I don't remember when I first stumbled across blogs...but I thought it might be a useful tool for me in the classroom. Over the years I've wanted to use more technology in my classroom, and often started the year off with good intentions, but I never sustained it. Oh, I use the computer everyday to help me with forming my instruction, but the students don't have much opportunity to use computers. Or technology of any kind. There were many years I didn't even have an overhead projector. The computers I did have in my classroom were perpetual lemons. It was so anti-technology.
Sara Kajder and Glen Bull in their article "Scaffolding for Struggling Students: Reading and Writing with Blogs" (Learning and Leading with Technology Oct 2003) articulates all the reasons why I should use blogs.
- Economy--students know the forum to which they are writing requires succinct language. Hey! Anything that gives voice and audience focuses student writing!
- Archived--because the entries are dated, this serves as great documentation of student progress
- Feedback--publishing is one thing, but this whole forum fosters an environment that encourages feedback.
- Multimedia--hello? Technology! I'm loving being able to illustrate my posts, wouldn't my students? I loved the literary magazines my students would publish with artwork that either they or others submitted--and that was just on paper! Think of the possibilities with blogs!
- Immediacy--that's what our whole world is about! And each generation expects it more than the previous. Expects what? Instant gratification.
- Active Participation--students are writing for a purpose. They are reading their classmates' writings. It's so interactive.
But then Pessimistic Peggy (my alter ego) says:
"Are you friggin' nuts? What about security and privacy and making sure students don't post stuff that is completely inappropriate?"
Yea, so she's got a point. It's a scary place out in the big, bad WWW. And if any students are going to push the envelope and get me in trouble for exercising their right to free speech, it's going to be my students. I haven't even met them yet, but it's just my karma. I could probably talk to my tech person and get some Intranet thing going. It wouldn't be too bad just publishing within our school, but then we couldn't share it with the world!
You know, other schools are doing this. They have stringent usage policies. Parents could be made aware of the dangers of not paying attention to student Internet usage at home (danger is greater at home since most schools have zealous content blockers). And if a blog is created for school, it has to adhere to the policies.
Pessimistic Peggy also said, "How are you going to assess student blogs? We're talking 150 students! Are you on drugs?!?! You know how confusing it could be to have all those sites floating out there. Plus, exactly what are you going to assess?"
Peggy has my back, you know, but this issue isn't half as bad as the potential evil use of technology. Of course it depends what is in their blogs as to how I'll evaluate them! Duh! And it's not like I'd read the whole thing everytime--a piece at a time. But then that part about being confused...well, she has a point. Although I wouldn't have to carry home a stack of papers or notebooks, it is harder for me to manage things I cannot touch. I don't care how long I've been using a computer, that concept is still tough for me. And although I can look forward to everything being legible (unlike some students' handwriting), it is harder for me to read off a screen for a long time--not to mention all that scrolling. But I'll just strap on my wrist guard and my glasses and I'll be fine. (Do I sound geriatric or what?)
Actually, a friend of mine sent me some info on blogs that some outstanding teachers are doing in their classrooms, and for many the focus is on CLASSROOM or SMALL GROUP BLOGS. The NWP Blog Project has some great resources. Why not start with baby steps, Khrys? Duh! Do a classroom blog! Showcase some work! Or have students do some response group stuff on a blog. I think the NWP Blog Project is going to be my new best friend. Well, that and Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed site. Perusing those sites will keep me busy for a good long time as I explore using blogs in my own classroom. Oh yea. Baby steps.