4 Thoughts on Why Clarity Trumps Content on Student Blogs

I had an interesting conversation a few nights ago on Twitter with William Chamberlain (@wmchamberlain).  He is one of THE people on Twitter speaking about students and blogging.  His excellent class blog has inspired me more than a few times.  And, of course, the amazing Comments4Kids, which I highly endorse.

Our short conversation was thought provoking for both of us.  He left feeling inspired to write a new post, which you can read at Education Debate at Online Schools.  The post received some good comments and Education Debate at Online Schools wanted to know my take on it.

Clarity Rules the Kingdom of Expression
Chamberlain said that it is a serious mistake to believe that everything a student publishes online needs to be a final draft.  I definitely agree.  But, I do think it is a great place for some final drafts.  Just like Chamberlain, I am excited that blogs give students an opportunity to express their voice and ideas.  But, I believe that clarity will trump content every time you are trying to share an idea.  You may have the most incredible idea in the world, but if you can't communicate it clearly, then that incredible idea will be lost.

Polished Not Perfect

I tell my fourth graders that I won't publish junk.  If we are going to go through the effort to write and publish blog posts, then we need to respect our readers enough to make our writing clear and readable.  Ideas worth sharing are ideas worth clarifying.  I use blogging as an authentic context to teach the writing process.  Students submit their drafts for approval.  I look them over and approve many of them right away.  However, I do send confusing or unintelligible posts back to the students with feedback for revising and editing.  I think conventions pave the road of content.  I also think it is foolish to demand perfect conventions at the price of creative expression when there is no loss in clarity.  Chamberlain echoes this in his post and comments.

Process & Product

Both have value.  Which one has more more?  That is the balance teachers must find for themselves.  It can be a moving target, so you have to keep your eyes open.  Obviously I'm going to hold my fourth graders to a different standard than I would first graders or high school freshmen.  Now I'm not one of those crazy, slap you on the knuckles, and rip your work to shreds grammar nazis.  If a student forgets some punctuation- fine.  If a student types an entire draft without using any periods- not so fine.  Misspellings happen to everyone.  I'm not going to nitpick, but KidBlog.Org has a spell check.  I teach my class to use it, and expect them to.

The Burning Question

At the heart of all writing lies one whopping question- What's the point?  What is the purpose for student blogging?  At its minimum, blogging invites reading and feedback.  I am going to amplify Chamberlain here when he said, "Make sure your guidelines encourage the sharing of thoughts, not the overemphasizing of conventions."  And I'll add- Just make sure your thoughts are clear enough for others to enjoy before you click the publish button.
Photo Credit: jnpoulos