Archive | January, 2013

Why blog?

21 Jan

In order to prepare for a short class on blogging, I decided to get some of my ideas together and make a post about it! Because I am asking my students to blog, I feel like creating my own was an important step. Here are some of the many benefits that both of us have experienced:

Positive digital citizenship – I really like the idea of building something positive for students on the Internet. We can preach rules about digital citizenship, but we also have to help students put those into practice. To do this in my classroom, we learn about commenting properly as well as taking steps to regulate comments on our own blogs. This also provides a segway into the issues that we see in email, Facebook, and Twitter if we want delve into conduct on these forms of social media.

Authenticity – As an English teacher, I want my students to consider the audience that they are writing for. All too often this is just imagining that it is someone other than me. By creating individual blogs, students are provided with an authentic audience that they attempt to please in order to grow their readership.

Pride – Publishing work on the Internet and gaining followers helps students to feel proud of accomplishing something. I’ve seen students carefully scour their writing for editing mistakes in ways that I could never have dreamed of before blogging. This is their chance to be seen as intelligent citizens of the world, and many of them will take it.

Connecting to others – This is a part of the blogging process that I need to continue to work at. I want my students to find other bloggers with similar interests and make connections across the world. It is possible to connect my classroom with another. I want my students to be reading various blogs, following them, and making connections by being responsible citizens of the internet.

Developing technology skills – Creating a blog or website is a skill that is becoming more common. Students can use this opportunity to familiarize themselves with a more creative aspect of the web than social media sites. These skills can benefit students in the future in presentations, portfolios, and other personal promotions.

Reflection – One of my favorite thoughts that I pass on to my students is that you don’t know what you think until you start to write. We have been reading various articles from Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week, and blogs have been a great place to respond to events taking place in the world.

Providing students with a voice – We are also able to use our blogs to provide a voice for students about topics that are of interest to them. I have students writing about fishing adventures and advice, video games (which are a few of the most informed and dedicated bloggers), the life of a military kid, and many other topics.

Blogging has been a great step in my classroom. How can you picture it working in yours?

You made those letters with that thing?

7 Jan

We take many things for granted. As a middle school teacher, it can be easy to take for granted that students can read.  It is only when something out of the ordinary happens that I am forced to question and think about the basics. Wait a minute, can this student read? Students can slip through the cracks at times and play the game in order to not be singled out. It is our job as teachers to find these students, of course, and help them through their struggles.

But how about digital literacy?  We have labeled young people as “digital natives” and think that they are technologically advanced just because of when they were born.

Although it may be true that young people pick up on aspects of technology before previous generations do, this is mainly because they are immersed in a culture full of electronics. Yes, students are able to quickly navigate through menus, search the web, and create more than young people have ever before.

But these talents are not genetic. Students must learn how to use these tools in order to be efficient and avoid frustration. As of right now, I find that many of my students do not have one of the basic skills necessary to efficiently use a computer: typing.

I recently had a seventh grader asking me to type sentences without looking at the keyboard. She was amazed that I could do such a neat trick and actually get the words right!

We are arming students at younger and younger ages with computers, but we are not helping them develop the skills that they need.  We can argue about the merits of handwriting and whether or not cursive should still be taught, but it cannot be denied that students will need to be able to use a keyboard. The hunt-and-peck strategy has got to go, and we need push students beyond their boundaries.  We need to adjust the teaching to match the technology. If we give a fourth grader a computer, they should begin learning about how to use it effectively.

I am a technology lover, but part of my love for technology is that I can use it in order to make life easier. We are taking for granted that students can type quickly and correctly, and students are slipping through the cracks.