I've been working with my students to learn how to blog and Sue Waters asked us how it has made a difference in our class. Right off the bat, as soon as the question was asked, students wanted to create an online poll to post on our class website so that students could weigh in on what they thought.
I think that small act really typifies the change in my students. They believe they have a bigger voice in their education and they want to be involved.
Not only do they respond to my inquiries, they post their own "challenges" to the rest of the class. Take my student Jack. I have been pushing them to write more grabber kinds of opening sentences, sharing the information offered through the September Student Blogging Challenge. Well, he took that one step further and on his blog, he challenged the rest of the class to write better and more engaging kicker sentences. He'll announce the winners before we go on winter break.
I summarized their 60+comments to my question in a post....but the summary of it all was that school is fun, they feel like they can express their ideas more freely than in class, they have become better writers and learned more about computers & internet safety. Mind you...that's all the context of having to please me, their social studies teacher, by writing all this about ancient civilizations.
Blogging has made a huge difference in their school lives.
What my students don't realize is the difference blogging has made in how I interact with them. I knew nothing about setting up , moderating and keeping the conversation going with almost 70 students. I was scared we'd have garbage posts or that someone would say something that would get me in "trouble". And that isn't even including my reservations about my technical skills.
Well....thanks to a couple of very techie talented 12 year olds and unbelieveable customer support/service from Edublogs....I mastered the technical skills pretty fast. Then through the Student Challenges I learned how to bit by bit teach the kids how to be responsible, safe and write for the blogging world. I had thought we'd only do a class blog...no individual blogs this semester. Their writing has improved so much and they will actually come up to me and ask me to delete the first thing they wrote so they can improve it and re-post. They begged me to let them have their own blogs and I gave in as long as they could demonstrate they could write well and knew the internet safety rules. About 25% of my students earned my trust that they could handle the responsibilty of their own blog...and many have become their own blog designers....adding themes, widgits, polls, and tons of other kid-friendly kinds of things. If we continue next semester, I'm sure that more will earn that priviledge because they are always working on it. (funding is our issue)
I'd say this semester has yielded huge gains because of blogging about social studies. We not only know more about how to defend our opinions in writing but we all gained lots of communication skills that will be useful in years to come.