rapport with my students.
Year after year the surveys inform me that my blogging unit rates as the best thing that we do. I do not believe that it is a coincidence that the year my students began blogging, I saw a 14% increase in my AP Literature scores. I initially wrote about it here, for Edutopia.
Andrew Sullivan earned a Master in Public Administration in 1986 from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, followed by a Doctor of Philosophy in government from Harvard in 1990. He is a former editor of The New Republic and the author or editor of six books, is widely viewed as a pioneer of political blogging. He once said,
“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”
While I use blogs in my high school English classes, they can be incorporated into any grade and any subject. Here are some examples:
- Shane Harrison, a middle school science teacher in Michigan, has his students blogging about their experiments and research projects.
- John Miller, a teacher at Chalone Peaks Middle School in King City, California, is a 20-year teaching veteran. His students use their avatars to complete assignments and post their own views of life as 7th graders.
- Ms. Alvarez, a kindergarten teacher in Ontario, Canada, has her students submit their e-portfolios on their class blog.
- Ms. Johnson has her middle school students doing wonderful things with their blogs.
So why should your students participate in extreme-sport writing? Here are three reasons why you should set up and Edublogs account and begin blogging with your students.
1. Student blogs have a maker-mentality
Maker culture emphasizes informal, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Maker culture encourages new applications of technology in novel ways. The traditional writing process mingles with technology and design, as students embed images, videos, art work, and audio to produce rich, creative work that taps into multiple learning styles. An important aspect of the maker-mentality is the social learning that occurs behind the screen as students interact and share knowledge through social networking sites forming repositories of knowledge and information.
2. They can experiment with voice and form with blogs
Form follows function. It is a phrase coined by the American architect, who admired rationalist thinkers like Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and Melville, in his article The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered in 1896. While initially applied to architecture, the phrase has come to take on a wider meaning as the means by which something is created should suit its purpose.
The form of the web allows for a looser (although grammatically correct) style of writing. It need not be stodgy academic language or dry, formulaic prose. They can use themes to design pages that suit their style. They can find the multi-media to embed and support their point of view. They can make it their own.
As Laurie Halse Anderson wrote in her YA novel, Speak, “When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.”
3. Student blogs are “out there”
One disappointing reality of traditional writing on composition paper or worksheets is the audience of ONE. The student creates it, the teacher reads/grades it, and it ends there. The work rarely, if ever, exists beyond the four walls of the classroom.
Blogging puts their work out there. It can be seen by their peers, which often motivates students to put forth their best work. They want others to see them at their best, so they will re-read and proofread, they will spend a little more time developing their ideas, they will make a conscious effort to impress others.
In short, students will take great pride in the work that they produce because it will be a reflection of who they are.