So those of you who know me well, know that classroom blogging is my passion. As a technology teacher for two years, I was constantly struggling with ways to get kids to pay attention to me when I was talking (a difficult enough task as it is in any classroom, but when you stick computers with internet access in front of them it suddenly becomes even more difficult). While my first year I thought the answer was having them turn their screens off, I discovered my second year that an even better answer was to start a classroom blog.
Instead of telling them the directions, I would write them a letter each day on my blog to start off class. This way they could use the computer, but I still had a chance to give them clear directions. An added benefit: when the inevitable “What do I do next?” came up, it was SO much easier to refer them back to the blog than have to repeat myself. The blog slowly but surely grew into something that allowed me to connect with my students on a more personal level, include pictures of students and school events, and a way for us all to communicate through our comments. I even later learned how to embed YouTube videos into my posts, so some homework assignments led to an opportunity to earn a class performance the next day that would be recorded and posted on the blog. When I discovered all the potential classroom blogging had, it became an inescapable relationship.
From there it turned into a completely new unit (an advantage of being the first test of the year) I created entirely about blogging. Students had already learned how to code switch when it came to writing comments, and had learned what makes a good comment (for all of you getting ready to comment, things they looked for were 1) referred back to the original post, 2) states their opinion 3) refers to other comments that are related and 4) built conversation), so now it was time for them to learn about creating their own blogs.
They each then earned a blog (check them out here), where we practiced code switching between posts (being aware of who your audience is and how that affects topic choice, language and grammar use, and fonts and colors), pre-reading our work to make sure it was publish-worthy, and how to create posts that sparked conversation. It gave them an opportunity to practice their writing daily, but in a context they saw as more ‘fun’ and ‘useful’ than traditional pen and paper writing. My hidden incentive was that I was secretly teaching them skills they all need to be responsible internet users who are aware and careful of what they are publishing and who can see it.
Of course we got some comments referring to ‘who was dating who’, and other non-school appropriate things, however after one incident of enlarging them, printing them out and hanging them on the classroom walls (to send the message that comments online are the same as saying them in a public place) I found the incidents died out rather quickly .
Since then I’ve presented several workshops on how blogging is, in my opinion, one of the best tools to improve student writing (getting the feedback of potentially hundreds versus just one teacher or one classmate), and helping teachers to set up their own blogs, but sadly I too often find that within a week or two they die out and stop blogging. I am SO glad to report that this is not the case with the blog I set up for Mr. Shaifer two weeks ago when I was in Gaston. I couldn’t be more impressed with his consistent use, his topic choice and writing, and the student excitement about what he’s doing. Overall I give it an 8. I can’t wait to see videos appear, and I would love for some of the formatting kinks to get figured out (I’ll see if I can help you with that Shaif) but where it really matters this blog is spot on. Check it out!
Have I mentioned recently how much I heart this man?
If you are totally lost by this whole blogging thing, then this video’s for you 🙂