Sunday, October 28, 2007

Teaching writing through blogging

This is an idea from Clay Burell that I like a lot - teaching writing through blogging.

"Sylvia Martinez on the red-hot GenYES blog writes several posts about getting teens to use Web 2.0 independently - like we adult edubloggers do - to develop their literacy skills in ways that classrooms typically cannot match.

One reason I love Sylvia's posts is that she references reports and data that I don't have the will or temperament to seek out, but which speak almost always to my own priorities as an educator. A case in point: the goal of creating a "LearnerTalk" (but that sounds schooly) of student edubloggers to give us teachers lessons on how our Classroom 2.0 attempts measure up. Sylvia writes that this is already happening spontaneously, which encourages me to seek ways to harness and shepherd that trend into this arena...

Anybody who's taught high school English should know why most students hate to write in schools. It's because they're taught to write badly.

If I assigned any of you to write about ideas that aren't self-selected, in forms that aren't self-expressive, for an over-worked audience of one that puts two or three words, random red hieroglyphs, and a permanently-branded number into a ledger that threatens to determine your fate, face it: you would learn to hate writing (and school) too...

First, students would write self-directed blogs. No homework assignments allowed in terms of subject matter, though standards of style and conventions would be set;

Second, assessment would be based on readership, comments, subscriptions, visitor stats, Technorati authority ranking (with safeguards against fraudulent links, which are easy enough to spot), self-assessment, and other non-authoritarian, teacher-gives-grades assessment styles. (And yes, as usual, it's the institutional but otherwise counter-educational imperative to grade everything that presents the biggest obstacle to this approach to learning.)

--Wait, you say. That's not fair. Some students who are not blessed with verbal intelligence will not attract subscribers, visitors, comments, and so forth. But not so fast: the art of compensation with other intelligences is so much more possible on blogs. Not a great writer? Then compensate by communicating through images (see Diane Cordell's blog), podcasts (see Wes Fryer), films (see Marco Torres and Mabry Middle School), graphic novels and comic strips (see ToonDo). Carve out a niche doing Google Earth productions (see Google Lit Trips) as your blog's specialty. Find some skill you have, or some passion you want to extend, and adapt your blog to exploit that."

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