Blogging Bound ~ My Students’ First Digital Steps

Thank you to Bob Schuetz, Technology Coordinator at Palatine High School, for including this post as a guest blog on his site, NOCKING THE ARROW.

MY BLOGGING BACKGROUND: My blogging adventures began in February 2009 when I was offered my own website through StudioPress.  At that time, I barely knew what a “blog” was much less what I was going to do with this site.   I contemplated back and forth between posting creative writing or professional posts.  Initially, I opted to use Grading Girl as a space to write reviews and share personal pieces.  I quickly learned that word travels fast on the internet and companies started sending products to review.  It’s great fun and a productive way to channel my own writing practice.  Teaching, however, is in my blood and, naturally, much of my life centers around the classroom.  Fast forward to today, five years later:   Grading Girl has grown to over 2500 views per day, I’m a 1:1 teacher in the classroom and launched this second site, TLC – Technology, Literacy, Collaboration, devoted solely to my technology and literacy experiences.

GradingGirl.com

GradingGirl.com

RATIONALE FOR BLOGGING: Exuberantly experiencing my own blogging adventures led me to begin blogging with my students over the past three years.  Both the Common Core and my school district’s Critical Learning Standards emphasize the need for students to read a variety of text for understanding, to write clear, supported arguments and to apply knowledge and skills to real-world problems.  I believe writing blogs can fulfill those expectations.    Blogging provides students with digital writing experiences to pursue understandings in the real world, not just within a classroom.  It’s no longer a matter of earning a grade – it’s a matter of voicing views to a real audience.  Moreover, blogging across the curriculum, not just in English class, allows for both formative and summative assessment because it helps writers see the progression in development of a piece of writing. It may actually take more talent and skill to create an interesting persuasive post on the French Revolution, let’s say, than a traditional essay.  Like an essay, a persuasive post needs to be clear, concise, and convincing; on top of this, there is the overriding need to be compelling.  That said, we need to teach blogging as a skill to help students voice arguments succinctly as they prepare for communication in the competitive job market they will take on later.

It’s Not Fair Argumentative POST

More advantages to using blogging as a writing tool as cited in the European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 9, Number 4 (2009) article, “E-Learning Environment:  Blogging as a Platform for Language Learning:”

  • Encourages feedback and represents both writing and reading activities;
  • Stimulates debate, critical analysis, and encourages articulation of ideas and opinion;
  • Offers opportunities for collaborative learning; projects, debates or interactive travel logs;
  • Provides environment in which learners can develop skills of persuasion and argumentation;
  • Creates a more student-centered learning environment

WHY EDUBLOGS: I use Edublogs, WordPress’s platform for education, to create a site for each of my accelerated freshmen and senior writing students.  I’ve dabbled in other platforms but find EduBlogs offers the most customization with the most secure environment.  Here’s more specific reasons to support Edublogs:

  • Safe and Reliable – Blogs can be completely private or completely open to the public or somewhere in between.  Since they only host education related content, Edublogs are allowed by most school filters where other blogging platforms are not.  Even the most leery of educators can find a comfort zone.
  • Student Friendly – It is as simple to add to and update a blog as it is to send an email or write a letter. Teachers can easily create and manage as many student blogs as needed.
  • Rich With Features – A few of the most popular featured widgets include discussion tools, video embedding, Facebook and Twitter integration, and calendars.  EduBlogs seems to offer the largest amount of widgets and plug-ins to accommodate.
  • Customizable – There are over 100 different themes which allow for control of colors, images, and layout.
  • Research-Based – Engages students in their learning and enhance instruction through collaboration, student portfolios, and seemingly endless classroom uses.

CLASS CONNECTION SAMPLES:

Writing with Parents:

Parent Blogging

Involving Parents with a Post!

Writing with Peers outside of class:  

Seniors & freshmen share philosophies

Writing for a Public Audience:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.33.00 AM

Sample Book Review

NEW BLOG EXTENSION: Beginning this spring semester, my two accelerated freshmen classes will be expanding their websites to include reporting on their very own Passion Projects.  I’ve been following Catlin Tucker, Google Certified Teacher and CUE Lead Learner, and inspired by the experiences she reports on within her blog.  I’ve previewed the project with the students, discussing Google’s concept of 20% Genius Hour.  Robert Schuetz, my school’s innovative technology director, graciously took the time to speak with my students about digital citizenship and taking on a project such as this to pave the way for their ever-growing digital portfolios.  While time allows us to take a modified 10% of class time this year, students are devoting a portion of their research and discovery outside of class that I am excited to share.

Student Sample of Passion Project progress so far . . .

 

My goal for next year is to incorporate blogging within each of my classes at each level.   There is need for students to become proficient in 21st century collaborative web tools. Digital writing is no longer an extra tool to voice opinion – it is mainstream, here to stay and continually evolving.  

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