Blog already…won’t you?

Since early 2006, I’ve been trying to convince teachers to blog with their students. It all started when Will Richardson spoke at the Illinois Computing Educators annual conference. After hearing him speak, I walked up to him, handed him a check and went away with his book. After reading it, I was totally convinced of the value of facilitating a blog for students. Since then, my personal blogging experience has been a bit limited, but really valuable. I have set up blogs for teachers that I have worked with, as well as facilitating a collaborative blog with a few middle school students. Overall, the process was really positive, but never really sustained. As I reflect on the process of using blogs with students, I would say that any opportunity to publish writing is important, particularly when students for these reasons:

  • They are publishing their writing for an authentic audience and really enjoy knowing that others are reading their work
  • We are giving them first-hand experience in a supervised manner to be content creators
  • Students must write all the time for all content areas – and this medium is flexible and engaging

I wish I could say I was an expert because of my personal experience, as some of my PLN blog with their class every year on a daily basis, but I can say that I’ve done a great deal of research. I have done numerous workshops with teachers, and administrators about the process and am happy to say that they have been influential. Here’s my page of presentation materials (although I’ll admit the examples are out of date), Blogging in the Classroom.

Recently, I came across a nice post from another educator, Patrick Higgins that pointed me toward some empirical data that supports how useful blogging can be in the effort to improve writing. Drexler, Dawson, and Ferlig’s research paper also covers concerns such as time commitment and keyboarding skills, so it’s worth a careful read.

Teachers have used blogs as a means to developing writing skills for a while now…what’s holding you back?

Learning Secrets: Teachers Can Do Hard Things

Although blogging has been around since around the year 2000, I’ve finally set a goal for myself to take the plunge and become a full-fledged blogger. I have set a goal write a blog article 5 times a week for the next 10 weeks. Doing the math, that means 50 blog posts.

I am motivated to start this phase of my blogging by mentioning an article I read in Teacher Magazine by Anthony Cody describing the strategies to get students to do “hard things” – tasks that they don’t think they are capable of doing successfully.

Research shows that students who lack motivation are often not convinced that the effort they invest in themselves is going to be rewarded. They simply have not been academically successful in the past, so why bother? Furthermore, their parents may have been ineffectual in school, creating a template for failure easier to live up to than disprove.

Another look at that research can be found in an article by Pro Bronson; How Not to Talk to Your Kids describes research that supports the position that children who are constantly told how smart they are tend not to takes risks to try something new. They don’t make the connection between hard work and success. Children who are constantly praised for “being smart” lack confidence in their ability to tackle tasks that would require effort. When children feel that all that is needed is intelligence, the task is out of the child’s control, and the effort that is needed to complete the task is looked down upon as evidence that they aren’t so smart after all. We all know teachers who do not try something new, because they are afraid of failure, or “looking dumb” in the eyes of their students. The message in the article is that the real reward is in the effort it takes to succeed, or at least try to succeed.

Anyway, back to the original point. Cody makes a few specific suggestions about teaching strategies that will support students as they “do hard things”. I can translate them to my own endeavor as an about-to-be blogger.

  • Keep a portfolio – That is what a blog is, isn’t it? A blog can simply be a portfolio of writing where by the writer can expect to see some progress and growth.
  • Provide valuable feedback – Well, that is possible in a blog. Readers are invited to comment and trackback. The comments a blogger receives could qualify as feedback.
  • Provide clear models of high quality work – There are lots of models of high quality work in the edu-blogging world. I’ve been reading reading high quality blogs for a couple of years. Shortly after I post this, I’m going to create a blog roll to link to all the high quality blogs I’ve been reading. I only hope that I can come close to their success.

I am sure going to try.

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