I want to replace the reading journals I have been using in my English classroom with Weblogs. Traditionally, students
have been writing reflective pieces about the novels or short stories we read, including brief summaries to demonstrate their understanding of the material, questions they have as they read, and opinions
and personal connections they make as they read. I read all the students' reading journals, and they read a sampling of each other's journals in small groups during class. Students generally have time during these small group sessions to read and respond (in a couple of paragraphs) to three or four of their classmates' journals. How much more effective it will be to post reactions to the readings and responses to peers online! It will save class time, allow students to read more of their classmates' entries, and allow me to grade this work much more easily. This will also be my way of beginning to use Weblogs in the classroom. Teaching students to do so using their reading journals will make the transition comfortable for them, since they are already accustomed to writing these entries and they are already familiar with my expectations for this type of writing.
Why teach blogging in English class? I am currently reading Richardson (2009) "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms." He describes several benefits of blogging with students. The audience becomes real and the work becomes relevant for students. Students are able to connect and to work collaboratively with a diversity of other learners worldwide. He also explains that blogs keep work organized and searchable, that they support learning for all students in a more democratic way than a traditional class discussion, and that they assist students in focusing and developing their expertise on a particular topic.
Most intriguing to me is what Richardson calls "connective writing." By writing their reading journals in a Weblog format, students will be required to read each other's work closely and thoughtfully, and their responses will demonstrate their analysis of each other's work. They will make connections and build on each other's ideas. They will have the opportunity to receive immediate feedback and clarification as well. I foresee students looking back over their blog for a particular novel in preparation for a test or paper about the novel. They will have developed an entire conversation throughout the unit that they can reflect on. They can see what they have learned. They can look at my responses and their classmates' responses to further their understanding of themes and specific details of the novel, and even to make connections and comparisons amoung novels throughout the course.