Thursday, August 10, 2006

Understanding the power of the blog

Here's a little story of something I take very much for granted now, but I know simply must take the time to go through the whole thing again, to explain how it works and what it means.

It's midsummer here in the US, but for some of my last year's third graders and me, school is still in session. They are still writing. I'm no longer their teacher, but I am teaching them. I am still editing, offering them feedback and congratulations. They are also getting feedback from others all over the world. My kids from last year are still blogging. Seven of them, a third of my class, have posted articles on their own blogs.

We use Classblogmeister, a wonderful, free, safe tool for blogging. Every word that they write on their blogs is approved by me before it appears there. Every comment goes by me first as well. I am their safety net, their set of training wheels. But regardless of these safety precautions, we have also talked relentlessly about online safety and being a responsible Internet citizen. They have learned lessons that will keep them safe, give them a degree of understanding, and hopefully give them an edge towards success, that other 8 and 9 year olds do not have.

This is unprecidented, something I have not seen or experienced in 25 years of teaching. My kids still want to write - how wonderful is that?! The difference is that now they know they have a global audience, that their writing will not just be stuck up on the family refrigerator for a few days and then taken down or replaced with something else. We blogged this past school year, and I was constantly astounded at the effort that went into their writing. They were motivated to write like I have never seen before. And of course as their teacher I found I had this incredible tool to shape and hone their writing skills. The writing curriculum was rewritten. If you look at their blogs, look from the bottom up - from their first writing, in November of 2005, to August of 2006. I can make no stronger case for the power of the blog - as a teaching tool.

Also check out the summer writing of Jackson, Danielle, Ming, Isobel, Jacqueline, Camden, and Gus. I have a feeling there will be more before the summer is over...

It is so easy, in this edtech blogging echo chamber, to forget that most people still do not know what is going on here, that a few educators and a few more students have tasted from the web 2.0 cup, and cannot turn back. We have seen the power, we have seen the results in our classrooms. Once you've been around the block in a Porshe, you do not want to get back in the family beater.


Cheryloakes50 said...

Hi Mark,
I too take for granted that 76 out of 200 kids in 3rd and 4th grade have blogged over the summer. I am thrilled and have really enjoyed reading about their surveys their photos and captions. During this summer I have had changes, I've gone from technology integrator in the elementary school lab, to tech integrator K-12 in our district, plus a couple days where I am the tech coordinator. When I tell kids I have a new job, they look stunned, ( I was stunned for a couple weeks), then I ask them what do they think will happen to their blogs! They all immediately brighten, smile and say, we get to keep them!
So, in, where my students virtually blog, they will move up a grade level and continue. And as Emily told me yesterday, "Oh, I am really sad that all the work I have done is going to disappear," ( after I complimented her on the great photos she added about her homeland, China.) When I told her of my new job, she went off through the grocery store smiling in a way only a teacher can appreciate. I know you will appreciate this too. Cheryl Oakes

Mark Ahlness said...

Cheryl, a big congrats for the move "up"! You have done such wonderful things in your direct contact with so many kids. It's nice to hear that your district is wise enough to put somebody like you in this position - everybody wins! All the best, and enjoy what's left of your summer! - Mark