Now that I’m here in this space, I think it makes sense to declare, both for you and for me, just why I think these new technologies belong in the high school English/language arts classroom. This post will focus on blogging — the next on podcasting. I am squeezing these posts in between Saturday chores and baby care.
Why blogging? Because I teach writing to struggling writers. I want them to approach their writing knowing a few basic things:
1. They are writing for a real audience.
At school, students are often writing to the teacher to prove to the teacher that they are learning something. But what, except how to write to a teacher, are they learning? Is writing to the teacher a skill that is useful outside of school? Really?
Not in my life. And, heck, I work in a school.
Isn’t it more realistic to teach writing by having students engage in writing to a real audience? Yes, I think so. In fact, that’s why I have taught journalism. The school newspaper at least creates a school-wide audience that students can write to — which is better than that silly old audience of one.
Blogging ups the ante. By posting online, my students would be writing to the entire world, in theory — about as big an audience as one can get. And what better audience than everyone and no one at the same time?
2. No writing exists in a vacuum. Texts are connected.
Students, and lots of adults, for that matter, don’t seem to understand that texts relate to one another. The letters to the editor in today’s paper relate to yesterday’s newspaper articles. (Yes, overly simplistic, but a good place to show a concrete text to text connection.) The novels written today speak to the novels written in the early 20th Century. Sylvia Plath relates to Anne Bradstreet. Kurt Vonnegut has a job because H.G. Wells came first. You get my point.
The convention of hyperlinking text in blog posts is a very concrete way of demonstrating to students how texts speak to one another. Better still, if students are creating their own blogs with hyperlinks, they’ll be forced to think differently about how texts talk to each other. I can’t really ask them to do this type of thinking on a piece of loose-leaf paper with a number 2 pencil.
3. Students today need to understand computers.
I work with students who may not have computers in their homes. But they’ll be looking for jobs in a world where computers are more and more commonplace. Even the freaking cash-register at McDonald’s has more computing power than the computers I used when I was a kid playing with LOGO Turtles. I need a way to break my students’ fear of computers, and get them up to speed to navigate in the techno world. But I don’t want them to simply be consumers of technology — I want them to be producers, to control their own small portion of the Inkernet.
More on this later — there are leftovers to heat and a baby to feed. Interested in your thoughts.