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Friday, December 5, 2008

The Prose of Blogging - Rama Ramaswami (THE Journal)

The cover article of the November 2008 THE Journal is on blogging in the classroom. "The Prose of Blogging (and a Few Cons, Too)" asks if blogging, an ever-growing tool that has changed how we get our information, can really improve student writing. Because there has been very little research done on this still fairly new technology, it's a difficult question to answer, more so prove to non-tech believers. Barry Bachenheimer of Caldwell-West Caldwell Public Schools conducted one of the first studies in an English and Spanish class at his school. In both classes, students said that blogging helped their writing skills and that they felt better about their writing. As you read through how the experts quoted see blogs being used in the classroom, which part do you feel most strongly about? Or which do you agree with the most and why?
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19 comments:

Beth said...

Before reading about blogging and learning in the classroom I have to say I wasn't so keen on it. Seeing how it can benefit students of all age levels including kindergarten, gave me a different aspect over blogging use.

Students reported an increase in motvation to write, have greater accuracy and that blogging helped them create better ideas.

This article talks about how 3rd graders used what they talked about in blogs to transfer to other curriculum areas. If this is happening in one school it will happen with others. Students also learned and have better typing and technology skills after learning and using blogs.

With improved attitudes, better final products, and students wanting to write, I can only see positive to classroom blog if the technology is available to do it.

ZooAcademy said...

It can be used educationally with students I think. My problem is figuring out how to make it part of the cirriculum and stimulating the students to be creative and not rambling or should I say random. There would be a few mistakes but once we saw the products created by the students it would be easy to mold it into strong educational material.
If I had computers that were dependable and from this century I would be very interested in beginning this. I know it would lead to much better use of technolgy and whatever else may be coming down the pike.
Final thoughts are that writing something is obviously better than writing nothing. If it helps the student with creativity or stimulating thought it has to be positive.

J Allen said...

I think Pat's point about finding a place for blogging is valid. I've seen a lot of classrooms that will do an end-of-the-day summary, which I think could be very beneficial for an off-campus academy. A lot of times they put one person in charge per day or week and they are in charge of finding time, either at school or at home, to write a summary of the day. Knowing they are going to do it may focus their attention a little deeper. You just have to make sure, like all technology, that it doesn't take away from your purpose.

J Allen said...

Right after I posted my last comment, I found this blog post about Soup.io, which has a group blog feature. I haven't tested it, but it may be something to take a look at. http://freetech4teachers.blogspot.com/2008/12/soupio-simple-yet-feature-packed.html

csteede said...

I think that anytime we can insert technology into the curriculum we should. That is the gadget being used world wide. I like that the New Jersey school principal had a certain number of teachers test technology in the curriculum, which also showed me BUY IN from the top down which I feel is very important. I guess my question is, "why wouldn't blogging increase a student's writing skills?" If carefully monitored, expectations given up front and some modeling used in the "how to's" of blogging. This would also teach students to be responsible for what they have said in a blog. I think when using a blog, lots of ideas, etc are proposed making students use some skills that they may never do in a paper pencil assignment.

J Allen said...

I think that a powerful part of blogging is the pressure of an online audience. You are opening yourself up to EVERYONE. Which is also a reason I like starting with Gaggle. It is more monitored and is a practice activity that can be kept in house as students practice their blogging. Again though, it has to serve a valuable purpose and not take away from the quality curriculum and instruction you are providing for you students. Don't blog to blog. Blog to improve your writing and communicate all of the wonderful ideas and projects your students have.
I will also say that, to me, the biggest touting in the article goes to how the students "feel" about their writing. They did talk about how Spanish scores improved, but didn't talk much about how the other class' scores improved. Now, scores aren't everything, but feeling good about your writing doesn't make your writing better. I'm not discounting the study, because some very good information came from it, but I can see the fact that they talked about student feelings in writing as being a red flag to ed tech critics.

jfrevert said...

Josh just addressed a concern I felt as I reviewed this article: Yes, the students felt their writing improve, but what did teachers find? The small Spanish example said the teacher felt the students were better prepared for the AP exam, but what about the larger numbers in the English classes? I often find my students over-rating their own work when using the same writing rubric we teachers use. Additional research with expert evaluation of writing improvement needs to be done. Anybody interested in helping conduct some important research???

Josh also addresses that we need to avoid blogging for blogging's sake. It needs to be a tool to help us improve our students' ability to effectively communicate in writing. It's a positive that blogging provided motivation; now we need to develop meaningful activities and the means for providing constructive feedback.

Sandy Science said...

When choosing whether or not to blog, I think the comment about the purpose for teaching made the most sense, "We want to do X or Y, what would be the best tool to accomplish this?"
I think we must keep our purpose for teaching and then use the tool that will get the job done. If blogging is a tool that will encourage communication between students, then we should use it. I could see a real benefit trying to reach quiet or reserved students. Sometimes students feel more comfortable writing than they do speaking in a crowed classroom. I still have students that won't share unless they are in small groups.
I recently made an observation of our hallways after school. As students were leaving they were either talking or texting as they walked. My own kids cannot set down their cell phones for more than a few minutes. Kids today want to be connected. If blogging encourgages this, then let's use it. We just need to be mindful of the reasoning behind what we are doing.

Elizabeth said...

I was with Beth about my feelings about Blogging in the classroom, I didn't really see a place for it. After reading this article, I am impressed about how different classrooms and schools are using it.

I know my students would be more excited about writing and peer feedback if they were able to blog about it. As I was reading, all I could think about is how long it would take for my students to type out their writing and comment on others through a blog. I am glad how the article addressed how their typing skills improved throughout they year. It makes sense because they would be practicing those skills throughout the year.

I see how students attitudes about writing would imporve by using blogging because of the power technology has in the classroom. Students writing can only improve with a tool like this.

Melissa said...

Before beginning this class, I had heard of blogging and thought I knew its purpose, until learning more about it during class. I think it's a great way for students to communicate about what they are reading and writing. The key to it being successful is making sure it's facilitated properly. The way we teach our students to use blogging as a communication tool will determine whether or not it's successful. I was getting ready to introduce blogging to a group of 6th graders, and when I met with Josh to plan out how to teach them, he said something that stuck with me: "blogging is for opinions". So, my students will blog about their opinions about what they are reading. When I ask them to respond to some questions, it will be different. Now, I do wonder if this will hinder their ability to discuss their opinions face to face. We all now it's easier to share our feelings/opinions through writing than it is verbally in person. So, that being said, I think blogging can be a very useful tool in the classroom, as long as the students understand the purpose of using it. I think that's just what the author of this article was trying to say.

Kali said...

I think any time you add technology you increase students' engagement and motivation. I was very skeptical about blogging in school before this class and really thinking about what you could do with blogging. First of all, students in 4th grade don't have the best typing skills. For some, it can take forever for anything to get done. I like the comment that this would help their typing skills and would get better over time. I remember doing typing class in 3rd grade. Students don't get any lessons in typing anymore. Doing our state projects though, I have seen the more they play on it, the better they get. I liked this article because it did give me a better idea on what we could do in class. The key is for students to see the purpose and learning behind it.

J Allen said...

I think Melissa's point about hindering face to face "debates," for lack of a better term, can be valid. It's important not to completely do away with face to face discussions. Having a discussion online, with the ability to collect your thoughts and not have to think on the fly is what gets your quieter and/or less confident kids to speak up and keeps others from dominating the conversation. Blogging is definitely an alternative to the face to face, one that is becoming more and more popular and mainstream.

jfrevert said...

Josh's comment made me think about my students and how important it is to help them learn to support reasons for peer feedback, both positive and constructive. If they start by doing that through blogging, I can see the next step to be to help them do it face-to-face. Sometimes, even we as adults hide behind email when we disagree with something or someone. I think it's important to help our students learn to feel confident in their abilities to present a disagreement both in writing and in person.

Jana said...

I can see that there are benefits to blogging. While reading the article, I tried to think of ways to incorporate blogging into art. Blogging would be a great way for students to make comments on other's artwork. Maybe for within the school, but also nationally or even globally. It would be an opportunity to connect with people outside of the school walls.

jody said...

This article was a good follow-up to the previous article about schools of the future. Blogging seems to be a way to integrate technology in a useful manner. I liked this quote from the article:

The kids know the technology. What they don't often know is how the technology can change them as students.

I would have to second that for me as a teacher. I would like to use technology in a way that is not gimicky. This could be a great way for me to start.

Lindsey said...

Once again, I feel that this (blogging) is another way to help students connect with people from many different places and cultures which cannot be done with more tradtional ways of writing. if students can discuss and comment on writings of people in different situations than they are, it will only create more open minded students. I have never been very interested in writing, so anything that will encourage and motivate students to write and improve their writing is something that I must say is positive. Blogging will also improve their typing, a skill that is basically mandatory in today's world.
One issue I have with only online writing is that many blogs and e-mail systems have automatic spelling and grammar checks, which does not help the student learn how to use proper grammar and spelling. Once they have to use verbal or actual written (pen and paper) communication, their lack of knowledge in this matter will show.

jkimball said...

I think the positives highly outweigh the negatives when talking about the blogging research from the article. The students were more motivated to write and created better ideas while blogging, as well as increasing their typing and technology skills.

I think the students would pick it up quickly and enjoy this form of writing more then the traditional way. I know I would have if it would have been available to me.

Anonymous said...

I feel that blogging removes some threat of being inadequate and agree with Jody that students have the technology (usually more than me) and are willing to take risks in expressing themselves. I too would like to use technology so that it is not a gimmick.... When asking for volunteers for researching a figure in history relevant to our course of study, I get more when they can use a method of technology to present the information. They also seem more open to constructive criticism.

B. Cole

Barry Bachenheimer said...

I enjoyed reading several of the comments here. I'm glad many of you are thinking of taking the plunge into blogging with your students. In my experiences, it engages them, gets them writing, and is a forum to exchange ideas beyond the 45 minutes you have them in class. (Check out this video http://plethoratech.blogspot.com/2007/04/42.html)

The important thing to remember is that technology is a tool, not a goal. The goal is learning. Computers (and blogs) are but one way to get to a goal of student engagement, learning, and understanding.