Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blogging in the Middle School Math Classroom

My previous experiences with blogging have simply been a way to "keep up" with people. The vast majority of my students have MySpace pages where they do just that. However, some also use those pages to insult, denigrate, and sometimes threaten other students. In my personal mission statement, I accept my responsibility to help my students become independent thinkers and ethical citizens of their school, their community, and their world. The feeling of anonymity in cyberspace means that some students feel "safe" saying things on their MySpace page that they would never dare to say in a classroom or in front of their parents. However, that anonymity is a myth and we are seeing more instances of school discipline (and even criminal charges) as a result of cyberspace bullying. For this reason, I believe I must teach my students the proper use of blogging.

Study hall, as I knew it, no longer exists. However, a class blog can be a virtual study hall. In particular, my 8th grade students who are taking Algebra I Honors have a greater need to discuss the lessons and assignments in groups. We certainly do a lot of this at school, but the requirements of the course demand more of their time. Therefore, I will create a class blog for these students to ask questions, get help, or just confirm an assignment. Although I may not always be available to answer the questions, they will be able to contact at least one classmate for clarification or validation. As we work out the details, I hope to create a class blog for each group of students that I teach. Our goal is to give them every opportunity to succeed during the school day. Today's society demands that they have such opportunities outside of the classroom, as well.


  1. Susanna,
    Your class blogs sound like our Student Lounge, which I have found very helpful. The students in your classes will probably greatly appreciate this forum. Also I think the parents might end up using it more than the kids do to help explain things as their child is completing their homework or as you suggested, to confirm assignments. Are you going to open your blog to the public so parents can subscribe as well or will just students be active participants?

  2. Any student or parent who registers on our site may participate. I'm not sure how the students will feel about having their parents post on the same blog, though. Can't you just picture how "mortified" they would be?!

  3. Susanna,
    Your idea for your blog sounds very similar to the one from our readings in week 1. As I read your idea, I immediately thought about the "Student Guide to Understanding Calculus" blog. (November, 2008) I really liked this idea of a student "How to" book, but haven't quiet figured out how to do it with music just yet.

    You could do something similar with your Algebra class. Instead of creating a blog with a daily explanation of instruction, students could seek help from their group, online collaboration. If a student is struggling with a particular concept, they could post a question on the group blog and fellow classmates could offer advice, tricks and tips. As you progress through each chapter or section, all questions and advice related to that content move to the archives of your blog. This becomes almost like an online study guide. Students can use these archives to review, study, etc. Sometimes, students can explain a concept to their peers better than we teachers. This could help with those online or outside opportunities you are looking for.

    Good luck!

    November, A. (2008). Web literacy for educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
    Copyright 2008 by Sage Publications, Inc. Used by permission of Sage Publications, Inc.

  4. Your blog idea has many positive aspects to it. You acknowledged that although you give time for this collaboration in class, there is a need beyond the school hours and you are giving the students the opportunity to take advantage of this. Sometimes when collaborating in person, there are students that tend to be more shy and do not participate as much as they may when doing so through the blog. Also, some students are afraid to ask questions in class for fear of looking "dumb" but this offers them a way to ask questions and get help without worrying.

  5. I like your idea of an Algebra class blog. I think it would give students a way to collaborate and learn from each other rather than asking the teacher or the "smart kids" all the time.