Monday, November 9, 2015

Blogging for Engagement

Between course work, regular work, conference preparation, family / parental duties and triathlon training, I appear to have completely abandoned the idea of blogging.  This is not a good thing and I intend to change that starting now.

An interesting question arose in a discussion this week on GAFE (Google Apps for Education) ideas for the classroom.  A member of my grad school cohort suggested they would like to try blogging with their junior high school students.  However, they expressed concern for the students ability to stay on task.

I believe this is one of those moments when you need to take a leap of faith.  Students can surprise you! Especially, if they know their work is going to be published and commented on by their peers or "worse" complete strangers! I've seen it time and again where students panic after pushing Publish. Post or Send.  You've seen it too: "Oh no, I made a mistake!", "Can I get it back?", "Does it really stay on the Internet forever?"  Your students do listen to you - even if it doesn't seem that way - provided you have the conversation.

So how would I approach blogging with a class of junior high students?

  1. Have a conversation about publishing (including copyright and citation) and digital citizenship. Actually have a conversation!  That means not only telling them what you think they should hear but truly listening to your students concerns and addressing them appropriately.
  2. Set expectations.  Explain that you expect them to take their blogging seriously and that they are expected to respond to others post.  Let the golden rule be your guide and do unto others...
  3. Assign topics that are meaningful.  It's great to start off with the "What I did on Summer Vacation / Spring Break" because that's what they know and expect.  But, also give them insightful and important topics to consider.  Have them respond to a news article they read, create a tutorial on one of their hobbies and above all allow them to express themselves!
  4. Facilitate without impediment.  If your students have a tendency to get off task, analyze what is happening.  Are they really off task? Ask why? Are they looking for inspiration? Think about what you do when your mind gets blocked?  I'd guess you back off and do something else for a little while until you feel ready to come back and tackle the problem.  While we may go for a walk, students like to surf.  Blogging should be about personal engagement, self discovery and sharing.  Try not to impede the process.  If a student gets so off task or it becomes inappropriate, treat it for what it is - a classroom management issue and deal with it accordingly.
  5. Let the students own their work.  Once they have a handle on where their passion lies, you'll probably find they want to keep writing on that topic.  Let them! If they are writing about Minecraft or Taylor Swift, it may not be your "thing"; but, it is something they are particularly interested in and they are writing and meeting ISTE Standards for Students as well as a plethora of Common Core State Standards which should please you and your administration!
  6. Share their work! Create a classroom hashtag and let the world know your students have a voice. Post some of their work to your PLN each week and encourage positive feedback from your global colleagues.  This doesn't just apply to blogging but any published work on the web.  When students see "strangers" giving them praise, it boosts moral, self-esteem and encourages further engagement.  It also "keeps it real."  When it's not from someone they see everyday, it can have even more impact.
If you'd like to get started blogging with students I would highly recommend using BloggerEduBlogs or KidBlog.  They all have their special features and pros / cons that you should evaluate before choosing a platform.

As always, if this advice has been meaningful to you, please share it with your PLN on the social networks or leave a response below.

Cross-posted from the JMGubbins96 Reflection Blog
get your own embeddable forum with Talki