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Student Self-Publishing- An Essential Part of 21st Century Learning

July 20, 2015 
When Tabitha Sanchez, a sophomore at Pace University, was in high school, she started a book blog for her English class. Today, Tabitha’s Book Blog is a nationally-recognized blog that reviews dozens of major fiction works. At only 20 years old, Sanhez has not only received national recognition for her blog, but has also started a career in the New York publishing industry. Her story, among others, illustrates the power of student publishing as part of 21st century learning environments.

More and more schools are approaching learning through digital projects, providing students with daily opportunities to self-publish.  In today’s vernacular, publishing refers to everything from blogging to creating website content to sharing videos on sites like YouTube and Vimeo.  However, others dee the definition of publishing as one that extends beyond online content. Jon Corippo, an Apple Distinguished Educator and director of Academic Innovation for CUE, defines publishing with a broad brush. Corippo has worked with hundreds of film students over the years and considers them published or publishing once they are entering their work into contests, partnering with public or nonprofit entities, and using social media and other platforms to promote their work.  He explained, “Publishing and going public with your work is the beginning of the rest of your life as a citizen and a professional.”

Student Content Creation: Self-Publishing in the Classroom

David Theriault, an english teacher at Huntington Beach Union High School, has been leading his students in blogging for the past two and a half years, and now considers blogging to be the most important work his students are producing. “Blogging allows every student to write to an audience,” said Theriault. “We used to have students write to their teachers or maybe fellow students — now, their audience is truly public.”

His students both appreciate and understand the impact of a public audience y seeing their content’s high number of visitors and page views from over 100 countries. In some cases, Theriault’s students have gained 500+ followers in a matter of months. Theriault’s graduates have kept in touch, and tell him that their blogging experience has given them an advantage in their overall college success. He believes that publishing, though mediums like blogging, is crucial for authentic college and career skill-building.

“Blogging and publishing online are truly connected to college readiness, as well as  lifelong literacy skills in the new economy,” notes Theriault. “[Companies like] Google  want to see what people are thinking, how they reflect, how they plan and how they  create.” He argues that these skills can be demonstrated through students’ blog presence. 

Student Publishing and Student Voice

When it comes to teacher’s role in student publishing, some educators believe that their ultimate role is to promote student voice. Pernille Ripp, a veteran K-8 teacher from Wisconsin, believes that student voice is essential. Through medium’s like blogging, Ripp says that students ultimately connect to the world and discover their own voice.

“We blog so that my students have a platform to help change education around the 
world,” Ripp said. “Once they establish their voice and see the power of publishing, it’s amazing what kind of impact they can have.” Ripp has created the Global Readaloud Project, as well as her own blog called Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension. If our goal in education is to empower students to take charge of their own learning, and for them to perform at high levels, having them publish professionally in a digital  environment is essential. Students like Tabitha Sanchez can find their voice, expand their professional learning network (PLN) and begin their futures while in school. 

When asked about her blogging experience, Sanchez said, “I’ve gained a sense of  confidence that I don’t think I would have had without it. Blogging has also connected  me to the publishing industry in so many ways. It’s really nice to know that there are  people out there who will read and care what you’re writing about.”

Are you a student or teacher who’s interested in self-publishing? Look into free blogging platforms such as Tumblr, and Kidblog. See below for some resources for creating blogs to help propel your students’ voice:

Blog Content Resources

The Community Blog for Education Blogs
5 Best Blogging Tools for K-12 Teachers/Students
David Theriault’s Blogging Info & Blog Share
Pernille Ripp & Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension 
12 Free Apps for Student Publishing
7 Excellent Tools to Publish Student Work

Media Uploading Resources 

• Vimeo
• YouTube
• TeacherTube
• Blip
• Flickr
• Google Drive

Author Bio:
Michael W. Niehoff is a writer for Inside USC Rossier, the blog for the University of
Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online teaching degree. He has been
an educator, writer, and student advocate for 25 years. His areas of professional interest are project-based education and student leadership. Connect with him on twitter @mwniehoff.

Image source: Bill Selak