Can Students Blog to Teachers About Teaching?
Writing to an audience has been on my mind since students started blogging in classrooms. While I have my students blog, it still feels incomplete--the audience feels missing. Or imagined.
And I am wondering if that matters. Isn't an imagined audience the audience writers write to? I can't imagine that J.K. Rowling knew every adolescent who read Harry Potter. She was writing to the idea of an adolescent. Or is there another way to see it?
While an imagined audience may be appropriate, if not realistic, I continue to wrestle with uncovering more authentic writing experiences to specific audiences. I have seen many letter writing examples which fit the bill. Writing to other classrooms through a blog works. Pen pals can also thrust audience into the conversation.
But I had some other nontraditional ideas...
After participating in the #EdCollab chat on Twitter this week, I have been thinking about some ideas. First, inviting students to write the daily message on the side-of-the-road school signage sounds like a really fun, informal exercise. I can imagine a class of 25 or so being assigned a month (well in advance) and everyone gets a shot at crafting a daily message. Of course, this would not fulfill all students in the building, but you could run with it from there--it could be a club; it could be something all kids are invited to submit entries to (sort of like sending a mss to a journal). Maybe a class of kids could review entries and make recommendations and pass them on to a senior editor (the administrator in charge of the road sign). There are probably lots of other variations--in the end, it is real practice in writing to an audience (the community). Also, imagine how fun it would be for students to look at that sign every morning not knowing whose writing would be appearing in public.
Another idea cropped up (again on Twitter) when Joy Kirr retweet Andrea Kornowski:
Andrea's tweet got me thinking about the blog I started for the ELA department this year. It was an effort to get everyone collaborating and experiencing blogging in a safe space. We kept the blog private. I invited everyone to post (got a few) and even sought monthly guest bloggers from outside of our school. While we generated some content, we experienced little engagement. No one commented either in writing or in department meetings. It is safe to assume the department blog flopped.
However, I am wondering...what if I invited students to write the content? What is students were asked to consider writing guest blog posts about what works for them as students? Any teacher could reach out to individual students to encourage them to submit an entry for consideration. Again, this might function as an early exercise in students seeking publication (if they want it).
The students would have a very specific audience to craft writing to--they would (hopefully) inspire engagement and conversation with their writing. Of course, kids may want to take the opportunity to criticize, but I see that as an opportunity to teach. Here is an opportunity for you to develop and share your thinking in a positive, constructive format to a real audience.
I now have a vision of the ELA blog really becoming a blog for the entire staff. A place for teachers to read reflections and insights from students about what worked for them as learners. This, in effect, is what I do with the podcast published out of my classroom: The Classroom.
In our staff blog, kids would be writing to one very specific and familiar audience, would be published, and we would be accomplishing the goal of having the staff talk more about the craft of teaching--and maybe seeing the value of engaging online. Again, I am sure there are many concerns that might bubble up, and variations of (better) ideas that would make this concept beneficial to everyone...but this is definitely an idea to chew on.
Donald Graves reminds us that many teachers will go through entire careers without ever accessing the best research portals in the classroom--the students. So, as July winds to a close, I am wondering--can students blog to teachers about teaching? I think this is an idea with some hope...