Monday, November 8, 2010

Blogs promote critical and analytical thinking

A workshop participant’s passionate enthusiasm about blogging resulted in SURN launching its first blog in 2008. Today, there are six blogs, one focusing on education research as well as five content area specific blogs discussing how content literacy strategies are used in middle and high school classrooms. SURN uses the blogs to extend the professional dialogue about content from professional development and build connections to support teachers in expanding their professional network.

How do you use blogs to connect professionally? What do you think about blogs as a learning resource for students?

Dr. Denise Johnson, an education professor at The College of William and Mary, recently had an article published in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy that focused on how blogs can be used to expand students’ connections, collaboration, and creativity. Her article specifically addressed the use of blogs written by children and young adult authors as well as the benefits of when students engage in blogging. The article is summarized below. Educators, regardless of content area taught, can take away ideas from the article to apply in their setting.

“Blogs promote critical and analytical thinking and allow students to create content in ways not possible in traditional paper-and-pencil environments," (p. 172) wrote Denise Johnson. She provides examples of how she uses blogs to expand students’ understanding and interactions with authors and text (see the text at the end of this post). She highlights resources for finding, managing, and organizing blogs, as well as tools to create your own blogs in order to make the use of blogs more viable in the classroom. Teachers need to: (1) model how to use, organize, and manage blogs to engage in the back and forth dialogue that can occur, (2) teach students to find engaging blog communities, and (3) students in engaging in the reciprocal process of posting and commenting in appropriate and critical ways so that conversations are created and thoughts are sparked.

The blog is not a substitute for a paper-and-pencil response assignment, rather it is an effective way to encourage students to read as much as they write and critically respond to each other. Further, the blog could be linked to other internet resources from video to articles. Dr. Johnson summarizes the research on online literature discussions as:
  • “an opportunity for students to develop and verbalize ideas with others,
  • promote in-depth responses and reflection and careful consideration of multiple perspectives and thoughts,
  • encourages peer affirmation, and
  • provides opportunities for more teacher-student and student-teacher interaction, “ (p. 180).

In sum, investing time in developing blogs as instructional tools and resources can result in student sharing their expertise, thoughts, and reflections in a dynamic and interactive way.

How are you using blogs in the classroom or with your faculty?

For those interested in how the blogs of children and young adult authors can be used to support the teaching and learning of English literature and 21st century skills, keep reading.

Johnson writes that children’s and young adult authors use blogs to connect with their readers in a way not possible even five years ago. Prior to the advent of blogging, readers could access a publisher’s website and get basic information, read interviews, and write a snail or email letter that would be filtered through the publisher and might result in a response months later. With blogging, posts and comments are immediate. It is an opportunity for authors to share their thoughts and read contributions from their readers.

Dr. Johnson teaches with blogs which, “creates powerful connections, collaborations, and creativity that promotes learning and challenges thinking,” (p. 174). She shared how she used a particular author’s blog to help students learn the depth to which an author struggled in her teen years. Print interviews basically convey that the author struggled, survived her teenage years, and grew up to be a happy writer. The blog lent the perspective that this author still struggles with her high school issues when the author shared an experience of going back to her old high school to watch a play, even walking in the school doors made her want to run, yet in the end watching the students perform the play resulted in her feeling connected and proud.

Another example is using blogs to read about how authors feel and perceive particular topics. For example, one author had a book that a group challenging its appropriateness for inclusion in a school library. The author posted a video podcast in which he stated his perspective on his award winning book. Through the blog, students could hear his perspective and make their own informed decisions.

A third example shared is how blogs can inspire and support students’ writing. An author example from the article had blogged about how she conducted background research for her book establishing the necessity of a writer to use research to construct an accurate and detailed historical environment. Other writers share their writing process and how little revisions can have a large impact on the work.

Finally, the use of live blogs can extend the dialogue about literature. Some authors will set up live blogs so virtual author visits are possible in real time. Another example was about two English teachers who set up a live blog for their classes to discuss with each other.

Want to read the article? Johnson, C. D. (2010). Teaching with authors’ blogs: Connections, collaboration, creativity. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(3), 172-180.


  1. The most striking concept in this article is the need to model how to blog for instructional purposes. Just as historical thinking requires extensive modeling and guided practice, so does instructional blogging. We often forget the importance of modeling what it is that we want our students to do. We often make the mistake of assuming that they know what to do!

  2. If you want to be successful, getting a good education is a good start. President Obama is a good example, and he has shown his commitment to helping others. Many important people are focused on increasing scholarship opportunities and improving education.College expenses continue to increase even as the economy slumps. Besides tuition and housing, fees for books, travel and eating are often not covered.Visit this site for help.

    school scholarships

  3. This seems like a very useful site for those who are in need of scholarship funds. Scholarship resources are often overlooked by college students, in part because the process of locating funds seems so overwhelming. I'll definitely share this resource with my colleagues and students.

  4. What I love about blogging is the surprises it opens up. I have had students who will not ask questions in class, or response orally. Then they get home, get on the blog and type wonderful questions or reponses. Lets me know that what we did in class did reach them. I have set-up and run a blog for 3 consecutive years. This year may IB environmenatl students had to blog every week as part of their grade. Some of the discussions were amazing.
    However, students will not just go blog. As a teacher I had to model blogging a few times in front of them. With my IB guys I was lucky that the amazing teacher they had before me taught them the ropes. With my freshman I generally set-up one class period when they are working on the computers where they can only ask questions via the blog. That way when they leave I know they are familar with the blog and how it works.

  5. I like the idea of establishing blogging for the purpose of asking questions with your freshmen. This has great potential. It allows students to ask questions without feeling uncomfortable, and it also enhances thinking, reading, and writing skills across the curriculum. Once upon a time, I had my students write questions on notecards, but now we can use electronic devices.

  6. I concur with Deni in appreciating Mark's suggestion of a class period of blogging with questions to get students comfortable with the blog and interacting with each other on it. With so much texting occuring outside of school, students are fairly comfortable conversing in text as opposed to verbally...the blog lets them connect visuals and other sources as well.

  7. The blog can also be a safer place to post opinions. In class students may feel uncomfortable speaking out.

  8. I do encourage my students to express their opinions, but I also find that they first need to see me model how to clearly state an opinion. It is useful to practice stating opinions without allowing emotions to cloud the thoughts. This is a challenge for teenagers and adults, so I devote some time to practicing this in class. I project various statements on the screen, and then I type my opinions, first with all the emotion written into my reactions. Then I revise my writing to demonstrate how to improve my expressions. I think that a blog provides students with an excellent space to practice their skills. This skill, expressing opinions, translates to an important life skill. Just like any other skill, students need practice and feedback.

  9. I am new to blogging. I find that I will be more comfortable with it as time goes on. I do like that blogging allows me to comment about things I would not normally say out loud and provides instant feedback. So, I do see how this would be a benefit for all of my students. My teacher web page is now a blog and students (and parents) can comment on everything (even the amount of homework I give). I had the idea that I could put my engage and hook portions of my lessons on my blog and have students comment on them before they arrive to class.

  10. What a great idea! What type of responses are you getting to the engage and hooks that you post? I might try that on my web page for my World History students.

  11. I haven't tried it yet. It was just an idea I thought of as I was responding to the post. I do however expect some interesting dicussion. It's all new to me, but I am glad I am trying something new.

  12. I am determined to continue to learn new things to bring into my classroom. I don't ever want to be one of those old, boring teachers who is disconnected from the students! So, I am always searching for new ideas to bring life into ancient world history. Technology offers a plethora of opportunities to connect with the students.

  13. Hi

    I like this post:

    You create good material for community.

    Please keep posting.

    Let me introduce other material that may be good for net community.

    Source: Office assistant interview questions

    Best rgs

  14. The blog explains in detail the different post of education and it was worthy to check out this blog as I was looking for such posts for a long time.
    english tuition singapore

  15. I thought haven’t read such distinctive material anywhere else on-line.



Web Counter