The Next Step in Blogging

 

“When we simply bring a traditional mind-set to literacy practices, and not a mind-set that understands new literacies into the process of digital writing, we cannot make the substantive changes to our teaching that need to happen in order to embrace the full potential of collaboration and design that digital writing offers.”

                                                                                          -Troy Hicks, “The Digital Writing Workshop” (p 2)

 

The first time I read this quote, I paused and took a deep breath.  There’s so much power in this one quote that I have returned to it time and time again; each time it makes me ask if I am doing enough.  It’s probably the quote that pushed me to dig deeper and work to provide my students with more digital opportunities.  It’s probably this quote that pushed me to make changes in my practice that would open new doors for students.  It’s this quote that made me reach beyond my classroom and let go of some of the control I had hung onto in our daily learning.

When I first began blogging with students, I was a bit concerned about sending their writing out into the world so I kept our classroom page closed to outside viewers.  Students would write a post, and friends in our classroom would comment.  Certainly, I noticed some significant changes from this work.  As students selected their writing topics and posted for our community, they began to develop an understanding of audience.  It wasn’t long until I noticed they would choose stronger titles, work harder to revise and edit their message, and think thoughtfully about topics that might interest their peers.  It wasn’t long until they were using other media to create, and then sharing these new compositions with friends.  It wasn’t long until they were writing from home so they could share creations they had built, hobbies they were developing, or special interests they had beyond our day.  As they read each other’s writing, they grew as a community and began talking to each other in new ways.  They provided feedback to one another, not the formulaic feedback we can teach, but the kind that truly responds and reacts to a writer’s message.

Going Public

At this time, I had friends who had opened their class blogs to the public.  When we would get together, they’d talk about comments they received from parents, grandparents, older peers in the school, and readers across the globe.  They talked about the impact this connection had on their writers and how well it was going.  Finally, I began to realize I was holding my students back yet again.

It was time for a change.  My students were blogging on Kidblog; I already moderated their posts and their comments, I reasoned.

Kidblog really allows three ways to shift the reach of student work:

  1. The classroom community is open to peers.  In using this setting, the blog remains closed to outside commenters.
  2. The classroom community links to other blogs or classrooms and provides permissions for those classrooms to comment (or sets individual permissions for people to comment).
  3. Student blogs remain open to all readers.  Teachers may adjust moderation settings to meet their needs.

Finally, I decided it was time to take the plunge.  I would continue to moderate posts and comments, but this would allow students to have a larger audience.  While I had noticed a change when students starting writing for one another in our community, the motivation was amplified as students started receiving comments from family, other students, and people around the world.  The first time a comment came in from outside of Ohio the students nearly burst with excitement.  When the first comment came from outside of the United States, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to contain them.

In Digital Reading:  What’s Essential, Franki Sibberson and Bill Bass talk about three anchors that are essential in the blending of digital opportunities (p. 13):

  1. Authenticity
  2. Intentionality
  3. Connectedness

While blogging had grown the authenticity and intentionality of student writing, it wasn’t until I opened our blog to outside readers that I truly began to realize the power of connectedness.

Making Connections

Many of our classrooms have started to blog this year, thanks to the purchase of Kidblog for our students.  Blogging changes student work as it gives student ownership in the creation of their compositions.  It provides writers an authentic audience as they learn to use this platform to compose in ways that make sense for their message.  It requires writers to work with intention and allows the opportunity for students to connect with other writers as well as reach readers with similar interests.

Blogging is a platform we can utilize to leverage new possibilities.  As we shift from traditional writing which was often done for the teacher, to writing that truly has a purpose and an audience, we help students move toward greater authenticity.  As blogging becomes less about accountability and more about ownership, what new opportunities will it create for our students?  As we begin to connect our classrooms with other learning communities, what do students learn about the strength of their voice?   If we open our classroom blogs to a larger audience, what do we teach our students about the power of their words?

Share Your Blog

HCSD Elementary Classrooms:  if your blog is open for readers, please share your classroom link here so others may connect with your learning community.  Remember you can connect  your students through Twitter using the hashtag: #HCSDblogs.

Cathy Mere, Elementary Literacy Instructional Leader, Hilliard City Schools. Cathy has taught grades K-6, worked as a Reading Recovery and reading support teacher, and served as a literacy coach. She believes in the power of children to shape, not just our future but, our today.  She writes at Reflect and Refine, Merely Day by Day, and Choice Literacy.