Saturday, December 16, 2006

What does it mean to blog?

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So I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the direction I want to go with classroom blogging. After reading Will's book this summer, I decided that I would try to turn my student's into bloggers--remixing content from other sites and linking to them, commenting on each other's blogs, and collaborating with others to create products with their blogs.

But since the school year started, I've found myself questioning the role of blogs in the classroom. Not if they belong in the classroom, because I definitely think they do, but what their best uses are. I've always thought that blogs are most effective when students use them to create products, as in project-based learning. Now that I can have students use blogs, dioramas are extinct in my classroom. However, a lot is written by the edubloggers out there that says that blogs should play a different role. Here's one from Will:
"I’m attempting to synthesize a lot of disparate ideas from a variety of sources into a few coherent sentences that I can publish for an audience and wait (hope?) for its response to push my thinking further. That’s the essence of blogging to me, and I can’t do it without a Weblog. That’s the distinction. That’s what tells me this is different. And that’s what makes me think so hard about the effects that blogging, not just using a blog, might have in a classroom."
Believe me, I agree that this is essence of blogging, but I wonder how I can get my fifth graders to do this when getting some of them to complete a simple project on their blogs is sometimes impossible. It's also difficult to get them to leave a comment on each other's entries that has any substance whatsoever. So how can I get my students to do the kind of work Will is talking about? I thought the Scribe Post may be the way to get them to do the work of real bloggers, but like many assignments, it simply turned into just that, another assignment.

I plan to spend the next several weeks trying to figure this whole thing out. What is the magic assignment going to be that gets my kids to want to go to their blogs and post about something they have learned, or read the blogs of their fellow students and comment on an entry? How do I make it an assignment that doesn't turn off my students to blogs? An assignment that, as Will said in another post, will have them "...
actually employing all of the information gathering, critical thinking, linking, and annotative writing skills that Weblogs bring to the equation."

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