Random Thoughts

When blogs are just what your school does

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Yes we have over 600 student blogs running here in Shanghai. From grades 4-12, students are blogging up a storm. In fact we’re getting to a point that the blogs are part of just what students do here.

Today this e-mail was sent out to all staff from a student (shared here with permission…and excitement).

To whom it may concern,

My name is Caitlin and I am a 8th grader. Recently we have been
working on a project about global issues in my Humanities class.

My group decided to focus on school violence. One of the actions we are
taking in order to lower school violence is a blog. A blog made for teens to
vent and if needed contact us about their problems. This will hopefully get to
teens before they result to violence or catch the violence before it get
serious. We would greatly appreciate if you wouldn’t mind forwarding this email
to anyone who can help, post something about our blog
and linking our blog on your blog or any other website, inform teenagers
about our blog, and finally (if possible) check out our blog yourself and leave
a commit.

Thank you so much,

How cool is this! That the students are starting their own blogs for projects, are using them for learning, for communicating, for collaborating, and for helping others. They are starting to understand what it means to have an authentic audience. I mean, they’ve always understood it. Just now I think they’re seeing the power in the network, the power in learning and communicating in a place that is open and familiar to them for educational purposes.

What I love is that the first thing any student does when they start a new blog is activate the FireStats plugin so they can see how many people are viewing their site. They usually then go to clustermaps or somewhere else on the web and get themselves a map of where people are coming from.

An audience is important to them. It is important to know that someone
else is reading your thoughts, maybe even leaving a comment. They want,
and at this point, crave that authentic audience.

They are also understanding the importance of linking. The e-mail is asking teachers to link to their blog so others can find them. That right there is understanding the power of networks.

When sharing, communicating, and collaborating becomes open….learning happens!

[tags]21st Century Learning, SAS[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. This is why context is becoming more important than content. We need to realize that the tools necessary for students to create their own learning are in place and we need to develop ways to encourage those tools to be used.

  2. Zaharo hiletnzaris Reply

    Mr. Utecht,
    I am an education major at Illinois State University and have just recently been introduced to the whole concept of blogging. After reading your blog about the 8th grader who was using a blog to reach out to other kids I felt like I was behind the times and old fashioned. I am definitely not as technology savvy as the majority of students and I had no idea that kids in grade school were blogging. While I was in grade school the internet was something to fear and too complicated for the average person. I am relieved and excited that students are using this form of technology to learn, network, and most importantly reach out to others in a positive manner. I believe that as a future educator it is extremely important to encourage students to reach out and help others. Doing this in a manner that is familiar and comfortable for our youth makes this an enjoyable experience for them. I look forward to implementing ideas like these into my own classroom in the future.
    Zaharo Hilentzaris

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  4. Hey Jeff,
    Can you define for me what you think “blogging” is. I’ve been doing a lot of research into blogs, wikis and “authentic” publishing and what I’m finding is that schools may be using blogging software but aren’t actually blogging. Instead, most students and schools just use blog software to set up web pages or sites because it’s so easy but blogging… I’m not so sure. If you think actual “student blogging” is happening, that has an audience, the quality of work is of a reasonable, never mind high standard and the writing is consistent, I’d love to see some examples. While researching, I keep seeing other people asking for good student examples but I never see links to any.
    I wish I came up with the question myself but someone else did: “is using blogging software the same as blogging?”
    I keep thinking of the SAS PE dept blog you pointed to a few weeks ago and wonder if that’s a bulletin board or an actual blog. I haven’t been to it lately but if you post the address again, I’d be happy to check it out.
    I have no doubt that SAS uses blogging software but I guess I’m a little sceptical that blogging is “just what SAS does.” Perhaps it depends on how you or I define blogging.

  5. Hi Reece,

    Great questions and I will answer them the best I can. That being said, I do not claim to know what blogging is. I believe it can only truly be defined by the person who is actually blogging. So take what I have to say as my thoughts and my thoughts only….and I’m not sure how much thats worth. 🙂

    Blogging to me is defined by two things. 1 comments and 2 links. Comments make a blog a blog. They allow a conversation to happen. A blog is not a blog is there is not a conversation in an open format. I believe part of what makes a blog is being open to the public. A blog that is password protected or inside a walled garden is not actually a blog. A blog must be open to both outgoing links and incoming links to be a true blog.

    Links: The second part of what I believe makes a blog a blog is links that help to create organize and connect the web together. It is links that makes the web the web and the pingback and trackback features that are embedded into blogs is a way of organizing the web into useful links. Making meaning out of Chaos and tying together relevant information…relevant to the author at least.

    So blogs are an online conversation that are open to the public and link to relevant information and help to organize the web through links.

    Is using blogging software blogging? No, we use blogging software for websites. Most of what are teachers do including the Middle School PE department http://teachers.saschinaonline.org/mspudongpe
    is a website running on blogging software. Very few if any external links and no conversation around a topic or deep thinking happening. Yes students leave comments sometimes (mostly for assignments) and not really to engage in deep thinking and conversation around PE and Health. I would say there are very few teachers actually blogging at our school…blogging in a way that I would define it anyway. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a true blogging teacher. Most teachers I know have a school blog that is more about giving information and then have a true professional blog for reflecting and carrying on the conversation. Clarence Fisher, Mark Ahlness, Darren Kuropatwa three great teachers who all have a classroom blog/website and then a personal blog.

    Good student blogs:
    There are some out there. At SAS I would point to http://blogs.saschinaonline.org/pudongtok and http://www.welkerswikinomics.com/students as two great group blogs. We have some other students who are starting to get it, but we not really teaching what blogging is, instead most students use it as a journal with few links and no real conversation outside of student in their class. The Student 2.0 blog is another great blog ran by students although outside of school.

    We have some good blogs as journals but it is hard to find a food student blog that matches what I define above. Again, this is just me…and I’m probably completely wrong…so take it as is. 🙂

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  7. You would not believe how long ive been looking for something like this. Browsed through 5 pages of Yahoo results and couldnt find anything. Very first page on Bing. There this is…. Gotta start using that more often

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