(Thanks to my friend Mary Beth Pollema, Spanish teacher at Central Minnesota Christian School, for sharing this blog post.)
Let’s face it—social networking is here to stay! Though some people would argue that it encourages poor spelling and improper capitalization and punctuation habits, recent studies are showing that all the texting, tweeting, blogging, posting, etc. that students are doing is not “dumbing them down”, but is actually contributing to them becoming more literate and fluent in their writing. The point is– they’re reading and writing. And thanks to social networking it’s quite possible that they’re doing it more now than ever before. As a language arts teacher, I can get behind that and even be excited about it because I believe there are ways to use social networking tools to enhance education and I have even had some positive experiences in my classroom with blogs, wikis and Twitter.
My favorite tool with my freshmen English class is Blogger. I haven’t always known how to use this application. In fact, I haven’t always been an English teacher—I’m a Spanish teacher who writes as a hobby. But in my first year of teaching at my current school, I found that tucked in among the various Spanish classes on my schedule was a lone English 9 class. My administrator asked me to focus on teaching writing. Not a problem, I thought, I love to write! But it was a definite challenge that year because I found that very few of my students shared my passion for writing. Yes, they did a lot of writing for me and some of it was of good quality, but I could tell they didn’t enjoy it. And when they handed in their final drafts to be read by me–their audience of one—as far as they were concerned, the assignment was done.
I knew I needed to try to build some enthusiasm for the task of writing so I integrated Blogger the very next school year with my new batch of freshmen. The shift in my students’ attitudes towards writing has been dramatically positive though the writing assignments have generally remained the same. With Blogger, my students now have an online platform through which to share their writing with others and to respond to the writing of their peers. I believe this gives them a whole new impetus for writing since we all have an innate desire to have our voice be heard and our words be read.
Blogging helps to foster critical thinking, evaluation and creativity skills. Students not only learn to write, but also to design a blogspot in their own customized style and to provide constructive criticism via posts on their classmates’ blogspots. Even after the final drafts are published the students are reading their classmates’ writings and responding to them and this is happening both during class time AND outside of class time—simply because they like to interact online I have found that blogger.com is a wonderful tool to teach writing. And best yet—it’s completely free and easy to use! (I hope to write more about wikis and educational uses for Twitter in future posts.)