Blogging to comment, argue, or collect.

“Blogging” is harder to pin down and define than microblogging because it occurs on so many different platforms and takes so many different forms, but as the contrast with microblogging suggests, blogging is typically longer form writing.  When it first emerged (2002), it seemed to “remediate” either the personal journal, the note card or note book, or the academic reflective essay.  These uses are still out there, but blogging took on multimedia forms (audio and video blogs), and it became a collection point for images, text, sounds–all things digital–through platforms like Tumblr.

To comment: find a blog post (any platform) that is appropriate for your grade level, help students read that post using appropriate heuristics (which might include questions like “who is this person?”  “why should we read him or her?” and what level of writing (1, 2, or 3) does this appear to be?), and then invite responses.  Responses could be online, off-line, shared and compared.  You might ask your students to what extent they engage in these kinds of online exchanges.

Let’s try this with Margo Walter’s “Considerations on the flipped classroom.” Write an individual response (150 words) compare with partner, collaboratively compose a single response that employs an appropriate tone, responds constructively, challenges, questions, or forwards Margo’s argument. Post it, and see what Margo and others have to say in response.

To argue: Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay.  After having your students read a mentor text or three, ask them to write in that genre.  For my advanced writing workshop, I use “The Argumentative Blog Post Assignment” to emphasize online argumentative writing (in slight contrast to the literary criticism essays that they are likely to write in other classes). The essay can be drafted, shared, and workshopped via Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or WordPress itself (pages can be private but shared): WordPress handles copy and paste from Word pretty well.

To collect: the digital portfolio.  WordPress is a blogging platform that also doubles as a digital portfolio platform.  WordPress supports posts (what we think of as the blog post) and pages, where we might be inclined to collect finished works but also share drafts.  It has templates that support image-based portfolios, and it is easy to upload images or files, and embed videos. Schools that use Google products will likely use Blogger for posts and Google Sites. Digital portfolio tools can range from these free services to highly customized (and expensive) platforms that support assessment and data collection.  Helen Barrett maintains a website devoted to eportfolios. Students samples from Advanced Writing Workshop 2011 and 2013 are available in the left-hand navigation bar.

What’s familiar: blogging remediated print genres and is among the most familiar uses of text on the web: long-form, often argumentative, can be a source of high quality texts in the classroom, high-expectation writing from our students.

What’s newish: the demand for conciseness is really important (Pam shared TL:DR with us); texts and images more easily combined than traditional print form, but even more importantly, the medium calls for visual elements, visual thinking. #Fail. Secondary sources can be brought in to a post via linking; commenting can be relevant, real, engaging.

Workshopping: all the principles of a writing workshop can be enacted and engaged, especially if the blog post is defined as level 3 writing with high expectations for arguments and secondary source use, and if writing groups are used and supported.

K-6
Teachers are more likely to use blogs as resources.

Kidlitosphere Central: The Society of Bloggers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature

The Artabet Blog for Jen and other art-infused teachers

 A bunch of great ideas including a classroom blog even for K-6 and collaborative book making for social studies projects about communities.

Middle and High school.

Will Richardson has written about his students’ interactions with author Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees), “Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, elementary school kids in Georgia, high school students in Poland, theater troupes in Oklahoma, and the list goes on. . . . [T]he blog has allowed us to build a community around our collaborations, and it has enhanced the depth of our curriculum” (25).

The We Need Diverse Books campaign is using Tumblr in really interesting ways. Would you feel comfortable having your middle school students use Tumblr? Tends to use collection and creation as its primary creation strategy.

The National Writing Project has a blog for educators at all levels.

Additional resources.

Richardson, Will. Blogs, Wikis,  Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks CA: Corwin Press, 2006.  Will uses Tumblr at http://willrichardson.com/

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