Student passions: Exploration and reflection through blogging

A few years ago, when I first started to introduce my students to the idea of “blogging,” I was met with a little resistance. Students were wary of the unknowns – what to expect, who would be reading their posts, and what types of posts they would be writing. “Why can’t we just write on paper?”, they would ask. Needless to say, it took some convincing to get students fully onboard with the idea of writing online. I reassured my students that the purpose of blogging was for them to have a virtual space to express their ideas and potentially make connections with another student who shared their same passion(s). 

I wanted them to choose their own topics, to share real experiences or to create a story while providing a space where they can review their work (as well as each other’s) and see their growth. More importantly, I wanted them to be able to do so without fear of making errors. My goal was for students to focus on the process along the way, to become more comfortable sharing their thoughts all in a space they created and they could make their own. A space where they could simply write, reflect, and learn in more personalized and meaningful ways. The added benefits (they were sneakily unaware of) include building confidence and developing self-assessment skills in the process.

Blogging about our passions

We know that students need to develop a variety of skills, regardless of grade level or content area. Blogging provides opportunities for students to work on developing skills which are critical for their future. In addition to enhancing their communication skills and promoting digital citizenship, blogging is a way for students to really learn about themselves and their interests. After a brief adjustment period to blogging, students then welcomed the opportunity to write about whatever topic they want and shared their hopes, dreams, and creative ideas in this safe learning platform.

One very authentic way for students to learn is by engaging in passion projects or project-based learning in the classroom. These enable students to become more independent in their learning and to have more meaningful experiences with blogging. When we encourage students to explore a passion, blogging presents the perfect platform for them to think and write about what they are learning. They are able to express themselves and track what it is that they have been learning along the way. Some students will explore and discover the endless bounds of their imagination and some students will begin to dream big. Better yet, when students explore passions in this format, they can choose to keep them personal or share them with an audience.

Expressing one’s thoughts, especially when it is in a personal area of interest, can be uncomfortable for some. With blogging, students have a platform where they can put down their ideas, their questions, set personal goals and innovate. They use their space as a guide while they continue on their own learning path. A student’s blog becomes a tremendous resource for them to learn, reflect and to see their growth along the way. Many of my students have become regular bloggers, even during weeks when they do not have a post due. The opportunity to dream big, answer some “what ifs” and “how could” questions sparks their curiosity, relies on their imagination, and can sometimes highlight their sense of humor.

Because Kidblog offers students many choices for creating their own space for learning unique to their needs and interests, students can truly determine how they want to use the blog. With this capability, students can become more independent and passionate when writing. When they publish their posts to an audience, whether it be only to the teacher or classmates, it can promote even greater communication, collaboration, and connection. Students can connect with one another on similar passions, and perhaps even work on a common blog topic moving forward.

There are many ways to use blogging to instill a passion for learning. This develops within each student as they can build comfort in their own space and style. It can also be focused on the exploration of passion projects in the classroom. Students have the ability to create a space, similar to a physical makerspace, in which they can include drawings, embed diagrams, pictures, charts and more. The more opportunities we provide for student choice in writing, the greater the benefits will be. Students will begin to see their improvements over time, become more confident and, in the process, find out more about their own interests and commonalities with their classmates. With the variety of tools you can integrate with Kidblog, including options for “app smashing”, students can design a space where they make the decision on how to demonstrate their passion and produce a product or representation of this as they choose.

How do we encourage students to write and to find their passions? We provide the opportunities, prompts and supports to get them started. Maintaining a supportive classroom culture and being open to student ideas and creativity is key. With blogging, students can write as much or as little as they want, and hopefully with each new blog post, students will continue to improve their writing skills, but more importantly, find their passion for writing.

About the Author
I am a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. I am also an attorney and earned my Juris Doctor Degree from Duquesne University School of Law and have a Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology. I am the Communications Chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, the President-Elect and Innovations and Resources Co-Chair for the Teacher Education Network and the PAECT Historian. I was selected as the 2017 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by PAECT (the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications in Technology, the PA affiliate of ISTE) and by the NSBA as one of the "20 to watch" educators. I am proud to be involved in several communities including being a Common Sense Media Educator, an Ambassador for BloxelsEDU, Buncee, CoSpaces, Flipgrid, Hoonuit, and an Edmodo Certified Trainer, Nearpod PioNear, Recap Pioneer, TES Ambassador and Ambassador for several other networks. I wrote chapter 3 of the Edumatch book “Snapshot in Education 2016”, and I am a contributing author to “Gamify Literacy” from ISTE. I enjoy blogging and writing for Kidblog and I am always looking for new learning opportunities to benefit my students. You can connect with me on Twitter @rdene915.

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