This past year, I started a graduate certificate program with Brandman University, Instructional Technology: Teaching the 21st Century Learner. The program consisted of four courses, each course was eight weeks long. The very first week of the program we were asked to create a blog, or share a blog that we already had up and running. We were informed from the beginning that each week we would receive a blog post prompt and we were expected to complete 32 posts by the end of the program. Prompts ranged from reflections to peer-feedback to text-responses.
Initially, the blog posts felt foreign and the directions seemed to be a bit vague. While there was a rubric (see image below), the instructors left the content creation up to the learners. Blogging is like a muscle, without regular and consistent use it will feel weak and wobbly. I was definitely wobbly and took my time trying new practices and strategies for content creation. At one point, I gave vlogging (video blogging) a try because I thought I might do a better job of “word-vomiting” my ideas in a video… it was not much better! After a few months, and genuine feedback from my professor, my blogging muscle started to grow. The idea of sharing my reflections on a public platform quickly lost its shock factor. Blogging is a part of my regular practice and is something that I share today, because I see the benefit that it holds for educators and students.
Isn’t blogging just a digital diary?
While many public blogs share passion projects or daily thoughts, the reflection component of sharing thoughts, understandings, and ideas through a public platform sets a new bar for determining clear understanding. Reflections help educators and students set their goals and focuses for upcoming adventures (including new content, units, courses, etc.). Sharing these goals and focuses allows the audience to engage and support the writer.
While blogging does not always have to be shared out for the world to see, there is a benefit to building a Professional/Personal Learning Network (#PLN) and allowing them to be the audience. More intention goes into each word when a blog is looked at like a reflection instead of a diary. A diary is meant to be a personal piece that is hidden from the world. In a diary a writer can share their deepest secrets, thoughts, mumble-jumble… it doesn’t matter what goes into the diary because the hope is that no one else ever reads it. This is the opposite of a blog. When blogging, writers are intentional and focused. There is an audience to the blog (even if it is only one person), and posts often allow for commenting, reacting, and sharing out. The audience of my blog was initially my professor and a few classmates. Now that my program has come to an end, my blog is open to #eduTwitter and #TeachersOfInstagram. My blog is a space where I can grow and share my growth with others.
How can students benefit from blogging?
Through a constructivist approach, students are able to communicate and engage with content, their peers, and the world around them utilizing a digital blogging platform. Students have opportunities to share their reflection for learning and provide feedback to each other. Blogs also hold students accountable for their learning and goal progression.
While blogs can be a wonderful formative assessment, students should engage with blogs as a reflection of learning and growth. As 21st-century learners, students should be awarded opportunities to be creative and innovative in their posts. Some students may find that typing is preferred, while others create videos or podcasts. Some students may add many images (unsplash.com is a great resource for royalty free / stock photos) to their posts and others might tinker/build and insert photographs of their concepts. Keeping this freedom and flexibility in mind, it is important the educators implement a rubric (see example above) that is clear on the purpose of the posts but flexible on the outcome.
For students to gain the most from their blogs, someone needs to read and respond. In most cases, the classroom teacher is tasked with providing feedback. It is especially important in the first few months for educators to provide clear and relevant feedback to students on their blogs. After students engage in educator feedback, the door for peer-feedback can begin to open. Peers should have access to each other’s blogs and should be given time to read and respond to one another. Feedback allows for learners to grow beyond a letter grade and provides a support system for students as they progress in their goals.
How can educators benefit from blogging?
Educators can benefit from blogging similar to students. Instead of creating posts for a grade or for an instructor to review, educators can create blog posts for their peers, for professional development, or for larger-scale audiences (such as social media or conferences). When blogging, educators are setting aside a designated time and space to reflect on their goals and focuses (similar to how students are utilizing the practice) and this can lead to deeper meaning making. Not every blog post will make it in front of the public, but with practice, educators can begin sharing their expertise and supporting one another along this journey of education.
Example Classroom Blogs: The following blogs are from fellow colleagues and peers in my graduate certificate program. Each has their own spin on blogging and their experiences and reflections show growth and progression throughout the 32 week program.
- Learning While Teaching – by Kady Kloster
- The Magic of Chemistry – by Joseph Salcedo
- EdTechTalk – by Becky Champion
- Instructional Tech – by Shan Tu
- Virtual Teaching Journey – by Dottie Ysais
- The Journey in Teaching the 21st Century Learner – by Lori Nagaoka
- Teaching with Technology – Barbara Waldrop
- JCGafford – by JC Gafford