The following blog post is a re-posting from my shared blog mayerandmckee.blogpsot.com.
Blogs are omnipresent. Many online readers spend about as much (or more) time reading blogs than they spend reading the publications of organizations and news media. As someone who reads quite a bit online, I regularly visit blogs that focus on education, films, fitness, and local news. Reading blogs is REAL, authentic reading in today’s society.
So shouldn’t blogs be used in the classroom?
I must admit that I have little experience with students blogging. Since I have a number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers who work in all facets of education, I asked this question to the Internet ether: “What has your experience been in using blogging with students?”
As you can probably predict, I received a variety of responses.
Many people discussed the advantages of blogging with students. Students who are quiet in traditional classroom discussions find their voices through blogging. Blogs are multi-faceted compared to pencil-and-paper writing. Students can embed Web 2.0 creations using Prezi, Animoto and Voki within the context of their writing. One colleague shared that students’ blogs became their portfolios for his class, eliminating the loss of papers and constant organization that comes with traditional portfolios. Overall, educators talked about increased student engagement that resulted from students having audiences other than the classroom teacher.
Concerns came up as well. Technology issues like spotty wi-fi had turned blogging experiences into debacles. Some educators were concerned that overuse of blogging, which is generally more informal in style, might limit students’ academic writing progress. Assigning blogging for homework is often not an option because some students have limited access to technology in the home. In addition, some students may not have the technology skills to easily begin blogging.
After reading their feedback, I wondered what guidelines might help us, the inexperienced and sometimes intimidated, successfully integrate blogging into our classrooms. After consulting some sources, this is what I found:
1. Be a model for students.
As with almost any new skill or strategy we teach students, it is important for us to model how to blog. You may want to begin your own class blog with information about class activities and homework. Your blog will get students familiar with blogs as well as model the capabilities of using them (Rhode & Richter, 2009). It will also provide you with practical information like the impact of school filtering software and quality of internet connectivity. Students should also have opportunities to read other blogs that they find interesting.
2. Guide students more in the beginning.
Since many students might struggle to spontaneously create content for their blogs, you may want to provide a specific topic when students write their first blogs (Rhode & Richter, 2009). Either technologically-savvy students or you can help students learn the nuances of the blogging platform.
3. Emphasize interaction.
Make sure that you encourage students to comment on one another’s blog posts. You can comment on students’ blogs, too. Students will thrive on writing for real audiences and receiving feedback from their readers (Hobbs, 2011; Rhode & Richter, 2009). Of course, you should model appropriate comments (Edublogs, 2013).
4. Be crystal clear about safety expectations.
Generate a list of all the safety expectations you have for students. For instance, bullying language in comments is unacceptable. Students should not include personal identification information like their last names and home addresses (Edublogs, 2013). Consult your district’s AUP’s, or “acceptable use policies,” to include other safety expectations. Explicitly teach these expectations to students, ask them to sign contracts, post expectations where students will see them, and plan to re-teach your expectations throughout the year (Kline, 2013; VDOE, 2007).
5. Use rubrics to help students meet learning goals.
Although students should be encouraged to blog often about many topics, you may want to use blogging to teach them to write effective hooks, to argue a point, or to present research information. Rubrics help immensely in this area to clarify the learning targets of blogging activities (Hobbs, 2011). Through modeling and guided practice, students can demonstrate their acquired writing skills in blogs. However, remember that you will be assessing the quality of their writing, not necessarily the topics — which brings me to the last guideline.
6. Respect student choice.
Although students will have to follow safety expectations, we should respect their choices in writing topics as they become accustomed to blogging. The power of blogging comes in the authentic activity of being an author. Thus, students should be encouraged to write on a wide variety of topics (Rhode & Richter, 2009). They should not be relegated to teacher-chosen topics every time they blog. Choice will motivate your students.
I hope these guidelines will help you. I plan to use this plan as I integrate more blogging into my instruction. Did one of these ideas resonate with you? Did I forget something? Respond in the comments to continue the conversation!
Edublogs. (2013). Curriculum corner — using blogs with students. Retrieved from http://edublogs.org/curriculum-corner-using-a-blog-with-students/
Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Kline, E. (2013, March 25). Best practices in educational blogging. Retrieved from www.classroom20.com/profiles/blogs/best-practices-in-educational-blogging
Rhode, J. F., & Richter, S. L. (2009, October 16). Blogger beware: Teaching with blogs best practices. Presented at the 2009 SLATE Conference, Chicago, IL.
Virginia Department of Education. (2007, October). Guidelines and resources for internet safety in schools. (2nd ed.). Retrieved from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/support/safety_crisis_management/internet_safety/guidelines_resources.pdf