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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Why Aren’t Students Allowed to Blog?

By Peter DeWitt — May 01, 2016 5 min read
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It’s 2016, so you’d think that everyone understands the importance of encouraging students to blog. But some teachers and leaders get caught up in the “curriculum to cover!” mindset, and don’t allow blogging to happen. Clearly, if you’re reading this blog you find this kind of writing to be somewhat important. Typically, blogs are anywhere from a few sentences, if you’re as cool as Seth Godin, or up to 1500 words if you need more time to get your point across.

One great aspect of blogging is that not all the rules of standard writing apply. We live by so many compliance measures these days, that blogging offers an artistic freedom that no other forms of writing may offer. Bloggers can play with words, or use one sentence instead of worrying about making sure there are 4 or 5 sentences in a paragraph.

Blogging is awesome that way.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees the benefits of blogging; especially when it comes to students. They feel as if there are more important things to be completed during class time, and that student blogging should be left for free time, homework, or random weekends.

Blogging deserves a better place in the classroom.

I think we have to break up the monotony of writing. Too many of us suffered from the “this is right and this is wrong” or “my way of the highway” mentality from our teachers. As we were told about the rules of writing, and got our papers marked with grades instead of feedback, we retreated into our comfort zones, and lost our voices.

We should want something different for our students.

We should inspire them to want to write down their thoughts and feelings, and give them a different medium to do it besides the normal pencil and paper we endured at a young age.

If we want students to learn how to use technology effectively, then we should provide multiple avenues to do it.

Who knows, maybe blogging to students is equivalent to the pencil and paper we had to use when it came to writing. However, I believe that we can set up a classroom climate where students feel free to express their feelings, and we can still give them the necessary feedback they need to grow as writers and learners.

For those of you who are not on board with student blogging, there are at least 6 reasons why you should change your mind, and mix up writing assignments, with blogging instead. Other teachers and bloggers can add to this list, but these are 6 reasons I thought of when coming to the defense of blogging.

They are:
Curate, not consume - In these days of 21st century skills, or whatever the kids are calling it these days, we find that students (and many adults!) consume information more than they curate it. Blogging is a great way to curate stories and put thoughts on a screen about certain topics (ex. politics!). Most of our students aren’t afraid of tablets, netbooks or laptops, but they aren’t spending enough time curating their own thoughts. Blogging offers the opportunity for students to do that.

Media literacy - There is so much out on the internet that isn’t true. Shocking...I know! When students can research topics, and then blog about those topics, it gives teachers another way to practice the art of media literacy with their students. Teachers get to see the sources students are using, and go to the links to take a look. The conversations between teachers and students while students are writing provides an incredible time to have conversations about good sources and bad ones.

Student voice - Russ Quaglia and the team from the Quaglia Institute have spent years researching student voice, and have found that students don’t feel as though their voices are valued. Students who feel their voices are valued are at least 7X more likely to be successful in school. Blogging is a great way to encourage student voice. And what makes it better? When the teacher actually reads it and engages with the student!

Assessing learning - When a teacher reads a blog that focuses on a concept that was taught in class, they can instantly assess whether the student understood the concept or not. After assessing learning, teachers can offer important feedback to the students. John Hattie has found that there are 3 levels of feedback. Those levels of feedback are task, process or self-regulation. Blogging can help teachers decide which type of feedback students need most.

Collaboration - Go over to the Leadership360 blog and get a sense of what co-authoring and collaboration on blogs looks like. Myers and Berkowicz have been doing it for a couple of years now, and all three of us share feedback on each other’s blogs. Students can do the same way. Take Hattie’s three levels of feedback, teach students how to give it, and they can use feedback to collaborate around blogging.

Artistic freedom - Blogging allows and encourages students to play with words, insert links from resources they found, and share their thoughts with the world...or at least their class. Words are like art, and all students have some sort of art within them, and blogging is certainly one way to help them get that art out for others to see. Give them the power to have something that they feel empowered over.

In the End
If teachers want students to learn some of the same methods that we learned by, then have students write outlines on paper, and then allow them to write their thoughts through a blog. Or...students can do the outline on a Word or Google doc, and write it out that way. The way they organize thoughts should have flexibility. The point of blogging is to encourage student voice, from those students who don’t always feel comfortable sharing it.

I will never forget writing a blog about how I didn’t understand Voxer, and a teacher e-mailed me to say she had a selectively mute student who only communicated through using the Voxer app. After a few weeks the teacher was able to create a bond, and the student started talking to her. I think blogging can offer that same kind of voice to our students, and we really shouldn’t set up obstacles that prevent that from happening.

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is the author of several books including Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students (2012. Corwin Press), Flipping Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel (2014. Corwin Press), School Climate Change (2014. ASCD) and the forthcoming Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (2016. Corwin Press). Connect with Peter DeWitt on Twitter.

Creative Commons image courtesy of Markusspiske.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.