Trying to do something new or different can be a real challenge sometimes. Last week I had the opportunity to teach a class to students at Gleneagles Elementary School and West Bay Elementary School, and to share my story about how I started blogging. I also had the opportunity to learn about their work and their own digital writing. The work at Gleneagles is part of a teacher inquiry project that focussed on the following question:
Will students include more meaningful detail and perspective in their weBlogs by focusing on social issues as their ‘purpose for writing’ and will continuous feedback, in the form of threads, lead to deeper understanding of a given issue?
The classroom was both face-to-face and virtual, and teaching students I couldn’t see was new and challenging. Teachers are accustomed to reading a student’s body language, and receiving cues from the class. Half of the students were in front of me at Gleneagles, but the other half were viewing the class on-screen at West Bay via Lync, and it was a one-way video. The students could ask questions, but I didn’t feel the same connection as when they are in front of me, in a room, or at least when I can see them on video.
Of course, the whole topic was quite new for the students as well. We all agreed that even two years ago, there would have been no way we would be having a conversation about digital writing and blogs; what it meant to have a personal brand, and what kind of topics we would write about if we were going to share our ideas with classmates, or the world. Out of the presentation came a number of excellent questions:
- Why do you blog versus using an alternative platform to share your message/knowledge?
- Where do you get your ideas/inspiration for your many blogs?
- How do you create an effective blog?
- Where/how do you find the time to blog so frequently?
- When you started blogging, were you inspired by anyone/anything in particular? Do they continue to influence your thinking? If so, by what/whom?
- Do you follow other bloggers and use their techniques/messages as a model for your own?
- How do you decide on the graphics, pictures, and links you embed when there seems to be so many to choose from?
- How often do you post? Why?
- Do you believe the good connection with your readers is because of your transparency as a writer?
It is a different way to think about writing, and I often say that I think in blog posts. When I sit in a meeting, I write my notes around themes that may later become posts; I can think of the visuals that might go with the words, and this is so different from only a few years ago. I have started dozens of posts, which may or may not become a blog at some point, but they have helped me organize my thinking. While I write about one post a week, I think about hundreds. It was great to hear students discussing the stories they would like to tell, because we all have stories; we all have our own powerful narratives to share.
Toward the end of the session, one of the excellent discussions was about commenting. I offered that when I comment on other blogs I try to expand on an idea raised by the writer, perhaps give a different point-of-view, or add additional information the writer, or other readers, may find interesting or valuable. I am hopeful some of the students who participated in our session last week will do just that with this post — extend and reach out with all of your learning. So, what did you find interesting/valuable? What are you going to do next? What questions do you still have?
Thanks again to the students of Gleneagles and West Bay for your engagement.
Thanks also to Colleen Denman for session photos, and all of the teachers and administrators who were involved in organizing and setting up the session.