As teachers, we set many goals for our students and for ourselves. We want our students to be interested in what we’re teaching, to be driven to go above and beyond the assignment and ask the big questions…. How? Why? What if? We want our students to be innovative, self-motivated, and independent. We want them to walk into our classrooms excited, enthusiastic, and eager to learn. As teachers we want to entice our students daily, want them to reach for that high bar we set, want them to look forward to their days full of meaningful educational rigor. Sadly, often these goals are just dreams when the classroom reality consists of daily assignments driven by state standards, mandated protocols, and preparation for national assessments. Attaining goals we set for our students and for ourselves as teachers has become a much greater challenge than in the past.
We need to find new ways to modify the execution of our lessons, bring real world application to the forefront, and keep alive the innate love of learning in our students. For my students and for myself as a teacher, blogging has created a way to keep these goals alive while still meeting the needs of the changing classroom.
I feel that it is important to get students’ opinions and input on educational practices we ask of them, and which ones really have meaning to their productivity as students. I have encouraged my students to share with me their perceptions of how blogging helps them meet the goals we set. Their opinions and perceptions, what I like to call “The Real Deal”, serves as my system of checks and balances, and helps me drive my instruction in ways that allow my students to both achieve the necessary standards and still come to school excited to learn.
According to my students, blogging serves as real motivator for their fiction and nonfiction writing. They feel driven to write high quality essays and stories because they know their works will be read by an audience other than their teacher, an audience composed of other young writers, some of whom they know, and many of whom they do not. Aside from receiving the usual evaluation from their teacher, they know that other students will be constructively commenting on their writing as well as. These peer comments are highly valued by students, and carry just as much a weight, if not more, to students than if they were to receive feedback from their teacher alone.
Student writers want to be part of the real world, and want to participate in writing experiences like professional authors. Students feel that their writing is more “important and professional” when they are typing rather than writing, editing, and finalizing on traditional paper. Students feel transformed from “kid author” to “real author” when blogging, which serves to motivate them even further to better their writing skills. In addition, using a sophisticated and well-known blog site such as Kidblog further validates and legitimizes their real world experience as authors.
The feel of connectivity that blogging creates is important to students. As one of my students shared with me, her Kidblog virtual classroom experience feels like “being in your own special writing world where writing is fun.” Students feel that blogging gives them a safe place to share and grow ideas with same age peers. They feel encouraged by these fellow bloggers, which further expands confidence in their writing abilities and desire to keep writing. Students learn from their peers, and truly enjoy being part of the audience as much as they enjoy having peers read their own writing. Students are able to connect with so many talented peer writers, and this feeling of unlimited connectivity is an important motivator for students.
Checking in with my students for “The Real Deal” gives me so many insights as to how students see themselves learning in today’s world and what learning experiences are important to them. Blogging is a highly valued, motivational, and fun educational experience for my students, and one that I, as a teacher, will continue to implement and promote for a long time to come.