Essential Question: Why could blogging change, or not change, the traditional classroom?
I think in general, blogging is a great way to make connections with people you may normally never have met. Through my personal blog, I have made friends with people who share my hobby (knitting) in Manhattan, Chicago, Minnesota, and San Diego. And those are only the ones I have become closest to- there are many many more.
My roommate uses blogging to write about her baking and interview local musicians since she is heavily involved in those two fields. Through her blog she was able to secure a writing position on a well known music blog, as well as also make some new friends.
I could tell so many similar stories of how reading and writing blogs can bring us closer to people we don't know in our everyday lives. This is the aspect of blogging that teachers wish to connect with- bridging communication between student and other students, teachers, administrators, parents, the community, and the world at large.
I think one important aspect that can greatly help students is that when other people (i.e., not their teacher) read and comment on their blogs, they can feel a sense of value in their work. When a teacher reads a piece of their writing, throws a grade on the top, and hands it back to the student, the student only sees the teacher's value of their work. By allowing the global community to have access to and ability to comment on their work, students can see varying opinions of what they think. Isn't this more like the real world anyway? When a book is released, it is reviewed by many people- professionals and the general public. Why then should we limit who can review student work and give it value to a single teacher (maybe two in the case of SpEd inclusion classes)? A teacher may not understand the reasoning behind why a student writes something, but maybe another student or reader can relate to what he/she has written.
I think blogging could also help students connect their school life with their home life. I'm sure everyone remembers some version of this story:
Student and Parent sit down to dinner with the rest of the family. Parent asks, "How was school today?" Student responds, "Fine." Parent asks, "What did you learn today?" Student says, "Nothing important."
Or how about this one:
Student puts a frozen meal into the microwave. Student sits at the table and eats dinner. Parent is in the office finishing up some work from the day, eating leftovers alone.
Parents and their children often do not have the greatest communication for a variety of reasons. But say this student had a blog for school. The class uses the blog for reflections, posting of assignments, posing questions for the readers, etc. This blog is out there for anyone to read, including the parent. So long as the fact that the student's blog exists is communicated to the parent (from the school, teacher, student), the parent will be able to see firsthand what the student is doing in school and can comment along with the rest of the world. I think this is an important consideration that Educational Blogging failed to mention or make note of.
Of course, the article did point out that teachers assigning students writing prompts or requiring them to use the blog is not "true blogging." I say, so what? No, not everyone wants to put their life or opinions out there for the whole world to read about. Blogging just isn't for everyone. So maybe some of the students won't continue to use their blogs after the school year. They most likely won't have access to them after graduation anyway since it seems the schools that are utilizing blogging are using software specific to the school. The school is not going to maintain a student's space on their servers after they graduate, nor are they going to risk the lawsuit liabilities for a former student who is also likely to be a legal adult.
In the district I currently sub in (elementary schools), Blogger is completely blocked. There is no access to any site that runs off blogger. By integrating the use of blogs in the classroom, will the schools stop blocking other blogging sites? Teaching our students that the purpose of blogging is so that they can freely express themselves is a bit hypocritical when the school won't let these students view other blogs. I think this is a big consideration for any teacher who is debating using a blog with his/her students. Because of this, a teacher can't even create a class blog on his/her own. No one would be able to access it while they are at school, making it difficult for children to make any use of it.
Blogging would completely alter how we think of classrooms. Students would be able to post their assignments on their blogs, where the teacher and all their classmates would be able to read and comment on it. This could promote outside discussions that could also carry over into the classroom. Also, it would provide the students who don't normally volunteer to speak during class the opportunity to provide their commentary on classroom topics.
It would provide students with a place for reflection on what they are learning in school. I agree with the article that the teacher shouldn't always give a required post, but providing a choice of prompts for students when they are feeling uninspired could be helpful. There are so many topics for students: reflect on what you've learned; was there anything you didn't understand from today's lesson?; what is something you learned today?; what did you think of the lesson?; what would you like to know more about?; share something you've found online related to the lesson; plus a myriad questions that would be related to the actual topic.
Because I'm only family with the functionality of Blogger, I'm going to comment on some of their features here. Using Blogger for the classroom I think would be amazing. Many accounts can be linked to one blog (say, the classroom blog) and everyone can contribute their own posts. It would wind up being just like a continually updated classroom newspaper available to everyone online. Also, Blogger has added the "Pages" feature, where you can have multiple pages to separate the information being shared. Important and relevant links can be shared in a sidebar widget- the school and district websites, state standards, interesting websites, child-friendly sites, etc. Blogs (or at least Blogger that I know of) give anyone the opportunity to basically have their own website usually free and so easy! I think they are a great resource for any classroom, as long as the districts start loosening their patrolling of what web-content is available in the schools.