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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Digital Discussion: Take Your Class to the Internet

How to set up a blog in your classroom.
By Helena Echlin
Credit: Mystic Aquarium
This is a multipart article. Go to the beginning.

Many teachers have started to experiment with blogs. For some, a blog is an electronic notebook -- one students can't lose (or claim the dog ate). For others, it's a forum where a class discussion can unfold 24/7. Either way, blogging can be a powerful educational tool. Suggestions for setting up a classroom blog follow. (Keep in mind that these ideas assume student access to computers and the Internet.)


Decide the Main Use for Your Blog

How you structure classroom blogs depends on their utility. Here are various approaches:

  • Classroom management: Use a blog to post assignments, handouts, and notices. You can also put up study notes and have students take turns summarizing what happened in school that day.
  • Learning journal: Patricia Harder, a seventh-grade teacher at Henley Middle School, in Crozet, Virginia, uses individual or small-group blogs as a place for students to "write reflectively" on what they learned from a particular assignment and how they might do better next time.
  • Online notebook: Limiting access to teacher and individual students only, you can use the blog as a way to track students' progress. Harder found using a blog this way particularly helpful when she suspected one of her students had a learning disability. "I went to the committee that evaluates students for learning disabilities and was able to present them with a record of the sentence structure my student had used," she explains.
  • Class discussion: Assign blogs to small groups, or set up a single blog for the whole class. You may post entries for discussion, or have individual students and guest bloggers post entries.
  • Personal expression: Give students individual blogs for posting whatever they want. This might seem like a recipe for disaster, but Konrad Glogowski, who teaches grades 7-9 at Fern Hill School, in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and is the creator of the Blog of Proximal Development Web site, found this format to be a huge success. Inspired by an audience of their peers, his students posted poetry, journal entries, and reactions to articles they had read, as well as prolific comments on the blogs of fellow students.

Decide How to Grade Work

Use blogs to post homework for traditional evaluation. "An assignment might be, 'After discussing a short story in class, post an entry on your blog, commenting either on the class discussion or the story itself,'" Glogowski says. Although he does not grade the personal entries, he adds, they "help me assess a student's engagement and effort, which I might mention when conferencing with parents."


Set Up Your Blog(s)

At one of the free blog-hosting sites, such as Blogger, setting up a blog takes only a few minutes. Just follow the instructions (create an account, and choose a name and template). If you want to limit accessibility, list the email addresses of those allowed to see it. However, some schools have blocks on Internet access, so you may want to subscribe to a service such as Edublogs or Class Blogmeister, which have additional features.


Protect Your Students

If your classroom blog is publicly accessible, make sure students use first names only and do not provide personal identifying details. You will also have to set clear guidelines on what is appropriate regarding content and comments.


Bring the Blog into the Classroom

When Glogowski's students began blogging, their enthusiasm delighted him. Then he realized that what they were writing had little to do with their curriculum. "The question was, how could I help them channel that energy into academic work?" he asks. His solution: Discuss the blogs in class so students could understand that the confidence and creativity they showed in their blogs had a place in the classroom, too.

Helena Echlin is a freelance writer in San Francisco.
 

Comments (60)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Angela's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Having the students participate in an online blogging notebook sounds like a fantastic idea. This is something I would love to implement into my classroom; however, I work in a low-income district and about 50% or more of my students do not own a PC at their home. Does anyone have any ideas for getting around this issue? Our school library is available with PCs after school for an hour, but most students have to pick up younger siblings and going to the library directly afterschool inters with their at home added responsiblities. Just curious. Thanks!

Kristie Baldwin Ocampo's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for the information about the free Blooger site. I was wondering how you limited access to only your students. Now I feel confident to blog on.

djainslie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We suggest teachers to use blogs that aren't usually blocked-
edublogs
SchoolBlog (designed by ePals company- free and has a lot to offer)
Class Blogmeister

Before spending too much time designing my blog- I would have a student
log on and check it- also work closely with your IT department if you can.
Often if you can show a curriculum connection they can unblock. Decisions
concerning what to block and what not to block should be an instructional one
not an IT one. Some are harder to open up then others. good luck

Joshua Lang's picture

Blogging seems like great way for students and teachers to communicate. The problem I see where I work is mentioned above. The students i work with are generally very low income. Implementing something like this with these kids would not be effective for obvious reasons.

Megan Graham's picture

I love when students get excited about their learning, and think blogging would be a great tool for students to express their thoughts, questions, and comments on content.

I was a little aprehensive about having high school students blogging, but I see many of you have worked with elementary students and have found success. I would like to know if anyone has had any problems with students not having access to the internet or a computer?

Another concern I have is teaching math. I am just not sure what kinds of things be done using blogs in Algebra. I would like to start using technology more in the classroom, but it will not be useful if it is just another way to do the same things we do in the classroom. Does anyone have any ideas about what you do in your classroom related to mathematics, or any ideas?

Megan

La Shanda Linley's picture

I truely enjoy the idea of having blogs incorporated in the classroom instruction. I am currently seeking new ways to engage students in the classroom not just through lecture or powerpoint but other ares that will encourage them to think beyond the box. I think this would be a great tool to use with elementary student. I can add this as part of their ARD time, computer lab sessions or over the weekend activities.

I can have students create stories on the blog for other students to comment on them, use it has a tracking tool to see how well the students are doing in developing ideas and structure of sentence forms. There are so many wonderful ways to enhance the learning of young students through blogging. This can also be a great tool to develop better social skills as well.

Jennifer Hughes's picture

I really enjoy hearing how blogs can work in the classroom. As an English teacher, I create assignments where the students are writing and reflecting on stories we read in class. I like their ideas to develop naturally without me giving them answers. By blogging, it encourages me to be a facilitator rather than a dictator with all the answers. We do not learn that way. I also think it would be interesting to have the students be leaders for each different blog discussion. If they can sign up in the beginning of the week and decide who will lead the discussion, they are doing more of the work than waiting for me to give them something to blog about.
I also liked the lesson plan given about how to teach our students the correct way to blog. Before we send them into the blogging world, we need to model the correct way. In our world of online communication, the students definitely need to be familiar with proper blogging and how they can use it in real life and in the classroom.

Ryan Sterner's picture
Ryan Sterner
11th grade English; Nazareth, PA

Although I've been aware of blogs/wikis for a long time, I only recently created one (as a graduate class assignment). However, I've resolved that I'm going to implement one in my classroom this semester. As the article mentions, I'm simply going to use it as a convenience for the students and an organizational tool for myself. I'll post assignments, reminders, links to documents, etc. However, after we dive into the curriculum, I'm also going to attempt to utilize it more interactively. I'd love to have students post and reflect, and I especially love the idea of assigning a blog to a group of students, as some students will undoubtedly prefer to manage different aspects of the blog. Hopefully this will not only improve students awareness of what technology offers but also help bolster my teaching of the (brand new) curriculum.

guadalupe g negrete's picture
guadalupe g negrete
2nd grade Bilingual Teacher

I have enjoyed all of the great suggestions and ideas of technology given, but, my question to anyone is, Are there any of these different technology programs available for use in my student's native language? Which is Spanish. I would like to hear from someone on this, please.

Lindsay's picture

I think blogging is a great way to get kids interactive and learn other forms of technology while keep the instructor organized. I think it's a great form of summative assessment that is in writing and the teacher can return to at anytime so view the answers of students and see where the student needs to improve. While blogging can be fun, it must be managed properly by the instructor. I feel that blogging must only be viewed by the instructor for certain assignments and can be viewed by the class for a group participation.

Most schools allow access to the internet in the classrooms and/or libraries, so blogging is a cheap and effective format to use in a classroom.

It could also be a way to hear feedback from parents. There are a lot of things to use blogging with but it's important for the instructor to manage the blog site and be sure nothing that shouldn't be written is written.

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