Blogs, Wikis, and Digital Stories: “Oh, My!” – Response to Chapter 3 I-Write
Okay, so I have to say that I am not leery of Wikis and digital stories as I am to Blogs. I have been having a hard time myself trying to get on and actually post my responses to the readings online. I read the assigned chapters, I highlight and take notes as I read, but I just can’t seem to get the confidence up to want to post about it online in a public space. I know that with blogs you can adjust the settings and you can use it for different functions in the classroom, which I am sure the book I-Write will get to, but right now, I have just seemed to have a hard time getting on to do it. I think blogs are more user friendly than the wikis and that they seem to offer more in terms of style, and I know that blogging is not just about putting up your own thoughts because you can post other things in a blog as well, such as podcasts, videos, links, and this can be a great resource for students.
Wilber actually states, “In deciding what sources, modes, and links to incorporate, our students can learn to discern what should or should not be incorporated into the texts they create – a skill that is incredibly important in a world becoming rapidly overwhelmed with information” (46). I agree, but it is also difficult to teach this to students when teachers, themselves, have not really been in this multimodal world. I also think that blogs can be a great resource for teachers; Buffy Hamilton is always sharing new literacies through blogs that she happens to come across or blogs that she follows. For instance last year when I was working with my students on their research projects, she suggested a new way of helping students organize and present the information through something called infographics. Some of the blogs she sent me to were great resources for this type of assignment. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano maintains a blog called Langwitches Blog, and this is where we discovered the infographics. There was another teacher who actually tried this in the classroom, and the outcome and range of choice for the students was simply amazing, which can be viewed on the class blog. I did not actually try this, but I believe I will try something like this, this year. Students could even do this with a short story or novel in which they are reading with some modifications.
Furthermore, Wilber also states in this chapter, “Perhaps the most powerful use of a blog is in developing a student’s voice as a writer and a thinker” (49). I am not sure how this is going to work in the classroom yet. I have actually tried using a blog to have students respond to journal prompts for Tuesdays with Morrie. I think it did help in the sense that students were able to feel safe enough, using a pseudo, to post their true feelings and experiences. I am not sure I gave it enough time because we had limited access to computers. I think my worry was that if I did not give them time in class to respond to the prompts that they would not respond at all. However, I think the only way to find out if students will find a way to do it at home or in their own time is to test it. I think I am going to give the responding on a blog another try, but maybe I should leave it open to free response for them as they read. I think the blog is going to be a good tool for the students to make their work public and receive feedback from others.
Wikis… Initially, when we started this class, I did not really like the format of the wikis. I just don’t think they are as visually appealing, but if you are someone who likes a clean, slick look, then this will work. What I do like about the Wiki is that it is easy to add multiple groups to the same space for multiple projects, if that is what you wish to do. I used a Wiki space last year with a Presidential Candidate Project. My students were required to do research on specific candidates for the 2012 Presidential Elections. With this research, they had to create a graphic organizer of information that people would find useful about the policies and beliefs of the candidate, a campaign advertisement for TV using photostory for the candidate, and a “propaganda” poster for their candidate. With the compiled information, students then had to go and view each of the candidates profiles and then vote on who they thought would make the best president. We actually help in class elections as well, where the groups campaigned for their candidate. It was quite interesting, and there are definitely some things that I would do differently if I do this project again. You can view examples on one of the wikis for the project.
Even though I have used some of these tools in my classroom, I do not think I gave students enough time to work with the blog or wikis themselves. It was just faster to do all the creating myself. However, I know I will be surprised if I allow my students to do it themselves.