Thank you to Terry Heick and TeachThought for this tremendous opportunity to write and share information about the benefits of student blogging recently. I enjoy reading TeachThought and am thrilled to have been included.
Here is the post:
What are some ideas of alternate methods of assessing students and engaging them more in conversation? Good question.
I’ve been talking a lot about some of the first steps that I took when I began integrating technology into my classroom. Like I said before, when I started, it’s not that I really had a clear direction of where to begin, or exactly what I felt was missing in my classroom. I just tried to think about an area that maybe could benefit by bringing about some sort of change, and would most benefit my students and myself. And looking back, I still feel confident that the first step I took was the right step: Finding a way to bridge the “disconnect” between the students and myself.
For my students, choosing and continuing to use Celly and Edmodo, really have helped to resolve this “disconnect” and enable me to differentiate and personalize my instruction and also to empower students to take responsibility for their learning and have an opportunity to express themselves more.
There are so many options available for teachers looking to add something involving technology into the classroom, and it all depends on what your needs are. Maybe there is only one area that you feel like you could add something to, just figure out with that one area is. My new addition last year with my students was blogging. I had read blogs for several years and enjoyed the fact that there were so many available, on so many topics and that it gave the reader an opportunity to learn about a lot of different information in short passages.
While tremendously beneficial for the reader, it also seemed like a great way for the author to share ideas and pass along helpful hints to anybody who wanted to learn just a little bit more about a topic. Blogs are great for those who do not have time to read a book and want to follow or learn about specific topics. It is also a great way to express oneself. With this in mind, I started having my students write blogs in Spanish and I chose Kidblog.
Choosing A Blogging Platform
Now there are many blogging platforms available which offer a lot of benefits. On a personal level, I have used Blogger, Word Press and Edublogs. These are great options and there are many other ways to share a blog, and depending on what your personal needs are and how you would like to incorporate blogging into your classroom, you may decide to use any one of these. But for my students when I started, I began with Kidblog in my Spanish III and IV courses.
I will say that at first the students for the most part were quite apprehensive about writing and worried who would be reading their work and probably more than anything it was the fear of writing it correctly and making mistakes. And these are all natural concerns for anybody when confronting something that’s new and different than what has been the traditional way of doing things, especially when it comes to the classroom setting.
I had never written a blog myself until I was asked to write one for a few Edtech companies and share how I was using the tools in my classroom. I was apprehensive at first, having no experience writing a blog at that time. I was not sure where to begin. However, it’s true what they say, once you take that first step you can keep moving. It’s just that getting started is the most difficult part, finding the right words, learning about your writing style, it’s all part of the process. But the overall benefit is that regardless of what your purpose is for blogging the benefits are tremendous for both the author and the reader.
What Are The Benefits Of Student Blogging?
The blogger has the benefit of improving writing skills whether it be just basic grammar in English or learning foreign language skills as is the case for my Spanish students, or for other courses, learning to write in a specific way whether it be persuasive text or narrative for example. And the theme can be relevant to any course or personal interest topic. An additional benefit is the ability to share ideas and experiences, enabling people to learn from each other.
Blogging enables you to write freely about your ideas and thoughts, and you can choose to share them or you can keep them private, but the end result is that you have a way to express yourself, be creative and can then use it as a means for personal growth and reflection.
All of my students in Spanish II, III and IV have accounts for blogging and sometimes I will give them a prompt and other times I leave it up to them to write about whatever they feel like writing about. I do set guidelines for the blog to be a certain length, number of words, specific verb tenses, but I really want it to be a way for them to express themselves, be creative and have it be more personalized.
Before we begin blogging and throughout the year, I continue to emphasize that it’s really important to remember a couple of things. The purpose of the blog is to work on writing skills and that means their own skills and not those enhanced by trying to use a translator. They need to put forth the effort and try to write in Spanish, in my case, while keeping in mind some of the grammar, vocabulary and verbs that we have learned in class. And finally, they need read the feedback from me, or if they are paired with a classmate, peer-review and not worry about any errors. I reinforce that we’re all in this together to help each other learn and grow and that it’s okay to make a mistake. While my experience is with students studying a foreign language, you can apply these same parameters to any course.
I use the blogs as a way to have them work with a new vocabulary unit on their own, I let them get into small groups and take turns writing and then commenting on blogs, but either way I read them all and I learn more about what their needs are as far as the language skills go, but I also learn more about them as a person and it helps to build relationships with them as well.
So those are just some thoughts about how you could use blogging in your classroom, maybe it’s something that you would do occasionally or on a weekly basis, depending on your class it could be a great way for students to write their interpretation of something they read in English or in a history course for example. I myself have written blogs for graduate coursework and at times, I am still apprehensive because I am putting my ideas out there for somebody else to read and I think it’s natural to feel a little bit afraid of expressing yourself openly, but that’s what the purpose is, to feel free to share your thoughts, to learn to communicate with others, and to build connections. These are all important parts of the learning process.
So think about blogging. Whether it means you find a blog to read, start to write your own blog once a week, once a month or try it out in one of your classes. I will say it can amount to a lot of reading when you have your students do it, but it’s completely worth it for you and for them. And don’t be afraid to take a chance with it, we learn from our experiences and we reflect and continue to grow.
Among the benefits of students blogging?
- Student autonomy and student engagement–without these, the blogging isn’t possible.
- The natural “cognitive load” of the writing process–writing is hard; writing that will actually be read by someone outside the classroom is another thing altogether.
- 21st century skills, including publishing ideas with authentic audiences (see above).
- Opportunities to practice digital literacy and citizenship
If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear from you, happy blogging!