Blogging with students in a secondary school setting: Confronting reluctance and resistance

empty-page

The right resources

Eager and enthusiastic, I returned from summer vacation 2015 ready to have my students dive right into blogging. It seemed that serendipity had smiled upon me at the 2015 International Literacy Conference. My friend and I (and the room packed full of educators) were looking forward to a session focused on using technology to support Language Arts classrooms.  The presenters did not show up. But She did.

I don’t remember her name, but I do remember that she eagerly stood up, joked about being ‘stood up’ and introduced herself. She was a tech coach in her school district and she just happened to have a presentation of useful internet tools for teachers. After a resounding ‘yes’ from the crowd, off she went, showing us a dizzying array of free and low-cost internet resources, including some popular blog sites.

As summer faded and the new term loomed on the horizon, my friend and I enthusiastically investigated the practicality of these resources. Our goal was to identify tools that would not only engage our 10th and 11th grade Language Arts students but also provide them with opportunities for real writing (quite different from academic writing with its artificially limited audience).  We identified a few blog sites and some tools that would make our students sit up and take notice. We were so certain that our students would be excited that I secretly feared that we would be inundated with writing from out budding authors.  How would we manage it all? Would we have the time to give adequate feedback? Would we have to juggle the huge lists of users for the blog? It would be amazing and a lot of work, so we thought.

Reality check

Especially intriguing to me was the level of control that we had on the audience; students could share their work with just me, with their classmates, with other students in the school and, if we chose, audiences outside of the school. It seemed to be the perfect balance of safety and real-life. They would love it.

And then reality hit. Honestly, I still can’t pinpoint the exact obstacles; why my students were so reluctant to engage in an academic-digital context. But I can share my experiences, frustrations and disappointments and I can share my tiny victories.

Reluctance and resistance was the first response to my invitation to blog.

Reluctant writers

My 11th grade students were reluctant. I had taught them last year and they knew better than to be outrightly defiant.  I introduced them to the class blog page that I had set up. After explaining that we would now have the opportunity to become writers with real audiences, I expounded on the relationship between the writer, the reader and the text.  We explored blog sites on my newly installed SMART Board. They smiled and nodded but they did not sign up.

My 11th graders were gifted writers anyway. They easily wrote engaging 500 word narratives and descriptions—sometimes under testing conditions. Their unique perspectives on persuasive essay prompts floored me at times. Their writing was so good that I regularly submitted them for publication in our local newspaper.  So, logically, I thought they would jump at the chance to have this digital platform for their writing.  They did not.  Most of them did not log in.

The 10th grade students were new to me.  They did not know me and I did not know them. These students actively resisted the idea of blogging. The reasons for not even signing in ranged from, “I don’t have a computer” or “I don’t have internet” to “I can’t figure out how to sign in” and “I don’t know how to”.

So, my students—children born of the internet—couldn’t or wouldn’t blog.

I have formulated a working theory about their recalcitrance.  Our school system, steeped in traditional approaches to learning, has only recently begun to explore the role of technology in the classroom (students are still not permitted to bring mobile devices to school without express permission for very specific purposes). My older secondary students have never been fully exposed to using technology for academic advancement. For them, technology is solely for leisure; books, pens and paper are delegated to the academic environment. The melding of the two contexts is still novel to them.  They couldn’t see how or why they would publish their work on a blog. Thus, they resisted.  But I persisted.

My job was twofold. Firstly, I had to get them on the site – show them the value of the interaction facilitated through blogging.  Secondly, I had to encourage their creativity to blossom on this platform. What followed were carefully orchestrated incentives that had most of the class making baby steps into the world of blogging. This was a start.

Read the next article in this series:

Part 2 – Blogging with students in a secondary school setting: Finding student motivation

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.

3 comments

  1. Nathalie Alexander

    Greetings Mavis, I understand your frustration and I certainly can relate. Two years ago I tried using pathbrite which is an online portfolio. This tool eliminated the need for printing Paper ink which is the usual complain coming from students when given an assignment. It also allowed students the opportunity to include video, music and text links into their portfolios. Although this portfolio was compulsory less than half of my students joined pathbrite and created their portfolios. My honest opinion is that the majority of our students are not interested in using technology in a way that benefits them because they for not interested in their own educational advancement. If they were interested they would see the benefits of what we as educators are trying to accomplish.

    • May Small

      Hi Nathalie, at least I know that I am not alone. I wonder if they are not interested in their academic achievement or have they not taken ownership of their learning. After reading your comment, I wonder whether our students slip into passive modes of learning and have to be forced to take the active role that is required when we ask them to integrate educational technology.
      I see where the technology for entertainment is more intuitive and has become a respite from the real world.

  2. Monique

    I am so proud of you, your determination, and drive. I know that the new road is less traveled but eventually a spark will catch and people will see that this will help them to get to their destination. Keep up the good job in teaching our youth and uniting technology.

Leave a Reply to May Small Cancel reply

For individual teachers, memberships are $54/year or $12/month

Enroll your grade level/school/district, priced per student. Discounts may apply.