Okay, so in my second Lausanne Laptop Institute post I said that I went to the conference with expectations. Specifically, I wanted to find out how I will use the new technology we’ve been so blessed with (I consider it a blessing, others may not) to enhance my teaching practice, to increase my students’ engagement in my classes, to help my students learn in the best ways possible.
The topic in which I was most interested was blogging in the classroom. I’ve done a lot of research on it, yet it is one thing to read about it and another to actually talk to educators who’ve done it and see it in action. There were several teachers who gave presentations on blogging in the classroom; those sessions made the difference in helping me determine the framework I’ll use this academic year to get me off to a good start.
Lynn Mittler from MICDS (Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School in St. Louis, MO) gave a session on Nonfiction Blogging in the Classroom. In her classroom, all of her students have blogs, and they blog on issues that are of interest to them as individual students. It is a way for students to learn how to read closely, develop skills in listening, writing, developing an audience, and demonstrating understanding of texts. I took three big ideas from this session.
- Students’ blogs are public, but not so public as to cause privacy issues for students. The students use their first names only when identifying themselves on their blogs, which I will definitely implement with my students as well.
- When students are required to defend their ideas, they have to use links to other sites other than Wikipedia or YouTube (because if you can find stuff there, why do the assignment?). The idea is to use other sources like online academic databases to find material to support their ideas. Again, I will implement this idea, since we have so many online resources from which to choose at the Carlyle Fraser Library!
- Blogging and commenting are skills – if I might say, 21st century skills. If I ask my students to blog, I must blog to model what writing blog posts and commenting on posts should look like.
Okay, so hopefully you’re still with me.
The second session I attending related to blogging in the classroom was presented by Jeff Whipple in a session entitled, “Learning to Blog, Blogging to Learn.” He started out by asking three questions: What am I doing everyday in my classroom to:
- Produce information artisans,
- Develop networked learners,
- Manage digital footprints?
(Forgive me if the punctuation above is a little off…)
Assuming you believe 21st century skills should be developed in our students, these are noteworthy questions to ask. Of course, blogging is a great way for students to tell their stories and develop all three of these skills. But the greatest takeaway for me was how students can use their blogs as e-portfolios, especially if they start their blogs as high school freshmen. Imagine a student starting a blog highlighting their work as freshmen, reflecting on that work continually, and then when it’s time to apply for colleges, having a portfolio of tangible work to which they can point admissions officials. No more trying to remember what they learned and writing a random essay about it! Having a body of work to refer to can be a powerful tool when it comes time for a student to talk about who he or she is as an individual. As a parent, I will be implementing this for my daughter later on.
Okay, so because this post is longer than I thought it would be, I’m going to stop now. But I want to whet your appetite for the last two sessions I want to talk about in my next post. The first is managing your own web brand (have you Googled your name yet to find out what the internet is saying about you?) and the last was how to manage blogging as a teacher without it becoming overwhelming. These last two sessions brought everything together for me, so stay tuned for the last installment! I’ll also show you the blogs I’ve started for my classes in a few weeks.
Let me know your thoughts, experiences, questions, and concerns on blogging in your classrooms! I’d love to hear from you.