Why Blogging?

May 17, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 23 Comments

Konrad Glogowski writes in his post, Towards Reflective BlogTalk,

“Blogging is not about choosing a topic and writing responses for the rest of the term. It is about meaningful, thoughtful engagement with ideas.”

After exploring other educational blogs, what are your initial thoughts about using this tool to develop content area literacy? What blog(s) have you found of professional interest?

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  1. Blogging as an educational resource? Hm! Who would have thought it? Definitely not me. However, as educators, we need to think about the possibilities of using ALL of the tools that are at our disposal. Right before our very eyes is probably the biggest tool to ever be used in education…technology!

    I believe that if we were to poll our students on the number of hours that they spend online compared to the number of hours they spend doing written homework, the results would be highly favored towards being “signed on.” If the students that you encounter on a daily basis are anything like the students I teach (which I assume they are), when they leave school at the end of the day, all they have in their hands is their cell phones and their iPods, MP3s, etc. Gone are the days of taking books home to do some homework or studying.

    One of the problems many educators face is that they are not taking the right avenues in trying to connect with the students. The students of today are constantly distracted by the things around them. The technological world is advancing much quicker then I am sure anyone ever imagined. These students can sometimes be overwhelmed with what is going on around them. There are not the same distractions as there were when we were 14 and 15 years old. How powerful would it be to be able to engage them from a far? Blogging could easily be used as a way to gather information or even as a form of assessment. After each class, you could have students respond to questions posted by you. What did you find difficult about class today? What connections can you make to your own life? What did you enjoy? Etc. How quick and easy would it be to gather this data and see the areas in which students are getting it or where they are struggling?

    What more? By encouraging students to blog, we are helping them craft their ability to reflect and think critically. What an important tool to learn when it comes to being a productive member of a community. As adults, we are often times expected to think critically at work and reflect and problem solve. Blogging can easily help students learn to communicate their thoughts and ideas. As educators, not only should we be teaching them the content, we should be teaching them to be a contributing member of a society. This is something that is most importantly modeled as opposed to just taught.

    I believe students would be much more inclined to participate in discussions through a blog. What better way to get every student a chance to contribute their thoughts and ideas? Furthermore, what better way to provide an opportunity to read and respond to other points of view. This is an ever-changing, multi-diverse world we now live in. Are we always going to have the same opinions as those around us? No! Are we always going to believe the things those around us do? No! But, one thing remains! Blogging can help narrow the gap between different cultures and different opinions. Learning to accept other peoples views and thinking critically about our own is one of the most powerful things we can learn as humans. Welcome to the technology age. Welcome to the days of learning through technology.

  2. Jason,
    You make some important points about blogging – the need to be able to connect with students, the opportunities for critical thinking and analyzing perspectives, and as a formative assessment tool. Have you discovered any student blogs that illustrate the positive aspects of blogging? Are there any teacher blogs that caught your interest?

  3. Great questions you’re raising here. When I was in the classroom I set up a message board for the discussions you’re describing. About half of my math students joined in, more the night before a big exam! Students’ questions and comments were viewed by all, a big advantage over sending a group email which was generally one-directional.

    The wiki concept is still evolving as well for disciplines such as math. I was willing to try anything that engaged even a few. The more avenues, the better. I do believe that blogging has many facets and purposes. i use it to share problems and generate discussion of topics in education which are important to me. Teachers need to consider all of these tools for this ‘wired’ and ‘wireless’ generation! Whatever works!
    Dave Marain

  4. Dave,
    Thanks for adding to our conversation. You make a great point about teachers considering all of these web 2.0 tools in order to connect with students. Using them in an effective manner is the challenge. I’m sure your Math Notations blog will be of interest to the middle/high school math teachers in our course. Please feel free to share any other comments/suggestions about strategies for developing literacy in the content areas with us as we continue to use this blog during our 4 weekend summer course.
    Wendy Smith

  5. So far I see blogs as overwhelming. There is great potential but there is so much to wade thru. Hopefully SW tools can help. I also wondered how math and science blogs could deal with the notation issues. When my wife showed me the blog below it allieviated my concern. The students use SW and scanning to share math and science problems; take a look several pages into this blog. http://apcalc06.blogspot.com/ But, this raises my question from earlier. How can we overcome the disadvantages impoverished students face without fast computers for modern SW and fast internet access. I look forward to learning how a cell phone can help.
    Mark Jacobs

  6. I have to admit that blogs are a new territory for me. I’ve known what they are but just never really got into them for one reason or another. I like the idea of usuing modern technology to our advantage and as kids are on the computer at home usually anyways at night, why not have it be for good use. My little sister, which is in 6th grade knows as much about using a computer as I do and maybe more in some cases. I’m constantly amazed at how fast kids these days adapt to new technology and the problem wont be getting the students on board with using the blogs but in my case it will be keeping up with them as I tend to not be on the computer as much even though I’m prefectly comfortable using it.

    I liked the part in the blog where students felt more satisfaction with a student response than a teacher one which for me is great because if there are nights I cant get on to respond the students wont see it as that bad if one of their peers can help them out and be just as beneficial. Like I said earlier though, my only worry is being able to keep up with them.

  7. Shaun,
    It is important to think through the purpose of blogging and seek out quality examples to possibly model your use of blogging with students. If blogging is only used as a online homework tool, then it will be difficult to keep up with the comments. However, we should start to think about blogging as a tool to promote higher level thinking, communication, reflection, etc. How would the teacher facilitate conversations to make them more meaningful and not just reply to “keep up” with students’ online writing? How could peers and outside audiences add to this online learning environment? Lots to consider….

  8. I think the ripple effect sheet would be a great way keep the students on task while they are blogging. Having the students keep track of thier blogs and the responses from peers is very useful. the students can learn allot getting constructive criticism from thier peers. i like that thier comment gets many points of view in the responses, not just the teachers. with each student being an author and a critic they can learn much more than just reading from a text. this is a very usefull teaching tool and can help develop other strategies using students literacy strengths. i look forward to using it with my students.

  9. I go from one blog to the next. I am finding a lot of great information and see how the blogging can be an effective communication tool (to parents as well) and very powerful, but I too am feeling very overwhelmed (maybe it’s age or the mathematical mind). I am not even aware that hours go by when I am on the internet. I believe that the strategies I am learning for teaching in this class are going to be useful to me as a student. Right now, I see myself more as the student than as a teacher! I think the ripple effect sheet would be a great way to keep ME on task while blogging.

    There is a lot more to learn about being a “good teacher” than I ever imagined. information on the internet was overwhelming me The strategies and tools that I am learning to give to students I am using

  10. Forgot to delete the last paragraph and forgot to answer the question regarding a blog that I found interesting on teaching fractions, percents and decimals which is a very common issue with math students. The blog specifically addresses how literacy is affecting the way that students learn the “math lingo” and how misconceptions develop as a result. Can’t give you the link but here is the address: http://exponentialcurve.blogspot.com/2008/03/dont-tell-but-i-learned-something-on.html

  11. I think that blogging is a new and interesting way to get the students involved in the content area, especially since anything related to the internet is usually of interest to the students. Through blogging, students who may have a difficult time with a problem or an assignment at home can post comments to the blog asking questions. Allowing the students to interact online is important, since the students are actively participating in their own comfort zone. Additionally, allowing students to provide explanations and help each other out is one of the best ways the students can learn, I believe.

    I definitely agree with what Shaun said about keeping up with blogs. I have to admit that I don’t always keep up with my website for school (and one of my goals for next year is to be able to always be on top of my website). But, I think it is better for the students to interact with one another on the blog.

    As I was looking at some of the blogs, there were a few that piqued my interest. I enjoyed the 360 blog and actually ended up subscribing to it. Sometimes they discuss a specific mathematician, other times they have math jokes (and being the math geek that I am, I really enjoy those jokes), current events that have to do with math, and other topics of interest. (http://threesixty360.wordpress.com/)

    I also enjoyed the Wild About Math website (http://wildaboutmath.com/) which has several different math riddles and problems. I like the problems because they serve as great opportunities for students to apply problem solving strategies. They can also work well as a problem of the week.

  12. I am still confused on the whole blogging subject.

    I think it is a good idea, and can be really useful in teaching and collaborating with other professionals, but I am not too keen on it just yet.

    It is nice to be able to bounce ideas off of other people and get responses from across the country or even across the world.

    One problem I find about blogging is that just anyone can put info on it. Which means, that there will be a lot of information out there…but is it always a good thing? People can post just about anything you want to a blog, a wiki, or their own websites, and some people think it is all true just because it is on the web. Going back to the old addage, just because you saw it on TV doesn’t mean it is true.

    With all of todays technology, A picture is not worth a 1000 words anymore!

  13. You might be interested in the “it” book right now: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. It highlights the transformative power of social networking in a very accessible way. (At the very least, go read this article: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus.

    It is true, as Rick points out, that the quality of information can be of concern. But you also have to remember that with so many people working toward information development, it’s far more likely that “good” will win over “bad.”

    Good thoughts here—and good for me to remember as I work with those who are new to 21st century platforms. Especially administrators. 🙂

  14. I think the old adage says it all….”If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”. When it comes to technology in the classroom, it seems as if we as teachers are always trying to keep it out (put away the cell phones, take the buds out of your ears, etc…). Blogging is something that most of our students are doing on their own outside of class, so why not incorporate learning into it? If we can use a blog to help our students better understand the materials we want them to read, why would we deny it if it is a tool they are already used to and are comfortable using.
    Blogging can be a great tool for us as educators to use as well. Throughout our professional careers, we hear the buzzword “networking”. Blogging is just one more medium by which we can expand our networks, and as I have begun to find out, expand exponentially. Whatever your interest as a teacher is, be it content-area, technology, population issues, someone is blogging about it. You quickly find out that you are not at all alone in your interests, and blogging provides an outlet (and an inlet) for ideas and information.
    I am extremely interested in urban school settings, in particular the social and cultural aspects of the students within those districts. The Education Wonks is one of the cooler blogs I found that discusses not only issues within urban school settings, but the issues that effect those settings externally (i.e. politics). One particular blog post that I found interesting from Wonks is the blog entitled “Los Angeles’ Combat High School”. I posted a comment here , and encourage you to do the same.
    Deny the potential of blogging as an educator if you want to, but this isn’t the future anymore, it’s now. By keeping yourself out of the loop continually puts not only you as an educator at a disadvantage, but also your students as well.

  15. Click here for the link to Chris’ comment. I’m glad a few of you have ventured beyond our class blog and left comments on other blogs!

    Now that we’ve stepped back a bit and re-examined expectations for comments and modeled a strategy to help focus responses (QAD), I’m anxious to read your upcoming comments on our next post.

  16. Continuing with what I was saying earlier and agreeing with what Chris is saying in that many people shy away from using technology in the classroom because maybe it is unproven? Maybe they are uncomfortable like I would be if I dont really know how to use it that well? Or maybe a lot of different reasons. I found one really cool website tilt tv that teaches how to use different aspects of technology to your advantage when teaching. I think that once you become comfortable with the technology, you will probably be much more inclined to using that technology as a learning tool. Another cool website dealing with using technology that has a pretty neat entry on using cell phones as a learning tool for those doing their project on that might want to check out was teacher tech blog Those who might be currently uncomfortable using technology as a tool may really want to check out those sites.

  17. I really like the idea of blogging to develop content area literacy. It really gives students an opportunity to interact with their peers more quickly and evens the playing field. I think those students who were usually quiet in class might come “alive” online. Blogs also help creating a learning environment even after the bell rings. I like the ease of communicating and giving feedback to students that blogging allows. Furthermore, blogging is a great communication tool with parents (see article in St. Petersburg Times). Blogging will also help students become better writers because students will want to make sure that what they are writing is good enough to be read by more than just their teacher.

    I really like Tracy Newman’s simple class blog. Although it is not utilized in the way she envisions it yet, it is a great resource for students to get pertinent information. I also found the site entitled Thinking Machine that has a lot of links and resources that I really liked. While I have not had time to read through everything, the information looks outstanding. Technology is the new way to communicate. We must embrace it and use it as our tool for educating the young minds that are entrusted to us.

  18. Here some additional thoughts about using blogs for enhancing literacy in science education.

    Reading actively, that is questioning what we read, is inquiry. Hands on investigation is intended to be inquiry. However hands on science often requires procedures. These procedures tend to destroy the inquiry process. Reading the procedures and conducting the lab procedures without questioning what is going on is not inquiry. If students were given the lab to read and then post blogs using various literacy techniques, such as mind mapping, 5 words/3 words, and anticipation guides then the labs would become less cookbook and more inquiry. Perhaps this collaborative student effort could be guided with the ripple effect diagram presented by Konrad G on his blog

    On his blog Mr Moshe writes that students should provide more than than a solution to a problem they should explain what they did and why. He also provides a detailed outline of what a good student blog should include.

    Here is another great example of a blog that does more than simply provide a text book answer to a text book problem. In this blog provides an interesting account of researchers activities in Antartica.

  19. An editorial in this morning’s Democrat and Chronicle was entitled “Blog anonymity courts incivility” by Petreyna Hayes. I’m pleased to say in my 2 1/2 weeks of investigating (educational) blogs, this has not been my experience.

    In fact, what I find most remarkable, and this ties into Rick’s and other’s comments about the online community and the responses to blogs that can come from around the world, is how truly helpful people want to be. The Science Goddess has already shared twice with us newcomers, offering resources I have found useful to investigate.

    On his blog, The Daily Grind , Mr. McNamar recently put out a plea for help from his readers. He had been pressured last week by an administrator to help a student pass his class though the student had been skipping class all semester. He was in a moral if not professional quandry. I found the immediate, supportive feedback from readers of his blog reminiscent of a supportive family trying to help him find his way. This to me is the best side of what the blogosphere has to offer.

    With respect to developing literacy, the appeal to vanity that blogs offer to students shouldn’t be overlooked. As Konrad Glogowski points out, his students view their blogging success by the number of responses they get (albeit they may overlook content.) How does this affect their thinking and their writing about their thinking? Are they attuned to others writing styles as it may increase the number of responses they get? Konrad aptly points out how one student recognized his own mistakes without having to be told by the teacher. How does the instant feedback and potentially broad exposure that blogging can offer motivate students to improve their writing skills? As David reiterated, students are more likely to listen to constructive criticism from their peers. As teachers, I would think we should value improvement to our students’ reading, writing and thinking skills wherever the motivation comes from.

    I’m still looking for a good chemistry teacher blog. The Mad Professor discussed a great-sounding textbook, The Golden Book of Chemistry—which the US federal government pulled from bookstores and shelves in the 1960s because the content was deemed too dangerous for the public! (The text served as the inspiration and source material for The Radioactive Boy Scout) But thanks to a tip from the Professor, I can find an online version circulating… I can’t tell how current his blog is however.

  20. Many of today’s students come to the classroom having familiarity with blogs. These blogs could be about the students’ favorite rock group, TV show, or sports team. But as Rick mentioned above, anyone can put information on a blog, and unfortunately, some of the posts the students see at such blogs are full of ad hominem attacks, foul language, and poor arguments. For this reason, it vitally important that we model appropriate behavior and have clear expectations about how the students should approach the classroom blog. Once the ground rules are in place, I think that blogs could be a useful tool in developing content literacy. Tools such as Konrad Glogowski”s ripple effect sheet could aid student analysis of blog entries and responses. I can understand why students would use the number of comments as a metric of success. Using the sheet, the students can reflect on peer feedback and see ways in which they can improve. This can promote more thoughtful, reasoned responses from the students as the blogging progresses while fostering worthwhile self reflection.

    I have found that blogrolls have given me jumping off points to a multitude of useful sites. One of the blogs I found this way was The Exponential Curve. It is geared toward “teaching high school math concepts to students whose skills are below grade level” and it covers a wide array of topics. The host posts strategies that have worked for him and welcomes suggestions from readers. Much like Rachel, I have found civility and respect to be the norm on educational blogs, even when political topics are broached.

  21. Randy’s comment, “Right now, I see myself more as the student than as a teacher!” mirrors how I often feel. The blogosphere allows us to easily connect with educators worldwide and discuss, debate, question, share information, etc. regarding relevant professional topics. What I have experienced through reading/commenting on blogs pushes my thinking and provides me with ideas that far outweigh any professional development offered through my district. Once you experience the benefits of blogging for yourself (reading and commenting, not necessarily starting your own yet), then you’ll be better equipped to take the next step and start your own teacher blog or perhaps classroom blog.

  22. Initially I wasn’t sure exactly how I could use blogging to develop content area literacy in my shop. After a couple of weeks of searching the blog roles I have changed my mind. I really think the students would enjoy using the blog roles searching for ideas they can incorporate into their projects. After assigning a project the students can use these resources to look for ideas, many with pictures, they can produce. Bringing the material back to class can create discussion and class participation for students that aren’t always willing to raise their hand. This is also a great way for all the students to receive constructive criticism, as stated in Konrad’s Blog, with the teacher editing what comments get posted.

    One blog I found of great personal interest was here. This blog is about a student making a bird house out of recycled materials for extra credit. I can see myself using this in my classroom as I posted on the page.
    “What a great idea, i teach a shop class with a unit on bird house design. i always have the students choose their own design, materials and make a list. i will now add an environmental impact content description in the rubric for extra credit. good work Emelie”
    I am going to add this to my rubric and I would never have found this idea if not for the blog role. I look forward to checking this blog frequently and contributing.

  23. Blogging.

    I said in my first post, that I was a little skeptical. It has been one week since then…and…well…not much has changed. I am still skeptical about it. But, also hopeful. After looking at other peoples blogs, and exploring, I am starting to see the many possibilities that it can hold. I definitely like how you can post an idea for use by someone across the country or globe. But, like I said earlier, you have to be careful with your sources. A great way to relate that to my content (science) is you never just assign a lab or experiment to the students without first trying it yourself. Trust me, it is not a good idea. I learned that the hard way!

    But I LOVE the idea of letting kids communicate through a blog where they can ask questions and even answer other students questions for them. When I taught in AZ, I used a similar style for kids to ask me questions about their science fair projects. Kids were able to get a lot more work done on the weekends, which in the long run, saved them AND ME a lot of time.

    I have found a couple blogs that are interesting and will list them below.
    Steve Spangler – He has a bunch of cool experiments for a science classroom, including the original mentos/diet coke bottle experiment.
    Teacher Magazine – The name says it all. Has links to articles out of their magazine. Although its technically not a blog, it is still insightful, and you can post comments on it.
    EduTopia – A magazine from the George Lucas Foundation on education. Very nice, but not always research based, so it can be a bit more biased.

    Rick


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