Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Blogging in the classroom - after two years I weigh the pros and cons of my "teacher blog" (...and create a "students blog")

I have been a blogger for nearly two years. 
I use my educational blog The Travelling Teachers  almost every day in my classes and my students are asked to use it at home.
I have already written on this blog about the advantages of blogging in the classrom and  I propose again my Popplet mind-map about it below.

Click on the image to open it

After two years I can say that my students are more engaged than before, they are enthusiastic about using my blog both at home and in the classroom. 
Blogs support writing, reading, listening and even speaking skills
In the classroom (blended learning) we read some posts, translate them and comment on them. We watch some videos, listen to some songs or surf the Net through the suggested links. 
At home students can enter their reflections on posted questions, publish their own questions and share opinions. They are sometimes asked to study a particular topic on the blog at home and relate to the classmates and to the teacher about it in the classroom. (flipped learning).

By blogging, we also reach some important goals concerning technology. Students exercise their digital citizenship and understand some ethical, cultural, and societal issues related to technology; they also learn to use some technology tools to increase their productivity and creativity; they improve their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language (CLIL); they use the English language both within and beyond the school and, in the end, they start becoming life-long learners by using the foreign language for personal enjoyment and enrichment. 

But I realised that something was missing... 
Students did not willingly leave their comments on the posts. 
An educational blog should improve the students' way of expressing themselves.  In fact being published, by leaving their comments, should be an incentive for many students. Even the most shy students should feel empowered and motivated by expressing themselves better in a written discussion than in front of a class.
But, when asked to leave their comments on the posts or to answer some questions in a written form, my students felt intimidated. Absurdly, they preferred writing them on their exercise-book because they were afraid of my blog visibility (my students are young learners, unaccostumed to social networks and impractical in using social forums).

How to solve this problem? I really wanted my students to write more. I decided to create a students blog to make the learners more active, more self-confident and more and centered on their own learning process.

I created this image with Cacoo.

The Michelangelo English Club was born, on an experimental basis, a month ago.
It is meant to be a blog for the students of my classes, it will contain all their projects, works, reports and researches. The posts will entirely be written by the students. Learners will gradually feel more confident in writing posts and leaving comments because this blog will be their own, they will feel "at home".
Of course we will continue to use my blog, as well. The "teacher blog" and the "students blog" will be closely related and... we will see what happens!