When I first joined the faculty at a mid-size regional university, I expected my students to have had experience with a variety of tech tools and to feel comfortable experimenting with social media platforms. I was surprised to find that the majority of my students, who also happen to be preservice teachers, had limited experience using tech tools and many of them felt intimidated and overwhelmed by the idea of incorporating technology, especially social media, into their coursework and future classrooms.
In our teacher preparation program for early childhood through 6th grade certification, preservice teachers complete two full semesters of student teaching. The first semester (internship) includes two full days in the field under the supervision of mentor teachers and university field supervisors and one full day of seminar at the university. The seminar consists of field-based content area courses and is team-taught by several university faculty members. Historically, the interns have submitted a 2-3 page reflection journal entry every week for the duration of the semester. The interns were encouraged to write about their experiences in the schools, including teaching, observing their mentor teachers and students, experimenting with classroom management strategies, etc. These journal entries were turned in to the field supervisors, who would read them, make comments, and return them to the interns.
I decided to alter this practice by introducing a group reflection blog. The purpose of the blog was two-fold; I wanted my preservice teachers to experience educational blogging at Kidblog, and I wanted to create a safe space where they could reflect and connect with one another in a private manner. My hope was to help them create a community where they could share their excitement, frustrations, and ideas with others who were going through the same experience. I also hoped they would gain confidence so that they would not be intimidated by the idea of blogging in meaningful and fun ways in their future classrooms. I told them this was a place for us to share ideas and learn from each other.
I started the group blog with an introductory post in which I shared my vision and hope for what the blog could be, as well as the following guidelines:
- Blog post topics will not provided. The idea was for you to be creative and make it your own. There may be times when we aren’t able to touch on all aspects of a topic, so you may choose to write about that and initiate an additional conversation. You may also want to write a personal reflection on your internship, share an additional resource or article that relates to a topic we discuss in seminar, share a teaching or classroom management strategy you have learned about from your mentor teacher, etc. Make use of the tools to add photos, videos, etc. when appropriate.
- Comments are encouraged, but please remember to respond in a professional manner. Remember our discussion forum expectations and netiquette.
I admit I was a little disappointed by their initial reaction to the blog idea. I heard a lot of “Do we have to comment on every single blog post?” and “I plan on teaching kindergarten, so why do I need to know about blogging?” or my favorite “Will we be graded on this?” I asked them to be open-minded and to trust me.
Throughout the semester, these preservice teachers wrote insightful blog posts about a wide range of topics including flexible seating, special education inclusion, Whole Brain teaching, introverts in the classroom, vocational education, and student motivation. Then came the post titled “Blogging about Blogging.” One of the interns wrote a post about how he had been required to participate in a class blog almost every semester in college and dreaded it each time—until this blog. He came to the conclusion that he enjoyed participating in our blog because they were able to write about a topic of their choice. Other interns chimed in and agreed that choice made all the difference in their attitude toward our group blog. The discussion in the comments section continued with the connection between choice reading and choice writing for their future students and how, if having a choice made such an impact on them as preservice teachers, they could only imagine the impact choice would have on their future students. This was an exciting culmination of our initial blogging experience and I can’t wait to see how it evolves this semester as they set out to complete their student teaching experience.