Friday, November 3, 2017

Student Blogging for Self Reflection


I spent some time over the summer brainstorming ways to incorporate blogging in my classroom. After a bit of goal setting and planning, I’m excited to share that we’ve made great progress this week! To get the most bang for our buck, I’ve decided to teach my students about reflective blogging. Teaching students to reflect and process their learning while also setting their own learning goals is a great way to increase student agency.  

I recently read an excerpt from Larissa Pahomov’s book, Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry. It explained that relevant student reflection must be metacognitive, applicable, and shared. I’ve incorporated Pahomov’s example guiding questions to teach my students metacognitive reflection. I think this will help my students to slow down and actually process their learning, rather than simply complete their work. Their reflections will be applicable because we will reflect each week, rather than only at the end of grading periods, so students will have the opportunity to think about their learning, set goals, and make changes. Finally, student reflections will be shared through student blogs.  

This week we explored how a blogging community interacts and communicates. I was inspired by the work that this teacher is doing with her class and followed her example of first practicing with “paper blogs” and post-it comments. We practiced reflecting on our learning and commenting on peer writing. By the end of the week, our classroom was abuzz with excitement and conversation as students published their first blog posts and began commenting with their peers. They took ownership and named their blogs things like Blog Boy, Learning Like a Boss, and Student Power.

Blogging Benefits

Building Community
Online communities are great for connecting individuals with similar interests who otherwise would not have met. They are also a wonderful way to build classroom community. I was amazed this week as I read through student blogs. My learners were open and vulnerable in their initial posts in ways that they wouldn’t have been in a typical classroom conversation, sharing about struggles that they faced this week and how they wanted to improve next time. Even better, the comments that their friends made built up our learning community! One of my students had a particularly rough morning and chose to blog about it. Her classmates were so positive and supportive in their comments that she left her disappointment behind and had a terrific afternoon. That’s the power of a great community!  

Authentic Audience
My students took a great deal of pride in their writing when their blogs were published for their peers to read. They were motivated to create interesting content because their peers are serving as an authentic audience. They were so excited to hear that we would be blogging each week because they found a sense of purpose in the work I was asking them to do. They took ownership of their work and wanted it to be their very best.

Equal Access
One of the greatest benefits for using online blogging is that my struggling writers can use Google Read and Write to create interesting writing and respond to their peers. They are not left out of our community due to difficulties they might face when writing with paper and pencil. Technology gives all my learners full access to our class blogs.

Student Voice
Blogging allows open conversations to start between students allowing every student to have a voice. During a typical classroom sharing activity, students usually would only have time to share with one or two friends. With a blog, though, students aren’t limited in that way. They can comment anytime and anywhere, extending student voice beyond our face-to-face interactions.  


Avoiding Possible Issues

Internet Safety
Most blogging sites are blocked by our filter for a good reason. Both privacy and safety are major concerns when young students participate in an online community. While my fourth graders are learning digital citizenship concepts, we need a safe space to put our learning into practice. For these reasons, I’ve created a sheltered blogging experience for my students using Google Docs. Our class homepage acts as a directory, linking each student’s blog, so that our writing is easily shared within our safe environment.

Shallow Comments
In order for students to benefit fully from participating in an online learning community, they must learn the purpose for online commenting. Rather than simply commenting “Me too!” or giving shout outs to friends, online commenting can allow students to engage the writer through connections and questions. In order to avoid shallow comments, I’ve taught a series of lessons building upon our peer-feedback skills. We first explored examples of real blogs and their comments and then practiced making strong comments in response to student projects published on our learning hub.

Static vs. Dynamic Environment
I really want engaged learners in our online community. It would be so disappointing for students to lose interest in blogging because they feel like no one is reading or commenting on their blog. For this reason, I’ve taught my students the playground analogy that I read about on Dean Shareski’s blog. He teaches students that in order to make a friend, you must first be a friend. In other words, if students want their peers to read and comment on their blog, they must also read and comment on other blogs. This can lead to a dynamic online environment in which student comments build upon each other, ensuring that every student can remain engaged and connected.  

Next Steps

For the rest of this grading period, I plan to take time each week to teach mini lessons about blogging and self reflection while also applying digital citizenship principles that we have learned. My main goals with this project are to foster a love for writing, deeply process learning tasks while and develop a positive classroom community. I think we are off to a great start!

12 comments:

  1. I hadn't previously thought of blogging as a tool for building classroom community, but your examples prove that this is an excellent way to build community. I love the encouragement that students can provide one another and the authenticity and purpose behind this writing. I can see how reflecting in this way will help students improve in all areas, not just their writing! I would love to know more about how to specifically set up this sheltered blogging experience using google docs. I have used google docs personally, but not in the classroom. Thank you for any input!

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    1. Hi Audrey,
      I created my sheltered blogging environment by creating and sharing a Google Doc blog template with my students. Once they each had their own copies, I helped them to change the share settings so that anyone with the link can view and comment. Next, I created an additional Google Doc "homepage" where I linked every student's blog. My class just goes to our homepage and clicks on the blogs they want to read and comment on. This allows our class to easily share our writing while keeping our online community sheltered so that we can learn and practice safe online practices. I hope these steps are helpful for you! I absolutely recommend using Google Docs and Google Classroom with students. It is a great way to collaborate online and share documents.

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  2. Hi Amanda, great blog! I agree with Audrey in that it is a great idea to build community. Do you know of any primary teachers that have tried blogging or something similar to what you're doing? I teach 2nd and would love to be able to jump into the community idea as well as the culturally relevant teaching aspect of tapping into their voices. I would love to be able to use this during book club meetings if you have any suggestions on how to get 7 and 8 year olds on in a productive manner!

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    1. Hi Kelly,
      I don't personally know any primary teachers who have blogged with their students. I think starting with shared blogging would be a great start. You can read blogs together as a class to learn about formatting and voice. Later, your class can write blog posts together to publish on your own blog. I think this would still support community because your class would be creating and publishing the content together, allowing them collective pride in their work. In time, you could have your book clubs each write posts together to share with the class, either on a book club blog you help them create, or on your own blog. Eventually, students would have enough experience with blogs that they could find success with creating their own individual blogs and making comments for peers. What do you think?

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  3. Wow! I am very impressed! As I was looking in to how to blog with students I was so overwhelmed. I am definitely interested and would love to try it, but it just seems like so much work! Seeing how you have implemented it into your classroom has really inspired me. The stories of your students and the community that they have built is beautiful. It seems like you have done a great job building their knowledge and easing them into this! Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

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    1. Hi Sarah-
      Blogging does take quite a bit of work to get started, but I found that I was able to build from skills we have already been practicing. We have spent quite a bit of time learning about providing peer feedback this year, and I think my students did a really great job applying their skills with blogging. We have also created media and posted for our classmates, so we had experience publishing for our learning community. While it takes a bit of work, I think the benefits are really great! Thanks for your thoughts!

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  4. Hi Amanda! Like the others I am excited to see how you are blogging in your class. I love that your students are being so positive and lifting each other up. It is so brave of your students to be vulnerable and share their lives with their peers. I thought the idea of paper blogs and post it comments was really smart. You made some really great points in your blog about positive environment, safety, and comments. Thank you for sharing your class with us!
    Shelley Calisto

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Shelley! I'll be sharing these comments with my students, and they will feel so proud after hearing your feedback!

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  5. Oh my goodness, Amanda! Your post in amazing! I love your ideas! I especially like how you really communicated to your students about the value of commenting- instead of saying "me too", they can elaborate on what they agree with. So often kids get wrapped up in getting a job done that they don't take the time to actually interact with their peers (though I do think that blogging is a good way to ensure that they are interacting more.) I will be visiting your blog more often, as I'm super interested to see more! Great job! This is inspiring!

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    1. Hi Andie! Thanks so much for your comment. I am really proud of my students being willing to provide meaningful comments. I have found that it does take continual modeling in order to not revert back to the simplistic comments of "me too." I'm glad that you found this post meaningful!

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