Archive for the ‘media’ Category

Hello and welcome to my blog about blogging.
What better forum to discuss blogging in education than on a blog? Seriously?!

Anyway, thank you for your interest in blogging in education and how it can enhance both your classroom and the learning of your students.

I first started adding blogging to my EMS3O Media Studies curriculum about 4 years ago. Prior to that, my culminating task for the course had been the construction of a media literacy magazine. The students would reflect upon course materials throughout the semester, research them, write about them, and continually add upon them – a living portfolio of sorts. I would only assess the material on an ongoing basis with the understanding that it would not be evaluated for grades until the end of the course. In this way, the students could regularly adapt and revise their material to reflect their ongoing learning and understanding.

As more and more magazines fell to the power of the Internet and other digital media, I felt that it was also time for me to stop having students “publish” magazines as a culminating project. I felt that this would better reflect the realities of print media in the 21st century and would give me less to carry home. After all, thirty 20 page magazines are heavy. Also, why not save paper? Why use the student’s ink? Plus, many actually took their magazines to Staples to have them printed. At $1.00 a page – that can get expensive.

The concept of blogging was perfect. When I read the magazines, I could only assess the student’s writing and research skills (as this was not a technical nor an art course, I was not too concerned about stylistic layout). Traditionally acceptable, yet seemingly not enough in today’s increasingly digital world. Plus, if I wanted to verify information, I had to go to the computer to do so. This way, I am already there. The student would reference all material used, images included, at the bottom of their post, and all I had to do was click the URL to see where they got their information. This way, I could follow their thought and research process as well. The inclusion of images just wasn’t cutting it for me either – the “lick and stick”, “cut and paste” methodology that students often employ was becoming frustrating. Why shouldn’t the students embed video clips from YouTube and mp3 songs? Why shouldn’t I teach them the proper way to use images on the Internet?

Upon further research, I found that adolescents make up a large part of the community of bloggers. Perseus Development Corporation, for instance, found that 51.5 percent of all blogs are developed and maintained by ages 13–19 [1]. A similar study found that 40.4 percent of blog authors are under the age 20 [2].

Blogging is classified as social networking. A 2007 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Survery found that:

  • 55% of online teens have created a personal profile online, and 55% have used social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.
  • 66% of teens who have created a profile say that their profile is not visible to all internet users. They limit access to their profiles.
  • 48% of teens visit social networking websites daily or more often; 26% visit once a day, 22% visit several times a day. [3]

In total:

  • 85% of teens ages 12-17 engage at least occasionally in some form of electronic personal communication, which includes text messaging, sending email or instant messages, or posting comments on social networking sites. [3]

This is their world! How could I use that?

Then, the obvious came to me. The concept of writing for a teacher is artificial! When writing solely for evaluation, the exercise seems mundane, almost punitive. With blogs, the writing is live for the world, accessible for all. That’s realism. That’s relevance. The student’s work would no longer be contained to the classroom – it would extend beyond it and integrate other components from the web of which it was a part. Students could use their social networking skills in a new educational forum. By posting to their blog, and linking it to others, the students could read and comment on each other’s work. This is peer editing and collaborative learning at its best. Plus, I could access, assess, and work with those students digitally wherever I could find Internet access – and they with me.

Also, since blog posts are archived, students could go back and look at their own and their peer’s past work. This allows “reflection and metacognitive analysis that was previously much more cumbersome.” [4] And, as Will Richardson points out in his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, blogs “give [students] the opportunity to share in writing the ideas they may be too shy to speak. Everyone has a voice in the conversation, and all ideas, even the instructor’s, are given equal presentation in the blog. As students participate, they also take ownership of the space, and depending on how teachers frame that participation, this can lead to a greater sense of participation. ” [4]

In a 2008 article based on a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project entitled “Writing, Technology and Teens”, teenagers polled were asked what encouraged them to write. Of the responses, two of them are quite telling: “Teen 1: Well, if I knew that other people were going to read what I wrote and react to what I was writing then I would make it better and I would want to do the best that I could at it; Teen 2: I write differently when, if I have to say a speech or something in front of my class I write differently than I would than if I was writing it for my teacher . . . [because of] pressure from your peers . . . you wouldn’t write the same thing.” [5] While you can restrict the readership of blogs if you so wish, and you may wish to do so for younger bloggers, older bloggers can be given a forum that gives their writing a feeling of authenticity. Relevance is key to the teenage learner.

Further, by posting their ideas to the Internet, the blogging student is adding their opinion to the database of others that can be accessed and used by others. The next great idea just might come from one of your students. Further, as an English teacher (and perhaps the last bastion of book literacy), I do not see literacy as book/literature specific. I see all types of literacy – digital literacy is, perhaps, for me at the forefront. Teenagers have grown up with technology their entire lives, but that doesn’t mean that they understand it or know how to access it and apply it correctly. As educators, I believe that it is our job to be familiar with these technologies so that we can help our students navigate, utilize, and understand them properly and productively. Communicating and writing for a 21st century audience is what will make them successful in their future endeavours.

Lets teach our students how to be collaborative, creative, and literate.

Let’s teach them technical skills, writing skills, and media literacy skills.

Let’s teach them how to assess themselves and each other.

Let’s teach them how to be digital, and global citizens.

Let’s teach them how to be citizen journalists.

Let’s teach them how to be analytical and critical.

Let’s teach them how to blog!
Better yet, why not let some of them teach you?

References

[1] Henning, J., 2003. The Blogging Iceberg: Of 4.12 Million Weblogs, Most Little Seen and Quickly Abandoned. Braintree, Mass.: Perseus Development Corp.

[2] Herring, S.C, L.A. Scheidt, S. Bonus, and E. Wright, 2004. “Bridging the gap: A genre analysis of weblogs,” Paper presented at the 37th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS–37). Los Alamitos, Calif.

[3] Lenhart, Amanda. “Social Networking Websites and Teens,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 7, 2007.
http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Social-Networking-Websites-and-Teens.aspx

[4] Richardson, Will. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts. California, 2006.

[5] Lenhart, Amanda. “Writing, Technology and Teens,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, April 24, 2008.
http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2008/Writing-Technology-and-Teens.aspx

Unknown artist. “Blogs.” May 19, 2009. Online image. Governance Matters. 17 October 2009.
http://blogs.worldbank.org/files/governance/image/blog%20board.jpg

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