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Wednesday, December 07, 2005 

Why blogs in school?

"It is good to rub and polish your mind against the minds of others"
( Michel deMontaigne)

Blogs as a learning tool for students, when done right, are powerful opportunities. As more and more teachers seize upon this tool as part of their methodology, the greater the liklihood grows that reflective thought will occur. Students....especially those who feel disenfranchised from their schools and teachers...now have a "safe" vehicle with which to learn and express themselves, an opportunity devoid of the social anxieties of the classroom. The interaction between student and teacher, between student and student that many curricula require, is now placed on a more "equal" plane. A positive comment from a teacher or classmate further engages the student and spurs them on , contributing to a greater sense of belonging and mastery.
I've just returned from a presentation by Dr Martin Brokenleg, a well-known child psychologist who emphasizes the importance of establishing a climate of belonging for young people as part of a learning culture. Teachers know this instinctively and struggle daily in their attempts of inclusivity for their kids. "How can I reach this one?He's so withdrawn/hyper/bad....! I'm not sure that he's learning much." It's a question that good teachers ask themselves daily.

One of the observations that one of our "blogging" teachers made, recently, was that as a result of the use of blogs in all his Math courses, a number of students, ever so conscious of individual help, are blossoming in their understanding of what goes on in class. Even those students who will not be passing the course choose to stay in the class. Why is that? Certainly they are not gluttons for punishment, as it were. More likely, they feel a connection to the group and to the teacher, a connection which they wish not to lose. They "belong" to Mr K's class.
At the other end of that continuum, students eager for more knowledge and greater understanding end up "pushing" their teacher academically and intellectually. From what I've seen from a variety of postings from many different teachers in various parts of the continent and beyond, this appears to be welcomed and indeed encouraged. As Martha Stewart would say..."It's a good thing".......isn't it? Isn't that what we teachers do? We teach kids to think and to problem solve. The bar keeps getting pushed higher. We need to be in a position to respond.
Educational and classroom blogging is but one tool and should not be viewed as a panacea, but what a tool it is!

As so many educators battle the multitude of issues surrounding internet safety, it is somewhat ironic that you use the word "safe" to describe the blogging medium. The truth is that for many students, it may be the first time that their voice is heard. They can fully develop their thoughts, ideas, and even arguments. Even as I write this comment, I have the freedom to edit and reword my thoughts in a way that I could not do in a classroom or conversational setting. It is both safe, and risky. My opinion is now open to critique and critisism. I believe that the risks are fully worth the rewards of learning and I look forward to developing the essential etiquette and connections with students that will ultimately foster a better learning environment.

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  • From winnipeg, manitoba, Canada
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