Here is the first entry in my series on the benefits and challenges of using blogging in an elementary classroom, for which I've already posted an annotated bibliography and a literature review. Most of the references can be found in the annotated bibliography based on the endnotes (I thought APA in-text citations would be annoying). If you happen to want more info on a source, I can send you the full citation....hope I'm not breaking any copyright laws here!
Based on current research, blogging helps students improve their writing in a variety of ways; these benefits stem from the incorporation of technology, and do not happen by simply having students write more journal entries. The goal of incorporating technology into our classrooms is to have students engage in what Irving calls “learning with technology”, and the blogging platform can do just that. Here’s how.
1. Students engage in authentic writing experiences.
Authentic writing experiences are those which serve a purpose beyond that of completing a writing assignment for the teacher. It is real-life writing. While it is possible to engage in authentic writing with a pen and paper, blogging helps improve student writing through the interaction with a real-world audience, where the student receives feedback and questions (posted as comments in their blog). This prompts the student to begin to consider the relationship between the writer and the reader, a skill found to be lacking in most young children's writing. As the student begins to realize and understand that they are in a relationship with their audience, s/he starts to put him or herself into the shoes of his or her readers. The students are now writing for others, and has the reader’s feedback to help them refine their ideas and writing style; this generally doesn’t happen when the only audience a student usually considers is the teacher. This thought process is further aided through blogging, when a student is also a reader, and comments on the work of fellow students. Studies have also shown that the format of blog entries help students become more precise, exact and focused as they have limited space in which to write. Of course, this whole process is dependent on the quality and quantity of comments that a blog receives, which is a challenge to be discussed in a later post.
2. Blogging is flexible.
One of the other benefits of blogging is its flexibility, and thus its ability to reach a greater variety of learners, including those who are normally introverted and quiet. When a student is able to work within their preferred learning style, they are better able to learn, and are motivated to continue learning by allowing students to incorporate a variety of media including pictures, graphs, videos, and surveys.
Blogging also allows for easy differentiation in what is expected and accepted as part of an assignment, as the teacher can modify criteria for different students, and allow students to use a variety of technology and modes within their postings (for example, embedding a video clip or animation). All students also have a chance to be heard, as they can speak more freely, ask questions, and give feedback, a benefit seen with many types of technology. Studies have shown that student-directed learning and projects encourage everyone to “explore, experiment and test their own understanding”, which is something I personally believe we don’t do enough of.