Taking students digital

Too often students are jaded by writing for a narrow minded audience, their teachers. Great writers and developing writers have a thirst to be heard; they want a broader audience than classroom walls can offer. This explains why I find old anecdotes from my days tracking down hard news while working at a newspaper worthless. My times of getting a free round at the bar, or complimentary drink because individuals agreed with my column has long passed.

Instead, I now have an even greater opportunity in the distance; I want to give students that special feeling when they know others are reading their work. You might know the feeling. It’s a sense of accomplishment where a stranger comments on your writing, verbally or with an electronic post to your blog wall. Often they will share a similar feeling about the subject, or indicate you have given them a different perspective on the subject at hand. In the end, there is no monetary reward for your work, but the self pride given by your hard work.

To get me in the right state of mind of taking students digital, I came across a stellar blog post that enticed me to use blogging as a platform to have my students heard because my students “crave attention, hunger for an audience, yearn for feedback” (Marchetti, 2014, para. 4) from outside.

Deciding how to begin

Beginning is the hardest part of any new task. Where to start? What type of assignment, big or small?

Fortunately, I managed to piggy pack on some digital citizenship lessons provided earlier in the year by my media specialist and gave a general review of some do’s and don’ts of writing online. Identifying good online habits was very simple. However, many needed reminded nothing is as private as we think and anything typed can be copied, pasted, and dispersed to others within a blink of an eye.

Simple Responses

Prepping for The Giver by Lois Lowry, students spent some time investigating Thomas More’s views on a utopian society and writing about their views on what a utopian society might look like in the current day. Some responses were full of creativity and voice while others fell short. I managed to respond to each response and spoke with them individually the following class period.

blog1 Here is an example of one student response:

“A perfect society in my eyes, also known as a utopian world, would have world peace. Instead of quarreling so often, we would actually get a chance to know each others beliefs. Along with world peace, I would make everyone equal as well as having a jovial lifestyle. To add onto that, I would provide a well-built education systems and a variety of employment options. … Our society today has none of these qualities. World peace is not a factor of our world today at all. America is in war right now in Iraq, which gives us no peace. Also, equality is not expressed in our lives as Americans. We are always putting labels on people as if they don’t even matter. Suppose that we didn’t do this terrible thing. That would lead to a jovial lifestyle, and everyone would be delighted because they are no longer poor or weak; they are all the same. We can be anything we want to be in my world, but it all pays the same. I would rather have people doing something they enjoy, like in my utopian world, then have people doing something they hate just for more income, like most people in the modern world.”

Hearing students want more

Every day each grade-level sends a massive Homework Hotline email to parents. This one happened to indicate the web site of my newly revised class blog. Now that my student’s post are being made public, I had several teacher from the previous grade share with me they read about my student’s utopian society on the blog. Typically my ears would perk up with excitement, but instead I asked the teacher to share that response with those individual students.

The excitement is catching on fire now students know others are reading.

Closing thoughts

Like a wild fire, blogging is becoming a new trend in my school. This upcoming week I am going to dive into writing responses to others blog posts and kindness counts. Blogging with students is a process and needs to be taken slowly to ensure success.

…but what about those students not in my class who have heard about blogging? Well, beginning in two weeks, I will host a blogging elective period in our after school program which focuses on writing across contents and current events tailored toward students. I am excited to see where blogging will take this next generation.

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