Co-blogging with my son for spring break was an experiment. Typically when we go on a really long adventure vacation I would stash drawing and writing journals in the car along with books, games, snacks and toys. As we have camped across Canada as well as to the tip of Baja California, we have designed ways to keep the four boys busy. I have always found it difficult, however, to actually motivate any of the boys to write. They have never been that interested. This time I decided to get a little sneaky about it. I asked my one son if he wanted to do a blog with me about the vacation. I would write from my point of view and then he could write from his perspective. He thought it was a good idea. As well, he was responsible for choosing the blogging platform and designing the layout. I made some suggestions, none of which he followed. He is independent and stubborn, just like his mother. I note that this child has not yet had the opportunity to blog in school. He is in grade eight. When he asked if he could do a blog for one of his classes, his teacher said “No.” She wanted a paper copy of his assignment. So, it made sense that he would blog for us as a family. And what was the result? Here are some observations.
1. He was motivated to write. He actually appeared to be interested in writing. I did not have to nag him. As a parent, that was wonderful. I’m sure he appreciated it as well. And for me, he was writing. It worked. The technology itself was motivating for him. He has kept written scrapbooks before on trips but this was different.
2. He was writing more than I would normally see. I think it helped that this was just a journal reflection. I was not interested in the quality of his work; I was more interested in having him write. My son is in French Immersion and research has indicated their writing skills can lag. It was just important to me that he record words on the page (or screen, to be precise).
3 We talked about the act of writing. This conversation was natural in this context and seemingly invisible but important. We talked about how exaggeration can make things more interesting for the reader. We talked about storytelling and the importance of opening and closing lines. We even discussed what makes a good title. As we went, sometimes I could see him make the appropriate changes to his own writing.
4. It was an opportunity to build our relationship. We had a new and different kind of connection. He was excited to review his statistics at the back of the blog. “Mom, did you know someone from Vietnam is reading our blog?” he would announce. Or, “Mom, right now two people in Canada are reading our blog.” Or, “Most of the people reading the blog are using mobile devices. Eighty-two percent are using some kind of Apple device.” On blogger, there are all sorts of interesting statistics that he could explore and then share with me. Of course, it helped as well when he wrote something that was particularly funny (eg. his suntan lotion entry), that captured our family perfectly and would send me into peals of laughter.
5. He had a chance to experience the “social” aspect of the Internet. Thanks to some kind colleagues, a few people wrote comments in response to his writing. Of course, he was sent an email each time he received a comment. “Mom, did you know someone just commented on my blog.” That is reinforcing!
6. We could share our experience easily with other family and relatives. Again, this allowed us to keep connected. Although we were not face to face with these people, they had a sense of shared experience with our adventures. This, too, builds relationships.
7. It gave us a family record of our trip. As parents, we are committed to making memories with our children. Adventure vacations expand their horizons and our own.
Finally, I asked my son for his observations on the co-blogging experiment. Here are his responses:
Mom: What did you like best about co-blogging?
Son: I liked making if funny and seeing the stats.
Mom: Was it easier then keeping a paper journal?
Son: Probably, because I could just delete mistakes; it was more convenient, faster and easier to store. I knew I wouldn’t lose it.
Mom: What did you learn from doing it?
Son: I learned how to write better, how to use technology, how to make things funny, how to exaggerate and be sarcastic and how to use hyperbole.
Mom: How has your writing changed?
Son: I wanted to capture the reader’s interest by the title, the beginning and the ending. I might want to make the ending like a surprise or really funny.
Mom: Would you do it again?
Son: Yes, in fact, we should do it every vacation. You and me co-blog.
You can’t ask for much more from a teenage son!
From my perspective, the co-blogging experiment worked. My son wrote and he enjoyed doing it. The co-blogging adventure made learning meaningful for both of us. The fact that the journal was authentic, that others could read it and interact with him had a big impact on him. I also think the notion of “co-blogging” itself, with his mother, was powerful. And truly, this time out, technology did make the difference.
Postscript: Our family’s exploits are recorded here: ArizonaPhoenix. Comments are most welcome!