One of the 10 Reasons Your Students Should Be Blogging by an elementary special educator who blogs under the assumed name of “Mr. Foteah,” hit a nerve. His fifth reason for having students blog is this:
5. Authentic writing for authentic audiences. The writing is authentic because kids are writing about whatever they want. Even if I decide to give them prompts or topics to write about, they know teachers and other students will be reading them – not just me. Again, it’s all about their investment, and no doubt knowing you have an audience waiting with baited breath to read what you have to write is something that motivates.
That comment is similar to dozens of others I’ve seen in various blogs by various writers. While I understand and value the concern for students that underlies it, I have serious questions about “Mr. Foteah’s” use of the term authentic writing to mean “writing about whatever they want” for a readership “waiting with baited [sic] breath” to read it.
When educators use the term authentic that way, they create the impression that students are going to be able to write whatever they want all their lives for readers who are salivate at the thought of being allowed to view it.
I know all too well my first year college students think they can write about anything they want in any form they like. They are shocked to learn a poem describing their honest feelings about dissection is not considered an acceptable alternative to a biology research paper. And they are horrified to learn their employer expects them to write the employer’s message rather than their own more creative ideas.
I am not opposed to students’ blogging. However, I am concerned that teachers use it in ways that don’t set up false expectations for students or create misunderstandings for other teachers to correct later.