Signing up for computer lab time was difficult. Not every student had access to the internet from home. So, using a classroom set of iPads was the dream--and I wrote a grant.
Several months later, I had a half a classroom set of iPads and writing beyond our writer's notebook began...but the kids didn't really know what to do. An iPad for many is a toy...a device used to take funny pictures or play games with.
As a writing and creation device...kids are not there yet naturally.
Since the blog was for nothing more than another avenue for writing, I saw it as an online writer's notebook. I assumed (ha!) that students would just go about their writerly business with ease.
Not so much.
Initially, my students stuck to very starchy topics. Almost afraid to let go, they wrote about school. They wrote about what we were reading...in school. They wrote as if they were responding to discussion questions...in school.
After much coaxing--I literally had to tell them often that it was alright to write about anything--that it was alright to be messy--it was alright to be rough--some finally started to break away from writing what they assumed I wanted them to write about.
Still, it was only a few per class.
I took to posting on their blogs as well. I took to taking the first five minutes of class to read the blogs I projected on the wall. I took to leaving the iPads out on the desk and invited them to blog or comment during the first five minutes of class as students settled in for the lesson. I had to teach them about etiquette, and writing in public, and the use of white space in a post (we're still not so good with that).
And now slowly, after much sweating it out on my part (are they ever going to buy in to this) I am finding evidence of perspicacity among the masses. We have a pulse. The beads of sweat have formed, we're warm, and we are writers.
I am finding that students are using the blog to be critical...
I also have my share of dreamers, complainers, poets, socialites, etc. The bottom line--without fear of judgment from an adult, students write. And they never ask how long.
Sometimes they fret about not having anything to say...sometimes. But that seems to pass too.
For me, having students write on the blog has opened the doors to understanding. It helps me (and it helps them) understand each individual as a writer and as a person. This fact alone has made the implementation of the iPads in the classroom worth it.