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Why a Teacher Turned to Blogging

April 11, 2010

As a person from Generation X, it was only a few years after my college graduation that the internet became a part of daily life.  But as a teacher, it seems that once you enter the classroom, the years almost pass in a blur as you focus on your lessons, your students, your school community.

We encourage our students to continue to be lifelong learners, yet sometimes we teachers are reluctant to embrace new ideas and techniques.  The battle of control in the classroom is one hard-fought and hard-won.  Sometimes letting go of a sure thing that is working reasonably well does not make sense, and so years pass with minimal change, the same lesson plans recycled again and again, in spite of new technology that might make their implementation easier.

This sensei got her first experience in pre-blogging while on a study tour to Japan.  Feeling guilty about leaving my family for 10 days, but excited to be able to share my adventures with students, I wrote daily email dispatches to my contact at the National Council for the Social Studies, the organization managing the tour.  I wrote about the schools I visited, how students in Japan could be so different yet so similar to my own students in South Central Los Angeles, and how I felt as a visitor to this beautiful, foreign land.  These dispatches were posted on the NCSS website, and my students were able to read them nightly, and have class discussions about them with their other teachers.

Upon my return to school, I saw a new respect in my students’ eyes.  It was as if a light had been turned on.  Not only had I traveled to Asia, but I made sure that the wonder of learning was shared by all of them.  Most notably, my newcomer students thanked me for my writing, since I had translated my dispatches into Spanish, and they could be included in the excitement as well.

Fast forward to 2007, where another chance of a lifetime opportunity presented itself, to travel to Saudi Arabia, courtesy of Saudi Aramco Oil Company and the International Institute of Education.  This time I was prepared.  Technology made creating and maintaining a blog as easy as pie.  The Saudi Arabia blog, in conjunction with a online photo sharing website chronicled this life-changing journey via words, pictures, and even videos.  The most fruitful moments came when students were able to post questions online based on my itinerary, and get answers instantly. Some student comments, text language and all:

“Hello How was ur christmas ur blogg iz super duper awsome i really enjoyed seeing KFC Saudi Arabian style anyways email me please see ya got to get back 2 class
UGH!” (Student 1)

“I REALLY ADMIRE YOU FOR BEING THE KIND OF PERSON WHO NEVER MISSES A CHANCE TO LEAR MORE AND LIVE AN ADVENTURE.YOU ARE A REAL SENSEI! HAPPY THANKSGIVING AND HAVE A MARVELOUS TIME ON SAUDI ARABIA!:)(:(:):)”  (Student 2)

Even my colleagues shared my posts with their own students, especially in History class, where they created lessons based on the blog.

“I will be sure to show this blog to my 6th graders this week as an example of expository text that can be found online. As we work to incorporate digital literacies into our students’ learning “toolkits,” I’m sure this blog will also encourage them to be ditigal communicators as well!” (Teacher)

To this day, the blog, which is an archive of that study tour, still generates regular visits and comments from people all over the world.

Being a History teacher, there is something compelling about maintaining a record of events in our small part of the world.  Howard Zinn, a giant in writing about the history of regular folks like you and me, espoused the idea that everybody’s history mattered.  What is the history of your school, your community, your small part of the world? And how does that experience fit into the big picture of what is happening in our country, our world today?

While it can daunting to experiment with different methods, blogging is surely one of the easiest ways to infuse instruction with technology.  Teachers have used class blogs to post assignments, projects, and vacation homework.  Others have used it in lieu of school newspapers and even as a way to archive their lessons online.  I have even used a blog as a way to manage my media and links to handouts when presenting at a conference.   Teaching, if anything, is a lifetime full of new attempts, strategies, and approaches to make that light turn on in our students’ eyes.  Give it a whirl!

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