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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
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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

Jean Marie Guardino Brooklyn, NY's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to blogging, but I am aware that many of my students are into blogging. Classrooms are constantly evolving and if blogging will keep my students interested in learning I am certainly willing to give it a try. The article by Echlin provided great tips as well as management techniques.

Susanne Montgomery's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

You can actually set your blog so that you approve a post before they get posted. Give students a deadline to post by, then AFTER that deadline allow the posts to show.

sprite5289's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to blogging and have been looking for ways to include technology into my physics classes. Are there any ideas out there on how to include blogging?

bwilliams's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach secondary Visual Arts and Appalachian Arts & Culture in a rural classroom. My students have very little access to museums, galleries, etc. Also, for the most part, they do not enjoy writing, esp. with pencil and paper. They do seem to enjoy MySpace, FaceBook, etc. I am looking for ideas on incorporating blogging into my classes. I am considering using it as a journaling tool in which students will complete entries critiqueing art works (their own and by others) and will write from prompts dealing with broader ideas such as creativity and the role of the arts in culture. Any ideas for ways to achieve sucess within my curriculum area?

Heather's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

That's a great suggestion!

Raymond's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach middle school music in Victorville, CA. I have been thinking about having my music appreciation classes bring in music podcasts on Fridays. It will be a way for my students to be able to share "their" music with me and the other students. My principal is open to this, but wants me to have them "write something up". I think a weblog will be the perfect way for them to report on what they hear in class. It will also be a good way for them to send links of music they like for me to listen to at home.

Tyne's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have also realized how many of my students enjoy reading, writing, and doing math problems online. My students also enjoy Facebook and MySpace because it is a way they can "keep in touch" with each other without having to use a telephone; keep in mind, my students are in the fourth grade. I started incorporatng journaling as a form of blogging so students can discuss issues they are having with certain subjects, homework, or just to discuss the weather of the day. When I first introduced this to my students, I had strict guidelines that were to be followed or consequences would occur. One way I have also involved blogging into my classroom is by incorporating a daily riddle or math problem at the beginning of each subject area. I have the riddle or problem posted daily on our blogging area and I allow the first 5-10 minutes for the students to work on the problem; I have it set up so only the teacher can see the responses given. The students really enjoy using the computer/blogging to solve the problem of the day.

Matt Wiseley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great post on blog usage in the classroom. As a wiki provider, I've advised many educational customers on similar tactics to deploy when using wikis in the classroom. Wikis can be a lot more flexible than blogs, and with some finessing of security settings, can integrate private individual classwork along with group projects. When the grades are in, students can all see and comment on eachother's work, which is a powerful motivator. Here's a post that goes into some more detail:

dwoodberry's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think student blogging is a good idea. My only problem would be access to computers in my classroom and some of the restrictions to the internet my district has set up.

Amy Walsh's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Although I have never used blogging in my classroom, my eyes have been open to the varios benefits and potential draw backs that blogging could offer. I believe that blogging could essentially level the playing field allowing the quieter or less vocal students to share their opinions in a new atmosphere. Ultimately the teacher should serve as the editor making sure that all comments and opinions pertain the assigment or topic. With myspace and facebook being as popular as they are blogging could become an effective tool in the classroom if it is done correctly. Another immediate benefit of blogging could be the reduction in the amount of paper that we currently use with "pencil and paper" assigments. One major draw back to blogging would be the students without a computer at home. I could also see it becoming a handful for the teacher to keep students focused on the topic, although I think that if done properly it could be a fine addition to any classroom.

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