My students and I are gradually getting used to the new blogware that I installed a couple of weeks ago and wrote about in this post. The new system is much easier to use and administer and I hope that my technical headaches are now over. I'm glad that my experiences with moving to a new blogging software sparked so many inspiring posts. Stephen, Will, Michael, Nancy, and Gardner (thanks for your kind words!) found my experiences with the technical side of blogging interesting. Darren used my experiences as a prompt to solicit some truly inspiring responses from the students. One of my very recent discoveries is that my students started using categories to organize their posts. The software we're using now allows each post to be tagged with a specific, user-generated category. I was so focused on making sure that all of my students transferred their blogs successfully to the new system that it never occured to me to mention to them the fact that they can create and assign categories. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that most of them had already started using them! Yes, most of the entries in the new blogs have been categorized by the students themselves without any prompts or encouragement from me. Quite honestly, I simply forgot about this feature.
So, my grade eight bloggers are now assigning categories. This is a great development because it seems to me that it shows just how much they care about their work. I think they are beginning to see their entries as extensions of their own selves (echoes of McLuhan?). In addition to categories such as "general" or "English," I've noticed the following:
Things/events that I feel strongly about Poetry Quotes Extra Responses for Class Novel Study Mr.G's Optional Response Posts Life....And other totally unrelated things Stuff i want to discuss with you
Maybe I'm reading too much into these categories but it seems to me that these students want to immerse themselves in writing and, through writing, in thinking. These categories also show that the students see their work as something more than just class work, as something more (dare I say "important"?) than school assignments. I hear voices here, genuine student voices. I see students who are beginning to adapt to the "pull" model. I see the beginning of conversations that happen within and among my students.
I see that my students are beginning to see their own blogs as places where thinking happens. Some of these categories suggest a need to converse, to engage readers or record one's thoughts as a networked creator, not a passive recipient of whatever I might "push" at them. I see a genuine need to both initiate and participate in conversations.
Some of these categories suggest that the students know that they have an audience, that they can write and think with their peers.