Tag Archive for blogs

Week in Review: Blogs as Text

Friday Dialogue from 

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss if Perez Hilton really could best Harry Levin from TMZ and/or if reading substantive blogs provides excellent supplemental reading.  

1.  What relevance is there in using blogs as “texts” for students?

Emily:  One thing I really like about using blogs is that they are usually brief, What does Emily say?which allows students the opportunity to study one thing really well.  Too often students don’t read our assignments.   They are “too” long and students can be lazy or intimidated.  Choosing blogs that engage students helps ensure they actually read and gives them the chance to express their opinions and beliefs.

Aubrey: All I want them to do is read.  I take that back.  I don’t want them to read crap.  Let me try again.  I know they’ll read it but I’d like them to be able to read it and identify it for what it is.  Then, I’d like them to read something that isn’t crap.  How’s that for articulate?  As goofy as it sounds, I love good blogs.  They give me a fresh perspective every day.  Plus they exist within a space that seems as conversational and personal.  Remarkable blogs allow me to show students that good writing exists on topics of interest.  No fights.

2.  What makes it difficult to teach blogs, videos, digital literacy and all things media?

Emily:  I recognize the irony here, but blogs are so ubiquitous. Everyone has one, including students.  I think the hardest part about teaching blogs and things of the such in the classroom is trying to differentiate quality from crap.  I’m afraid that blogs are encouraging people just to put whatever they want on the worldwide web and people are taking it for fact.  I think we have to keep modeling for our students what good writing looks like and how to evaluate the sources they consult for their “news.”

Aubrey: I think there are quite a few problems.  Finding reputable, thoughtful media is time consuming.  There is no list of great media to use in my classroom.  Teachers often advocate for students writing via blog but it is rare that I find anyone who suggests reading via blog.  To find good blogs takes time we don’t have.  I also think that even when I get students a list of credible sources, blogs, writers, they skip the list.  The result?  The most impossible and ridiculous sources of information.  This of course pushes my delicate mental state over the edge.  No matter how many times you offer examples they still struggle to follow guidelines.  When it comes to online content it’s a necessity.  And so, that can be discouraging too.

3.  What importance do you place upon inquiry research within the English classroom?  Can reading a blog lead to self-selected research and perhaps even, gasp, global citizenship?

Emily:  Absolutely.  In fact, I think that this might be the only way for students to engage in truly meaningful inquiry.  If students are taught to look beyond the immediate they will be much more analytical and thoughtful thinkers, a skill highly coveted in this day and age.  However, the key is how to foster the intrinsic motivation to want to pursue more information about a topic found in a blog.

Aubrey: Inquiry research is so important but it takes many steps.  Fostering that intrinsic motivation is tricky because it requires that they ask more than just base level questions.  That puts a great deal of burden upon us to teach and reteach.  I do believe that sometimes you just can’t get there through fiction.  Because they are such literal thinkers they need non-fiction consistently.  Reading a blog from a news outlet is a step towards making them thoughtful and capable of empathy.

4.  Pop culture gets a bad rap and sometimes, so do those blogs with the same focus.  In what capacity should popular culture be used in the classroom?  In light of my pop culture blog resources from Thursday, how do blogs change how educators handle pop culture?

Emily:  I think it is important to approach using pop culture in a way that brings about scholarly discussion about life, society, our country.  I’m afraid that some What does Emily say?might naturally resort to discussing pop culture events only, which would encourage students to only look superficially at a topic and think it is permissible evidence for arguments.  I think it definitely has a place but that typically it should be used by students only to really highlight what is wrong with our country.  As a result, I think teachers need to be cautious about celebrating celebrities instead of using pop culture as a catalyst for meaningful inquiry about real issues.

Aubrey: I agree.  It can be difficult to get students, in general, to move beyond the literal.  When it comes to integrating pop culture with learning,  I think that step becomes much more difficult.  Most of us treat pop culture as if it’s trash.  And while there’s certainly a lot of trash, it’s a readily accessible “text” if treated thoughtfully.

5.  In a cage match between TMZ founder Harry Levin and blogger Perez Hilton who wins?  What if I change cage match to dance off?  Sing off?

Emily:  Oh….so tough.  I definitely think Harry is smarter.  He is a former lawyer, you know.  But Perez seems like a diva with a mean backhand.  I think I would pick Perez above Harry in every category.

Aubrey: Oh please.  Harry would win every single time.  He is certainly stockier and he always seems to be drinking a protein shake.  This doesn’t necessarily make him suited for singing but I’ll take my chances.  You and Perez are going down.

Blogs as Text: Sports & Pop Culture

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As a continuation of yesterday’s post, today we’ll focus on using pop culture, sports and current events blogs in the classroom.  It’s easy for me to sell any teacher on the idea of implementing blog reading that delves into current events; students need to be global citizens.  But pop culture and sports blogs can tricky.  Students need to gain more than the latest gossip and team scores.

While TMZ and Perez Hilton have their place, the blogs I’ve chosen to highlight today cover all of the same issues but with the type of style and “smarts” that makes them attractive to classroom teachers and still engaging to students.  As with anything you aren’t simply looking to entertain your students.  While offering these blogs can be part of a reading “choice” program, expectations should still remain high in terms of the social, political and cultural commentary students construct in response.

Ultimately, all of these blogs offer up “news” in varied formats but more important, they provide commentary.  Often the arguments they formulate are both relevant and engaging.  It is this type of writing that enriches student reading and knowledge.  The fact that it’s a blog simply makes it a tech forward and readily accessible choice.  Don’t forget to see our lessons for writing and annotation extensions.  They are ready to implement along with any blog driven reading assignments.  And remember, all of these are simply suggestions and starting points.  Always check The New York Times blogs for more choices.

The blogs overviewed are the best choice for offering content and commentary.  Also included but not overviewed are blogs that provide substantive information on the areas of focus and less commentary.

Current Events

Analysis & Opinion-Reuters

Anything dealing with current events demands that students read and choose based on their interests.  Reuters’ blog about current topics spans the globe and offers lenses through which to interpret the news they provide.   While posts can be challenging, they will engage students in online opinion pieces that debate global politics and the role of the U.S.

Don’t forget to examine The New York Times Room for Debate site.  While not a blog it is still an incredible useful supplement for students.

Information driven blogs include: The Two-Way, The Lede, Global Spin

 

Sports

Sporting Scene-The New Yorker

I can’t think of a better scenario.  The New Yorker, with all its style and grace, creates a sports blog.  Every post is so well crafted you will think you stumbled upon a non-fiction treasure and your students will never stop thanking you when you tell them that they can supplement their reading with a sport blog.

Information driven blogs include: The Early Lead, ESPN Sports Blogs

 

Pop Culture

Monkey See-NPR

This is by far, one of the best pop culture blogs to use with students.  Post include thoughtful commentary on TV, film, literature, and everything else popular culture.  These blog posts don’t just identify current trending topics.  Instead, they evaluate the usefulness of these trends.  Nothing is better for teaching students argument evaluation and the larger implications of pop culture.

 

Information driven blogs include: Celebritology 2.0, Media DecoderThe TV Column

Blogs as Text: Assignments

It seems that the expectations assigned to English teachers becomes larger and more nuanced with each year.    Teach technology.  Read a variety of texts.  Create global citizens.  Nurture critical thinkers.  Produce analytical writers.

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Implementing blogs as “texts” is an easy way to address all of these issues at once.  You might consider having students read blogs daily, weekly or 2-3 times per quarter depending on your time constraints.  Since many English teachers implement an exploring the issues, or a follow the columnist assignment adapting such an exercise that focuses on columns/editorials could easily be adapted for a blog reading assignment.

When students can actually choose a credible author with journalistic presence and style who blogs they win.  Instead of one column per week students could follow their “blogger” each day or several days a week via your classroom.  Even better, students can follow a blog that focused on a certain type of content that they find highly interesting.   The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wired, The National Geographic all have blogs.  Well written and small in size they are easy for students to “digest” and they provide thoughtful writing and meaningful content.

By following a respected blogger students can become experts and global citizens.  We complain about their lack of knowledge and their inability to assess arguments and style.  Reading a blog of merit is a means towards achieving this goal.  Below are some basic ideas for you to implement along with a blogs as text unit. Tomorrow I’ll provide a list of blogs to give students as choices

Reading Blogs as Text Assignments

  1. Have students read and construct a SOAPSTone chart and précis paragraph.
  2. Ask that students annotate using a tool like awesome highlighter or Evernote.
  3. Ask students to identify explicit/implicit arguments in the blog post.  Even ask that students identify the values/morals of the writer based on their voice.
  4. Instead of summarizing ask that students construct a list of essential questions as they read.  These questions should identify the big picture arguments of the author and pose them in the format of moral/ethical questions.
  5. After having read several posts or for several weeks asks student to do a style analysis of their author.
  6. Ask students to construct argument prompts in the fashion of the AP Language and Composition test or the SAT based on the moral/ethical arguments consistently raised by their “blogger.”  Provide them with a list of ideas or a starting point for prompts based on the debate topics Emily’s previously identified in her GRE post.

Brain Pickings: Posts about Authors

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One of the things that draws me to Brain Pickings is the website’s constant focus on authors.  Each week, posts examine unusual and unexpected aspects of those writers that I “spend” much of my time teaching.  Featured in letters, illustrations, stop motion, book reviews, etc., these posts enrich and supplement daily lessons.

Calling upon text, images and video, these posts do more than merely disseminate information.  They are miniature pieces of “clickable” art.  They can serve to simply improve the daily grind of being a classroom teacher and brighten some of your more difficult days.  However, it is easy for students to see literature as simply a number of chapters due on any given day.  These posts remind both teacher and student that literature is something more than reading quiz followed by class discussion.

Consider using Brain Pickings in two ways: as an extension or supplement to a lesson on a specific text or literary term and as a way to have students write/discuss how we view the writers.  Below I’ve highlighted one post to show how to implement written response, classroom discussion and small group collaboration.

Writer’s Houses Illustrated

Questions to consider after reading/exploring:

  1. Why are we fascinated with where “creators create?”  What about their homes and personal lives would be of interest to us?
  2. Why would this project start with these authors’ homes?  What argument is made by illustrating these homes?
  3. What value is there is a project of this type.

Small Group Project: After examining this project, have students create an author driven project that they will pursue.  Encourage them to highlight at least 2-3 of the authors you studied thus far.  Ask that students work in small groups and create a working proposal that they “pitch” to you before they proceed.  Consider this to be part research paper, part cross-curricular learning and part creative presentation.  Steer clear of PowerPoint, Posters or other expected/tired assignment formats.  Give them guidelines but also challenge them to construct an outcome unlike their peers.

The project should identify the following:

  • An argument about writers in popular culture both past and present
  • A creative means via technology, art, social media, etc. to display this project.

Two other posts that can serve as powerful resources for discussing writer’s on their own craft are “From Mark Twain to Ray Bradbury Iconic Writers on Truth vs. Fiction” and “Advice on Writing From Modernity’s Greatest Writers.” Consider using the author statements in these posts as the basis for creating essay prompts.

Weekend Pop Culture: Thanksgiving

Welcome to our pre-Thanksgiving pop culture bash.  Looking for something in the spirit of Thanksgiving?  Something still rigorous?  Something that could stop the tedium of the days before a holiday break?  Look no further.  Today we review blogs, articles and infographics with all of that in mind.  Think about it as a mini Thanksgiving buffet.

Infographics

What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving Infographic-The New York Times

Even though it’s from 2009, this infographic is still interesting commentary.  It reviews the most searched Thanksgiving recipes and then provides state statistics.

Questions for Discussion:  

  • Identify the argument about the intersection of technology and Thanksgiving.
  • Identify the argument made about location and food preference.

Articles

Restaurants on Thanksgiving: 14 million Expected to Dine Out this Year  The Huffington Post

A short article with visual about the reasons behind dining out for Thanksgiving in 2011.

Questions for Classroom Discussion:

  • Identify the argument(s) about modern Thanksgiving celebrations.
  • What does this suggest about American culture and dining out?
  • Does dining out change the Thanksgiving experience?

Note to Self: You may even want to use The New Yorker’s cover from this past week since it’s a Thanksgiving meal inside of a cafe.

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