Blogging can seem risky. It’s public! In other words, we are potentially exposing our classroom, our students, and ourselves to judgement and criticism. We’ve heard the stories of online bullying, of the teacher who fought to keep his job over something he said online, of the parent’s complaint about a statement that was taken out of context. Why take the risk?
Blogging is Safe
Blogging can provide a safe environment for collaboration and communication. The key to success is the planning. Our students can’t just dive into writing on a blog. Lessons and activities are needed to heighten our students’ awareness of online dangers, and how to stay safe online. For example, what information is appropriate to post online? What kind of pictures should I exclude from my blog? How do I respond to my peers in a manner that will contribute to a positive digital footprint? These are but some of the considerations that must be adressed before your students begin publishing.
Are you looking for resources about online safety? Here are a few sites that can help you develop digital citizenship:
Still concerned? Most blogging platforms allow teachers to monitor posts and comments on the page before they are published. Also, class blogs can be kept private, or can be shared with specific people and groups.
Students need to build a positive digital footprint – now!
Most middle school and high school students have already began building a digital footprint. A little research on the students in your classroom may surprise you in a delightful and not so delightful manner. Let’s face it, our students are already “putting themselves out there”. They’re posting pictures to their Instagram accounts, answering questions in discussion forums, writing comments on friends’ pages and blogs. But what messages are they sending about themselves? Will a future employer want to hire the persona that they have created in the online world?
Let’s give our students the opportunity to really sell themselves, to let the world know what they think, how they feel, what drives their passion… Let’s hand them the creative reins and guide them as they explore and communicate their learning through a blog.
Perhaps the next time you Google a student’s name, the portfolio that you see before you will encourage you about the citizen that your student is becoming.
Authentic learning experiences and meaningful learning are at the forefront
Though blogging can be foreign to us, students are familiar with these types of platforms, and they aren’t as scared to express themselves online. Blogging gives students a real reason to write, while giving them a real audience.
The days of asking students to write reports that only the teacher will read are gone. If we expect our students to question the world around them, to use creative and critical thinking skills, we can’t expect them to obediently publish high-quality work without giving it having a purpose. With blogging, students can expect to receive feedback from the online world, either praising their work, disputing their findings, or providing further insight on a particular topic.
Students should be granted the creative flexibility to make their blog “their own”. The website should be personalized (without giving away personal information) and their voice should be heard. What can be more authentic than asking students to be themselves, to share their opinions, making their passions their chief pursuit, and connecting with like-minded people.
Let’s encourage our students to contribute to the collective intelligence in the networks that they personally build. Let’s allow them to collaborate with others on a project of their choosing, that is meaningful to them. Let’s give them the flexibility to express themselves in their manner, and to choose their methods to learn all that will be needed to share their learning. That’s a student-centered approach.
Bringing the learning outside of the classroom and into the “real” world
Blogging is an excellent opportunity to bring the learning outside of the classroom. When blog posts become public, the potential for global networking becomes a reality. Students have the opportunity to connect with students from across the world, to exchange and debate with others, and to learn through these connections.
In other words, blogging is both informative and social; it’s the best of both worlds for a 21st century learner. Furthermore, by using this student-centered learning approach, students have the opportunity to explore subjects of their choosing in an environment that is real to them.
Blogs are communicative tools as they encourage discussion. This enables connections to be made with like-minded people, forming important networks that for life-long learners. In fact, these personal connections can become motivational factors, as students search to contribute to a collective intelligence (see links with connectivism and constructivism), and to receive peer feedback, in the form of comments.
How do I start?
There is a panoply of information on the Internet on integration strategies, in addition to tutorials for a variety of blogging platforms.
Start with a learning objective, and then, select the tool that is appropriate for your learning goals and the age of your students.
Take the jump, but before you do, make an informed decision, plan each step of the integration of a blog into your classroom, and make sure that parents and administration are informed of your intentions before you go live.