Learn by Trying

by Mr. Sheehy

It looks like I’ll be leading a little teacher-inservice on blogging sometime this winter, and one of the things I will be making clear is that teachers need to imerse themselves into the blogging world themselves before they consider asking students to join it. Whenever I ask students do something in the classroom, I am convinced that I need to be doing it myself. I don’t mean doing it because I need to model it, like reading during reading time or trying to write while students write; that’s not effective enough to justify the time a teacher spends doing it. I mean doing something so I know what it is I’m asking of students and so I understand what the potential and goals are. The unfortunate situation with so many high school teachers is that this often does not occur. How many teachers are guiding students in writing, but don’tthemselves write? Teaching research but never looking anything up? Griping about grammar but not grasping the rules of grammar? I have to be a blogger myself if I am to use blogs effectively, otherwise, I won’t know what I’m shooting for or how to get there.

To write great blogging articles, my students need to know what makes an intersting article and who might be reading it. Those are helpful writing considerations, and I’m thrilled about how easily the blogs play into the teaching of good writing, but if I as a teacher never read or write blogs, how do I know? Or, how do I even know to ask my students what makes a great blog article?

Contrary to the myth, my students are not innate techies – most can’t trouble shoot problems with my computer better than a computer-competent adult, and many complain about having to use the computer to complete assignments (like when I have them create a Power Point translation of the Declaration of Independence). They are literate in what they enjoy, like instant messaging and downloading music, but that does not automatically make them curious about the rest of the new media world. That’s okay, though, because the interest is close enough to the rest of the media that I can drag them a little further, show them how it’s relevant, and help them learn quite a bit.

These students have something to learn from teachers, even in the world of technology, and with a small amount of participation in the on-line conversation, a teacher can begin to understand the possibilities of this new media. Once a teacher participates, I’m confident he will flow with ideas about how to integrate it into the classroom. It’s a simple formula, often forgotten: participate ourselves, then ask students to come along. So kudos to Mrs. Mueller, who’s jumped onto a blog this year and, in teaching, is surely helping create more articulate and interesting conversations for the future.