One of the ways I like to encourage learning based on my school’s learning principles is to promote the use of class blogs. In the lower primary years, the blogs are often used to communicate with parents and to share the learning that takes place at school. As we move higher up in the school though, the class blog has the potential to be so much more than that.
I’ve written about class blogs several times in the past, but my thinking has changed as I have watched the blogging experience unfold at my school. I have seen even the most motivated teachers become disappointed by the lack of student interest, poor response from parents and the absence of the anticipated authentic audience.
A great post this week by Andrea Hernandez, entitled Where is the Authentic Audience? got me (re) thinking. And another thought-provoking post by Kath Murdoch exploring what inquiry learning is NOT, as a way to understand what it IS, inspired me to consider class blogs in the same way.
I think that a class blog is not (just)…
- A place to post questions, worksheet style, with an expectation that all students will respond.
- A space for teachers to assess and comment publicly on students’ writing.
- A sort of online vacuum, into which students’ writing is sucked, never to be seen by anyone.
- A compulsory homework assignment.
- Something managed entirely by the teacher, who makes all the decisions as to what will be posted and when.
- An occasionally used alternative to writing on paper.
(With apologies if you use your blog successfully in some or all of these ways!)
Some questions to consider…
1. Do you teach students how to write meaningful comments that promote conversation?
2. Do you set aside time every day to check for new comments and discuss the comments that come in?
3. Do you encourage your students to respond to each other and whoever else comments?
4. Does your blogroll include other class blogs within your own school and are your students actively engaging with these?
5. Do you encourage your students to comment on class blogs at schools in your own and other parts of the world?
6. Have you and your students considered ways to involve their grandparents and retired people they know as a potential audience?
7. Do your students have ownership of the layout and theme of your class blog?
8. Do you frequently discuss the potential audience and purpose of blog posts?
9. Do you model good writing for your students by blogging yourself? ( A collective in-school blog doesn’t require a great time commitment).
10. Do you regularly read and comment on other teachers’ blogs and discuss your learning with your students?
11. Do you encourage students to take photographs of great learning experiences and share their reflections with the world?
12. Do you have a visitors map or a flag counter and check them every day with your class to see who has visited and where they are in the world?
13. Have you considered a class Twitter account to share learning and tweet your posts to other classes?
14. Have you thought about blogging as authentic writing, rather than another separate thing you have to fit in?
15. Do your students choose where to post their writing and thinking, with the blog as just one option?
16. Have you exposed your students to great blogs (not just class ones) so that they can discover what makes a blog appealing and interesting?
17. Have you helped your students see how blogging is different from other writing? Can they drill down to the essence of something, add images and use hyperlinks?
18. Do your students see the blog as an additional place to share and provoke thinking, and to make thinking visible?
19. Is your blog a place to continue the learning conversation from school to home and back?
20. Are you working on building a learning community which includes yourself, students, parents and other learners in your school and the world?