Friday, July 6, 2007

Summer Stock

Almost a month since the school bells rang for the last time before summer vacation, it is just about now that I can begin to relax. It's also given me some time to do some remodeling on my class website and reflect on what I've learned about blogging in the classroom this year. Er, maybe I should say, "outside of the classroom."

I believe I've learned more about my students' experience with blogging from my experience here at ifbeesarefew. Knowing this I would highly recommend to any teacher who is planning on creating a blog for his or her classes to also create their own blog or at least participate regularly in a blog.

Here's what I've learned:

Getting started is difficult--almost every time. Posting is scary, partly because, if you make a mistake everyone can see it, and partly because its possible that no may read what you are writing.

Writing develops thinking. As the great British teacher and research of writing Nancy Martin always contended, I think as I write. If I have no idea as to what to write a post on, all I have to do is sit down and start writing. Before I know it I have a post.

Ownership leads to quality. The same fear creates the positive results of ownership. When I blog I really care what I write, and my writing is generally better because of this care.

Readership (and comments) encourage a blogger. When I get a comment, note a jump in my counter, or see a new city pop up in my visitor map, I get excited to think others are reading. Having an audience matters also shapes my "voice." Again, the "care" factor kicks in. For a variety of reasons an audience matters full-stop.

Writing models are powerful tools. I use others' posts as models. I have learned more about how to write, lead in, quote, document, give analysis, and develop ideas in my blog posts thanks largely to great models of others' blogs.

Ease allows for length and length for depth. Although most blogs require brevity, as a teacher, I know I encourage my students to write more than they would on their own. And there is something about filling up a blog post dialogue box that seems easy (as I say, once one gets started) than filling up a regular word-document. The conversational nature of blogging also seems to call forth "voice" more than conventional word-processing. So as my students wax on, they deepen their thinking/writing.

Brevity calls for precision and economy. For me, length is not a problem, once I get started. And so the challenge is to be concise and precise. Again, a valuable writing skill for my students.

As I said, I've learned about my students by learning about myself. My hunch is that the above attributes and experiences that are true for me are true for my students as well. They confirm a value I as a teacher see in having my students blog--if only for the sake of improving their writing and thinking skills, let alone practice in media literacy and civic responsibility.

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