For the first part of this year my students, in all my classes (9th and 10th grade Gifted English, and Design Lab) have been keeping blogs (somewhat infrequently) on the books we’re reading or the things we’ve been doing in our Design Lab. What strikes me most about these blogs (and granted, I’m late to the student blogging party–maybe because it was always such a hassle to get kids to the computer lab) is that the vast majority of them are polished and highly readable. As well, the insights, especially into our activities (in d-lab) or our readings provide a quicker and richer way for me to understand what my students understand.
I’m more than pleased.
Below I link to several blogs from my Gifted English Classes. They’ve been reading Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. This particular reading was kicked off with the use of a Question Formation Technique, a method I learned by reading Make Just One Change, a fantastic publication that outlines the work of “The Right Question Institute.” (If you’re a teacher and you’ve not worked at trying to get your students to ask more question or to improve the questions they do ask, I know of no other text that goes to the depth, that argues with such passion and experience for the importance of teaching people how to ask the right questions as this text does.)
I focused the student’s questioning around a focus point that I’d devised to help them think about an issue that is central to all we do in English: “Fictional Stories are Morally Good Lies.” This Question Focus led to a day of question asking, grouping, rewriting, and synthesizing… or well over 200 original questions which we paired down to approximately 25 question areas.
As we read the story, students were never too far from the ideas of art, truth, and lies, a notion that so many artists in all media have questioned and investigated through their work. As you read the their blogs, you’ll notice how the students returned again and again to the issue of storytelling and morally good lies.
In my Design Lab course, students have been blogging approximately once every 7 school days. Their insights into process, product, the human centered nature of design thinking, collaboration–indeed to learning in a way that is, for most of them, rather different than what they are used to–is always frank, often complementary, but never without legitimate and often incisive criticism. This is what I’d wanted from blogs–informal writing that is at once full of voice, clear in purpose, and directed towards an audience beyond our walls.