I work in an Independent School in Melbourne, Australia, and this year we have made a commitment to help our students (grades 7-12) create ePortfolios, using an Edublogs campus as the platform. Here are 5 reasons why we are making student blogging and portfolio development a high priority.
1. Positive digital footprints
These kids need to establish a positive digital footprint. Without question, it will be the norm for these students to be Googled when they begin to seek employment. Even employment of the part time variety! They need to cultivate their personal brand, and we can help them by encouraging them to post about the great things they are involved in at school. This can reflect what they are learning in their classrooms, or it can be a discussion of the co-curricular activities they enjoy. We want our students to understand that they can control the message about them that exists on the Web, and they can point prospective employers, colleagues or university admissions officers towards a digital footprint that they themselves have created when the time is right.
2. Communicating with digital tools
We want our students to have a handle on how you use digital tools for communication purposes, and not just through networks like Facebook. Plenty of our students are Facebook users, but there is a higher order skill set required to maintain consistent posts in a blog. We’ve taught our students how to set up categories, add widgets, use the HTML editor to embed code, and even how to tell the difference between a legitimate comment and someone who is spamming you. As our world moves ever more closely towards the Internet as the main vehicle for communication, we feel that we are helping our students understand the language they will need to navigate this new territory.
3. Transparency for parents and family
Our curriculum is becoming more transparent for our parent population. As our students write more and more about their learning, we now have a means for our parents to feel more connected to what happens at school. Where once a child would write for an audience of one – their teacher – now they are writing for a potentially much larger audience that includes their immediate and extended family. When you see a grandparent leave a comment on a child’s blog, it brings a bit of a tear to one’s eye!
Just think, these students will have a digital archive of their learning, but not only that, they will have comments from friends and family members that they can revisit in years to come. Their access won’t be limited to the box of cherished school records and momentos at the top of the bedroom cupboard. For these kids, an internet connection will enable them to pull up their account from anywhere and revisit their childhood and adolescent school years.
4. New ways of thinking about Web tools
We need a digital space to demonstrate new methods of learning using Web tools. Already this year, our student ePortfolios have been used to embed Slideshare and Google Docs presentations, Glogsters, podcasts created with Garageband, Google MyMaps, Prezi’s and links to Wiki pages they have edited for differing subject areas. Just having our students understand how to hyperlink to other people’s content, and the potential this opens for two-way conversation, has been eye opening for them. These spaces have helped provide even more reasons for our teaching staff to utilize Web based tools and teach themselves new skills in the process.
5. Effective digital citizenship
The ePortfolios support our commitment to assist our students with the skills they need for effective digital citizenship. We are having the conversations we need to have about how you conduct yourself in digital spaces in the context of our curriculum, and not in isolated lecture style presentations that may hit a chord with some students, but miss the mark with others. When I talk to my 7th grade students, they can clearly articulate why it is we are using these ePortfolios. It makes sense to them, and they know it is important for their future lives. Believe you me, when a student tells you they need a really good digital footprint, it makes you feel like you’ve earned your keep that week!
Amazing or what?
I know I said I’d give you 5 reasons, but I can’t resist adding a very important 6th. For many of our students, their world view is changing as a result of posting in public spaces. Many of them have embedded clustr maps into their sidebars, and they can see where people are visiting from. Recently, one of our year seven students posted about the effect this global audience has had on her.
“Okay- so is this is amazing.
I’ve used this blog since March 30th and so far it’s been a great resource and an amazing display of some of my work this year. It hasn’t just been my teachers, my classmates, my family and I that have looked at it- as of August 6 my blog has had 533 visits worldwide.
Amazing or what? WOW.”
Photo: Pixelsrzen, Creative Commons
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Our school is beginning this blogging journey for the same reasons. Thanks for the post!
thanks for your insights, I was particularly interested in your point about leaving a positive digital footprint. I will certainly be sharing this with my own children too! The notion of eportfolios has been questionable at our school in the past (eg: lots of work for little purpose etc) I like how the students blog their learning as it has such a broader audience (as the lovely comment at the end mentioned). We are just getting into blogging at our primary school and I’ll use your insights to validate the purpose. Thanks
Thanks Sharon. I speak with parents regularly as they visit our school, and many of them are in agreement that it is important to impart to our children the need for a positive digital footprint. It’s certainly a message I share with my own children too.
This is true for teachers as well, not just students. In fact, I find that I constantly refer back to my blog as it has evolved into an e-portfolio for me even though that wasn’t why I originally started blogging.
I like to promote blogging for teachers and students and in a couple of cases, started both off at once. One teacher even did it as an action research with the theme of blended instruction. I learned from this exercise as well (here’s more on this as well as this with peer coaching perspective).
as with above, I’ve now used my blog as a reference point. Showing that to teachers help them imagine what they can do themselves and for their students.
Good luck on your endeavour…it looks very much like you’re on the right track to achieving your goal.
great, digital tools. What happens when these digital tools no longer matter? I hope at least part of your rationale is improving students’ ability to learn, their critical & reflective thinking skills & maybe even improve their crap detection.
Maybe this is part of your rationale, but it’s interesting these (more important, IMO) factors were only implicit in your writing.
Thanks for the pushback Jerrid. Our blog platform is only one part of our school’s information fluency initiative we have introduced to ensure our students have the critical and reflective thinking skills they need to operate effectively in today’s world. As a Teacher-Librarian, I am actively working in classrooms to ensure their skill set is broad and helps them to source the best resources and identify when they are dealing with ‘crap’ online. We have been more than impressed with the ability of some of our students to reflect quite deeply on their learning experiences and document this through the blog platform.
Perhaps not quite ‘reasons’ but surely outcomes:
7. Through peer review pupils begin to understand that there is more than one way of critiquing an artefact, that people may have equally valid but different opinions and that thus we should all be willing to learn from alternative views and thus build up a wider mindset.
8. Pupils begin to realise that their teachers can show a personal interest in their individual progress.
Thanks for your worthy additions to the list Ray. : )
My co teacher Pro and I here at http://yearr5rc.edublogs.org work hard to instil the concept of a digital footprint with our year five students. Interestingly they get it straight away and are interested and receptive to the concept. We have no problems teaching them to comment in full sentences and with appropriate spelling etc, Starting young makes it easy, I think.
Many of those with individual blogs are really into clustr maps and flag counters too, the excitement for them as well, comes from the idea that real people are reading what they have to say.
I am presenting on the value of blogging at the 5th national leading a digital school conference in Melbourne next week, I can’t wait to show your blog and this post as an example of what more schools should be doing.
Thanks for telling us of the impact of blogging on your students Henrietta. Great to have another Aussie providing some input. : )
Feel free to share the blog and this post at the conference next week.
Jenny. : )
Hi Jenny and others,
Thank you for your interesting discussion about the goals and benefits of student blogging. I agree that positive digital footprints, good communication skills and transparency are important issues in 21st century learning environments. Congratulations on your proactive approach to developing effective digital citizens.
Thanks for leaving such kind words about this post Britt.
Jenny : )
Brilliant! If you’d like regular commenting on anything they post plus a weekly creative writing challenge do send me the links of the blog when they are up! I’m at http://www.theheadsoffice.co.uk (@theheadsoffice)
Do get in touch!
Liked the list as I’m rolling out blogs to all kids in September in an Inner City London School as part of a Google doc based learning platform.
Can I add one more idea. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that writing a blog encourages boys in particular to write more and at a higher standard with the clear benefits this has in all other subjects. Ask me in a year if it does!
Thanks for an insightful & succinct discussion of ePortfolios. I started them last year (only person in my 2200 student District) and am continuing them this year. I linked to this so I can send parents to read you.
Thanks for putting into words what I have been intuitively feeling. I hadn’t thought specifically about building a positive footprint, but it makes sense. We begin eportfolios this year
Thanks for an excellent post! My school is beginning to develop online portfolios using wordpress.com this year. Several teachers in our school are starting to become excited about using blogs for their students. Digital citizenship and responsibility is such an important skill that our students MUST understand!
If anyone is looking for a blogging project to help get them started, Globablog is a free global learning project that gives 8 weeks of blog posting assignments using online tech tools and creates a safe place to connect with other students from around the world.
The project starts October 3, 2011. Check it out: www. globablog.com
This post highlights factors that myself and a number of my associates have sought solutions for. Thanks so much for covering it with so much authority.
Thank you for the insightful article.
I have been itching to add student blogs to what I do with tech (I am lucky enough to have one-to-one laptop classroom, grades 5 and 6), but have met with resistance about creating blogs and posting video in terms of privacy and responsibility for the protection of the student. This issue has prevented me from sharing much of what I have done in the classroom. How have you overcome that with your parent population, or has it even been an issue? Are the blogs public or private?
As well, what would you suggest happens to a blog when the student moves on from my class to high school? The question of who monitors what the student posts at the end of the year, and whether the blog remains up is one that my ped. consultants haven’t yet been able to answer. Should I take them down, or sign over the monitoring to parents, some of whom are uncomfortable with their child having put this out there?
Thanks for your feedback. Our blogs are public. At the start of this process, we sent letters home to our parent population outlining our reasoning for instigating ePortfolios, and ran subsequent parent information sessions for people wanting more detail. We found that parents were very positive about their introduction, particularly when introduced to ideas such as those presented in this post. We are looking to introduce ePortfolios at grade 5 & 6 this year, and will be working closely with our parent population to help them understand our motivations, and our belief that what we are doing is positive for their child’s future.
We have had a couple of our students relocate to other states at the end of our school year. We have helped them set up blogs for themselves, and have exported their blog content to their new blogs. They wanted to do this, and we’re keen to continue their blogs on their own steam in new school environments. They will now be managing the process themselves. I’d say that’s an indication our students can see the positive reasons why an ePortfolio works for them and their futures.
Good luck Kathy.
Jenny : )
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