As you recall from my previous post I had 4 goals in mind that I would use to reflect on blogging in the English classroom:
1. I wanted an ongoing task that students could reflect on, revise, publish, and share over a length of time in hope of fostering self-control and grit in the English classroom.
2. I wanted to know if writing in the digital arena would provide a format that students would excel in (as opposed to the traditional pen and paper routine).
3. I was curious about how publishing their work to a digital audience would impact their writing and how using the comment functions of the blog would impact the revision process.
4. I wanted to add more discussion on digital responsibility in to our classroom.
Let me begin this post by tackling goal #4. The class conversation about digital citizenship happens daily in our room. We began the course by personally reflecting on each of our own digital footprints. I asked the class to consider all of their social media accounts and whether or not they would feel confident in sharing them with me, their parents, and a prospective employer. The majority confessed that they’d be unwilling to share these platforms with these parties. This was a perfect gateway into one of the “whys” to our blogging practice. As a group we decided that our blogs would be a professional and responsible digital reflection of ourselves. We looked at my blog and twitter account as an example of a voice that we determined to meet the criteria we were forming together. We also discussed at length why, when asked, I decided not to share my Facebook account with the class. At first they snickered and thought it was because I had inappropriate content on my timeline. When I explained that it was because my Facebook account reflects my personal network of friends and family, hobbies and interests, and that these were things that I deem to be private, the class began to understand that we have control of what self we decide to share with what audience. This also applies to voice and how as writers we must be mindful of how what we’re trying to communicate in our writing often overshadows how we try to communicate it. Students tend to be great at writing for a teacher but our blogging experiment and our consistent discussions on responsible use have made them more aware of how voice can empower their writing.
I have been pleasantly surprised with how well the class has adopted this technological take on the writing process. I mean this in several aspects. First, blogging has allowed them to bring their writing to life. I don’t mean through imagery or symbolism or metaphor. I mean by adding video, music, hyperlinks, photos and so much more to their posts. Their writing becomes an experience. The reader navigates the composition as well as a myriad of interactive and engaging additions. Several students have added personal vlogs to their composition where they reflect on their own creative process as they prepared to write. This means that in addition to me being able to assess their composition I am able to get a firsthand account of what they believed worked for them, what their motivation for writing was, and what struggles they encountered throughout the process. How meaningful is that for both parties involved? And when you add hyperlinks to research to demonstrate a deeper awareness of topic, photos (most of which have been taken from their iPad Camera Roll ie they are the photographers), and other videos (such as a Ted Talk or an UpWorthy), student work becomes much more project-based than journal-like.
I have also been impressed with how savvy students are as users. Not once have I needed to do a class lesson walking them through a function of the blogging format. Instead we have agreed to try our best to navigate the many tools and options WordPress offers as individuals or in small groups. I have sat 1-on-1 with students chatting about simple issues but the group has jumped in to the challenge of learning this new forum headfirst. This is not to say that the process hasn’t been without it’s wrinkles. I recall several times over the course of our first few days blogging when students requested a quick fix for an issue that came up. An example would be how to embed video to a post. I said that I’d be happy to share with them where they could locate the steps to complete the task but doing so would be up to them as in I wouldn’t show them how to do it. We have since adopted the adage that anything worth knowing is worth working for. Some students have said that we are trying to find comfort in the uncomfortable. Both notions ring true when reflecting on my primary goal for our blogging use: would blogging be something my students could really put their noses in to? It appears it is!
A screenshot of one amazing blog from our class. Notice how the student has honoured our professional and responsible use agreement while still bringing personality and voice to the appearance of the blog. Awesome!
I haven’t yet been able to reflect on the benefits of the commenting options as to whether they perform in a similar fashion to a peer edit activity. This is partly due to the fact that I have yet to assess all of the posts. At the beginning of the semester We agreed that the posts would not be summatively assessed until the end of the semester. This was due to goal #1 and that by allowing ample opportunity for formative assessment (by me and their peers via the comments, writing conferences, and co-creating criteria) we would see a work ethic and determination that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to replicate in the course.
I will continue to reflect on blogging in the English classroom but as you can see I am a big fan. I am working with several teachers in our English Department on implementing blogging in to their practice. We have some big ideas in mind including students maintaining a blog throughout their 4 high school years and even having other classes use these blogs so they then become more of a reflection of learning and not just and reflection of learning in the English classroom. Exciting!