As the director of a university summer reading program which attends to the needs of striving learners, it is my goal to provide our teachers and students with opportunities to explore the world of digital literacy. Although many of our students are experts in 21st-century social media skills, this doesn’t necessarily translate to effective online reading and writing. We know that the skills necessary for reading and writing online are different from those we use with traditional print. As such, our program seeks out tools that can help our striving learners acquire the skills necessary for success with various aspects of digital literacy.
One of the main goals we focus on is improving writing. We have found that student motivation increases considerably when students have authentic writing opportunities. When students experience creating, revising, and publishing their work first-hand, for a real audience, they become excited about their writing. In our program, we have used Kidblog for the last three summers to help us achieve this goal.
To begin, we designed a mini-research project, for which students self-selected a topic of interest. They constructed three inquiry questions to guide their research, as well as their learning. They used multimodal sources (traditional print and online) to delve into and discover the answers to their inquiry questions. The writing piece was the final product. This allowed students to showcase their learning in any written format they chose on Kidblog.
One of the benefits of publishing on Kidblog was that it allowed students to share their work among three different campus sites. So, even though students never met in person, they were able to give and receive comments from peers doing the same project and who were part of the same program. This proved to be inspirational as well as enjoyable, as they loved reading comments from their peers! On a post-program survey, a few teacher comments were:
“My student was very motivated by the Kidblog. After posting her project she got “lost” in looking at her peers’ work and responding.”
“It allowed my student to focus on the main ideas of her research, knowing that other people would be looking at her work and be responding. Also, she felt a “call to action” and wanting others to feel the same when looking at her project.”
“My student was thrilled with the blog idea and knew that he was writing for an audience.”
Another benefit of having students create blog posts on Kidblog was that it allowed their writing to take many formats. We encouraged teachers and students to move away from the traditional essay-style writing they were so used to. We encouraged the use of more creative types of writing, like infographics, slideshows, and one student even created a video documenting her research. Kidblog has the flexibility of allowing users to post their work in any of these various formats. The blog posts were a way of making each student’s new learning visible through writing. Below are some of our teachers’ comments in relation to blogging as a way of demonstrating understanding:
“The blog was a great way for students to show their understanding of the information that was researched.”
“The blog was a high-interest, motivating outlet for my student to share her learning.”
“My student was super engaged with Kidblog!”
“I really liked the blog and I think my student did too. It was creative and cool to see what everyone else created too. I like that it was not specific too, so everyone was able to do their own thing (i.e. Powerpoint, Piktochart, Glogster).”
For our program, using online tools for reading and writing proved to be beneficial. Beyond keeping students engaged and fostering motivation, overall, our teachers felt that blogging was an effective way for students to demonstrate an understanding of their inquiry project. In upcoming years, we plan to continue to incorporate digital learning tools like Kidblog into our program to support our striving learners.