Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Case for Student Blogging

The Case for Student Blogging

I've heard that many people complain that kids do not read any more. I even hear students in my class claim to never read and that they hate writing. These people are right and wrong. Books and Magazines are the traditional reading materials and pens and notebooks are the traditional writing tools. Under the traditional standards, kids do not read ans write as much as the previous generations. If we expand the reading to include blog posts, online magazines and newspapers and even Facebook posts, students are reading more than the previous generations ever did. The amount that students are writing is much more than we ever suspect. Students are updating statuses, commenting on blog posts, writing reviews of music, movies, restaurants, etc. Students think they don't like to read and write because they have only been taught that reading is done in books and writing is formal pieces done for school. These ideas need to be changed in teachers so they can be changed in students.Instead of forcing dated views on what literacy is on our students, it is time to switch the focus from books, pen and paper to mobile devices, blogs and tweets. There is a new type of literacy out there and blogging is a way to help our students become literate 21st century learners.

Reading and writing alone no longer define literacy. Computer literacy is key in developing modern learners and thinkers. Computer literacy gives students easier access to creation tools instead of just consumption. According to Bloom's Taxonomy, Evaluation and Synthesis are the two highest learning objectives in education. Most classes stop half way on the scale with application. Students take notes, study their notebook the night before the test, take the test and move on to the next set of notes. It's a cycle of education that teachers continue to use and I used for many years. The students are great at spitting out facts they were taught. what will they do when they are given new material and are asked to create new meaning? They often struggle. Blogging can help reach the Higher Order Thinking that Bloom talks about.

Class blogs allow students to information given in a class or taken from a book and create their own opinion.  Once they have created their own ideas, they can evaluate the ideas in other blog posts and even use those to further evaluate their own ideas.The set up of every class blog will be different and will ask students to create and evaluate in different ways. A science class might focus more on interpreting data while an English Class will have students focus on more abstract concepts. Art, Music, Social Studies, Math and other subjects can all benefit from blogging. Blogging allows the teachers to tailor the system to their class and the students in the class. If you are a teacher, you are a teacher of literacy. Struggling students can only be helped if every teacher helps the students become literate. Blogging can do more than just help literacy in students.

Blogging allows students to take ownership of their learning. It taps into a medium that require little teaching in how to use. It connects students with others beyond the classroom walls. It encourages learning and exploration outside the school day. Class blogs/Twitter accounts provide real-time knowledge and feedback. As students are receiving varied bits of information from all over the world, students will be taking that information and creating something entirely new on a class blog. They will then be taking that new information and evaluating it.  Students will be working with the information instead of just memorizing facts. That interacting with the information will result in higher retention rates in all students. Think of it this way, do you remember those projects your favorite teacher gave you? Why? You remember them because you were immersed in the information. You were able to play around and create with it. Every teacher has a memory like that. Why do teachers move away from what clearly worked for them? Blogging is a tool that has students constantly working with information taught in the classroom instead of preparing for a couple of days for a test. The long term benefits of using the information will help students when they take state tests and other high stakes tests. Blogging has many other great benefits for the classroom.

Student engagement will increase as they strive to recap the days events for the class blog. Parents will be engaged in the on goings of every class period every day from a student's perspective. Embracing the tools students use provide validation to their generation. Blogging and Tweeting have limitless potential. Video blogs (vlogs), Skype, movies, discussion boards, cross curriculum projects; these are all possible with these tools. Literacy is no longer an English/Language Arts problem. It is an education problem. These free services can help create literate 21st Century Citizens.

I am currently working with Van Meter to connect my English Classes with theirs. We are setting up our Freshmen Curriculum so that we can teach the same units at roughly the same time. We have ideas for joint Poetry Slams and a joint class production of Romeo and Juliet. There is a good chance we will pair up students from the two districts to write opposing viewpoint research papers. The potential is limitless as we continue to meet online and discuss ideas. I haven't felt this excited about lesson planning since my first year of teaching. By connecting with another school,  my head is filling with ideas that will not only allow my students to create new ideas, but share them with people from all over the world. If you live in a small or isolated community, blogging is a great way to open the eyes of your students and that is what I hope happens after working with other schools.  Our students have a chance to a singular learning opportunity that could change the way people look at education. Blogging is helping me create a flat classroom that will allow my students to see around the world. They will read and write more than they ever have before and they will do it using tools they already use everyday. Blogging will be the gateway I will use to usher in a new era of learning for my students. They will love to blog and comment and will become literate 21st Century Learners while claiming to hate reading and writing.

I'm not suggesting that blogging is the cure to the literacy problems in schools across America, but it is a tool that can help many students work on needed skills. Instead of forcing traditional teaching methods on students, why not try and meet the students where they are and get them creating and evaluating. You might be surprised at what the students create. Hell, you might even surprise yourself a bit. :-)

I want to give a quick shout out to Shannon McClintock Miller (@ShannonMMiller) of Van Meter fame. She has worked very hard at connecting me to English teachers at Van Meter and we planning some amazing things. We will be tweeting ideas and posting updates on our Van Meter/Grosse Pointe South experiment. Our hash is #VMGPS. If you are not following her on Twitter, you are missing an important part of your Twitter Life. Thanks for being awesome Shannon. I can't wait to see where this crazy train takes us.