“Mrs. Rasmussen, can we write on our blogs more than just for assignments for class?”
After we set up our personal blogs, I received a similar message from several of my students. Of course, I replied, “Yes.” (Inside I yelled “YAY!!” and danced around the room a few times.)
Students want to write other than when I assign it. Wow.
And we are off…
I doubt anyone would argue that digital writing is important. Most of our students do it anyway: texting, tweeting, commenting on YouTube videos. We might as well help them do it well.
We might as well help them share their ideas, opinions, stories, and arguments in a way that allows them to show their learning — and build their credibility as citizen scholars. That’s what I want for my students anyway. I want them to know that their voices matter. Their writing matters.
They have to have an audience other than me to truly understand that. That’s why I blog with my students.
Every year I ask student to personalize an online writing space. I’ve blogged with students when we had to reserve the writing lab. I’ve blogged with students when I had 12 computers we shared in my classroom. Another year I had an ipad cart with 30 devices. Now I’m at a 1:1 ipad school. It is easier, but it is not necessary.
If you want students to blog, you can find a way to make it work. I urge you to not let the lack of technology prevent you from at least doing something with digital writing.
Every year I try something new to help students take ownership of their blogging. I’ve learned a few things about setting up blogs and getting students to write on them.
Here’s my blogging basics in a nutshell:
- Build a case for blogging. I read “Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay” a few years back, and it helped me wrap my head around the how and why blogging works for the 21C student. I’ve even used this text as a reading piece with my students. They read, determine the author’s argument, and then have to defend, challenge, or qualify it. I can see pretty easily if a student is climbing on my blogging training willingly.
- Conduct a little inventory of the blogsospere. Simply ask students to type “most popular blogs” into Google. Then ask them to do a bit of light reading. They might find “Top 15 Most Popular Blogs,” and they might recognize a few. They might find “The Top 10 Top Earning Bloggers in the World,” and you might see some jaws hit the floor. They might find “The 10 Most Inspirational Bloggers in the World,” and if we give them time to explore and read and think and play with the idea of become a blogger, we might get lucky, and our students might think: Hey, I can do this. This could be me!
- Choose a platform. I’ve use Edublogs and WordPress in the past, and this year I am using Blogger because in my new district all students have google accounts. I’ve had no trouble learning blogger. It’s a Google product, so I figure if I cannot figure something out — or if kids can’t — we “Google it.” There’s a handy chart in this article that compares different blogging platforms used in education. You can decide for yourself which will work best for you and your students.
- Take the time to get everyone set up. In year’s past I’ve expected students to know more than they do about using technology. Not every student is confident on a computer. Texting, yes. Applications, not so much. This year we took it slow. I created my own Blogger account and then modeled creating a new blog step-by-step in front of each of my six classes. I talked them through every step of their set up. Then I shared these instructions in writing, which include how they will be assessed for creating their blogs and their first blog post.
- Show off students’ initial work. Besides asking students to follow each other, I think it is important to project their blogs and let everyone see what the class has created. Many students decide to change titles or themes or add different gadgets after they see the work of their peers. Here’s a few of my students’ blogs: Jessica Ortiz, Mary Sassaman, Dianna Sosa, Beatriz Vargas, Allie Tate. (I do have male students; however, I have many more young women this year than young men. I just haven’t managed to follow all my writers’ blogs yet.)
Watch for Part 2 soon. I’ll write about how my students and I decide what we’ll blog about and what those choices look like in our AP English Language class.
Please share your questions about student blogging in the comments section. I’ll do my best to answer.
©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015