Blogging improves young people's confidence in their writing and reading
A parent learns to blog on East Lothian's eduBuzz blogging-for-learning platform, alongside her daughter at Humbie Primary School. Pic: David Gilmour
Today, in a world of social networks young people have never written or read so much. And now, a new more robust survey in the UK shows conclusively that social networking, blogging and generally publishing writing online does improve students' attitudes to writing by about a sixth. I'd add that, in the hands of a good teacher's structured approach, the quality of that writing itself should be seen to improve, too.
Action research of mine that got published almost exactly four years ago showed that blogging within a structured learning environment improves writing in a foreign language, by providing an audience - and would help improve reading, too. Last year, Becta's Web 2.0 research showed that the increased use of social networks in itself didn't necessarily correlate to more creativity or better production of media, but that the role for mentors (e.g. parents, teachers) was still paramount in eking out the most constructive use of technologies.
From the BBC this week:
A survey of 3,001 children aged nine to 16 found that 24% had their own blog and 82% sent text messages at least once a month.
In addition 73% used instant messaging services to chat online with friends....Of the children who neither blogged nor used social network sites, 47% rated their writing as "good" or "very good", while 61% of the bloggers and 56% of the social networkers said the same.
"Our research suggests a strong correlation between kids using technology and wider patterns of reading and writing," Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, told BBC News.
"Engagement with online technology drives their enthusiasm for writing short stories, letters, song lyrics or diaries."
Mr Douglas dismissed criticisms about the informal writing styles often adopted in online chat and "text speak", both of which can lack grammar and dictionary-correct spelling.
"Does it damage literacy? Our research results are conclusive - the more forms of communications children use the stronger their core literary skills."
It's good to see some balanced journalism from the Beeb this yuletide, pulling in the pantomime "boos" of the National Association for Primary Education to cast a de-professionalising spell over any enthusiastic educator:
"Most primary school teachers are doubtful about hooking children up to computers - especially when they are young," said John Coe, general secretary of the National Association for Primary Education.
"They see enormous advantages in the relationship between teacher and child. Sometimes the computer is closer to the child than the teacher by the age of 13."
Nonetheless, it's vital that research like this being taken on board by those making purchasing, training and pedagogical approach decisions.
A question, then, to those in the higher echelons of classroom practice decision-making: will over four years of conclusive research tip you into overtly supporting the use of web publishing in your school environments, from elementary through to secondary and higher education?