Blogging with students in a secondary school setting: Adjusting a vision to allow transformation

hs-students-blogging

A continuous process

One year and one term later, I consider myself a blog “toddler,” still learning. I have to constantly adjust my vision of the class blog to accommodate students’ writing needs. I accept that I will introduce the concept of blogging all over again to new classes filled with students proficient at creating YouTube content but oblivious to blogging for academic purposes. And I am okay with that. It has been interesting to observe student writers making the blog into what they need it to be. In fact, I look forward to many more school years in which our blog morphs and grows.

As my first school year of class blogging drew to a close, it was clear that my 10th and 11th grade English students had benefitted from the experience. They were slow to accept the blog as a legitimate and useful platform for their writing, but this blog became our “digital classroom annex.”  Students logged on to post all types of writing, to access documents associated with specific lessons, to make sure that they were prepared for upcoming lessons and to comment on their peers’ writing. They came to the realization that writing is a continuous process and they gained confidence as authors. Armed with this knowledge, these students will be more skillful writers. I am confident that their blogging experience has been worth the initial resistance.

A new course

This year, I am not teaching English. I am teaching 12th grade Communication Studies, the perfect course to take advantage of the communicative processes inherent in blogging. Some of these students were in my English class last school year. They are blog veterans. So, I took a step back with this group of students and let the vets orient the newbies to blogging. I will admit to pride as they taught each other how to sign on, explained how the blog helped them and jumped straight into writing blogs for various purposes.

The moment a newbie 12th grade Communication Studies student asked if she could create her own post, I gushed as I assured her that all of us in the class would read whatever she wrote.

As she and her classmates experiment, create and explore blogging, they:

  • adopt various roles as participants in real communication actions; the authors/senders, the peer-editors and the commenters/receivers each have their own function.
  • consider the niceties of productive interpersonal communication as they use the comment box to critique classmates’ posts in a respectful yet constructive manner.
  • eliminate time and location barriers to communication in order to collaborate and exchange ideas.
  • use the blog as an archive to preserve authorial innovation.

Evaluating blogging

Teachers rely on quantitative and qualitative data to measure the effectiveness of academic initiatives, but the effectiveness of blogging is tied to so many other factors that it is nearly impossible to objectively evaluate it by itself.  I will say that student blogging facilitates fluid interactions with writing (both as authors and as audience). Subjectively, as well as objectively, students now have this online platform upon which they can manipulate text in more and more creative ways.  For anecdotal evidence of the power of this blogging platform, I think of several students who are no longer in my class who wish they were still blogging. I also think of current students, who will interrupt a lesson to ask if I can post some relevant article or video link or notes on the blog.  These students have set up email notifications so that when anything new is posted on the blog, they will know about it.  They discuss each other’s posts face to face and comment about posts online.

I look forward to the first day of school in a September not too far away, when the students who enter my class will come with prior blogging experience, but until that happens, I have the privilege of escorting my secondary school students into the world of blogging.

About the Author
Mavis Small Abednego is teacher of English, Literature and (most recently) Communication Studies at the Elmore Stoutt High School in the British Virgin Islands. She holds a Masters in Reading Education and has been teaching for 23 years. Mavis has been a debate team coach for the past 7 years and enjoys seeing students blossom through debate. Mavis lives on Tortola with her husband and son and she has a view of St. John across a sparkling, azure sea dotted with sailboats.

4 comments

  1. Susanna

    Very interesting series on blogging in the classroom setting. As a sometime blogger myself one obstacle I’ve experienced is belief that I have something of value to say. Blogging is about giving yourself a voice – kudos to you for persisting!

    • May Small

      You are so right. But how does any writer know that what she has say has value? It’s that thrill of uncertainty that both my students and I struggle with; that and serious cases of writer’s block

  2. K. Forbes

    Awesome work, Mav. Isn’t it great when students are able to find value in something that you value? I love that the idea of blogging helps students to see that their thoughts matter. Keep up the good work. After reading your article, I think I may want to try this with my students next year. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • May Small

      Thanks, K. The more relentless I am with blogging, the more my students discover the usefulness of it. And nothing compares to the light in the eye of a 16-year-old boy who, in January, says, “Teacher, did you see my homework? I posted on the blog!”
      That big grin; all while I am thinking, “I have only been asking for this since September,” but actually saying, “Well done!”

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