This year I have been entering the classroom-blogosphere alongside Paul Aitken, who as a district middle school humanities teacher had a hand in bringing along a few of the students who found their way into the high school gifted program I teach. Through Twitter, our blogs, and even – occaisionally, when nothing else will seem to work – our district email (side note: is email becoming obsolete? Or is its purpose merely changing? ie. Can’t send attachments with Twitter DMs), Paul and I have bounced ideas about the burgeoning nature of our class’ blogging off one another, sharing materials and experiences in the way that technology allows (even though Paul teaches less than ten minutes up the hill from me).
In his latest post, Paul has cited concerns (anxieties? hesitations?) about beginning his class’ blogs, chiefly:
- Getting the blogs off the ground
- Maintaining the rigors of academic writing
- Keeping things “civil” (Social responsibility)
- And generating ideas & prompts for writing
As my high school class is a few weeks ahead in the blogging regard, here is the comment I left last night on Paul’s blog. As it sums up my reflections on blogging in class along the lines of his concerns, I thought I would share it here:
Your points of hesitation resonate with my introduction of blogs with TALONS, Paul. But I think the students will impress you if you create an environment of awareness around the notion that all they do and say is public, and lasting.
I have found that using blogs as a forum for supplementary writing – more reflective andor representative of learning that pieces of formal writing such as creative pieces or essays – leads to a more confident sense of written voice (that I don’t think can help but be transferred to academic writing) and creates countless opportunities for team-building or a sense of empathy between classmates (citizenship, even, if applied to the larger sense of community). Something in the public nature of bloggin forces them to take both writing, and their behavior more seriously (though I agree, sixes – and perhaps the young student caught testing our school’s firewall this week – could be prone to some initial missteps).
As for topics, I have used blog posts as moments for reflection upon, or representation of learning. At times, students are told only to have a post on a topic from the week’s classes written by Friday (this week’s theme statement “informal essay;” other assignments are more directed (the post outlining each’s RSS subscriptions) with criteria as to use of images, and layout. With the use of Google Reader to syndicate the entire class’ blogging (as well as the stream of commenting for each of the class blogs, including mine), every student is tuned to the others’ work, and the conversation taking place around each of the varied topics. Again, the public nature of the work leads students away from working in isolation, and the tenor has been supportive – with the grade tens taking a leadership role in helping to define project criteria in the Eminent Person stuff, especially – and engaging, without requiring too much pushing.
I am looking forward to the community among the class blogs growing, and continuing even once the current students move on. Not only do the blogs connect the classroom to other learners and experts across the globe, but the hub of a class blog remains a community open to its alumni if they chose to lend their presence. But it all does move slowly – I have only recently streamlined our blogging to be able to think of it as having just “begun.” The fact that it is being built up will probably only strengthen its eventual delivery.
I look forward to seeing it get rolling!