Friday, January 16, 2009
In ISTE’s Learning and Leading with Technology, Brenda Sherry writes in “Teddy Bears Go Blogging” about her successful use of this website to promote literacy, communication, and technological skills in the primary grades.
She utilized blogger.com for second graders to communicate with a form of “pen pal”: her Canadian students exchanged teddy bears with students in Australia, and the students then chronicled the daily lives of those teddy bears, allowing students a glimpse into a foreign student’s life.
Writing for a purpose and audience are an essential component of the literacy curriculum in the primary grades; utilizing blogger for writing supports that goal in a very organic way: it’s not as contrived as many traditional assignments. Being able to see their writing published immediately provides students with a real sense of purpose to their writing.
The best aspect of blogger, in my opinion, is that it is the perfect venue for discourse. The moderated commenting allows the teacher to ensure safety and appropriate discussion, and can allow students to discuss amongst each other, as well as with parents, friends, relatives, and so on. It allows students who have difficulty writing or speaking for various reasons to participate in classroom dialogue and students can actually go back and look at how their thinking and discussion develops and deepens over time.
I would use blogger for almost anything, and in any grade. Literature circles, historical discussions, debates, science observations and inquiries, ‘publishing’ classroom art, and so on. It's a great way of integrating literacy and writing with content areas.
One idea in particular that could utilize blogger to teach across the curriculum is chronicling family history research. This can be done at a rudimentary level in the primary grades, increasing in complexity with age. Students can write vignettes about an ancestor – they could practice writing nonfiction using only the facts they know, and they could also extend that to writing historical fiction, using their imagination and the facts to develop a scenario for their ancestor. Students can then share their research and writing with immediate and extended family members, and use the blog as a place to centralize the pieces of history each family member might have.
In curriculums that incorporate social activism, students can use blogger.com as a platform to raise awareness or discuss the issues at hand. Teachers can choose the audience: deciding whether to keep the dialogue only within the class, expand it to families, expand it to students in classrooms around the world, or the entire Internet audience, with the help of moderated comments to keep it G-rated.
The possibilities are endless. One could even dream that students might use it in the summer to continue learning.