The past year has been an incredible ride for me as a young adult author. I’ve met with thousands of students and many amazing teachers as I’ve visited schools across California.
I’m currently working on my third book, which follows teen time traveler Zoey Browne as she “musi-morphs” (yes, I coined that phrase) back in time to solve mysteries. She travels back to musical times in history through the musical element she is studying. Zoey’s featured in my first two books, The Practice Room and Flying Through Music, which have been included in school reading lists and English classes.
Students love to hear about the life of an author and a reporter. I have been a journalist for many years and currently cover entertainment and casinos. It’s fun and challenging. I write about court cases and business trends in Hollywood and Las Vegas, and sometimes cover glamorous award shows like the Grammys and Oscars.
I’m writing this blog at the suggestion of an English teacher named Ashley Laird at the Chandler School in Pasadena, California. Ms. Laird has added my book, Flying Through Music, to her required summer reading list for her middle school students. She’s using blogging as a teaching tool in her classes and thought it would be a great way for me to connect with her students this summer.
In the past I had shied away from blogging. There seemed to be so MUCH out there already and I just didn’t want one more thing to do. But the more I thought about it, the more the idea began to grow on me, and I realized this would be great way to give back to all the wonderful teachers and students and librarians I’ve met and hope to meet. And of course it’s a great way to connect with readers.
But what would I blog about? I didn’t want to endlessly plug my books. So what I’ve decided to do with this blog is share the cool stuff I come across in my travels as a young adult author — like kidblogging.
Having never been a teacher myself, I’m amazed at how learning has changed. The middle school and high school experience is much different than when I was a kid back in the 70s. Technology has changed everything from the way kids communicate with each other to the way they learn and present their work.
I asked Ms. Laird to show me her class blog and frankly, I was blown away. There were sophisticated posts on meaty subjects like suicide and the dark side of beauty pageants. Her students are quadblogging, which means they are blogging with three other classes around the world. Her class blog is safe and monitored and only accessible with a valid user name and password. There are no ads.
Ms. Laird’s class wasn’t the first time I’d come across blogging by students. During another school visit, I was amazed to meet a 13-year-old girl who was blogging weekly movie reviews. Her mom said it was fine to post the URL, but requested I keep the school and her daughter’s name out of this article for security reasons. Her reviews are at http://justgivingmy2cents.blogspot.com/
Ms. Laird said she got the idea for a blog at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference and found out about Kidblog, a forum designed by educators for elementary and middle school students.
I spoke with Matt Hardy, former teacher, who started up Kidblog. He said Kidblog is already in 200,000 classrooms. “I was a classroom teacher for nine years. The biggest thing about this is that it creates a community space that is easily moderated by a teacher but gives students ownership over their own ideas. Kids find it extremely motivating that their work is being shared with a wider audience.”
I thought about when I was a kid in school. I’d write an essay and hand it in to my teacher and that was it, end of story. Maybe I’d share it with my parents or a friend, but generally the essay would never see the light of day. Now blogging changes all that. I look forward to seeing your comments and any suggestions for future blogs.