We’re all familiar with the power of writing to an authentic audience. It’s the difference between writing robotically for a grade, or writing with a natural voice and a clear purpose. Providing students with the opportunity to share writing with actual people has a substantial impact on motivation—especially for a reluctant writer—and will create risk-takers out of students who may otherwise “write within the lines.”
I am a new user of Kidblog. Prior to the start of the school year, I personally had never blogged. I rarely read blogs and I never offered blog-writing as an option for students. It just was not part of my repertoire. As with most educators today, I utilize technology in the classroom to an extent, but I never really discovered a way to get students using technology as a means of seeing themselves as authors. Most of the time we peer reviewed and communicated on the internet, but never to an external and unfamiliar audience. Students knew that their writing would likely only be read by their writing partner and by the teacher, so they were not inspired to take any risks with their thoughts or craft. When I heard about Kidblog from a colleague this past summer, I was sold. The wheels in my head began to turn as I envisioned students sharing their writing with other students, with their parents, and potentially with the unfamiliar public reader.
Educators know that students can experience nervousness and resistance to a new means of learning. We know this because we feel it too! Despite my excitement to introduce Kidblog to my students at the start of the school year, my own anxiety was palpable. How do I start? Do I really want to add something else to my plate? What if this doesn’t work out as I hope it will? Will my students even want to blog to an audience? Three months into blogging with Kidblog, I can tell you: start by playing. This will be one of the most sustaining items on your plate, it will probably work out better than you hope, and your students really, really want to blog!
The perspective of being a novice blogger allowed me to jump right in and learn how to use Kidblog by playing on the website. I read the Why Kidblog? section which gave me concrete ideas and expectations for my students’ blogging experiences. I also read the Blog entries which offered me insight, comfort, and inspiration. The day I rolled out Kidblog in my classroom, my plan was to have students join my classes and familiarize themselves with the various aspects of the site. I intended on assigning specific blog topics and tasks with guidelines after I felt comfortable with the blog myself and had all my ducks in order. But, my students were curious.
“When can we do our first blog?”
I was asked this question multiple times throughout the day. So, you’re asking me when you can start writing in your free time? I was a little surprised by my students’ excitement, and I was even more surprised when on their first evening of being members of a Kidblog classroom, multiple students published thoughtful, well-written, and creative blogs on their own time and with no instruction or incentive from my end. This was before I assigned any writing tasks. To me it was clear: My students want to write. They want to read each other’s ideas. They want to share and collaborate and produce. They want to take risks. On my first day of using Kidblog in the classroom, I clearly recognized that providing students with an outlet and an authentic audience gives them the drive to write. And personalizing their blog posts with photos, gifs, background colors, and fun fonts lets students show their personality and share with classmates their identity.
I still ask myself questions to improve my understanding of what student-authors are capable of, but my former apprehensions have been replaced with anticipation for the next post delivered to my Kidblog dashboard for publication. My understanding and use of Kidblog is still a work in progress; but I’m optimistic that as new users of Kidblog, my students have only just begun to unearth the authors within themselves.