As part of the Wyoming Writing Project Summer Institute, I’m expected to complete an inquiry project that will answer a burning question I have about teaching or that will help me in my classroom in the fall. The question I chose to explore is, “How can I use technology and social media to create a more positive writing culture in my classroom?”
After a bit of research, I settled on the idea of using blogs! I think they could be a great platform to do a number of things, including create portfolios, publish student work, give students choice and voice, and build a community of writers.
In her book Using Social Media in the Classroom: A Best Practice Guide, Dr. Megan Poore gives an excellent overview of how and why social media can be used as a tool in secondary classrooms. Note that I said tool. I am not planning a unit on social media and how to use it, no matter how badly young people today need to know how to stay safe and appropriate on the internet. What I want to explore is the possibility of using social media as an apparatus to help with several aspects of my classroom. Poore discusses several benefits of educational social media, including fostering student collaboration and aiding management and administration. However, the benefit I’m most interested in is student motivation, and that is best explained in the following section:
Take a look at what many children and young people do in their ‘off time’ and you will see that a lot of this is spent using social media. The attractiveness of social media for young people can be harnessed in the classroom:
- Control and ownership. Students can create their own social and intellectual presence with social media. In developing their own blog or animation, they are creating something that exists within themselves, not something that is external or in some way ‘false’.
- Increased effort. Students try harder when they know their work is being published to the world. Having someone other than the teacher accessing and judging their work can provide a high incentive.
- Audience. Getting feedback from an audience in the wider world can be very exciting and affirming for students.
- Self-publication. Easy self-publication and/ or sharing of information makes students want to share their work and do well at it.
- Creativity. Social media provide multiple modes and outlets for creativity, from text to audio to video to animation.
The motivational element is key to me, as my inquiry is all about creating a more positive writing culture through technology and social media.
At the moment I am envisioning two sides to this endeavor, one directly connected to the classroom curriculum, and another designed to give students opportunities to explore their interests. In both parts of this project, we will be working on creating a portfolio of student writing that I can use to holistically assess my students, and that students can look back on to see how much they’ve grown as writers.
Side One: Using social media to enhance curriculum and lessons in the classroom.
Regardless of whether we’re working with a writing based unit or a reading based one, there are a number of things my students could use blogs to do.
- Post reading responses and discussions
- Character Studies
- Important Quotes
- Identifying a Theme
- Post a drawing of a character or setting
- Publish their writing (whatever form that might take)
- Read and comment on the writing of their classmates
Any kind of writing also gives us opportunities to work on grammar and usage, which is admittedly a weakness in my teaching.
Side Two: Interest-based information gathering and synthesis
All of my preps include research based projects, including essays, debates, and presentations. I would like these projects to be individualized and interest-driven, and student blogs would be an excellent place for students to collect, synthesize, and respond to any research those projects might entail. Some post types I anticipate seeing include–
- Book Reviews on chosen topic
- Collecting and synthesizing information
- Write and publish a report
- Responses to relevant current events
As the summer continues, I plan on posting several examples of the kinds of writing I will expect from my students. This will help me continue my inquiry project for WWP, but it will also give me a collection of examples to show my students, as well as help keep me motivated and thinking about my classroom through July and August.