It has been a goal of mine for a couple of years now to facilitate more collaboration for my students that extends beyond the walls of our classroom and our school.
To that end, I set my students up with blogs (via Edublogs.org) nearly 2 years ago.
What's so great about bloging?
- I can access them instantly and leave feedback;
- others can view their blogs (peers, teachers, family, friends, community members, and the global audience) at any time to see what they are learning;
- they provide an ongoing log of what goes on over the course of time – in a week, in a project, in a year;
- kids can post a variety of media to support their writing; and,
- editing is quick and easy.
I thought blogging would instantly transform my classroom into a globally connected, deeply engaging place rich with student inquiry. This was not the case.
I was immediately able to connect with some teachers in other parts of the world via Twitter to have their students leave comments on my students' blogs! My students thought it was really cool that they were getting comments from Mississippi and Australia. Too soon, though, they realized that writing on blogs was still writing – which many of them hate. I chalked this up to the fact that I was giving them blog "assignments" with very little structure. Things like, "make a post to your blog reflecting on our last project."
Last year, I decided to give less blog "assignments" but to make the required posts more structured. I mainly had them using their blogs as digital portfolios. I gave them very clear prompts to guide their post structure and reflection. However, almost no students took advantage of the opportunity to use their blog in whatever way they saw fit. In other words, it wasn't theirs.
Why? Because I forgot about the connection!
They were basically blogging for me. Answering my prompts. Getting my feedback.
While I plan to continue the digital portfolio aspect of our blogging this year, I hope to streamline it and make it a little less structured. I'm trying to home in on the appropriate level of "boundedness" for their blogging environment.
Unfortunately, I don't think I've fully harnessed any of these aspects! In fact, I've criminally ignored the most powerful one – connection to the outside world!
So, my collaboration goals for this coming year are centered around blogging:
- to get my students blogging more often;
- with much more freedom and choice;
- about a greater variety of topics;
- while integrating a greater variety of embedded media; and,
- to a larger and more participatory audience!
How, you ask, do I plan to do this?
- Advertise student blogs from the start of the year, via Twitter, my blog, school newsletters, my course syllabi, email campaigns, word of mouth, etc.;
- Give prompts that involved choice and freedom within the context of our current project;
- Have students blog regularly (at least weekly);
- Revisit step #1 regularly to keep it "out there"; and,
- Seek partner classrooms/ schools to collaborate with via blogs, Skype, etc.
Image used under CC license, courtesy of the Flickr photostream of crazytales562