I was part of a NECC panel discussion this morning along with Tim Lauer, Tim Stahmer , Tom Hoffman, Will Richardson, and Thor Prichard. We talked about our use of weblogs and our reflections on that use. I shared some thoughts on lessons I have learned from the use of weblogs. I thought I’d try to post my reflections, plus some more that have come
to my mind as I sit here at my desk. It’ll be a mixture of my use of weblogs with students to improve writing and thinking and my own professional use of weblogs.

  • Weblogs make students feel like they have somecontrol over their school work, a choice. Every time I talked with my students about weblogs it always came through loud and clear that they LIKE having a choice about what they write. So try to build that in within the parameters of what you are trying to achieve. Choices are good.
  • I usually have a class weblog to go along with the student blogs. I start the students out as contributing/junior authors on my blog for a short period before empowering them with their own blogs. This really helpsthem get a sense of what it is all about.
  • Start small and get your administration involved and understanding your reasons for blogging with your class. Build good models and involve your students in the building part.
  • Involve parents in this process. They can really be your advocate plus be a part of it!
  • Weblogs give me a chance to build learning communities where I am on the same footing as my students. We write together. We talk about how it is hard work. We share things that work. We learn to disagree in agreeable ways. I really like that and so do the students.
  • I’ve learned that you need to really think about what it is that you want to accomplish. It’s not a good idea to just jump out there and let the kids begin blogging. You have to really know your educational goals and keep coming back to that vision. Develop a plan that can be altered and constantly tweaked as you go.
  • Certain features of weblogs (with students) are very important to have – comments being emailed to you is good, the ability to delete comments is needed, and for young students having management control of the process with something like Manila or TypePad is extremely beneficial. You have to decide what features you need for your purposes.
  • I’ve learned to find the beginnings of blogs I enjoy reading so I can get a sense of who is writing the blog and why they started. Or we look for a clearly identified ‘About page”. It is not always available and it’s frustrating. If you can’t tell who is writing the blog, especially if it is a good one you cannot really use if for aschool resource. (as far as citing purposes are concerned) I teach this skill to the students. Knowing who the author is helps us determine perspectives.
  • Weblogs let me enter the students’ world and get a clearer view of what they are thinking, what matters to them, to understand them. You can see strengths and weaknesses in a unique way. I like to think my teaching improves as a result.
  • I have my students comment on each other’s blogs from time to time. This builds ownership and understanding of why we blog. They really begin to appreciate each other’s efforts and celebrate different ways of learning.
  • I’ve learned that mistakes are OK. The process is more important than the product.
  • Proofreading is just as difficult to get students to do on weblogs as it is in any other form of writing. Students resist. I’m still working on this.
  • Weblogs give students a voice that matters to them. They feel like they are really part of something.
  • It’s important to build in time for reflection and help students with how to do this. It is a skill that will serve them well. And it sure helps us to know what they are really getting and what is uppermost on their minds.
  • Weblogs are a great arena to guide students toward responsible Internet use. They like giving their opinions and we get the opportunity to help them back up those opinions with data and writing that shows good thinking. You get to talk about things that are really going on in their Internet world and that gives us the opportunity to make suggestions that hopefully they will think about and carry away with them.
  • Checking for comments is ALWAYS the first thing students do.
  • The dialogue, the conversations you have in class about weblogs is just as important as the blogging. Allow time for that. It is crucial.
  • As an educator, I have learned more from weblogs than other school type inservices I’ve attended.
  • Deal directly with possible problems such as inappropriate comments – students can let you know, then delete, and go forward. This works so much better than just shutting everything down.
  • I’ve learned that with weblogs the educational possibilities truly are limitless! We can learn right along with and from the students. Weblogs can be the portal to bring about change in our classrooms (like less lecturing, etc.) The conversations need to continue. We need to share those conversations. We’re in a new type of learning and writing space that moves way beyond our classrooms that have been closed for so many years. I like to think that letting all our voices be heard will bring about needed changes in our educational system.

Now I’ve learned many more lessons but this post is getting far too long! Care to share some lessons you’ve learned through blogging? Comment away!