Thursday, August 24, 2006

Blogging - Does it really "hook" students?

My last post received this great comment from Buddha:

I am a "digital immigrant" and as such enjoy the idea of the blog but cannot apply myself to the time they take to maintain...well not always. Anyhow, the question I have is how are blogs "hooking" young people into writing as they seem to have increasingly little interest in being anchored to any given "bit" of information or tasks that maintain high levels of follow through and analysis of thought...Is the Blog simply a place to "confess to the world for the cleansing of all things cerebral" or is it an actual intellectual exercise?Perhaps it is a sociological anomoly that enraptures only a particular type of thinker?Thoughts?

When I started thinking about how to answer, I found their were so many categories to which the answer belongs. Here are they are:

1. What is a blog?

Okay. This question has been asked so many times, but blogs are still seen as journals recording individual venting. Yes, it's a journal (for quite a few people) but it is so much more. Here is an excellent article called "Educational Weblogs: Whats and Whys". Here is a short list of ways to use blogs in the classroom, although Richardson's book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts... (p. 40f) gives a more substantial list.

Here are some of the items:
- post class-related information such as calendars, events, homework assignments, and other pertinent class information
- provide examples of classwork....
- create an on-line book club
- post tasks to carry out project-based learning tasks with students
- build a class newsletter, using student-written articles and photos they take
- etc.
- etc.
- etc.

Here are some extra special blogs to show that they aren't just on-line journals:
Discovering Prince of Calculand
Mabry uses a blog as their school "website".
More Calculus.

I wish I had started tagging sooner because I remember viewing a junior high math blog in which the students answered questions that Bloom would have appreciated and the ojectives of the course were being creatively met. I looked high and low but couldn't find it.

2. Why is blogging useful?

It's cheap - if you have internet access, you have blog access.
It's easy - you don't have to be a techy to do it. And yes, even techies are bloggers.
Many students are already using the tool. Why? Because they enjoy it.

3. How often would my students blog?

When literature circles were the "newest educational rage", I enjoyed implementing literature circles - and still do. Did I use literature circles for every novel we read? No chance! Sometimes I used them only for a story. And do I organize literature circles the same way every time. No. Even I would get bored then!! Students need novelty. Novelty is one important aspect of engaging the brain (a balanced combination of novelty and stability).

Okay, so if I'm using the example of literature circles...Ann Davis' use of blogging with literature circles has continued to evolve and continues to include novelty. Older students become mentors. In March of 2006, Davis had fifth graders podcast advice to the writings of the 2nd graders - and it's useful advice!

4. Is blogging too simple?

Maybe for some. But since starting to blog, I have learned how to subscribe to others'writings which has many implications for the classroom. For instance, I can subscribe to my students' blogs and know when they have handed things in (and so can their parents), and I can send useful information to their feeds for individualized instruction.

Just for fun, I started asking my teenage relatives if they "aggregate". When I explained about "subscribing" they hadn't heard of it!! Wow! It's not going to last long, so while I know something my students don't know about technology, I should make use of it!!!

I have even learned a little html code. Yeah, yeah, you can laugh! I did go to school when we learned to type on typewriters. And techies may think my little bit of cutting and pasting html code is silly BUT and it is a big BUT...there are a lot of teachers like me. Blogging is manageable and it is a foot in the door to learning more about technology.

5. Do students like blogging?

Read "My Progress Report" to hear one girl's positive experience.
This podcast interviews students about what advice they would like to whisper in their own ear regarding last year's class. Notice the students use the word "fun" and "friendly" a lot. Those are motivating words for students. Not only did they have fun, but they succeeded.

6. Why does blogging have the potential to hook bloggers?

I use the word "potential" because blogging can be poorly used. It can be too loosly defined with students wondering what in the world they are supposed to do, and it can be far too controlled. A blog assignment may ask limiting questions or help students to effectively reflect and rehearse.

For instance, after a brief lecture, allow students to blog as an option to making connections with what they just learned. Remember, students don't give attention and connect (put things into longer term memory) at the same time. So, if they are going to remember, the teacher has to actually quit talking. Blogging is one of the useful tools to use at this time. And...students' brains aren't prepared to give uninterrupted attention for a whole class either. So balance, variety, and blending are important.

Blogging is collaborative, allows students to make choices, allows students to work at their own pace (and even after school), creates the possibility of more immediate feedback, adds novelty, is appropriately challenging, engages emotions, and allows for students to return to something they previously read to reinforce learning. These are the major tenets of brain-compatible learning. Brain-compatible learning IS engaging to students.

Is blogging the only tool or teaching strategy that fits these tenets? By no means. But blogging is worth considering.


Blogger Karen Janowski said...

Excellent response to Buddha! Very well done!

7:18 PM  
Blogger Jeanette Wiens-Peckham said...

Thank you. I enjoyed answering Buddha. It was a good question!

5:56 PM  

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