I left the following as a comment today on the ISTEconnects blog post, “ISTEConnects to Attend WordCamp on Your Behalf ~ We Want your Questions!” This was in response to Ann Grub’s question, “Do you think middle school students should blog? Why or why not?”

I definitely think middle school students should be blogging, as well as elementary and high school students. There are several reasons for this.

First of all, students need to practice their writing skills regularly, and blogging is an excellent way to do this. We get better at things we practice regularly. It is common for kids to be required to read regularly during and after school, but regular writing assignments are less common. Blogging provides a way to both encourage and empower students students to write regularly.

The second main reason I’d argue students (including middle school students) should be blogging is so they can learn how to properly and responsibly use hyperlinked writing. Hyperlinks are one of the foundational technologies of the Internet. Students use hyperlinks by clicking on them, but far fewer create their own hyperlinks as part of their class assignments. Certainly the prevalence of social networking platforms has increased opportunities for students to use hyperlinks in their writing, but voluntary student use of social networking platforms does not necessarily result in students learning about hyperlinking and responsible use of hyperlinks.

Students should be encouraged to blog responsibly so they can discover their own voice. This is not the case for everyone, but some students are able to really discover their own voice via writing. The encouragement and positive feedback which young writers can receive through writing on blogs and other social websites can play an important role in defining identity for a young person. Students can and do often discover the power of their words, and the importance of sharing thoughts as well as ideas.

I commend the Support Blogging Wiki to you for additional resources related to student blogging, including lots of great links to classroom blogs where you can find examples of student work.

I’d add to this answer the importance of helping students take proactive control over their “digital footprints” and the importance of teaching digital citizenship at school. By regularly writing on a blog and discussing the issues which arise as a result of interactions there, students as well as teachers can learn a wealth of things related to digital citizenship on an ongoing basis.

Footprints in the Sand

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On this day..

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  • http://philosophywithoutahome.blogspot.com Brendan Murphy

    If by hyperlinking you also mean a pre-courser to learning how and when to cite sources then I’m all for it.

  • http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical Bill Ferriter

    Hey Wes,

    Great bit—and I love the emphasis you place on using hyperlinks. For me, it has less to do with citing sources than it does with connective thinking. Being able to see the route that students took to get to their final positions on topics is beautiful.

    It’s kind of like “showing your work” in math class. With hyperlinked writing, teachers can see the errors in logic or the misinformation that their students are wrestling with—-or can celebrate their ability to “mashup” content from different sources into new and original thought.

    Of course, I’m no where near getting my middle schoolers to this point, but I can always dream, right?!

    Bill

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Certainly properly citing sources is a part of academic scholarship. One can also argue it (along with “linktribution“) is an important part of netiquette when it comes to social media as well as digital citizenship.

    In this case, I’m making the case for students to learn about hyperlinked writing in part because students learn more and specifically become more media literate as they shift in being prosumers of information rather than strictly passive consumers. It’s also critical to recognize the importance of hyperlinking with care. Things you link to represent you as well as the organizations of which you are a part. This includes your family, your school, clubs and other organizations, etc. Things you link to can become associated with you as part of your “personal brand.” Jeff Utech wrote a good post about personal branding recently which relates to this.

    So I agree source citation is important, but I think the reasons for students blogging and learning about hyperlinked writing go beyond it.

  • Hadass Eviatar

    Bill, I totally love the analogy with “showing your work” in math! That’s a great way to think about it.

    Wes, I have forwarded your blog to everyone I could think of, LOL. I learn so much from my PLN everyday!

  • http://www.studystack.com John Weidner

    I definitely agree that students should be being taught to blog along with being taught digital citizenship. I run a free educational website that includes the ability for users to submit comments. While I do get many constructive comments, I also get comments from students practicing their curse words. I’ve even had a student suggest that I should kill myself. Once I added a real time chat feature to help students collaborate. But it quickly got abused and I had to remove it. From my perspective it seems that many students are not being taught how to be responsible when they use the internet.

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  • Bruni98

     This is also well encouraged in a book I am reading called Thirteen. A middle school teacher assigns an assignment that is needed to blog. She explains to the kids that it is a good skill to be communicating with people and to practice their grammar. 
    ~Bruni98 

  • Gabs98

    I think it would be good to blog for middle schoolers cause we always feel more sicure when we have others oppinions backing us up so i think it would and is a good idea

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  • Daniel Shawen

    No one ever makes even one edit (for content, grammar, nor legality) of a blog.  This is a problem.  One student (and probably a lot more want to) claiming that the whole educational system is failing him and many students he knows.  One wonders, did he ever get any useful feedback?  Not from any of the blog posts I saw next to his video.  Here’s an original thought:  Students’ writing will get better if they 1) read things that are well written 2) read material that is not “groupthink” (and not blogs), and 3) their writing needs to get criticism from an educator who writes well.    I read newspapers; not blogs, because they’re edited, and I occasionally read a point of view other than my own (also missing on blogs).

  • http://wfryer.wpengine.com Wesley Fryer

    Making a claim like yours (“No one ever makes even one edit (for content, grammar, nor legality) of a blog”) is like someone saying, “No one ever writes anything worth reading using a pencil.” Your statement is simply not true. Thousands if not millions of people around the world are using blogs for all kinds of writing, and many bloggers definitely DO make a ton of edits before AND after publishing. Some blogging tools specifically designed for classroom use (like Kidblog and Classblogmeister, but WordPress supports this to) are configured for students to submit draft posts to their teacher for review and editing, and can be published after they have been proofed.

    Virtually every newspaper today is running on a blog platform which supports interactive commenting. I subscribe to hundreds of fantastic (and well-written) education blogs, and read many posts each day.
    http://wfryer.wpengine.com/resources/education-blogs/

    A ton of blogs include diverse opinions and many blog authors seek balance, not to simply share a single perspective.

    I’d encourage you to reconsider your negative opinion of “blogs” in general. Criticizing blogs as a category of websites is a lot like criticizing a single type of writing instrument, like fountain pens or mechanical pencils. People can write wonderful as well as well as unremarkable things with all these tools.

    I’m citing academic researchers like Stephen Krashen in encouraging students to do more reading to become both better readers and writers. It’s certainly good for people to read well-formed content, but it’s not true that people must read only ‘a certain kind’ of writing or literature to acquire literacy skills. I don’t advocate that students ONLY read blogs written by individuals, but blogs certainly can and should be PART of the repertoire of student reading materials.
    http://www.sdkrashen.com/

    Note my post here was why students should be WRITING blog posts. There is value in students both reading and writing blogs. In generally I think students need to be doing MUCH more writing inside and outside of classrooms, and blogs are ideal platforms for teachers to use to facilitate this process. They are also great for anyone outside of school who wants to communicate a message and reach an audience, especially for interactive conversations. This very post and comment thread is a case in point!

  • Danshawen

    Nice try, and worth reading (ONCE), Wesley.  But I am reading a lot of blogs (including student blogs), and I’m still just not seeing very much writing in cyberspace that is actually worth reading, at any age level.

    My guess is, you probably didn’t learn how to write as well as you do by writing blogs. Why do you expect this is the “perfect” tool for learning to write?  It requires a computer and an internet connection.  What about people all over the world who can’t even afford to buy a pencil?  I’ll bet an awful lot of them can write better than many of those better equipped.  It reminds me of someone like Steven Wolfram, who takes 20 years to write a book that basically says, if you don’t have a supercomputer, you can’t really do worthwhile science anymore.

    Don’t take my word on how bad blogging is; check out the statistics on blogging.   It’s done mostly by guys, mostly software developers, mostly to further corporate revenues and advertising or political ends.   All the rest of the blogs aren’t even a drop in a very large bucket, including educators.

    Once you have written something down, it is an unfortunate truth that whatever you have written is, from the moment you have written it, as dead as the paper and ink (or bits, or blogs, or other media) with or on which it was written.  Where blogs are concerned, that’s probably a good thing.

    Now if you were pitching that students were becoming better photographers, graphic artists, musicians or composers, you might actually have an idea worth furthering (like Steve Jobs did), but that just doesn’t seem to be what most blogs are about.

  • Danshawen

    To sum up:
    I don’t think that a world full of bloggers is something that anyone or their children should aspire to.  So why exactly are you training them to do that?

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