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A few months ago, a cohort of teachers went through an online course on integrating technology. At the time, I was struck by the powerful observations and connections participants were making as they worked their way through the course content.

This past week, you may have noticed my blogging was a bit light. Aside from spending entirely too much time at work and then curling up with a book, I found myself facilitating a 100% online course on blogging. What a treat! Here’s the course description:

Welcome to this introductory course on using blogs in the classroom! You’ll have an opportunity to explore how many educators around the world are using blogs, podcasting, as well as various forms of copyright, to transform how they approach teaching, learning and leading in their specific situation. You will also be expected to join the global learning conversation!

Some of the observations that jumped out at me are included below, anonymized to protect the innocent adult learners–classroom teachers in an urban school district–and I thought worth sharing are included below.

This one in particular results in a fascinating exchange…do you agree with the points made?

Teacher 1 writes:

Sustained Blogging in the Classroom by Jeff Utecht and My Class Blogs by Darren Kuropatwa.

Sustained Blogging in the Classroom by Jeff Utecht provide ways for educators to use blogs as conversation devices in the classroom. He mentioned teachers needed to first model blogging techniques before allowing students to blog. Many of my students had never seen a blog and didn’t know how to reply. It also allows students to get familiar with blogging by reading other blogs. He recommends students to read blogs during SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) that matched their interests. This motivated students to read and learn about blogging.

On the other hand, Kuropatwa allows students to visit blog as part of a class/assignments. Students are expected to use emails, google tools, and their own blog. The class blog use of google tools and AnswerTips widget allows students to learn as they are blogging. I would like to use a translation tool in a blog for bilingual students. Use of these tools requires students to know more about technology.

Both sites allow students to communicate with the teacher and use some form of assessment tool. I particularly think students would benefit from working in groups to create rubrics for blogs as mentioned by Jeff Utecht.

Teacher 2 comes along and shares:

I love your summary, very easy to understand what the articles are about. I also saw Kuropatwa’s article and what I liked about his blog was that spelling was an important key for getting the pronunciation of words which is great for all our students!

You mention that both sites allow students to communicate with the teacher, do you or anyone else think that as teachers we would get more participation through blogs or in classrooms?

Teacher 3 points out:

Yes, I think so. Students are into texting and blogging is one leap away. We just have to stress the usage of correct spelling and grammer because as teachers we have all noticed that student writing has disentigrated into a text style language. It’s not too bad now. We just have to stay on top of them. But definately, yes, it would encourage more communication. Especially with the introverted students or students who are afraid to speak out in class.

Teacher 1 responds:

Technology use has motivated many of my students that have difficulties or get frustrated with everyday writing. My fourth graders were AWESOME spellers, but writing compositions was a difficult task. When reading their published (edited) compositions I noticed they mainly struggled with correct use of grammar. I am hoping that blogging will improve their grammar skills.
I have to admit that there are times I am too exhausted and post a blog entry without checking it.

This is a fascinating exchange because the power of blogging may end up being subverted to enhance existing classroom expectations, such as that of using blogs yet again as tools to teach traditional grammar and spelling. As I read this exchange, the word that popped into my head was Clay Burrell’s “schooliness.”

Clay writes:

I first used the word “schooliness” in March 2007 – my third month of blogging – in one of a series of posts on “how to save blogging from teachers.” (I still worry about that danger, and still think-aloud about that challenge a year later.) I was envisioning a future in which all the edtech evangelists got what they wanted: schools full of teachers in every classroom using blogging with their students.

But rather than seeing a utopia to celebrate, I saw a bleak dystopia: Blogging as “just another way to turn in homework.” Blogging, like thinking, creativity, and other joys, turned into an aversive horror by the forces of schooliness….

As a veteran edublogger now, although still a babe in the woods when compared to folks like Stephen Downes, I’m worried that my perspective has been so warped and distorted that “schooliness” is no longer the default correct direction for me. My compass reading is way off, and I’m headed towards Web 2.0 cataclysm of opposition arising from educators who seek to transform Web 2.0 tools into ways to teach rather than passionately engage learners.

Finally, I am the virtual course facilitator. How would you handle this discussion with new, aspiring edubloggers?

I’m considering this approach:

While Kuropatwa and Utecht both explore blogging as a daily occurrence in their classrooms, there is less emphasis on teaching traditional skills (grammar/spelling). The focus is more on student engagement, on enabling “students to share their own ideas and write about them.” I urge you to consider a reading of Clay Burrell’s discussions regarding the use of blogs in schools. In particular, this part:

…only direct the student in his/her own blog to this degree: “You will write. For years. And you will write according to standards of high quality for content and style. But beyond that, you’re beyond school-writing. You’re writing to find your own connections, your own interests, your own ideas, voice, and style. You’re writing to become, to the best of your potential, an actual writer. And we’re here to guide.”

Otherwise, left unprotected, students will never have the opportunity to experience being an authentic writer in schools. They’ll be too busy being students doing homework. They won’t have time be real writers.

Though they will, chillingly, probably be dishing all that homework up on five or six different homework blogs.
Source: Clay Burrell

How would you reconcile this perspective with the grammar/spelling use of blogs?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure