My students and I are embarking upon blogging journey in response to California Writing Project’s Upstanders, Not Bystanders writing challenge. We use Kidblog because I can easily monitor posts and comments before they go live. Last year I kept the site password protected because it was our first year and I wanted to see how the blogging experiment went. This year, I am teaching the students online safety and digital safety (click here to see the Blogging Contract) and working hard to preview each post, but our site is public.
As of this writing, my seventh grade students have mostly completed their first posts, introducing themselves and their blogs. The setup was a bit rocky—my students have various levels of tech competency and we had to use the iPad cart instead of desktop computers because the lab was booked. Still, my seventh graders are producing some really great writing. Last night I did not want to stop reading student blogs! Compare that to the typical teacher experience of reading a set of literary response essays about theme.
Why Blogging is Worth It
- Students care. Students like being able to express themselves and they like the idea of having creative control over their own digital spaces. They are likely to put a lot of effort into their blogs because they see the blogs as extensions of who they are, not as irrelevant school-based writing tasks.
- There is a built in audience. There are two problems when students only write for me, the teacher. First, they tend to get sloppy. Unfortunately, they don’t always seem to care tremendously what I think of their writing. Second, I can’t read everything students should be writing. It’s the old English teacher adage: If you read everything they write, they aren’t writing enough. Blogging solves this problem because they are writing for their peers, their families, and for the general public. This writing matters.
- Students learn critical digital writing skills. In the process of blogging, students learn how to insert images, videos, and hyperlinks. They also pay careful attention to format and presentation. They learn how to cite sources and to search for open source or creative commons licensed source material. They become positive contributors to the online world.
- It is collaborative. Students love to listen to each other. Blogging prompts an ongoing conversation through sharing and commenting. It’s important to take the time to teach students the best ways to comment, but they take to the process quickly. I love reading the back and forth conversations between students, all about topics they truly care about.