Photo by Tricia Friedman

Building a 21st Century legacy of learning is one bumpy, marvelous, nail-biting ride.


“The first, most important thing is to recognize that the world is changing.”- Vijay Govindarajan, Professor, Tuck.

How are schools changing?  How are teachers changing? How are students changing? How is technology integration changing?

That’s a lot of ‘how’s’ and not enough ‘why’s’.  Schools are changing because, like Seth Godin says we can ‘unteach’ many of the core values we need students to have, and in many senses, we have been ‘unteaching’ innovation.  If you haven’t seen the complete ‘Stop Stealing Dreams’ manifesto in action, do yourself a gigantic favor click play:

As an English teacher, one of the most important new tools in my toolkit has been the blog.  No longer, will students write for a limited audience.

My students are expected to compile a living and breathing portfolio of thought.  The crucial distinction is that this portfolio is accessible to anyone at anytime, and they are expected to belong to a community of thinkers.  Students don’t receive feedback from one teacher–but they receive feedback from their peers, near and far.  They design their online space, they personalize it, alter it, evolve with it.  This isn’t a binder that will end up in the garbage.  This is a collection of ideas which could be used as an asset when those university applications come along.

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Blogs reflect an important shift in today’s world of education: the old power dynamics need to roll over.  Of course students should be curating their own learning.  The tools are there.  And now, more than ever we need students to understand that the learning belongs to them.  In a world where knowledge is more accessible than ever before, students and teachers should be encouraged to build their own learning legacy.

“For Mark Carrigan, a research fellow at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Social Ontology whose forthcoming book, Social Media for Academics, can already be pre-ordered, “the key media are Twitter and blogging and they are very interconnected – my blogs feed automatically into my Twitter account, which then drives an audience for the blog”.

An enthusiastic blogger since studying for his PhD, Carrigan found great value in using the medium as “a public research notebook about what I was reading, working my way through difficult literatures in public…There is something quite specific about the experience of clarifying your thoughts by articulating them so openly.”

At the same time, by sharing online, “an audience coalesces around you and you make a lot of contact with people asking similar questions and reading similar things”. Via Times Higher Education

Blogs can be magical, but they aren’t magic.  Here’s a SAMR-ized look at how I’ve developed as a blog-facilitator:

S– Initially blogs are a substitute for your traditional notebook.  Students write, they store, they sometimes review their work.

A-Student blogs become a place where resources can be hyperlinked, connections can be easily accessed.  Students can showcase visual literacy, think critically about the design of their work, and begin to ask questions about what their ideas look like.

M-Students are part of a larger community of thinkers.  Students begin to respond to one another, leaving comments, starting dialogues.  Work becomes less restricted by time and geography.  Students will circle back to posts completed weeks, months ago when someone else initiates a new dialogue by connecting and commenting.  A student has a new audience–their blog is being viewed from another country.

R-Students decide to join a networked project.  Our ‘assignment’ isn’t dictated by a single person.  We find and connect with interesting initiatives, or we invite others to join us.

We unite with Blog Action Day

We use our blogs to reflect on our learning journey across the campus

We see ourselves as authentic authors

We actively engage in constructing our online identity



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It’s difficult to build the momentum to get to the redefinition stage.  It takes a majority of the school stakeholders to buy in.  School leadership needs to take an active roll.  Leaders need to encourage students to get active with Edublog Awards, or hold their own school blogging competitions.  You need a critical mass of teachers to encourage blogging.  Students need to have access to blog-mentors.  Design must be valued and time must be provided.  Schools need to invest in getting their educators comfortable with integrating blogs.  A former school I worked at embedded this type of training into the schedule for every single teacher.  You can see a bit about that program here.

If you want a community of authentic authors, you need commitment and dedication.  Staying the course to that vision is riddled with hurdles, nay-saying, and fear.  Getting from S to R is not accessible through any short cut.  Arriving at R means you’ve taken one heck of a scenic route, worthy of heaps of hashtags and more.  Is your school up for that kind of e-road trip?