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Promote student voice and choice with blogging

By Rachelle Dene Poth
September 26, 2017
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As educators, we want students to be able to communicate and collaborate with their peers — locally and globally — in a comfortable way. We want to amplify their voices and give them choices in their learning environment. 

Blogging is a great way to accomplish all of that. They are simple to set up and in addition to allowing students to practice writing and develop communication skills, the blogging process builds many other skills and traits that are necessary for career, college and life readiness. Here are six benefits students and teachers get from classroom blogging.

It improves confidence.

Many students are so afraid of making a mistake that they shy away from participating in class discussions or may not push themselves in their writing.

Years ago, I had students write a daily journal entry, where they had 10 minutes to respond to a prompt. During this exercise, I noticed students who worried about being correct, were afraid of making mistakes and fretted about not writing enough.

That’s when I decided to change the assignment to a weekly blog post and allowed students to choose when, where and what they would write about. I made it clear to the students that blogging is a way to practice their writing and not something that would be graded.

The results were impressive. They eventually gained confidence and became more comfortable expressing themselves and sharing with classmates. Writing became relaxing and fun.

It builds relationships.

Aside from the benefits it affords students, the blogs helped me understand what my students know and what makes them tick. Blogging offers an effective way to build relationships with students while exchanging ideas, offering feedback and engaging in more conversations.

Teachers can learn more about their students and, by commenting on their posts, they can show they are genuinely interested in helping them succeed. Students feel valued and empowered in their learning.

It boosts creativity.

When students are given a wide-open prompt or no prompt at all, they have the chance to create a story in a much more authentic and meaningful way. Authentic learning increases content knowledge and develops other skills in the content area.

Blogs also allow students to express creativity because they can add images, change fonts and choose the look and feel of their blog space using different themes that reflect their thoughts and bring their writing to life.

Whereas an essay is written and done, a blog is like a living document that grows and develops as others add their comments and extend the conversation between writer and reader. Students can express their thoughts, tell a story and respond to peers within the digital space, building skills throughout the year.

It feeds student empowerment.

Blogging promotes student choice and allows students to improve their writing, literacy and technology skills. It helps students become more reflective in the learning process and develop the skills for self-assessment. Students can demonstrate their learning in ways that are comfortable for them and align with their interests, using a learning space they designed themselves within the blogging platform.

As students receive feedback from teachers and peers, they can use this feedback to set new learning goals and apply the new knowledge in ways that meet their needs.

It develops digital citizenship.

Through blogging, students can develop their digital identities and learn how to interact with others in a safe learning environment to become good digital citizens.

Before students post for the first time, take time to reinforce the expectations about what is appropriate and what is not. Students will feel comfortable posting as long as their peers offer positive, helpful feedback.

In the beginning, some students in my class pointed out errors or were critical when responding to peers, which presented an authentic opportunity to discuss how to appropriately respond and engage in online conversations.

It helps assess skills.

Blogging is not just a platform for writing and sharing ideas. It is a way for teachers to assess students and provide immediate, purposeful and relevant feedback. Teachers rely on formative assessments to understand student needs, to guide next steps in instruction and to help students set new goals. Blogging offers a more authentic way for students to demonstrate their writing skills and content knowledge.

There are many other benefits to blogging. It also increases interactions between students and promotes collaboration both in and outside of the classroom, leading to a more positive, supportive learning environment. By having a digital space where students can write, reflect, revise and receive ongoing feedback, we can expand how students are learning.

(Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.)

Rachelle Poth is a Spanish and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She has a master’s degree in instructional technology and is communications chair for the ISTE Mobile Learning Network, president-elect of the Teacher Education Network and the PAECT historian. She was selected as the 2017 Outstanding Teacher of the Year by PAECT (the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications in Technology, an ISTE affiliate) and by the NSBA as one of the "20 Educators to Watch."

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