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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

Laurie Chu's picture
Laurie Chu
web production manager, Edutopia Design Lab
Staff

Staff comment:

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Lindsay Lynch's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was skeptical at first about using a blog to document research - kind of in place of a journal - but it has been a phenomenal experience and really facilitates collaboration and sharing of research findings. I am now a big bloggin fan and encourage everyone to try it out in the classroom. It can be sucha useful tool!

Wendy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Why limit yourself to taking the classroom discussion to the internet. Let's bring the teacher's lounge to the internet as well. I have come across a Teacher Community that can be just that. Letting fellow teachers network with one and other on all topics from jobs to lesson plans and everything in between.

Brianna Kite's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really like the idea of using a blog in the classroom setting. It seems like you could use it like a journal, but wouldnt have to store it or carry it around. When I interviewed two years ago to be a teacher, one of the questions asked me how I could use a blog in my classroom. I had no idea! I love that this article gives instructions for how to start one, and everyone else's ideas are great!

I teach sixth grade math and am implementing active learning stations in my curriculum. Blogging would be a great station to use, and the students could reflect on what we are learning in class. I think this would give students a creative outlet, and also give me some insight on what they are really thinking about my class. (Sixth graders arent known for talking out in class much) Thanks!

Benjamin-Systems's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I cannot believe this is true!

Samantha's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I like the idea of using Blogs as a way to get students to express themselves in WRITTEN language. Students are used to expressing themselves verbally or in the stilted language that has evolved from the advent of texting. Students need to learn to write descriptively and in a way that others understand

It is difficult to find effective ways to use technology in a Language Arts setting (for things other than research), as most examples given are usually for science, math, or technology classes. I was glad to find this article!

Callie Harlan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

For the disorganized student, I really think having blogs in classes will help. It's an easy access to assignments and can keep you on task. Also, the idea of being able to have the student look back and see how they wrote (and what they wrote about) can be used as a tool for progress. This is also a very good way for the students to see how their peers answered to a question and learn from that, a different view on a subject or something they hadn't thought of or perhaps reassurance that someone agrees with them .
Having students express their personal expressions seems like a great idea. posting "poetry, journal entries, and reactions to articles they had read, as well as prolific comments on the blogs of fellow students" are great ways for students to express themselves and feel accepted.
It's also nice that they offered internet services to start blogs on!

tegan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How do teachers get around district-wide internet blocks? I want to start a classroom blog, but my own site hosted by blogger is blocked. Any advice?

Cindy Hart's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am not familiar with blogging. After reading several articles on line about blogging in the classroom, it has sparked my interest to learn more about it. I could certainly see where it would benefit some students, however, in the school I teach at the majority of students in my classes do not have computers at home.

I really think this is a great tool to implement in my classes. I am certainly going to research it further.
Thanks!

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