multiliteracyrevolution

Blogging in the Classroom and @ Work

Posted by nicholaspelafas on August 4, 2011

Blogging has become one of the most important literacy skills of the 21st century.  While few people are disillusioned enough to think that Facebook or Twitter could actually be valuable for social commentary or as serious discussion forums, blogs have become accepted as a democratic and ‘authorized’ space for digital knowledge production.  The other important aspect of blogging and blog culture is that it allows people or groups to give others continuous updates on a variety of topics and receive feedback.  I want to briefly explore the relationship of blogging to education.

Many companies and organizations, across various sectors maintain blogs as a way to communicate and update their constituency.  In the last few years I have noticed especially NGOs embracing blogging as a way to market their work and to show progress.  Either way, corporate blogging has spread rapidly and is now an established marketing communication tool for companies.

The only reason I bring up blogging in an economic/marketing context is because ’employment skills’ plays such a large role in discussions about education and education pedagogy.  While it is clear that knowing how to blog is now one of those skills, there are other far reaching benefits of blogging in education and the classroom.  Besides appealing to students in a technologically stimulating way, we can also use blogs to teach children about democratic participation, community building, online ethics, and networking.  In addition to these crucial civic/social skills I have also found some obvious and interesting articles on the uses of blogging in education.

In the article entitled, “The Educated Blogger: Using Weblogs to Promote Literacy in the Classroom” by David Huffaker (2005), he discusses the precepts for blogging in the classroom, why its important, and its strengths.  On a very basic level we can think of blogging as a way for students to being making the links between traditional literacies and multiliteracies.  Whereas other forms of popular online information sharing are usually short, non-grammatical, and un-substantiated, blogs represent the closest online form that reflects our traditional experience of literacy.  Through blogs we can teach children to be good writers and readers, while teaching them how to link their ideas with others and build communities around them.

I came across a fascinating study titled “Use of peer feedback to enhance elementary students’ writing through blogging” (2011) published in the British Journal of Educational Technology, and funded by the National Science Council of the Republic of China.  In this study they actually had 5th graders (!) blogging and receiving feedback on their writing.  In a study of 33 5th grade participants I was surprised to read, “The students were assumed to possess Internet skills and the ability to input Chinese characters, as well as to write a descriptive essay, edit articles and share their thoughts on writing, with their peers.”  This means that these children are not only literate in reading, writing, and typing their own language, but that they are actually utilizing multiliteracies proactively by the age of 10.  Not surprisingly, but none-the-less amazing, the researchers concluded that blogging significantly imporved the children’s writing abilities, in addition to many other important benefits.

Finally, something I had never really thought about was the role of blogs in the relationship between teachers, schools, and parents.  The study “Cross-Cultural Comparison of Blog Use for Parent-Teacher Communication in Elementary Schools” by Qiping Zhang and April Hatcher (2011) is an important work because it explores this new aspect of parental involvement in education and looks at the potentials of blog technology in a global context.  The abstract reads, “The objective of this study is to find out how blogs, a lightweight web 2.0 technology, are used to support communication between parents and teachers in different national culture settings. The findings of this interview study suggested that cultural values, privacy policies, teacher background and technology knowledge have influenced the use of blog in parent-teacher communication.”  The area of parental involvement is a crucial part of reforming education and here, as teachers, we can begin to think about ways to bring parents into the classroom, cultural considerations involved in technology usage in education, and how to build strong educational communities.

So where should teachers start?  One of the greatest aspects of blogging is that it is absolutely free and absolutely user friendly.  Blogging has been made nearly as easy as writing an email, which is part of the reason for its proliferation among people of all ages, and young people especially.  There are a myriad of blog sites teachers can repurpose for education including blogger.com, wordpress.com, blogs.com, and tumblr.com, among others.  Another great resource is the edublogs website.  This site was designed to specifically host/create educational blogs, and provides a number of options for creating blog related assignments and online blog communities.  I think in the future we can only expect blogging to play a greater role in education, and possibly creating global communities of young students, teachers and parents sharing learning experiences and ideas.  This is an area ripe for further innovation and development, and I think a lot of great ideas will come about as it is further embraced by educators.

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