One thing I want to do this year is to integrate as much technology as possible into my teaching practice. There are a few reasons for this, but I think the one that affects my decisions most is just that I’m a bit of a geek and I like technology. When people talk about 21st-century learning, they often refer to technology. I think that technology has very little to do with 21st-century learning. Technology is just another way of capturing, sharing, and celebrating student learning and success.
This year, I had my students set up blogs using Blogger. It isn’t the best platform for this project, but it lives within the Google-verse so the TDSB likes it. Blogger is more difficult to use than it needs to be. Finding your way around the site is difficult and, too often, you’ll find yourself in a loop searching for something that you’ve looked at about four times before you see it. Customization of the sites is limited, and blog posts can’t be terribly fancy unless you are proficient in HTML. Creating new pages and navigating a website you’ve created is a nuisance.
The biggest problem that we’ve run into with Blogger is privatizing the blogs so that students are sharing their work with only me, their classmates, and their parents. For the last three weeks, on Friday afternoons when the students are given a period to update their blogs, you can hear me calling out across the room for someone to invite me to their blog. I’ll get a number of requests for the same thing. The first response from me or the students is always, “I already sent you one!”
Despite this trouble, I think that getting students blogging is a great way for them to engage with their learning – I keep a blog and think it’s a fantastic way for me to share my voice, in spite of how much I like to talk. They are able to keep a dynamic, media-rich learning journal. In response to the weekly post prompts that I give them, students can write something, post pictures, or upload videos. If they feel like changing it after it’s been posted, they just need to update their post. They are publishing for an audience – me, their classmates, and their parents. Students can even engage with one another through comments.
Too often, students are asked to look up and read an article, watch a video, or answer questions that are presented to them. With a blog, students take charge of the content that they are engaging with. They can create as many pages as they like about almost anything that is of interest to them. Within the safe boundaries of our learning environment, students are able to make mistakes that they can learn from. They can also share their successes more widely (with the people who are approved to view their site).
In a digital world, students are practicing digital citizenship is a very real way. They are no longer simply consumers of content but producers. They are now active agents in their learning.