HOW CAN BLOGS FACILITATE COHERENT AND CONCISE COMMUNICATION OF IDEAS AMONG ELEMENTARY STUDENTS? by Kim McCalmont Statement of the Problem Our society is constantly evolving. The advent of new technologies, such as Web 2.0, that promote communication, collaboration, and connectivity, require effective communication skills. In order for students to live and compete in a modern, evolving society, they must learn how to communicate effectively. To communicate effectively, they must learn how to formulate their ideas in a cohernet manner and communicate those ideas concisely. It makes perfect sense for us as educators, to use the same technology that our students will use in their adult lives, to teach the skills required to formulate ideas into coherent thought and to communicate those ideas concisely. A tool that is available to educators, and is readily available throughout the Internet, is blogging software. Blogs are a structured environment that requires the writer to lay out ideas that others will read and comment on. Although blogs have potential, I am not sure what challenges integrating them into the curriculum are going to exist. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to understand the effect blogging has on studentsâ€™ abilities to formulate ideas and write succinctly. Primary Research Questions How can student blogs facilitate coherent and concise communication of ideas among my third grade students?
McCalmont 2 Significance of the Study Educators are constantly looking for ways to engage their students in the learning process. If blogs can facilitate active participation in written communication, even among students that may be otherwise reluctant to write, it will enable the educator to both model and teach the skills of effective communication and will become a powerful learning tool. By studying the manner that students use blogs, and how receptive they are to feedback from others who have read their material, educators can use this information to decide if the incorporation of blogs into their elementary curriculum will enhance the learning of their students. Literature Review A study that most resembles the research I plan to conduct, involves clear and concise writing through the use of e-mails. Janice Ramsey, a middle school teacher in Atlanta, used emails to teach her students effective writing skills. Ramseyâ€™s students wrote more accurately and conveyed their thoughts more precisely when they communicated via e-mail (Torres, 2006). This project seems to support the idea that students pay more attention to their writing when they share it with their peers. Scott Hossack, an international teacher in Shanghai, implemented student blogs with his fifth grade students. Hossack (2007) noticed the writing produced by his students improved when they started blogging. Students seem to realize the significance of writing conventions when they have an audience. Further evidence that supports these claims comes from Anne Davis, one of the first educators to study the use of blogs in elementary education. Davis (2006) feels students are willing to put forth more effort when they know others can read and respond to their writing. This leads me to conclude, that a wider audience, other than just the teacher, encourages students to produce their best work.
McCalmont 3 Will Richardson, another pioneer in educational blogging, believes students who blog are inspired to reflect on the significance of their writing (Richardson, 2005). Professors at The University of Florida conducted an empirical research study to find out if partnerships between third graders and preservice teachers through blogging had an effect on studentsâ€™ writing behaviors. The results of this study found that students who used blogs to work with others were able to arrange their thoughts and sharpen their writing skills (Dawson, Drexler, & Richard, 2007). I was unable to find other empirical research that focused on the effects of blogging among elementary students. This leads me to believe that more studies of the use of blogs at the elementary level need to be conducted for the effective use of blogs to be fully realized. I think Stephen Downes summarizes the potential of blogs in education appropriately when he states, â€œThe process of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online is a process of bringing life into learningâ€? (Downes, 2004, p. 26). From what I have read, it appears that other educators have had success with the incorporation of student blogs to support effective writing practices. Study Design and Methods Context The participants of this study will be third graders at Valley Ranch Elementary, located in Coppell, Texas. Coppell is a suburb in the Dallas/ Fort Worth metroplex. According to the AEIS data (2007), Valley Ranch Elementary has a high population of Indian and Korean students, 45.5% total. The ESL population is the highest in the district with 26.7% of the school population. The school has a low percentage of disadvantaged students at 15. 7% and 33% of the student population is considered at risk. Class sizes are limited to 22 students in grade K-4.
McCalmont 4 Coppell ISD implements a special education inclusion model, which promotes students remaining in the classroom as much as possible. Gifted and talented students are removed from the regular classroom for three hours once a week to participate in special projects. ESL students are removed from the classroom every day for one hour. Students who are dyslexic leave the regular classroom for an hour each day to work with a dyslexic specialist. Process for Collecting Data Students will produce a writing sample on the second week of school. Blogs will be set up the third week of school. Students will write one article per week and post it to their blog. The students will create their blogs using Class Blogmeister. This program allows teachers to manage individual student blogs in one section of the site. All posts and comments go directly to the teacher’s e-mail address for approval. The posts and comments can be approved within the email, or within Class Blogmeister. Due to this feature, subscribing to individual student blogs through an RSS feed is not required. Students will also make at least one comment per week to another student’s blog. Students will keep a written log of their comments and turn it in once a week. Students will be observed while they are blogging. Field notes will be taken while the students are blogging. Students will complete two additional writing samples at the middle and end of the school year. Interviews with each student will be conducted at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. The interviews will be recorded with a voice recorder. The questions posed will gather information about each student’s attitudes and perceptions about their writing skills. The writing samples and interviews will be organized in chronological order. Process for Analyzing Data The writing samples will be compared and the writing conventions categorized. These categories should include conventions of writing such as capitalization, punctuation, word
McCalmont 5 choice, topic focus, and sentence structure. A running record will be kept of conventions used in each of the blogging and comment artifacts. Field notes will be analyzed and reflections will be documented in a blog. The recorded student interviews will be reviewed and compared. Matrix for Collecting and Analyzing Data and Intended Outcomes Artifacts
What will this allow me to say?
Beginning, middle, and end of school year
Evidence of developing writing conventions
Once a week
Compare samples and categorize writing conventions Read articles and code for writing conventions
One comment once a week
Taken once a week during blogging session Beginning, middle, and end of school year
Increase or decrease in concise writing habits
Read comments Usefulness of and code for comments writing conventions Review and write Behaviors during reflections in blogging blog Analyze the Student recorded perceptions of interviews writing
Sharing Results The results of this research will be shared with teachers at Valley Ranch Elementary and Coppell ISD through staff development sessions. Results will be posted on the reflection blog. Documents of this study will be sent to prominent figures that promote educational blogging, such as Anne Davis, Will Richards, and David Warlick.
McCalmont 6 References Davis, A. (2006). Blogs and Pedagogy. Retrieved July 5, 2008, from Edublog Insights Web site: http://anne.teachesme.com/2006/05/31/blogs-and-pedagogy Dawson, K., Drexler, W., & Richard, E. F. (2007). Collaborative Blogging as a Means to Develop Elementary Expository Writing Skills. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, 6, Retrieved July 5, 2008, from http://ejite.isu.edu/Volume6/Drexler.pdf Downes, S. (2004). Educational Blogging. EDUCAUSE Review. 39(5), 14â€“26. Hossack, S. (2007). Sustained Blogging in the Classroom. Retrieved July 5, 2008, from Thinkingstick Web site: http://thinkingstick.wikispaces.com/Sustained+Blogging Richardson, W. (June 2005). New Jersey High School Learns the ABCs of Blogging. THE Journal. 32(11), 40. Texas Education Agency (2007). Academic Excellence Indicator System. Retrieved July 11, 2008, from Valley Ranch Elementary Web site: http://www.coppellisd.com/1530208121253950/site/default.asp Torres, K. (2006). Teacher Uses Email to Teach Basics of Written Word. The Voice, 11(2), Retrieved July 5, 2008, from http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/2345