guest blog, student blogging, technology

Tangled in the Web 2.0

With the arrival of our twins, I asked for guest bloggers and was excited to share this post with all of you by Melanie Samson-Cormier…

Though I teach in a French first language school, the fact that we are such a tiny minority in our area means that most of our students actually learn French as a second language and speak English most of the time. Because of this, I am always searching for authentic situations where students can express themselves in French. I’d been hearing so much about student blogging and Twitter in the classroom that I decided to give it a shot, figuring it could be an excellent way to have students reach out and make contact with other French-speaking students their own age.
This past year, I worked as a support teacher for students who are having difficulty with the language. I had three students at the junior high level and I decided to start tweeting with them. I wanted to start small. I created a collective Twitter account (@elevesNL) for them and I coached them on how to use it. I also scoped out some student blogs for them to read and discuss.
Unfortunately, my students were not invested in the project. They didn’t seek out new blogs or Twitter accounts. They had little or no interest in reading or commenting, composing their tweets and comments only out of obligation. Finding little use in the project, I was preparing to wrap it up when I had a Eureka moment. While cruising the Twitter feed with a student, I asked if there were any tweets that piqued his interest, hoping to get him to @reply. He answered “Unless someone is talking about Pokémon, then no.” AHA! Most of my students have a learning disability or are considered at-risk. Yet the majority of the student blogs and Twitter accounts I had found discussed what was going on in their classroom, projects they were working on and general school-related activities. School is not easy for my students. Why did I think that reading blogs and tweets about school would interest them? Taking my student’s comments to heart, I helped him search for Pokémon blogs in French. He found one and immediately started reading (reading!), with great interest (wow!) He seemed to know the subject matter so well that I asked if he’d be interested in writing his own Pokémon blog. He responded with a resounding “YES!” and I was finally able to see firsthand what social media and blogging can accomplish in the classroom. My student who used to pout when I arrived began to stop me in the hallway to ask me if we have a session.
The moral of the story: As always, technology in the classroom only engages students if it’s used for meaningful communication that takes students’ interests into account. It’s not what you use, but how you use it.

Bio:
Melanie Samson-Cormier has taught in minority francophone schools in rural Newfoundland, Canada for 7 years and is now beginning a new life as a cognitive strategies instructor at the University of Alberta. She blogs in French at www.entrelesbranches.org.

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