Better Blogging

I’ll be honest about this.  I “blog from the hip”.  If you read the About Me here, I let you know that I will blog about anything that grabs my interest at any point in time.  I try to write in a conversational tone because, quite honestly, that’s what I like to read in another’s blog.  Something that looks like a doctorate research post immediately loses my interest.  As you know, there’s no shortage of things to read so it’s quite easy to move on.

I haven’t always enjoyed writing.  I was big in mathematics, sciences and computer sciences in school.  In fact, the only English courses that I took were compulsory.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t necessarily do well – I don’t like to be told to do things.  For any English teachers reading this blog, I was the kid in your class that, when you assign an essay, would raise my hand immediately and ask how long it had to be.

It’s just so ironic that I enjoy writing/blogging now.  To the defense of my English teachers, a great deal of what you taught must have stuck because I remember many of the rules for writing as I work my way though a post.  Much as I enjoy writing, I’ll confess that I don’t enjoy proofreading.  Remember this post?

Recently, I had a little back and forth with Linda Aragoni about proofreading and my lack of skills.  She shared a technique that she advocates called “Single Error Editing”.

It’s an interesting approach to what I really consider a tough task.  I think I may check it out and see if it works for me.

In addition to her “its/it’s” check, I think that one should add “there/their/they’re” to the list.  Perhaps even an online test.

I also wonder about blogging in the classroom.  What proofreading techniques work well there?  Do we want students to be the best writers that they can be or is this another computer activity reserved for “lab time”.  Maybe it’s gut check time – when you’re classroom blogging, do you treat the end product as you would any other writing piece?  Or, is getting the blog set up and working and students using it the goal?

I’d really enjoy your thoughts.

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14 thoughts on “Better Blogging”

  1. Doug, your question really has me thinking (especially as I’m so close to beginning blogging with my students). In the past, I’ve had students use a simple writing checklist to check their work before publishing it. It’s actually very similar to yours. I’m wondering though if I need to add a “media text” component to the checklist though and ask, “Is my voice/word choice appropriate for this type of media text and my audience?” Maybe this is where blogging is different. Depending on the audience, maybe the “tone” changes and some things matter more than others (e.g., word choice).

    Just my two cents … I’m curious to hear what others have to say!
    Aviva

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  2. Doug,

    I am just introducing blogging to students in my classes (and they will be the first ones to blog in the school!). My goals are two-fold: to get the blog set-up and working and then to focus on the writing. As I introduce various tools and platforms to my students, I realize the challenges to them are many. They are not self-directed learners, they have not yet had the experience of learning with and through blogs, wikis, or Google Docs, and they may not have the technological skills to manage (many of my students have no tech at home). This then becomes part of the larger conversation about tech integration, say with SAMR, and understanding where I am as a teacher, where my school is i.e. my colleagues and the infrastructure, and where my students are. And that’s the struggle. As an English teacher, how long do I spend teaching/supporting students in blog set-up when they also need that time to be writing? I have my sights set on the long-term benefits right now, but it’s only September. I am blogging about our work here: http://connectingtolearn.edublogs.org/

    Wish me luck or strength or courage or maybe it’s perseverance I will be needing.

    Julie

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  3. I’ve been playing around with blogging in a couple classes this past year. I don’t think i’m on either end of your 2 questions: I don’t treat blogging as I would any other piece of writing nor do I think that setting up the blog is the goal. I’ve tried to focus on the blogs as a way for students to reflect on their learning. A couple colleagues (@sarle83 @banana29) and I were looking for a way to make student thinking more visible, and decided to try blogging as a way of having students recording their thinking. Because we started with the idea of having students show their thinking and reflect on what they were learning in class, I really wanted to focus on getting their learning/thoughts out there. But part of getting ideas out there is having those ideas expressed well. The hope is that as they write, students realize the importance of spelling and grammar to make their points clear.
    The added benefit of using a blogging platform was we can easily go back and look at how their thinking and writing changes/becomes better (hopefully) over the course of a semester.
    This is all from the “teacher” perspective though. I’m afraid that from some students’ perspective it is more similar to what Silvia (@langwitches) said on Twitter: “It seems to be that “blogging”is still for many teachers the “checkmark” to Yup, integrated tech into my teaching.”

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  4. There needs to be a balance between encouraging writing, grammar, spelling and proof reading. You want to inspire students to gain a passion for writing. We want students to become better writers but to place so much emphasis on grammar, spelling and proof reading that it becomes another thing they hate!

    When blogging is done well with a global audience, and students know that others are reading and commenting on their posts, they are inspired to write more and want to do a better job. That is when you can gently guide them towards how to write better.

    Take someone like me, who struggles with writing, and constantly remind them of what they are doing wrong — and it stops them ever wanting to write. Inspire them to want to write — they will improve — if you give them a chance.

    I think Huzzah’s says it best – http://huzzah.edublogs.org/ ‘Please notice our successes and not our mistakes! Our blog is a invitation to see what we are up to. Some of our work will be polished, and some will be in draft form. Please honour our attempts. We are learning!’

    It is also very important not to look at a student blogs and make quick judgements. Without taking into account the journey a student has come it is very easy to judge that there hasn’t been much improvement. And yet for that student it may have been incredible compared to where they have come.

    I would also add in regarding “Is my voice/word choice appropriate for this type of media text and my audience?” that students need to be guided as to what is/isn’t appropriate to blog about online. It might seem commonsense but it is somethings we need to guide them with. I refer to it my line — what I will and won’t blog about; and the grey line — the stuff that fits in the middle that I need to think about whether it is or isn’t appropriate.

    Sue
    @suewaters

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  5. Wow! such great ideas for an early morning. Just in the middle of putting a presentation together on using social media in the classroom for pre-service teachers….I think I might have to share this, just to start a conversation.

    I’m looking at this right now, as well, because I’m about to ask my students to start blogging (and yes, like Julie’s, they’ll be first in the school) in their second language! (yikes, what is that crazy Madame Noble thinking, having Core french students trying to blog). I’m going through some of the same challenges Julie’s discussed – they’ve never done this before, they’re not super self-directed, an I’m adding that extra dimension of doing this in French. So….I’m not hugely worrying about conventions right away, though that will need to come, because we’d like to quadblog with a couple other FSL classes. I just want to get them started, and it will be very, very guided to begin with.

    Thanks for the brain stretch, all.

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  6. Great timing. I made up up a couple of checklists last night to coincide with rubrics. I like my students reviewing their own writing first before handing it in so they can stay on top of their writing goals. As for blogging, it’s a great opportunity to focus on audience and altering style for that purpose. I find it’s tough for some students to take risks as they’re quite cognizant of this larger audience. Sometimes I’ll have students share in Google Doc format first with a partner, then in a small group and gain some confidence before posting to the wider audience. Builds confidence first.

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  7. @Julie “As an English teacher, how long do I spend teaching/supporting students in blog set-up when they also need that time to be writing?” Teachers use different approach and it also depends on the age of your students.

    Mr Miller’s bootcamp http://mrmillersblog.com/blogging-boot-camp/ and Eschools student blogging program http://eschoolblogs.org.au/students are both examples of different ways teachers approach supporting the blogging component.

    I really like Jana’s approach with the older English students and you really need to dig into her blog to spot how she does it. This sliderocket explains why she blogs with students and the process she follows – http://engten.edublogs.org/2013/08/13/welcome-to-english-10/ and if you click on the links in the top navigation you will discover more. The avatars in the right sidebar are links to the student blogs.

    It is also important to remember that all the links to class room bloggers are teachers who have been blogging for years. They’ve fine tuned their process over time. Class and student blogging is like personal blogging — it’s a journey. It doesn’t need to be perfect to get started.

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  8. I don’t disagree with any of the thoughtful replies above. I do have a concern if blogging results in a two tiered structure for writing. 1) There’s the good stuff we do on paper for marks and then 2) there’s blogging stuff where it doesn’t matter so much. In terms of visual things, it seems to me that blogging is the ultimate activity in the writing/publishing process. You’re very clearly publishing a final product that has the potential to be read by anyone, anywhere. If that’s the case, shouldn’t it be the best it can possibly be? I have that in mind daily as I do whatever it is I do. I don’t want anyone to send me a message or, even worse, out me in the comments if I’ve made a mistake. I acknowledge that, despite my best efforts, mistakes happen. That’s why I immediately liked Linda’s tool that would let people identify where they know they’re weak and catch things in the proofreading process.

    I will ask for clarification though on Sue’s last point – “it doesn’t need to be perfect to get started.” In our search to encourage students to be the best they can, how can we express that? Is “good enough” good enough?

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  9. I’m for getting students started and ideas on the blog. This is a time to focus on thinking and exploring new ideas. There are other moments and assessment opportunities to mark grammar, spelling, conventions, format and everything else.

    In my student response blogs, I need them to be thoughtful, encourage other classmates in a constructive way, pose new questions and come up with solutions for previous questions. this is place to let it rip! And express yourself in the appropriate manner suitable for school, without “crushing” them in conventions.

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  10. @jane – I really like the idea of Googledocs first – I think my students are starting to realize that people do read blogs, and I want to figure out a way to have it not be too intimidating for them. I’d love them to be able to “free-write” about what they want to share, and then look at cleaning it up before we put it out there – a checklist might be a great idea.

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  11. Sorry my comment about “it doesn’t need to be perfect to get started.” relates to getting started with class and student blogging programs. Those are links to very experience teachers who have been blogging for years. I was trying to emphasize the same point I raise when an educator who is new to blogging first starts up their own personal blog. As some one new to blogging, whether it be a class blog or a personal blog, if you focus too much on it being totally perfect it can completely cripple their ability to get started.

    It should be like Jan Smith says “Please notice our successes and not our mistakes! Our blog is a invitation to see what we are up to. Some of our work will be polished, and some will be in draft form. Please honour our attempts. We are learning!’ Jan, and teachers like her, work closely with her students to inspire a passionate for writing while addressing grammar and proof reading based on the needs of the individual student.

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  12. Hello, my name is Kristie Bell and I am a EDM310 student at the University of South Alabama. Here is a link to my blog Kristie Bell and our class blog EDM310 Class Blog. I will be summarizing my visits to your blog with a post on my blog by October 6, 2013. I just wanted to say that I enjoyed this post and it really got me thinking! I have recently started blogging as a student and I find it to be quite interesting. I believe blogging is a technique that I would like to use with my future students. We recently have learned about proofreading techniques and we as individuals have to learn what works best for us. We have learned so far that it is best to give compliments first and suggestions after. However, I am like you because I still wonder and have questions. I find this to be normal and I think we always wonder what is the best possible way to go about doing things. Overall, I found your post to be very interesting!

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  13. Great conversation!

    I blog with second and third graders.

    I think it is important for teachers to decide about purpose before getting started with blogs. My primary purpose it to build literacy skills. (Although that’s the foundation, there are many other benefits that go along with blogging.)

    For me, the comment section is where the blog really comes to life. I teach many lessons about *how* to comment on a blog, and then we pair up during our literacy rotations and blog. Having students pair up really helps with content and proofreading. They love interacting with one another on the blog and want their comments published. It is a real motivator!

    At the beginning of the year, the class and I discuss the standard of writing that will be acceptable. As the comments come in, students are usually very hard on one another! Some get so rule-bound that they feel that I shouldn’t publish a comment that has a single grammatical error. I tell the students that people are human. If we are such perfectionists, no one will *ever* comment on our blog! We look for progress in writing. If the same person continually makes the same mistake, then we’ll think about rejecting a comment.

    Many students love the blog so much, they comment from home. Our class rule is that a parent must proofread a comment before it gets published.

    I have a class blog: http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/
    A photo-of-the-day blog: http://yollis365project.blogspot.com/

    Both have examples of student writing and interaction.

    Here is link to my *teaching commenting skills* page on my educational blogging wiki. It might be of use to someone:

    http://educational-blogging.wikispaces.com/How+To+Teach+Commenting+Skills

    Thanks so much for the post. With so many teachers starting to blog with their students, writing expectations need to be thought through and personal decisions made.

    ~Linda Yollis

    P.S. It’s 5:20 P.M. and I’m still at school. Hopefully, there are not any grammatical errors! :-)

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  14. Doug,

    First of all, this is my first time reading your blog and this post leaves me wanting more. I enjoy the way you write, it makes for a good thought and discussion process. I am anxious to read some more. I believe integrating blogging in the classroom as a way to enhance creative thinking as well as writing skills is a very good idea. As Sue said, it is a journey that involves the student or even the blogger to develop their critical thinking as well as their writing skills. The students need to enjoy what they are doing and they will eventually see all the progress they made in their writing/grammar skills. Setting up the blog is also a good way for the kids to understand how it works and all the things they can do/create with the help of a blog and its multiple blogging tools. As a french preservice teacher at the University of Regina, I am now experimenting with blogging myself in both my ECMP355 and ECS210 classes. Already, I am seeing progress in my own thought process and my writing abilities in English as well as learning about the multiple aspects of blogs and blogging. I will definitely keep in mind all the ideas that people brought to the conversation and try to apply them when I get to start being in a classroom!

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