Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Blogging in the Classroom

Blogs can be a very helpful tool to use for literacy practice. “A blog can serve as a place to publish one’s writing or used as a forum for receiving feedback on writing” (Lacina & Griffith, 2012). As with traditional paper-pencil writing, blogging requires students to follow a writing process.  Students still must generate ideas, plan their writing, draft their thoughts, discuss with others for potential revisions, and edit. In addition, they are sharing, commenting, and receiving feedback from others.

Children can write their own blogs, participate in a collaborative classroom blog, and connect with other students from their school, district, or even around the country. In the article Writing Re-Launched: Teaching with Digital Tools, Liana Heitin writes, “By design, pen-and-paper composition is a one-person undertaking. But digital writing is often collaborative. There are a variety of ways students can collaborate, says Eidman-Aadahl. For instance, they can create a text jointly, through shared documents or wikis, or they can take turns posting on a collective blog.The collaborative nature of blogging allows for students to participate in meaningful conversation around a topic, sharing perspectives, making connections, and prompting one another to use higher order thinking around a topic. The process of writing on the internet allows students to hone in on their voice and write for a target audience, rather than just writing with the notion that no one will ever see their work. In her article on HOT blogging, Lisa Zawalinksi states, “In the past the teacher was usually the only person who read student work. With a blog, student work can be read by classmates, parents, extended family members, school community members, project partners, classroom teachers, pre-service teachers, and anyone around the world who locates the class blog.” I can truly appreciate how blogging allows for families to participate in classroom activities as well.  They can read what their children are writing, in real time, and help make that connection between home and school. Learning is always enhanced when students are able to make a connection to practice outside the walls of their classrooms.

Writing can be shared with the intended audience in many ways for a number of purposes.  Blogs can be used to write reading responses, book/movie reviews, opinion pieces, information on an expert topic, or even as a journal.  Students can write on a blog that is entirely theirs, or they can contribute to a classroom blog all around a certain topic.  For example, the classroom blog might have a focus on teaching about animals, and each student writes a post regarding one animal in particular.  Teachers can provide meaningful feedback right there on the blog posts by commenting.  I have found that in traditional, paper and pencil writing, rubrics provide only a snapshot of a teacher’s thoughts on any given piece, and often a conference is necessary in order to discuss the strengths and areas for growth.  With a blog, these conversations can happen within the comments section.

Alongside the many benefits discussed for writing in a classroom blog, there are also some challenges.  One challenge, especially in the younger grades, is finding the time to teach students how to write a blog.  From keyboarding skills, to navigating the internet, to knowing what is and is not appropriate information to share on the internet (in regards to privacy), these skills must be a prerequisite to actually allowing students to blog on their own. While sometimes, these prerequisite skills can seem cumbersome, they are important for our 21st century learners to acquire as the definition of literacy shifts to include internet competencies. Alongside learning these nuts and bolts, students should understand the craft of blogging, which can take time. It is certainly attainable, with thought and planning. Cathy Mere shares ideas about using blogs for shared literacy experiences.Before students begin to blog individually, we explore how blogging works and its purpose. Shared reading of blogs can support students in these early days of gaining understanding.  Shared reading and writing activities using blogs can be very beneficial.  The use of mentor texts and modeling with a gradual release of responsibility allows students opportunities to shift toward independent practice within the craft.

So, can you see yourself using blogging in the classroom?  I have dipped my toes in the water of using blogs for writing with second graders.  We used Kidblog which is very user and kid friendly.  They loved this novel approach to writing, and I wasn’t even taking advantage of the true benefits (commenting, sharing with a larger audience, etc.).  I look forward to reaping the full benefits of classroom blogging in the future.  I also hope to maintain a classroom blog or other form of social media to share pictures, events, and announcements with parents of my students.