In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world. To that end, Melbourne educator Jenny Luca made a commitment to help her students start blogging and to create ePortfolios. Here are six reasons why, at her school, these skills are now a high priority.

By Jenny Luca
  • CREATING POSITIVE DIGITAL FOOTPRINTS. Kids need to start establishing a positive digital impression of themselves. Without question, it will be the norm for these students to be Googled when they begin to look for jobs — even if it’s part time. As young as they are, they need to cultivate their personal brand, and they can do this by posting about what they’re involved in at school, learning in their classrooms, or other co-curricular activities they enjoy. We want our students to understand that they can control the message about themselves on the Web, and that they can point prospective employers, colleagues or university admissions officers.
  • COMMUNICATING WITH DIGITAL TOOLS. We want our students to have a handle on how to use digital tools to communicate, and not just through networks like Facebook. Plenty of our students are Facebook users, but there is a higher order skill set required to maintain consistent posts on a blog. We’ve taught our students how to set up categories, add widgets, use the HTML editor to embed code, and how to tell the difference between a legitimate comment and a spammer. As our world moves ever closer towards the Internet as the main vehicle for communication, we feel that we are helping our students understand the language they will need to navigate this new territory.
  • TRANSPARENCY FOR PARENTS AND FAMILY. Our curriculum is becoming more transparent to parents. As our students write more about what they’re learning, we now have a means for their parents to feel more connected to what happens at school. Where once a child would write for an audience of one – the teacher – now they are writing for a potentially much larger audience that includes their immediate and extended family. Students will not only have a digital archive of their learning, but will see comments from friends and family that they can revisit in years to come. Their access won’t be limited to the box of cherished school records and mementos relegated to the attic. For these kids, an Internet connection will enable them to revisit their childhood and adolescent school years.
  • NEW WAYS OF THINKING ABOUT WEB TOOLS. We need a digital space to demonstrate new methods of learning how to use important Web tools. Already this year, our student ePortfolios have been used to embed Slideshare and Google Docs presentations, Glogsters, podcasts created with Garageband, Google MyMaps, Prezi, and links to Wiki pages they have edited for different subjects. Just having our students understand how to hyperlink to other people’s content, and the potential this opens for two-way conversation, has been eye-opening for them. These spaces have helped provide even more reasons for our teaching staff to use Web-based tools and teach themselves new skills in the process.
  • EFFECTIVE DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP. By creating ePortfolios, or a digital collection of their work, our students learn how to conduct themselves in digital spaces in the context of their curriculum, not just in isolated lecture-style presentations that may strike a chord with some students, but miss the mark with others. When I talk to my seventh-grade students, they can clearly articulate why we’re using these ePortfolios. It makes sense to them, and they know it is important for their future lives.
  • PRIDE IN THEIR WORK. For many of our students, their world view is changing as a result of posting in public spaces. Many of them have embedded clustr maps into their sidebars, and they can see where people are visiting from. Recently, one of our students posted about the effect this global audience has had on her: “Okay- so is this is amazing. I’ve used this blog since March 30th and so far it’s been a great resource and an amazing display of some of my work this year. It hasn’t just been my teachers, my classmates, my family and I that have looked at it — as of August 6 my blog has had 533 visits worldwide. Amazing or what? WOW.”

Wow indeed.

 Jenny Luca contributes to PLP’s group blog Voices from the Learning Revolution.
Six Reasons Why Kids Should Know How to Blog 16 November,2011Tina Barseghian

  • Patti Grayson

    Excellent post. I’m including a link to this post on my class web page in an article on blogging with my 4th graders. Thanks!

    • Ooh, @Patti. Is there a way I could see your 4th graders page? Think I am going to try to get my 4th graders going on a learning blog just for our classroom. I am going to pair one strong writer with one weak writer, and have them work on their sentence/s on what they learned for the day, or what was most fun/interesting on a whiteboard first. Then have them work together to enter the info, and sign with first names only. I’d like to see how you are doing it. Most of my students do not have Internet access at home, so I want to expose them to one piece — blogging. Have you done this already? Want to learn from you.

  • Great advice. Posting to my wordpress blog,

  • Mary

    Don’t forget how it builds writing and other communication skills. 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Oh yes, that too 🙂

  • Melanie

    I often think about how tech savvy children are and how we’ll be stuck in the past to them more and more as we all age (as a woman in my late twenties, I directly relate to this through interactions with my parents’ and grandparents’ generations).  I do agree “responsible digital citizenry” is important; I’m just not comfortable about how safe this is to do with children, especially if it’s getting posted where globally accessible.  I also feel like by overly encouraging digital connections with each generation, we’re losing actual non-computer related experiences in life because it doesn’t seem to be of value the same way it was before.  (Which is why I love that car commercial where the teenage girl is sitting and talking about living life through her facebook connections, faulting her parents for not “living life”, while her parents are bike riding with friends.)
    Also, I hope that they are encouraging positives through truth, and not manipulation of perception, and the difference between quality over quantity, and research versus opinion.  Our culture is already too perception-focused.  I do love the aspect of sharing with family and extended family and children gaining self-esteem through this entire project (an end product to be proud of and feeling connected to other people).  Digital mementos are also a plus.  I personally find it important to revisit that type of stuff as we age.
    What preplanning was involved?  People get so excited to jump right in that they don’t gear things towards a goal with all negative consequences in mind (just the positive ones).  I think it could’ve been better if they worked on a whole research project together and created a website from it with different elements assigned to different groups/individuals, and then took turns doing different portions.  Yes, individuality is important, but I think it should be impersonal in content when it comes to kids.  Plus, learning to be an individual as it relates to something of impersonal value—that’s a huge component that would help our future workforce.

    • Hi Melanie,

      This post explains our school’s approach.

      I hope it helps to clarify why we are encouraging our student’s to use ePortfolios.

      Jenny Luca. 

  • Melanie, I truly respect your concerns, but I think it’s worth noting that students who use blogging and other means to engage with other students across the globe — and with global CONCERNS (by talking with and interviewing experts around the world) — don’t necessarily fall into the couch (or backseat) potato category. This recent post by my friend Bill Ferriter, a middle school teacher in North Carolina, helps make the point, I think:

    Jenny Luca, the author of this article, wrote about her global classroom recently, and you can see that her students are also engaged in worthy issues. Perhaps it’s a sign of our “other-generation-ness” that we think of this as “digital citizenry.” I expect K-12 students just see it as citizenry.

  • Melanie

    That’s great.  I didn’t think of it as a category much like a couch potato/backseat, I just think posting my child’s photo/name/opinion which can be linked directly to them to anyone who wants access, not even locally, but globally, isn’t particularly safe–especially if they’re able to obtain contact information easily.

    From the article:  “…my blog has 533 visits worldwide…”  How much effort to remain safely anonymous is exerted?

    I’m not negating the positives of programs such as these, I’m merely requesting extreme precautions and forethought in what we teach our children and who we expose them to in various manners.

    • Hi Melanie, your safety concerns are valid, but blogs can be made private and unsearchable via a search engine. Also, when I have students interact online, I have them use alias’ and do not have them include or share any private information unless it is a closed site. I do believe we are in a place within technology where online platforms are beginning to make safety and privacy issues a priority. I am noticing that on social media platforms they are beginning to define acceptable use. I do agree that there needs to be thoughtful caution with anything that we post online, students, adults, teachers, parents…all of us.

  • Guest

    This is dangerous! Children should never be online and when they reach High School, it should be monitored. Total irresponsibility. Wait until the consequences reach you and then your new knowledge will be late. This is a form of babysitting or NOT teaching. DANGEROUS !!!!

  • Janet |

    Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been working with my kids to set up an Edublog site this year. Our school has Google sites, but the sites are hidden behind so many firewall that even their families have a hard time accessing student work.

    I’m in the midst of drawing up a rationale and permission slip for my students to contribute to an edublog. I’m using some of the rationale pieces from your article. Thanks!

    Janet |

  • Ashla18

    This is a nice blog. Next time can you tell more?

  • Great post could not agree more and working towards this in our school.

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