Currently there are no official laws, rules, or guidelines for blogging in U.S. classrooms. Therefore, we came up with some classroom guidelines. “Preparing students to be responsible users of the internet also involves helping them learn what is safe and appropriate behaviour” (Grabe & Grabe, 2001). Each school year, I ask my students for input on the classroom rules and wanted us to share in cultivating the cyber climate as well.
Our rules included safety guidelines such as not to reveal students’ and/or teachers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, or the name of our school. Hence, we all had varied and somewhat creative pen names. Interestingly, when I asked the girls for suggestions regarding the classroom blog guidelines, I noticed a pattern among their comments. I placed these comments into the following main categories: (1) confidentiality (2) authenticity (3) respect, and (4) teamwork. Much of the discourse pertaining to blog rules took place online between the students.
The purpose of our blog was to serve as an experimental digital platform for class discussion. Since all the participants were considered “at-risk”, addressing the social-emotional needs of my students was a part of their curriculum. We decided to use the blog to discuss various topics that concerned them. In a sense, our classroom blog served as a virtual peer support group.
I asked the girls which topics they would like to discuss on the blog and the following were their suggestions: (1) music (2) hobbies (3) self-esteem (4) parents (5) boyfriends (6) sex (7) drugs, and (8) education. The girls then voted on which topic they wanted to discuss. The topic of self-esteem was chosen. Many of the girls said they chose self-esteem because they believed that the other topics were all interconnected with self-esteem.
Prior to discussing self-esteem online we read a chapter titled Self-Image and Self-Improvement in the Life Skills Training: Promoting Health and Personal Development book by Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin. This served as a springboard for our online discussion. Additionally, I posted a blogger prompt inspired from the chapter.
It is my contention that a blogger prompt is different than a journal prompt due to its interactive nature. A blogger prompt has to encourage participants to address issues from multiple perspectives. Whereas, most journal prompts do not encourage multiple perspectives and lead to a monocular thesis, which are often as 2D as the paper it’s written on.
There were a total of 31 posts made relating to blog guidelines, topic choice, and self-esteem. One of the girls defined self-esteem as, “something you feel within yourself.” The girls also listed factors which they discussed as possibly contributing to one’s self-esteem. They are as follows: (1) family (2) friends (3) boys (4) race, and (5) their environment. The girls expressed themselves in their posts via direct statements and question format. Overall, the girls supported and encouraged each other via their blog postings.
A verbal interview indicated none of the girls knew what a blog was prior to our blogging project. After blogging, I administered a written survey. When all five of the girls were interviewed they all reported positive feelings with regard to blogging.