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“Blog, blog, blog…that is all I ever hear.”

'student_ipad_school - 025' photo (c) 2012, Brad Flickinger - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

An Open Letter to Parents:

I have heard you have some questions about our student blogs and writing in my class. I hope this letter answers them.

Did you know that our classroom blog is each student’s portfolio of work, which includes all types of writing? It is a combination of digital journal and portfolio. So far this year, students have been given opportunities to write in many modes: expository, narrative, literary response, and personal reflection. In addition to the assigned writing tasks, I encourage students to write about topics that interest them. The growth I have seen in my student writers has been easy to measure, since so many of them have taken ownership of their blogs and write to their personal world-wide audiences.

This summer I attended a conference where Alan November, an international leader in educational technology, described the urgency teachers must take in changing practices that limit learning to one-year increments. Teachers must expand learning practices so students retain and build upon the knowledge they gain each year. This idea of expanding learning practices resonated within me because I have often found it frustrating that a student’s body of work is essentially not available to him for reflection, or continued study, after a given school year.

For my students, their blogs are a collection of their work. For some, this blog will become a place where they can explore and express complex ideas about our society, even after they leave my classroom. Research shows that bloggers are more prolific writers than their teenage counterparts who do not blog. Additionally, blogging allows for an authentic voice in student writing.

When a student writes for the teacher, as grader and sole audience, the writing is often contrived and trite. However, when we give students the opportunity to find an audience outside the walls of the classroom, they find their voices and their writing dramatically improves. In addition, the feedback students receive on their writing is not just from me, the teacher. The feedback may come from anyone who reads their posts, which makes the opportunity for connections to the real-world exciting for student writers. Just last month, a student elatedly read a comment on her blog from a pastor who said that her post gave him a refreshing view of heroism–a thought he would love to share with his congregation.

I received another bit of positive feedback recently. An author contacted me saying he was interested in publishing for his readers a visual literacy piece one of my students created about that author’s book. My student had posted this original piece on his blog. Again, feedback from our beyond-the-classroom audience.

In my classroom we do not “do blogging;” blogging is the medium students use to publish their work.

Many people, some personal friends of mine, have received book publication contracts simply from the body of work they have posted to their blogs. Why would I not encourage blogs as a place for students to publish their authentic work?

Still not convinced? Consider this: Blogging can be a great equalizer in a Digital Classroom.

The author is not struggling to physically form letters, and the reader is not struggling to read cramped handwriting. When students type, they are no longer judged by their penmanship. In addition, technology supports the author’s spelling. Without these limitations, students are judged by the depth of their ideas and the connections they make to their world and our society. Isn’t that the kind of thinking and learning we want?

Parents, please, I encourage you to frequently read your student’s blog. Share the link to your son or daughter’s blog with grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and all the important people in your child’s life. Imagine the kind of writing we can develop in our student writers if we show them we care about what they have to say. And, believe me, my students have a lot of good things to say.

Help me expand the Learning Community and comment on your child’s blog posts. The opportunities for growth are endless!

Respectfully,

Mrs. Cato

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8 thoughts on ““Blog, blog, blog…that is all I ever hear.”

  1. Chris Hale (@haledogg) May 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm Reply

    A wonderful open letter to parents! I have used blogging with my students and answered similar questions. Like you, I approached the issue as an opportunity for some students to really show their skills, as well as an opportunity for students to develop as digital citizens — something parents and educators often take for granted.

    As parents, my wife and I have had to come to terms with our different views on blogging and on-line existence because our son’s teacher is a strong advocate for using technology in class. This has lead to wonderful conversations with all of our children about internet safety and the value of blogging.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there for your students and reaching out to their parents.

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    • hcato May 3, 2012 at 7:31 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for the kid words! Blogging really has been such an awesome experience for my students this year!

      Like

  2. donalynm January 24, 2012 at 8:23 am Reply

    I love what you have to say about blogging being a great equalizer. I have seen many of my shy students come alive online when given the opportunity to share their ideas and compose their thoughts in private on their blogs and Edmodo pages. Thank you for this reminder.

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  3. Amy January 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm Reply

    Great post, Heather. Like you, I get my students blogging, and I see tremendous growth in student writing when kids know that the world is their audience and not just me. I remember the first year I blogged with students. I had a parent tell his son: “It’s about time you started doing something with real world technology at school.” Not only were my efforts to get students publishing online validated, but this parent used the words “real world” in the way I have tried to integrate technology in my lessons. I want students to use the tech tools that they may continue to use once they leave me.

    I love your take on blogs as a portfolio, “a collection of their work.” Like Cindy, I’d love to read the notebook I scribbled poems and reflections about my first love, Frankie.

    P.S. Laura, I have never had a problem. If your district has concerns, consider using a blog forum like Edublogs, which allows the teacher to be administrator of student blogs.

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  4. lauraslay January 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm Reply

    I love the open letter. It says it all. One question about your parent community and school policies. Do you ever encounter parents who do not wish for their parents to go public on the WWW? Is safety and protection an issue in your district? If so, how do you handle these types of concerns?

    Like

    • hcato January 22, 2012 at 11:04 pm Reply

      Laura, that is actually privacy is actually a great question. This year I am taking part of a Digital Classroom Pilot for my district. When I began to talk about blogging the first thing I talked about was authentic writing experiences and the connections that can be made to the real world. I have not any parents share with me concerns about the WWW or ask that student work not be published in this manner. If that was a concern, I would address it directly with that parent and see what solution we as a team could come together to decide what would be the best for their student. I think there are possibly some options, but I think it would depend on the parent.

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  5. cindy January 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm Reply

    Of course, in the day, we didn’t have a computer so we didn’t have blogging. My equivilent was the paper and pencil journal. I can still remember some of the topics that I wrote in my 9th grade journal, way back in th 1970’s. I also remember enjoying the freedom to write about whatever I wished and that it was not tied to the topic of study or the subject my English teacher chose. I do wish I still had that journal so I could read it today. I think student blogging is a great idea. Keep up the great work.

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