Why Blog With Students?
I thought about this carefully when I started using wikis and blogs with students way back in 2009. I researched to find the best and safest ways to work with students in a collaborative environment with students from other schools and in an authentic, public online space.
My colleagues and I with administration agreed on some basic curricular goals:
Our Blog is a site intended to enhance written discourse and media citizenship among students. We choose to matter, to make a difference.
- 1) develop and apply our writing skills as we read, write, and think about our interests, our learning, and our world;
- 2) consider and connect our writing skills, our learning, and our world to narrate, explain, and persuade in order to clarify and share our understandings;
- 3) understand audience, purpose, and format in mixed-media presentations to narrate, explain, and persuade;
- 4) engage others in conversations that consider additional concepts about our ideas;
- 5) collaborate with others to deliberate on and revise our language style decisions;
- 6) participate as positive, responsible, and productive citizens in the web world.
With these goals, we began our process of introducing students to the technology. For more information on Why Blog — see the document linked to in the “Blogging Guidelines” section of this post.
A History on Our Process
To protect student privacy and promote digital citizenship, the district developed various policies and parent permission forms. We even decided not to use students real names, but created usernames which were pseudonyms based on their real names which the students created. So Robert Smith might choose to be Romi — using Ro from Robert and Mi from Smith. Students could use group pictures without adding names.
Internet guidelines were discussed and applied daily in classrooms with technology. I know it was in mine.
Before students could begin using their computers at all, they learned our Netiquette Guidelines, which I see are still up on the district’s Digital Eagles site I created here. A generic handout is here. An ongoing goal of ours was to emphasize digital citizenship and the idea of digital identity– a footprint back to each of us.
Our process included several elements, including guidelines for goals, pedagogy, netiquette, and family participation. These ideas were pulled together in case others needed ideas or information. The Blogging Guidelines document is here and this is the Table of Contents of what is included:
Note: If you have a Google Account, you can make a copy, or choose File–> Download as and choose from options.
As you can see, we thought carefully for the needs and safety of our students, produced practices, policies, and procedures, and implemented a program of digital use through the daily practice of digital citizenship by students as they learned, collaborated, and published in authentic ways as 21st Century learners.
Our students helped each other decide if a publication was appropriate and followed our digital citizenship before the actual publication. Maintaining positive interactions, eliminating personal information, citing sources, using appropriately licensed images were daily practices.
Choosing approved apps like Google Sites, Padlet, or Thinglink as part of projects shared on their blogs reflected the student’s goals for audience and purpose.
In my middle school language arts classroom, we reflected continuously on our goals and essential questions as students made authentic choices as authors and publishers:
- How do researchers investigate successfully?
- What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?
- How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?
- How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?
- Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language ?
Blogging provided a platform for applying and reflecting on these questions and our goals while learning curricular goals and practicing a positive digital identity and citizenship– as was our original purpose.
What would change now, ten years later?
What would be added?