On Blogging: The Journey

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“There.

Look.

A little seed of an idea.

But where did you come from? Perhaps you were left behind, scattered, by a well-meaning guide? A number of you always are. Or, perhaps, you were forged from the alchemy of discussion, crackling into existence with unexpected force. Or, maybe, you have just always been there, hiding, waiting to tumble into view? Regardless, you’re here.

And now?

You need time to germinate, and a fertile place to do it.

Where? Here, there, anywhere where you can be bathed in thoughtful concentration, tended and nurtured by iteration upon iteration of reflective adjustments and warmed by the energising potential of conversation.

When? Now. And this evening. And twenty minutes tomorrow. And thirty minutes the day after. Whenever it feels right. Whenever the need to stretch and grow demands it. And other times, to schedule, when we know the conditions are right, when light and nourishment are plentiful.

And then, when you’ve flourished and bloomed, visitors, invited or otherwise, can come and acknowledge you, among those many others that have flowered. And these visitors can leave tributes – seeds of their own – or they may brush up against you, as they move along their way, pollen clinging unwittingly to them, destined to spawn others like you.

And so here you are. Just there.

Look.

A little seed of an idea.”


All of this is a rather poetic way of outlining the process of blogging I follow in my classroom. What follows is formulaic, but should be seen in the light of my own ideal that students’ writing must have the opportunity to move beyond the limited purposes which I can imagine for it.

  1. Provide students with a range of prompts or ideas, in written or oral form. Give them choice. Allow them to transcend those choices.
  2. Provide students with a scaffold or success criteria for the blog (as restrictive or open as the needs of the students require). This might include none, any or all of the following: word length, requirements for multimedia use, referencing and attribution guides, variations in font size, weight and colour, structure of content etc.
  3. Provide time for students to write in class, while also giving them plenty of time to write at home too. I often find that quality writing needs quieter, more isolated environments, more so than most classrooms naturally provide. I tend to ensure that there is always at least one weekend available for the students to use, if they wish.
  4. Commit time in class (minimum 40 minutes) for reading and discussing the students’ post via the medium of digital conversations (comments on the blogs) and paired, group or whole class discussions. I encourage (and sometimes require) students to share additional material in the form of links or questions at the commenting stage. Whole class discussions typically focus on the ideas provoked by the blogs.
  5. Repeat. At least four times.
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10 thoughts on “On Blogging: The Journey

  1. Once more I loved your post. To tell the truth, as a scientist, the first part was not that easy for me to follow; but the second part is going to be so useful for my lessons! Being in the process of implementing blogging in my biology lessons, this is a great reflection and guideline for me to follow! Thanks Phil!!!

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    1. Thanks Anna. I’m pretty certain that my metaphor fundamentally misrepresented the lifecycle of plants… so, thanks for suspending your sense of disbelief and making it all the way to the end of the post.

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  2. Oh, you are indeed an English teacher. You have the pre-scripted, RX if you will, and the flowery version to appeal to your faithful reader. Having both is nice. Playful and serious together–a bit like a slice of strawberry topped with a bit of gorgonzola cheese.

    But seriously, I like that both versions give the reader the notion that writing is personal and that you should write for causes, various themes, at times, in blocks, etc. that best suit you, the individual. And also the clear message, that this is not a one-off; that you should keep at it and watch your voice and your message(s) bloom.

    Once you get kids and teachers on a writing-roll, you might be interested in adding design elements to their learning process. Here’ a nice overview of CRAP design principles: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/design-better-with-crap.html

    Happy blogging,
    Valerie

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    1. Thanks Valerie. The article is a concise summary of some principles that would clearly help students. I can imagine an interesting activity in which students are made to articulate their design principles for their blogs – font choice(s) (and why), colour choices (and why), stylistic features (and why), content choices (and why) etc. etc. While it might be good when students are first setting up their blogs, it would also be something to revisit once they’ve had a chance to experiment with their writing.

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  3. “students’ writing must have the opportunity to move beyond the limited purposes which I can imagine for it.”
    (stealing this as the new motto for blogging in my classroom!)

    Thanks for this, Phil. I really like the idea of ensuring at least one weekend for blogging if students wish. I’ve tended to assign only class time for creating/posting, which likely has limited the depth of discussion. I could see this idea helping students find more meaning/purpose in their Individuals & Societies blogs.

    Committing time in class is the tough one for me. Practically, I find it really difficult to structure those “commenting” lessons so all students are engaged throughout. If you don’t mind, I’d like to observe one of your lessons where students are blogging/commenting/discussing.
    I’m going to try your idea of facilitating in-person small group discussions alongside commenting periods during our upcoming unit on migration. If you’re interested, I’d really like for you to observe one of those lessons and provide some feedback.

    Up for a little collegial observation?

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    1. Always up for some collaboration. I’d love to watch one of our lessons on migration and, the next time I’m running blogs in my class, I’ll let you know.

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  4. Thanks Phil – so to just let you into my mind. I had an amazing dance/music sequence running through my mind for the first part of this blog. I have great ideas for the journey of that little seed…I wish I was talented enough in either music or dance to put my ideas into action. I think those words and an art piece would be magical! The second half is spot on, I already use many of these aspects. However, I do not give them the time for commenting and this is something that I must do and will aim for. Especially giving them the time for the discussion piece, which I think is an excellent idea. So, for me, the journey continues!

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    1. Now I’ve seen inside your mind, I’m finding it difficult to unsee it… Some kind of singing, dancing seed? Perhaps that could be the title of your next post (or blog) – The Dancing Seed. Or, perhaps, you’d prefer the “The Singing Seed”. Either way, I look forward to reading it!

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