One year later, Chris has replaced these misgivings with sheer determination for publishing a blog that features student work for authentic review. It is an understatement to say she has changed her mind. She now gives her own workshops for teachers who are willing to learn more about the power of this medium.
“Blogging is now central to student motivation and the whole process of students taking more responsibility for the quality of their work. I have never had students who are so excited about writing. For the first time in my career, I have students who are submitting their writing to me without an assignment, just so they can have their work published for review by an authentic global audience. We have had the author of one of our books, Chris Crowe who wrote the very powerful Mississippi Trial 1955, reply to our blog. “I’m especially pleased by your students’ reaction to my characters; I tried to make the fictional people as complicated and interesting as people are in real life. The students’ insight into the issues and characters are right on, and it’s clear they’re doing careful reading and thinking. I’m looking forward to talking to everyone in a week or two.”
Chris goes on to explain, “Perhaps what surprised me the most is that when the school year finished I had students who continued to reflect on their writing during our summer vacation. It is very validating to me to have a student come back to school to share how they visited the class blog during their vacation to see if there were any comments from around the world. I hope that my students that I have in class this year will be just as enthusiastic about publishing on the blog. One can only hope.”
How often have your students reflected on their writing portfolio during summer vacation?
Unlike word processing, or using an interactive whiteboard, or having students present a PowerPoint presentation to classmates behind closed doors, blogging shifts the concept of the control of information. Perceptions of time, space and relationships are expanded. The audience moves from teacher and class to the world. Teachers are no longer the sole or even the primary arbitrator of student work. It is even possible that teachers do not have to work as hard to motivate traditionally failing students or to set much higher expectations for excelling students. Parents can now have access to the writing of an entire class compared to only what their own child brings home written in their hand. Because of her blog, Chris has had requests from Turkey and the Caribbean for writing partnerships this year.
Enter “pre cal” into Google and in the top spot you will find: http://pc40s.blogspot.com. This is the class blog of Winnipeg mathematics teacher and department head, Darren Kuropatwa. Darren is another pioneer who has engaged his students in producing a student guide to pre-calculus and calculus. Each day a different student is the official scribe of the class and is responsible for producing notes for publication of that days’ discussion. Students are challenged to produce accurate notes with accompanying illustrations and examples by their classmates. At the end of this year, his classes will have produced a Student’s Guide to Understanding Calculus.