Pat Aroune who is a high school teacher in upstate New York and a new edblogger (after 16 years in the business) sent along a link to some student Weblogs from his summer class on economics and a couple of them, Greg’s Public Views and Economics According to Andi struck me because of some of the work there and their reflections about blogging. Pat’s idea was to have them use their blogs to study economics in the context of whatever their passions were, and the results are pretty telling. Greg commented
I’ve learned in a way that tailors to my interests, what with using the internet to its fullest extent and writing about things that I am interested in. I would write about things like snowboarding, soccer, filmaking, eating, sleeping… whatever I wished, as long as I related it to economics. After doing this for a while, I started to realize that I was learning much faster than I would have normally by reading a boring (sorry, they almost always are) textbook. Not only could I write about things that I like and post them, but others could view those posts, as could I theirs, and consequently learn from their experiences and interests as well.
I think about this all the time in terms of my own children, who are learning to do all sorts of things in the context of what they are passionate about be it Power Rangers or horseback riding. And I’m really trying to nurture their entry into a world where they can learn together with other kids who are equally passionate about those topics (well, maybe not Power Rangers…)
Andi states it a bit differently but clearly makes the point:
To be quiet honest, I’ve become so accustomed to the “old skool” way of learning through the textbook and lectures, taking tests, and writing essays, that it’s just how I learn the easiest. It’s all I’ve known. How is this blogging thing gonna really help me? How am I even gonna know what to do? What does my teacher expect from me and how will I be able to meet those expectations? That was the main question right there. I’ve found that I learn in a way that requires a lot of structure. Someone tells me what to do and how they want it done, and like the mindless little nerd-monkey that I am, I do it. But by using this blog, I’ve been exposed to a new way of thinking and learning which has really been of benefit to myself. I’ve learned to think outside of the box and learn how I want to learn. You need to read her entire post about the experience…some very thoughtful and challenging reflections.
So here is a “new” bloggy teacher kicking the tires by allowing students to use blogs to write about things they are interested in and still draw it back in to the subject at hand. It’s not perfect…as the kids say, more commenting could have helped. But I really admire the initiative to change and experiment and reflect. And to make me think…
Just Learning says
If you’re going to be quiet honest. Please keep it to yourself.
Will Richardson says
Yeah, um, I think that Andi could use some proofreading. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion…
Andrew Pass says
Thanks for linking to these blogs. I always enjoy reading what students have to say and think. I also very much agree that the best learning takes place when we ask students to think about ideas through a prism of something that they are already familiar with. I’ve linked to this blog on my own.
Andi’s ideas also struck me. I presented a Teacher Inquiry for the Writing Project on a similar topic; Will students’ academic writing improve if they use metalanguage in the discourse? The complaint from most on academic writing is that it lacks orignality, it is simple reguritated information with no sense of ownership or new knowledge/information presented. If students engage in writing or a forum to write their opinions, their ideas, their hypotheses, will they be able to transfer that experience to academic writing and merge the two?
My students who struggle with writing revised personal writing pieces so much that I had to limit them. They made changes to address voice, imagery, symbolism – in otherwords, they moved outside the box of teacher corrections. The academic writing did improve since ownership of writing occurred within a classroom. They recognized the value of conveying exact expressions for understanding. I plan to use blogging in groups of 4. All members will have to provide relevant comments to each other. This will further engage students in critical thinking and debate. I will control the purpose of the comments so they are not ‘hey, great ideas,’ but relevant to each style of writing presented. andi said that having students wite on topics they enjoy is a great idea. I concur since I have seen the result in trasferring that experience to academic writing. I am new to blogging, but my students live on IM. I plan to tap into that resource to get them to read and write. As a hs teacher of English, I am faced with the pressure to write more tasks as discurse writing. I plan to fight this since the task is just that, a task, not the way to always write.