Blogging is becoming increasingly common in schools, but are all blogging programs helping to improve student learning outcomes?
This is an issue I was discussing with a member of my professional learning network recently.
There seems to be two main schools of thought on educational blogging programs:
- The unrestricted program: this may involve all students being given a blog and the aim is for them to express themselves in any way they like. This program may be largely student centred from the start.
- The structured program: blogging is integrated into a literacy program, momentum is built and high standards are set. This program may be teacher centred before becoming increasingly student centred.
When it comes to classroom blogging, I am an advocate of a program that:
- begins with a class blog before allowing students to work on their own blogs
- is integrated into a literacy program on a regular basis (while incorporating other curriculum areas)
- sets high standards for writing, design, netiquette etc.
- is regularly maintained and is an evolving space
- allows students to express themselves while improving their educational outcomes
- provides feedback and explicit teaching to students
- begins with a high level of teacher guidance, before increasingly offering students more responsibility.
If students practise a poor standard of writing over and over, unhelpful habits are formed and the scope for improvement is limited.
I believe blogging can help students become exceptional writers when the following parameters are put into place.
When I first began blogging in 2008, my program was haphazard and I didn’t set high standards. Needless to say, my students didn’t get all that much out of our program.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was lack of momentum. Because blogging wasn’t integrated into my work program, I had to find time in a busy curriculum to work on the blog. This led to low student interest and lack of opportunities for explicit teaching.
When it came to posts and comments, I accepted almost anything and didn’t take the time to scaffold the students’ writing on the blog.
In reflection, my original blogging program was also too student centred from the beginning. I have since learnt that beginning with a more teacher centred program before giving students more responsibilities has provided my class with the most rewarding outcomes.
Through learning from and with exceptional educators, such as Linda Yollis, my blogging program has continued to evolve and improve.
Even now, I have to regularly stop and take stock of my own classroom blogging program to:
- encourage comments,
- ensure writing standards remain high,
- monitor that students are growing their skills, or
- strengthen links with parents.
There can be a natural ebb and flow to a quality blogging program.
I encourage educators to think about these things when establishing or evolving their blogging programs.
I’ve heard many people comment that they have “done” blogging or they “do” blogging, but what is it that is really being done?