I started this blog about three months ago. I spent a considerable amount of time designing the visual aspects you see here as well as planning content, and with each new idea I had, I always considered my reader and how I might best communicate with you. At first, I was extremely nervous about publishing my ideas and work for anyone to find on the web. Now I look forward to hearing your comments and receiving emails from various readers. My sphere of influence has grown exponentially and I am able to collaborate with teachers who I haven’t met face to face.
When I consider my experiences blogging thus far, I realize that there are wonderful possibilities for my own students in website creation and blogging. Outside of social media, I think blogs and vlogs are the primary way people digitally share interests, experiences, and knowledge today. Empowering students in this way teaches critical 21st century digital literacy skills such as using technology tools, recognizing evidence of quality resources, composing messages in a variety of formats for various purposes, participating in a creative community, and sharing ideas with others.
Before having students create their own websites and blogs, I would encourage students to explore a variety of example sites. Students can observe and identify key components of an effective website or blog that they can later incorporate into their own work. This step in the learning process allows students access to skills they will need as well as practice critically analyzing quality websites. Once students have a foundation knowledge of how websites and blogs work, they will be ready to begin creating their own sites, practicing various digital literacy skills.
When students begin to create their own websites, they can practice basic graphic design principles such as the use of color, font, and white space. Students also practice balancing text with visual content to create clear messages. I found these Blog Design Tips for Non-designers very helpful when creating my own blog. It includes visuals of each tip that would be helpful to show students
To aid the reader, website creators and bloggers should keep their work simple and clean by limiting themselves to two fonts and no more than three colors. I found Coolors, a color scheme generator, very helpful when designing my blog. In general, the bulk of the written text should be black, allowing readers to focus on the content. Students should also avoid overfilling their space, deliberately using white space to increase legibility.
In general, less is more. Too many fonts, colors, and extras only distract the reader from the message the author is trying to send. Teaching students the need to avoid “clicky clicky bling bling,” a tendency to dress up boring or inadequate content by adding visual or audio effects, is critical in ensuring quality digital products. For more tips about graphic design, see my blog post titled, Creating Online Content: Advice from a Pro.
Authorship and Audience
While students used to simply consume content in a passive role, today’s learners need to be active participants in their learning. One way for them to achieve this is by creating and publishing their own content online. Instead of simply completing assignments for a grade, students have an authentic purpose for creating content and publishing their work.
If we are teaching our students to be critical consumers of media, then they can use those same skills to critique and reflect on their own work. Rather than considering media with a critical eye for what the author is attempting to communicate, students become the author and use their digital literacy skills to present a message for their target audience. What a great opportunity for students to apply the skills they are learning including audience, message, purpose, and point of view.
Creating their own work and having the power to publish it for others to see gives students a new purpose for their learning. Students in my class were so excited to see their work or picture featured on my blog this year. They find a sense of motivation and meaning in work that is shared with others. After all, who doesn’t like feeling proud of their work?
Allowing students to publish their work on a website or blog also allows them to participate in a global community. In the past, students were able to display their projects and learning for their classmates, parents, and other individuals face-to-face. Today, however, web 2.0 applications have make social production accessible to virtually all Internet users. Student authors are no longer constrained by their location in sharing their work.
Clearly communicating ideas and information in a variety of formats is essential for our 21st century learners. Student websites and blogs promote a variety of skills associated with communication. Students would also be able to incorporate original and existing visual content to communicate ideas to their audience. Infographics are a great way to communicate information in an interesting way for readers, and students could easily incorporate these into their work. For more information on infographics, see my blog post titled Literacy 2.0.
Students naturally apply the writing process when planning, creating, and revising content to publish. Organization of content is another skill students would have the opportunity to apply when writing posts and organizing their sites. Finally, students can reflect and analyze their work, improving critical reasoning skills and make conscious decision about how to improve their future work.
So what would it look like for students to publish work online through a website or blog? I’ve been brainstorming for next school year and looking into some resources. If you have ideas to share, please comment below. I’d love to hear from you! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
What a great way to collect a student’s best work. From subject-specific portfolios for art projects to collaborative classroom portfolios, there are numerous online resources for digital portfolios. Students are able to demonstrate their learning using a variety of tools and formats while storing their work in one central place. While paper portfolios are put away or recycled at the end of a school year, a digital portfolio can be easily accessed for years to come.
Current Event Reflections
This would be a great opportunity for students to first learn about current events and then share their reflections. They could pose solutions to common problems, persuade their audience to take action, or make connections to other social issues.
Challenge students to demonstrate their understanding of various topics and lessons by creating comics. Comics require the author to convey information visually since there is so little space for text. Authors must make purposeful decisions about what information is included or left out to make a clear message. See my blog post titled Using Comics to Teach Literacy for more information about the benefits of incorporating comics and graphic novels in your teaching.
A Fourth Grader's Guide to Everything
As students master various concepts and skills, they can create a series of how-to resources as teaching tools for other students. Students can choose the format of their information based on the content they wish to explain. A variety of resources can be chosen from including teaching charts, infographics, written explanations, and simple videos.