Image from Bill Ferriter (@plugusin)
As a school division, we are deep into developing blogs as portfolios with our students. To do this with approximately 10,000 students is a major undertaking but the work is important and I really believe that students should have a space to share and reflect on the work. This should not be unique, but the standard.
With that being said, as a school division we have decided to use a blogging platform (Edublogs) for student portfolios, as it can be used both as a “learning portfolio” (here is what I am learning right now) and a “showcase portfolio” (here is my best stuff). Through my own experience both blogging, and using my blog as a portfolio, I have seen some powerful benefits of blogging that would directly benefit our students.
- Open Reflection – How many times do we actually just sit down and take time to reflect on what we have learned? How many times do we go to a conference and it is speaker after speaker after speaker, with no time to sit down and reflect on what we have learned? Instead of simply dumping information into our brains, we have to take time to think about what we are learning and make meaningful connections. Blogging has been hugely beneficial in doing this for myself because I have seen the benefit of sitting down, writing, and reflecting on what I have learned while also learning to create an emotional connection to the information. Through being totally open, I have had the opportunity to learn from the comments and advice of others as well, which has helped me refine my own ideas. By allowing our students to openly reflect, we do not only see what they learn, but they can learn from each other as well.
- Developing Literacy with Different Mediums – Blogging is a great way to write and share ideas, but there are many other ways that students can share content through this platform. Using a site like SoundCloud can give students an easy opportunity to share their actual voice with the world. YouTube is an obvious one, but even presentations through SlideShare are helpful to tell stories in many different ways. The nice thing about a blog is that basically anything with an embed code can be placed into that space. This gives many different opportunities for students to share their voice while becoming fluent in “21st century literacies“.
- Student Voice – Building upon the last point, giving students a space to share their voice is extremely important. Blogging should not only be “school related” but “learning related”. In a blog, you may learn a lot about not only what students are learning in school, but what they are passionate about and hopefully how we could serve them better as educators. In a world where everyone can have a voice, isn’t essential that we teach students how to use this powerful medium to share theirs in a meaningful way?
- Creating an Open Archive of Learning – At any point, I can go back to the beginning of my blog and see where I have learned. Almost 600 posts later, I can see how I have grown and what my thought process has become and how has it developed. I have seen the power of this by recently looking at my Twitter archives, but that is in only 140 characters. Through my blog, I am able to look more in depth into what I have learned, and if I tag and categorize it properly, I am easily able to google my own work, as can anyone else. The opportunity to search that this medium provides makes it a lot easier to go back and revisit what I have learned in the past, as opposed to flipping through notebook after notebook, trying to find something extremely specific. Can you imagine googling your work from your childhood?
- Developing a Positive Digital Footprint – Recently I spoke to a university class on the notion of developing their digital footprint, and I simply suggested that they learn openly, and their footprint will happen. It has been suggested by Will Richardson that our students should be able to be “positive google”, by their name, by the time they graduate and I would totally agree. What are we doing as a school to promote a positive footprint? I wish that I could say that I had the foresight that when I first started blogging that this would happen, but after doing it for several years, I realized that this is only one, albeit very important side-effect of writing a blog.
To be honest, not every student will take to blogging the way that we envision as teachers, and to be honest, that is okay. If we make them do it the way we think it should be done, they might have trouble adopting this past the school setting. That being said, if we do give them the freedom to write or share not only what they are interested in, but also share it how they like, it could develop into something very powerful that will also give them an authentic audience.
Why do you believe students should blog? If they aren’t, why not?