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Excitedly Surprised

by Neil Finney

Today, I found myself sitting in awe as I stared at the computer screen after a long day of teaching. The first day back after March Break is always a trying time – for both teacher and student. A week and a half away from classroom routines, expectations and lessons can lead to some stumbling blocks when it comes to re-starting the learning.

A few weeks ago, I began a new venture in our literacy program…student blogs. Each student created a blog which would serve as another vehicle for them to keep writing and receive feedback on a variety to writing prompts and topics. We spent the time to set them up and students had an opportunity to personalize them with new layouts and customized features. But then things became busy and our student blogs became one of the things that “fell off the plate.”

Or so I thought…

Now, student blogging – to me – is an incredible opportunity to engage my class and further their literacy learning. I attach each student blog to my class blog so that I can monitor, evaluate and give feedback – as well as the students to each other. Another purpose of this is to provide parents with an opportunity to read their child’s writing, and even share in the experience with the student, after school hours at home.

However, the best intentions became clouded by the daily grind of work. Student blogs slowly faded into the background.

And then there was today.

When I came home after school I logged into my class blog page and decided to click on a few of student blog links. I was excitedly surprised! Many of my students have posted to their blogs on a bunch of different themes and some even began posting consistently on personal books they’ve read and sharing reflective insights about their own life and memories.

Plant a seed. Walk away. Let the rain take care of the rest. Sometimes our vision just needs time and space to grow.


Think of a time when you were left in awe by something your students did. How did the experience shift your perspective about the way you facilitate the learning process in your teaching practice?

During Neilʼs 10 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.


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  • Ryan

    Hey Neil!

    Wonderful to hear! I’m trying to engage my students, to motivate them for blogging, but they’re kind of lazy. Unfortunately I’m just a substitute teacher, so we’re not connected as usual student/teacher. Most of them use some kind of social media, but no blogs at all! I’m looking for some platform, what would you recommend? Blogspot, tumblr, something else?

    Thanks, and keep it up. I like to know, that ther’re some awesome teachers!

    • neil

      Hi Ryan! Thanks for the great feedback. If they have a Google account already (which many of them likely would) they could easily sign up for a Blogger account. Edublogs is another great platform for student blogging.

      I guess it would depend on your purpose for using the technology. If blogging is your focus – then these two platforms would work well. If you wanted to incorporate more visual activities into lessons (inferring from the picture, what was the person’s intention by posting this picture?) then perhaps Instagram or Pinterest could be other social media vehicles you would want to pursue.

      What is the purpose for your use of these tech tools? Is it student engagement? Is it writing focused? Is it critical thinking skills? Once you determine this, the best way forward might be more clearly evident. It is so great to hear that you are interested and motivated to try some of these tools out. Did you have a look at: “Student Social Media Quiz” yet? It could give some ideas as well.

      Thanks again and let me know what you come up with.

  • neil

    Hi Aviva, that’s a great idea to incorporate student work as a portfolio option on their own personal blogs for school! What a terrific way to keep them accountable for their own learning and provide a perfect conversation to have with a parent at home about “what they did today in school.”

    We have been trying to make a more concerted effort to stay on the blogs more consistently and I am noticing those students who are really enjoying the option of sharing their thoughts and ideas using a different [technological] forum. Thanks Aviva for the advice!

  • Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

    Neil, I’m really glad that blogging has taken off for your students even if you’ve had to leave it alone for a bit. While I don’t necessarily have an answer to your question, I have found that blogging is easier to manage if it is not an add-on, but just a way for students to share their learning. Many of my students take photographs and videos of their work and put it on our class blog. They also publish their writing activities directly on the blog as well. The blog then becomes a portfolio of the student work.

    I’m glad that you have a system that is working for you, but if you find yourself getting frustrated that you don’t have enough time to blog with the students, maybe this portfolio approach will help. Just something to think about …