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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

Katie in Honolulu's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello, I am teaching a third grade class in Honolulu, Hawaii right now. At the end of the year, we held a Seussville event for K-6 students, and admission to the event was the completion of two assignments from two Dr. Seuss books prior to the special day. One of the two books chosen for third grade was The Foot Book. The assignment for the Foot book was to look at the shoes the student was wearing that day and write about memories made in those shoes. Each story was to be one page in length and proofread for spelling and grammar errors. In the spring, we will revisit these assignments to examine them for common elements as we teach them to compare and contrast ideas for reading comprehension. Each student will read their own memory aloud to their peers. After a class discussion, the main elements identified by the students collectively will be entered by the teacher into a file in Word projected digitally onto a screen in front of the class. The content of this file will become the first entry in a "Memories Made in Our Shoes" blog as the teacher cuts and pastes it into the blog response box on the hosting website. Students will then chose their own teams to respond to the first blog entry by adding a sentence or two from each of their stories. Once each team has contributed to the blog, each student will respond to a blog entry on their own. If the student is a novice in using the keyboard, the team approach helps balance this out; usually, several students will help each other when they must respond on their own, even if it is only one finger at a time from each student as they lean over the keyboard together.

Bonnie Swanson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Jim,
Thank you very much for the "push" I need to make these steps into the online world. I will be breaking new ground at my school, but hopefully will enlist a few recruits to help forge ahead on this path. I may call on you again. Thank you. Bonnie

Kris's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think that introducing a classroom blog. I think that my students would really enjoy using the technology. I would like to set up a classroom blog for my class.

Erin Lasher's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for sharing ideas of how to use blogs in a variety of ways in the classroom. I especially enjoyed reading about ways to use blogs in elementary classrooms, where students are just learning how to type.
I teach 4th grade and have realized how tech savvy my students are. Anytime they can type out an assignment they choose that option. I am going to look into starting a blog for my classroom. Thanks again for all the ideas.

Susan McKay's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to blogging, but think your idea is terrific. I am going to try it with my LAL 7th and 8th graders and will write back about my experience.

Thanks,
Susan

Rosanne's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

After reading your ideas, I want to try the blog approach using the Forum module in Moodle. It has the advantages of not being public, but allows students to reply to each other's postings.

ian head's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Helena,

I really enjoyed reading about using blogging in the classroom. You can see it has many benefits. One problem I see is the digital divide. Those that do not have easy access to computers might have a hard time completing some of the assignments, especially those at the early grade levels.

Scarlet's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have not actually used a blog in my classroom but I think blogging can be a great way to get students involved in technology as well as get them excited about a particular topic. The only thing I see that could be a draw back is how do you get the students to create their own work. My son had to blog in 7th grade and I would find that students would read other students comments and come up with their own comments based off others. The other issue I had with the blog is that he never got a response back from the teacher. We did not know how he did until the grades were posted a week later. I feel if you are going to blog that you should really provide feedback.

Scarlet

Scarlet Collett's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have not actually used a blog in my classroom but I think blogging can be a great way to get students involved in technology as well as get them excited about a particular topic. The only thing I see that could be a draw back is how do you get the students to create their own work. My son had to blog in 7th grade and I would find that students would read other students comments and come up with their own comments based off others. The other issue I had with the blog is that he never got a response back from the teacher. We did not know how he did until the grades were posted a week later. I feel if you are going to blog that you should really provide feedback.

Scarlet

Dawn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This article gave me the encouragement needed. I now see the potential of possibilities in using blogs in my middle school Science classroom.

This year, we were awarded a grant that allowed us to buy 6 computers for each Science classroom in our building. I have been spectical as to how often they would be utilized....blogging is a perfect way to get my students on them weekly, if not daily.

Another bonus...I am always looking for ways to collaborate with the other team. My students will be so excited to pair and share with the other sixth graders. My district will be thrilled to see another way in which we are promoting writing in the Science classroom.

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