One Reason We Blog – Finding and Clarifying Misconceptions

As my students were writing today about yesterday’s experience with Alan, I caught several misconceptions students had about what we had learned. One student explained, for example, that the reason Iceland isn’t as cold as one would think, based on how far north it is, is because all the volcanoes and lava heat the air and make it warmer.

I asked the rest of the class if this was true and expressions told me some thought it might be. Others though were able to explain that it is mainly the relatively warm water that surrounds Iceland that moderates the temperature. The lava and volcanoes might have a very minor impact, but they are not the main reason the weather in Iceland is warmer than expected.

Misconceptions show up in writing, it is a record of that child’s thinking. So it is a great way to deal with misconceptions when you meet with students about their writing … especially when it is about curriculum and not a story they are writing (thought it can show up there too). One of the “unintended good consequences” of our blogging is that we write a lot, so there are more chances that misconceptions are going to come up and be caught by me, but they are caught by students too because they read each others’ posts, so they are practicing critical thinking skills. These are perfect teaching moments. You explain the issues with their thinking and help them with their ideas, and then they immediately go and re-think to re-write and that helps plant that learning they just experienced. When they re-submit their blog for posting you see it again, can clarify more if needed, or post if it is ready.

Last year when we did a unit on distances in space and sizes of stars and planets, the first posts about their learning seemed to be MOSTLY misconceptions. I took the blame for them not being clear and we re-visited the concepts and looked at some of their writing on the ActivBoard and edited much of it as a class. When students could see their fuzzy thinking and incorrect information they wanted to re-write. Most didn’t even want to “fix” what they had, but wanted to start over. Their next attempts were much better and they actually wrote a bit more because they felt more confident about what they knew.

Learning is messy!

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6 Responses to One Reason We Blog – Finding and Clarifying Misconceptions

  1. Leah says:

    I’m a student teacher and just starting to discover blogs and how to use them in the classroom. I think it’s a great idea to use the blogs as, at least it seems to me, a journal that students write in about what they are learning. It seems like you can do so much with it, especially checking in on their thinking and if they are making the connections you want them to make. I think many students would benefit from writing down what they are learning and then double checking it to make sure they are “getting it” can lead to many teaching moments about so many different subjects. But how do you manage it all? When is all this blogging happening, in the classroom?

  2. Brian says:

    Hi Leah – I make it one of my priorities. I spend time writing/blogging that others might spend on worksheets or other activities. I have my students blog stories, but also what we are learning about. My students are very language deficient, so I love blogging because it keeps them immersed in language. They have to put what they know or learned into writing and make sure it is publishable and then they read and comment on what others said. We also read other blogs and comment on them, so students are learning new ways to communicate, share information, see examples of writing done by other students that they learn from, points of view, etc. We blog about what we read during reading, but we might even do reading by reading others’ blogs and responding to them. We might read about something during reading class that is really about what we are studying in science and begin to write about it there … and then science class might just be finishing up those blog posts and editing them and publishing them to our blogs and then reading what others learned or thought about the same subject AND then use that to lead a class discussion about what we think and what others said and deal with the misconceptions … like I described in the post.
    Hope that helps. Feel free to follow up with other questions.
    Brian

  3. Jackie says:

    I am a student teacher as well and had never blogged before this quarter. I had never had an interest in blogging. I have been resistant to blogging for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I love writing and understand that writing involves writing for an audience. When a person blogs, there is no specific audience because the possibilities are endless as to who may read it. The other reason that I have been hesitant is that I belive technology (although wonderful for many things) tends to hinder social skills. With the advancement of technology, we also become lazier and more dependent. I know that we live in a technological world that is ever-changing. As teachers, we can really use technology to create new learning experiences that would not have been possible ten years ago. I just get a little concerned about the future of young students when I hear stories about teachers in middle school and high school not teaching spelling anymore because of spell-check and social skills diminishing because of technological communication. As with a lot of things, I think the key is to not only use technology in moderation, but to use it appropriately.

  4. Brian says:

    Jackie: Some of your assumptions are not true. First, “…there is no specific audience,” is not true. You are correct that anyone in the world might be in your audience, but we have connected with numerous classrooms around the world that we blog with consistently. Sometimes we even agree to write on the same or similar topics so students can read and comment on the blogs of students from different places and cultures that are writing on the same topic.

    Second, if you think spell check hinders learning to spell, then visit my classroom when my students are editing their work.

    Third – My students social skills have advanced because of technology. My students live in an area with mainly other students of poverty that lack language and social skills … so there are not many good examples for them to learn from in their community. However, we Skype (video-conference) students from other places and socio-economic groups that have good to excellent language skills and they provide my students an audience to practice their oral and written language skills with – it costs us nothing to do this as opposed to having to waste 60 minutes to walk to a school or spending money to pay for a bus to visit a school to do the same.

    Fourth – I agree that technology needs to be used appropriately. Why does it need to be used in moderation? I think like anything else it is inappropriate to use it just to use it, but if it is used in powerful ways that provide powerful learning experiences for students why limit its use?

    Should we still provide face to face interactions? Absolutely! But using technology often enhances those experiences, it doesn’t necessarily replace them.

    Thanks!

  5. Steven Kimmi says:

    Brian-

    I agree with you whole-heartedly. My post was a convergence of many different sources all seeming to intertwine. While I agree that the use of technology in appropriate ways is nothing but good, I am wondering what the future holds and how we as educators play ap art in this. That all seems quite obvious and normal doesn’t it, as in who doesn’t think about that. Just wante dto clear up any misconceptions.

  6. Brian says:

    Hi Steven, My concern about the future, like yours, is making the same mistakes again. We already did the, “Tech is good, let’s just put tech in the hands of teachers and students and good things will happen!” mistake. It put us back years and decision-makers and others use those years still to show proof that tech and project / problem based learning are ineffective and a waste of money and time.

    Training in pedagogy and effective/ appropriate use cannot be sidestepped again or we will waste time and money for naught. Messy learning is messy, but if done well is archived and clarified into learning … otherwise it’s just a mess.
    Thanks, Brian

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