Education is always changing. Methods and technology has definitely changed since I have graduated from high school. As a teacher in the current educational system, we have to get our students to pass standardized tests in hopes of making AYP for our school. We are faced with “Do we, as educators, teach to the test or do we teach in hopes our students will get a full understanding of the content?” Now lets look at writing. There is an emphasis on reading rather than writing or literacy on standardized tests also associated with the No Child Left Behind Act. This pushes teachers into teaching formulaic writing.
Blogging presents a new approach for teachers to teach writing. The article The Influence of Classroom Blogging on Elementary Student Writing, a study was conducted in a fifth grade elementary classroom. Students that participated were of Hispanic, White, and Black. One was an English language learner and two were in the gifted program. The study was conducted over one academic school year. Most of the students were on grade level according to their teacher.
The purpose of the study was developed to address the question: “What happens when 5th graders blog and converse about literacies in class and beyond?” (Davis & McGrail, 2011) The researchers wanted to examine the influence of blogging in supporting writing and literacy development. “Young writers learn to write by writing, that young writers need to understand their own writing, and that writing development occurs over time.” (Davis & McGrail, 2011)
There were different people who served as the audience for the bloggers. A university professor provided informal feedback and conducted students interviews. Graduate students from the professor’s courses served as commenters and mentors. Other commenters were retired teachers.
“Prior to the project, the class curriculum focused on a review of 4th grade basics in sentence structure, nouns, and verbs, as well as fictional story writing” (Davis & McGrail, 2011) A total of 32 blogging sessions were conducted over the school year. To introduce the project, the teacher developed a webquest activity. She then created a wiki to familiarize different aspects of blogging: questioning, thinking, writing, collaborating, commenting, linking, and proof reading. The teacher also provided safety tips and guidelines.
In the beginning, the students wrote to their teacher. In a sense they wrote in the style a student would in a traditional writing assignment. Not really focusing that they are now writing to an audience. Over the coarse of the year, they became aware of their audience. The students developed a relationship with their readers. Their audience were real people, with whom they shared real interests. The students became empowered and motivated learners. They were willing to share with their readers with the help of confidence they started to gain. Some also made plans to improve their writing styles. In this study, blogging represented a new kind of space for learning.
The study suggests that the students grew as writers. They became aware of their audience and that it went beyond just their classroom teacher. I see this as a positive thing. This is another example of how technology and new methods both help the teacher and student. This is another way “hands-on” activities are not only engaging students but they are enjoying the learning process. They gained confidence within themselves during this study.
Davis, A. & McGrail, E. (2011). The Influence of Classroom Blogging on Elementary Student Writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education. Issue 25, pg. 415-437.