Could you help me start a blog for my literature class?”
That question posed to me by a teacher the other day truly warmed the cockles of my heart (pardon the quaint expression). I thought the idea of leveraging her students’ new-found interest in poetry through a classroom blog was a brilliant one. Writing poems is just the kind of Language Arts activity that can benefit immensely from a forum for publishing and an audience of readers (for praise and critique) in teachers, parents and most of all, peers.
“Blogging in the classroom”, or rather “Blogging in K-12” – it’s a slow but sure trend in urban schools in India – one that I’m happy to fan along in any way I can, because I see such tremendous possibilities in these common platforms for expression and discourse that extend beyond the four walls of the classroom.
As explained in my earlier article, blogs are akin to online journals, but they are much more than that. The ease with which others can read and comment on a blog post, and the ability to link to any other resource on the Internet, makes it a powerful tool in the hands of teachers and students. Will Richardson’s group blog on the high school English text “The Secret Life of Bees” which had students reflecting on the text, engaging in discussions with each other and the teacher, and also had the author of the book responding to student questions and comments, is an exemplar of how potent the blog can be as a tool for collaborative learning which engages every student. (You can read more about Will Richardson’s pioneering work with Web 2.0 tools in the classroom on his blog “weblogg-ed” (http://weblogg-ed.com) and in his book Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms published in 2006).
Blogs set up by the teacher can be used as a class website for organizing classroom work e.g. posting announcements, assignments, resources, notes and such. The teacher can also set up ‘group blogs’, as in the example above, for collaborative discussions and reflections. Students can set up ‘group blogs’ for planning, organizing and reflecting on collaborative work that the teacher supervises, follows and gives feedback on. Finally, students can set up personal blogs for publishing their writing or their reflections on their learning, which their peers as well as their teacher can read and comment on.
Personal student blogs can also help create a paperless classroom where the blog becomes an online filing space for students to archive their work, and in effect, creates a space for an online portfolio of work. Blogs also serve as useful self and teacher assessment tools. Since all blog posts are on one site (in reverse chronological order) it’s very easy for students and teachers to look back over student work and chart student growth over the course
of the year.
As described above, blogs in K-12 can have various purposes – as a quasi-course management site maintained by the teacher alone; or a collaborative platform for sharing ideas by the teacher as well as the students; or a personal space for publishing maintained by individual students that the class (or even the school community at large) has access to. Having used blogs in all these different ways with my students (who are actually teachers in professional development programs), I think it’s important for teachers to be aware of the different ways in which blogs can be set up and used – driven, as it were, by the purpose of setting up this collaborative learning space.
In my next article in this series, I will describe some easy how-to’s and freely available resources that would be useful for teachers eager to start blogging in their classrooms.