Monday, March 3, 2008

Benjamin Wilkoff: Blogging Middle School Language Arts

"A Chat with Benjamin Wilkoff," a profile posted by Alexei Rodriguez, highlights one middle school language arts teacher's views on, and use of, technology. Though the profile is written to highlight Ning's social networking service, the bulk of the profile outlines Wilkoff's tools, teaching and philosophy. He offers a lot of great advice for teachers.

Wilkoff currently teaches seventh and eighth grade language arts at Cresthill Middle School in Colorado. He calls himself "hopeless addicted to music, writing, and new technology." His webpage features many of his online tools. He even accesses his blog in class to link to articles, posts and other items saved there. In his Learning is Change blog and podcasts, he reflects on teaching, introduces ways to use technology in class and discusses other tools he likes or thinks work well for middle school language arts. He also maintains a technology integration wiki to guide fellow teachers and share ideas.

One of his favorite tools for language arts is blogging. Blogs involve his students in "authentic -- that is, with a real purpose and a real audience" writing. Every student has a blog that he or she must post to at least once a week. It changes their experience of writing to have their peers, and potentially others in the community and world, as their audience. Wilkoff also uses a lot of online sources for reading in class, not just "paper novels." He particularly likes Internet sources to enhance literary studies and critical thinking:
I like the idea that the internet can enhance our understanding of literature because we can use our collective intellect to analyze the theme, language, or author intent. I also find that my students are much more capable of seeing the relationship between reading and writing when they are creating content for the web. By responding to others' posts in comments or creating a wiki page they are growing their our body of knowledge organically rather than simply observing a unchanging cannon [sic] of words.
Some of his students have started their own blogs, but mostly, students become "better consumers of Internet content," better able to find what they are looking for and interpret what they find -- badly-needed skills in the 21st century.

You can see the entire text of Wilkoff's profile here. You can also find links to new tools he looks forward to using with his middle schoolers, links to student posts of which he is especially proud, and more about his blogs and wikis.

SOURCE: "A Chat with Benjamin Wilkoff, School Teacher" 09/10/06
photo courtesy of Simon Shek, used under this Creative Commons license

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