5 Reasons Your Students Should Blog

Image from Bill Ferriter at: http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2012/12/what-are-you-doing-to-make-sure-your-students-are-well-googled-1.html

Image from Bill Ferriter (@plugusin)

As a school division, we are deep into developing blogs as portfolios with our students.  To do this with approximately 10,000 students is a major undertaking but the work is important and I really believe that students should have a space to share and reflect on the work. This should not be unique, but the standard.

With that being said, as a school division we have decided to use a blogging platform (Edublogs)  for student portfolios, as it can be used both as a “learning portfolio” (here is what I am learning right now) and a “showcase portfolio” (here is my best stuff).  Through my own experience both blogging, and using my blog as a portfolio, I have seen some powerful benefits of blogging that would directly benefit our students.

  1. Open Reflection – How many times do we actually just sit down and take time to reflect on what we have learned? How many times do we go to a conference and it is speaker after speaker after speaker, with no time to sit down and reflect on what we have learned?  Instead of simply dumping information into our brains, we have to take time to think about what we are learning and make meaningful connections.  Blogging has been hugely beneficial in doing this for myself because I have seen the benefit of sitting down, writing, and reflecting on what I have learned while also learning to create an emotional connection to the information.  Through being totally open, I have had the opportunity to learn from the comments and advice of others as well, which has helped me refine my own ideas.  By allowing our students to openly reflect, we do not only see what they learn, but they can learn from each other as well.
  2. Developing Literacy with Different Mediums – Blogging is a great way to write and share ideas, but there are many other ways that students can share content through this platform.  Using a site like SoundCloud can give students an easy opportunity to share their actual voice with the world. YouTube is an obvious one, but even presentations through SlideShare are helpful to tell stories in many different ways.  The nice thing about a blog is that basically anything with an embed code can be placed into that space.  This gives many different opportunities for students to share their voice while becoming fluent in “21st century literacies“.
  3. Student Voice – Building upon the last point, giving students a space to share their voice is extremely important.  Blogging should not only be “school related” but “learning related”.  In a blog, you may learn a lot about not only what students are learning in school, but what they are passionate about and hopefully how we could serve them better as educators.  In a world where everyone can have a voice, isn’t essential that we teach students how to use this powerful medium to share theirs in a meaningful way?
  4. Creating an Open Archive of Learning – At any point, I can go back to the beginning of my blog and see where I have learned.  Almost 600 posts later, I can see how I have grown and what my thought process has become and how has it developed.  I have seen the power of this by recently looking at my Twitter archives, but that is in only 140 characters.  Through my blog, I am able to look more in depth into what I have learned, and if I tag and categorize it properly, I am easily able to google my own work, as can anyone else.  The opportunity to search that this medium provides makes it a lot easier to go back and revisit what I have learned in the past, as opposed to flipping through notebook after notebook, trying to find something extremely specific.  Can you imagine googling your work from your childhood?
  5. Developing a Positive Digital Footprint – Recently I spoke to a university class on the notion of developing their digital footprint, and I simply suggested that they learn openly, and their footprint will happen.  It has been suggested by Will Richardson that our students should be able to be “positive google”, by their name, by the time they graduate and I would totally agree.  What are we doing as a school to promote a positive footprint?  I wish that I could say that I had the foresight that when I first started blogging that this would happen, but after doing it for several years, I realized that this is only one, albeit very important side-effect of writing a blog.

To be honest, not every student will take to blogging the way that we envision as teachers, and to be honest, that is okay.  If we make them do it the way we think it should be done, they might have trouble adopting this past the school setting.  That being said, if we do give them the freedom to write or share not only what they are interested in, but also share it how they like, it could develop into something very powerful that will also give them an authentic audience.

Why do you believe students should blog? If they aren’t, why not?

  • http://twitter.com/avivaloca Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

    George, I’m so glad I saw this post of yours. For the past four years, I’ve used a blog as a digital portfolio of student work. I use our Board blogging platform for this, and all of the student blogs are public, so they have an authentic audience for their work. It’s great that my youngest students (Grade 1’s) could share their work on a blog in addition to my oldest students (Grade 6’s). This year has been a little different for blogging though, as many students are not just typing their work directly on the blog, but creating their work using a different medium, and then eager to share it. I started with a group blog, but due to permissions, I was the only one that could do this embedding. Recently, I switched over to individual student blogs. Students are now administrators on their own blog. They’re learning to navigate the WordPress Dashboard, and they’re learning how to add all of their work to a blog that they control. This is a great way for them to take responsibility for their learning and the sharing of their learning, and I think this is a good thing!

    What I also love about blogging is the ease in differentiation. When I used to keep a paper portfolio, students that struggled with writing felt that they had limited work samples to share. If they were expanding on their points orally, and I was writing them down, then all that the parents were seeing was my writing. This is not what the students wanted. A blog is different though: students can embed audio and video files. This allows them to make their “own voices” heard and in the way(s) that work(s) best for them. It was actually with this reason in mind that I made the move to individual student blogs. I wanted to give my Grade 6 students the same opportunity that I gave my Grade 1’s and 2’s.

    Thanks for getting me thinking!
    Aviva
    http://www.weinspirefutures.com

    • George

      Thanks for your continued leadership Aviva :) You are a great model of what kids can do with this medium! I appreciate your comment!

  • Monte Munsinger

    George, I often read articles about students using social media in schools, but often finish with more questions than answers when it comes to actual implementation. I think your article, however, gives concrete examples and rationale for student blogging. Thank you for sharing your insight and vision for how this can empower kids to reflect on their learning.

    • George

      Thank you Monte :) I am glad I could help!

  • http://www.johblogs.com Johblogs

    During the final years of my teaching I used blogs for every class. As you said, some students took to it, others, not so much. I agree it doesn’t matter. Past students have sometimes years later sent me links to their blogs when they are older and feel they have something more to say. The thing I love about introducing blogging to students is that it provides them with an empowering platform that they can use at any time in their life. It is part of the ‘lifelong learning’ that I wanted to provide as a teacher.

    I also like your phrase about ‘if I tag and categorise it properly’. I believe tagging and categorising to be a skill that could do with extra development in myself personally, but also for students. It is one of the subset of blogging skills that supports information management in this digital world we have entered.

    Thanks for this post.

  • http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/ Marko Saric

    This ia great post! I’m a blogger myself and have definitely seen many benefits of regular blogging. It is a very productive and wise way to spend some of your time and very much recommended for all students!

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  • Ace

    A very important issue raised here .The reason I call it an issue is that ,being so beneficial and important to a student growth in this digital world ,it is still generally ignored by educational institutions .I am the head of my student union and I am working on this project to enable our students to blog .

  • http://gravatar.com/kernkelley Kern Kelley

    Hi George,
    One of the ways we’re helping our students develop that ‘positive digital footprint’ is we gift every graduating senior their own web domain name. So, if you search for onw of our students for example, you’ll find: http://www.kristopherredman.com

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  • http://rossparker.org Ross Parker

    This clarifies some enigmatic ideas floating around in my head. Thank you for sharing these ideas.

  • http://blurbnation.wordpress.com wferriter

    George wrote:

    To be honest, not every student will take to blogging the way that we envision as teachers, and to be honest, that is okay.

    – – – – – – – – –

    Hey Pal,

    Just wanted to offer a quick language revision to this line that I know YOU understand inherently but that many of your readers may struggle with.

    Convincing students to “take to blogging” isn’t what we’re after, right? We want them to “take to continually reflecting on what it is that they know and care about.”

    The blog is just the vehicle for making that reflection possible.

    I know that’s what you mean — you even say it about a dozen times in your post.

    But I worry that other people will read this as, “Blogs matter” instead of “Reflection matters.”

    Hope you’re well, by the way!

    #beenawhile

    Bill

    • http://www.langwitches.org/blolg Silvia Tolisano

      Bill… so glad you clarified for the readers! It makes a difference that REFLECTION matters (using blogs as a platform, not as the end goal).

  • http://prynearson.wordpress.com prynearson

    Blogging is really taking off at my school in meaningful ways. Student-led conferences are taking place right now and a majority of the 3-5 grade students are using blogs to guide their parents through their learning.

    Last Friday, a 5th grader who was returning to Japan for school came to me wanting to gather her work from her blog to take with her. We couldn’t find a pen drive to export her data, so she and I took a laptop and walked down to the library where her mom was waiting, and we created a personal blog for her. After transferring the data and seeing it appear on the new blog, mother and daughter cheered, gave high fives and hugged each other. Her work, connections and reflections mattered to her and she wanted to hold onto all of it.

    This experience has strengthened my resolve, as a tech facilitator, to promote the five points that you stated in your post through blogging

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    Are u guys sure u mean “The Principal of Change” as a title? Or do you actually mean “Principle” !

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  • Lauri Meckert

    Sign me up. I love this idea!

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  • Michael Halder

    We need a way to get our thoughts out there. Apathy is the worst action we can take. Stay in touch and stay involved!

  • Lori Tharp

    Thank you for this primer on blogging and 21st Century Literacies…. used this blog for the basis of my first blog! Look forward to future posts.