Blogging in the Classroom
Since early 2006, I’ve been trying to convince teachers to blog with their students. It all started when Will Richardson spoke at the Illinois Computing Educators annual conference. After hearing him speak, I walked up to him, handed him a check and went away with his book. After reading it, I was totally convinced of the value of facilitating a blog for students. Since then, my personal blogging experience has been a bit limited, but really valuable. I have set up blogs for teachers that I have worked with, as well as facilitating a collaborative blog with a few middle school students. Overall, the process was really positive, but never really sustained. As I reflect on the process of using blogs with students, I would say that any opportunity to publish writing is important, particularly when students for these reasons:
• They are publishing their writing for an authentic audience and really enjoy knowing that others are reading their work
• We are giving them first-hand experience in a supervised manner to be content creators
• Students must write all the time for all content areas - and this medium is flexible and engaging
Recently, I came across a nice post from another educator, Patrick Higgins that pointed me toward some empirical data that supports how useful blogging can be in the effort to improve writing. Drexler, Dawson, and Ferlig’s research paper also covers concerns such as time commitment and keyboarding skills, so it’s worth a careful read.
Teachers have used blogs as a means to developing writing skills for a while now…what’s holding you back?
Benefits for Students
Integrating Technology Students are Already Using
Over 70% of young people join Social Networking sites, most of them posting content, contributing to photo storage sites, and contributing to video sharing sites like YouTube. Their audience for posting content is most certainly their own peers. Using real-world tools in the classroom is not only engaging, but provides an opportunity to teach children responsible and ethical use of social media.
Connection to State Standards - These are the Illinois State Standards that are met with using blogs in the classroom
State Goal One: Read with understanding and fluency
Analyze how authors and illustrators use text and art to express and emphasize their ideas (e.g., imagery, multiple points of view). (1C)
State Goal Two: Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras and ideas.
Make connections from text to text, text to self, text to world. (2B)
Engage in literary discussions (e.g., conflict, resolution, realism). (2B)
State Goal Three: Write to communicate for a variety of purposes.
Develop compositions that contain complete sentences and effective paragraphs. (3A)
Choose the appropriate form, (e.g., letters, essays, poems, reports, narratives), voice and style appropriate to the audience and purpose. (3B)
Using available technology, select effective formats for publication of final product. (3B)
Write creatively for a specified purpose and audience (e.g., short story, poetry, radio, scripts, play play, TV commercial). (3B)
Write a narrative account that establishes context, creates a point of view and develops a focused, powerful impression. (3C)
Compose a multi-paragraph persuasive piece which presents one position of an issue that offers sufficient support through multiple strategies (e.g., cause/effect, compare/contrast). (3C)
Begin to establish a personal voice and style. (3B)
Consistent with Curriculum Focus on Writing
• Enhances improvements to the writing process
• Engaged Learning – lit circles, project based learning, cooperative groups
• Publishing work and receiving feedback from an authentic audience
• Promote critical and analytical thinking
• Promotes creativity
• Combines solitary reflection and social interaction
21st Century Skills
• Manage course information - easy publishing of notes, syllabus, homework, activities, and assessments
• Extend in class discussion - allowing quiet, shy, or ESL students a less pressured opportunity to participate
• Summarize readings - ensure students are prepared when they come to class
• Literature Circles - thought provoking questions and set up a structure for collaborative contribution
• Summarize projects or group presentations - group blogging makes information accessible to everyone
• Class newsletter - communicate with parents and other members of the community
• Online portfolio of best writing pieces
• Collaborate with students at another school
• Literature assignments
• Communicate with parents with a class newsletter
• Provide Writing prompts
• Vocabulary activities
• Online readings to read and react to
• Post photos on class activities
• Invite student comments on issues to encourage writing voice
• Online book club
Management Tips for Setting up Student Blogs
• Have students use one (and only one!) publishing tool, such as Classblogmeister
• No information identifying the school
• Use first names only
• Prevent students from using tools that allow them to “blogroll” or access random blogs - blogger.com
• Teacher monitored
• All articles comments must be approved before they appear on the Internet
• Monitor with an RSS reader
• Comment at least once for every student the first couple of weeks
• Specify minimum post size
• Provide guided questions for reading response
• Require comments
• Decide how to grade: quality or quantity? Provide a rubric.
Comments Key to Success
Blogging is a "conversation". The writer expects others to read posts and for the piece of writing to generate some kind of reaction or emotion. Without the expectation that their audience would read, reflect, and respond, there is no reason to post on a blog. Just as your students appreciate meaningful feedback on papers, essays, and during conferences about their work, bloggers need feedback in the form of comments. The connection between the writer and the audience is essential. Students should be taught to make appropriate and significant comments to each other. The primary reason is to learn to be ethical users of the internet. Learning to write thoughtful comments help us become higher level thinkers. In addition, writing comments help motivate the writer to continue the conversation.
Meaningful comments are always:
• Stated in a positive tone
• if there is a need to be critical, it should be stated like "advice". For example, "It would be helpful if....", "Next time try...."
• Specific and making reference to the post
• Express a feeling that you are on the writer's side, always being respectful
• Using school appropriate language and conventions
The following are good comment starters:
• this made me think about.......
• I wonder why.......
• Your writing made me form an opinion about.......
• This post is relevant because.......
• Your writing made me think that we should.......
• I wish I understood why.......
• This is important because.......
• Another thing to consider is...
• I can relate to this.......
• This makes me think of.......
• I discovered.......
• I don't understand.......
• I was reminded that.......
• I found myself wondering.......
Source: Ann Davis http://adavis.pbwiki.com/Significant Comments
This wiki, although it's a couple of years old, provides comprehensive information about objectives and guidelines for safe and responsible blogging in the elementary classroom.
Good Examples of Class Blogs
Murphy Math Mania - a good example of how blogging works in a math class
5NT - 5th grade class blog
Books and Bytes - Ms. Stewart's 6th grade Language Arts blog
Mr. Coley's Class Blog
Mr. Green's Class Blog
Dream Extreme Class Blog
Mrs. C's Class Blog
A World of Wonder
Mr. Crosby's Class
Mrs. Cassidy's Classroom Blog An article was written about her class. Read it here.
Ms Patty's Pre-K Classroom Blog
Willow Room 2nd Grade
Mr. Crosby's 5th grade class
Gordon Brune's 5th grade class - (last year's class)
Mr. Warkentin's Class
Moturoa's Web Log
Mark Ahlness's 3rd grade writers - (last year's class)
Pam Lewis's 3rd graders
Clarence Fischer's 8th Graders
Julia Osteen 6th Grade Language Arts
Mrs. Brown's Middle Schoolers
Chris Champion's Computer Class Projects
Kimberly Brown's 6th and 7th graders
Brian McLaughlin's 9th Graders
Shehee's English 9 and 10 Same class: Night Wiki
Mr. G's 8th Graders
South Parish 5th Graders
Mrs. Huff’s English Class
Ms. Smith’s Honors Class Blog
Mr. Stevens English Blog (with students
Mr. Fischer’s Blog – Wow…these are middle schoolers!
The Electronic Pencil- sixth grade story writers
Ms. Schwichtenberg's Classroom Blog - First Grade
Ms. Patty’s Pre-K Classroom
Grade 1 ESL
Grade 3 Blog Pals
Our Online ESL Classroom (Grade 5)
Mr. Barrett's Blogging Wiki with ideas for the classroom
Blogging 101 wiki