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Blogging with Students for Reflection, Collaboration, and Literacy

8 Feb

Keep Calm Blog On

As schools look to integrate 21st century and technology skills into the curriculum, more and more teachers are requiring student blogs in their classrooms. Blogs can be an ideal platform to teach 21st century literacies and NETS skills, including creativity/innovation, communication/collaboration, and digital citizenship.

More than “technology integration” however, blogs can be ideal for enhancing student reflection (particularly as part of an e-portfolio), and enforcing basic reading writing skills not specific to the 21st century. (Tolisano, Learning About Blogs for your Students – Part 1 Reading.)

Reasons for Blogging

As Silvia Tolisano argues in her essential series on blogging with students: Stepping it Up – Learning About Blogs For your Students, student blogging needs to stem from more than just a focus on technology integration. In her words, “blogging is not about technology, but about literacies (old & new) and LEARNING.” (Tolisano, Learning About Blogs Part 6.) Any technology program needs to stem from the skills we want our students to learn. This means that teachers need to clarify how blogs can enhance learning and understanding in their school.

Blogs could be effectively introduced into the classroom to:

  • enhance reading & writing skills in an authentic, real-world context
  • provide opportunities for innovation and creativity in an online format
  • communicate and collaborate with other students, parents, and schools from all over the country or world
  • allow for ongoing reflection of the learning process

Blogs are ideal for ongoing reflection, which can deepen understanding, particularly as part of an e-portfolio. Dr. Helen Barrett explains reflection in an e-portfolio context in her article Balancing the Faces of E-Portfolios:

Reflection takes place at several points in time: when the piece of work (an artifact) is saved in the digital archive (a contemporaneous reflection while the work is fresh on our minds… or reflection in the present tense)… thus the role of a blogging tool; and when (and if) this piece is included in the more formal presentation/showcase or summative assessment portfolio.

By maintaining a blog throughout their time in a course, students can actively reflect on their work while it is fresh.

Another great effect of classroom blogging is the way it can actively bring parents, guardians and other relatives into the learning process. With a public blog, family members can keep up with a child’s learning, providing much greater “transparency” (Luca).

Criticisms of Blogging with Students

Not all teachers are jumping onto the blog bandwagon, however. Some teachers have reservations about having students make their work accessible online.

Privacy & Safety

For many it is an issue of privacy and student safety. Many schools have strict Accessible Use Policies and media release policies that ensure that students names and faces will not be included on line. In order to securely use blogs, schools should alter existing policies, or create new ones specific to the use of blogs. (For more information on developing blogging policies and strategies, visit the Blogging in Schools Wiki developed by Pt. England School in New Zealand.) One solution to this concern about privacy is to make student blogs private, so that only community members can see them.

Sharing Non-Quality Work

For other teachers, making work online is more a concern due to the quality of work. Sharing rough works in progress may not be best for a school’s image. One way to work around this issue is to consciously address quality in blogs by setting expectations, and using rubrics and audits. Tolisano addresses the issue of quality in Part 7 of her Blogging series.

Time

Teachers consistently struggle with finding time for any new initiative, and blogs are no different. It can be extremely time-consuming for students to continually create posts of quality, as well as comment on other student blogs.

'003/365 - I'm blogging this.' photo (c) 2007, Anna Hirsch - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Strategies for Implementing/Assessing/Teaching Blogs

There are many ways you can introduce your blogging into your curriculum. Whatever model you choose, realize that there will be a learning curve for both yourself, as well as your students. It’s helpful to have the endpoint in mind and develop a game plan to get you where you want to be.

Choose a Strategy

Here are only a few ways teachers have begun getting their students to blog:

  1. Teacher sets up and manages a classroom blog; students can log in to comment on teacher posts, and submit posts to the teacher. Only the teacher has the ability to upload to the blog
  2. One classroom blog is administered by a teacher. Students are given editing access from their own accounts.
  3. Teachers administer multiple student blogs. Students post to their own individual blog to maintain their personal learning reflections. Students are encouraged to comment on each others’ posts.

Choose a Blog Platform

Whether you are creating one class blog, or having students create multiple blogs, you should choose one consistent blogging platform. See which platform works best for your needs.

  • Blogger – Ideal for schools with Google Apps for Education; Blogger must be turned on in the administrator settings.
  • WordPress – An industry standard for a reason, WordPress blogs offer a variety of customizations.
  • Kidblogs – Built specifically for elementary and middle school teachers, Kidblogs allows for secure blogs.
  • Edublogs – Created for K-20, Edublogs lets you easily create & manage student & teacher blogs.
  • Posterous – This simple, easy-to-use platform allows you to easily create a blog.

Find Free Images

When introducing blogs, teachers should also stress the importance of finding meaningful images to enhance posts. Blogs could be a great way to also introduce how to cite sources and access creative commons images. (For a great video explaining Copyright and Creative commons, go to the Common Craft website.)

  • Flickr Creative Commons – Search all of Flickr for images marked Creative Commons.
  • Morgue File – Search this site for free high resolution digital stock photography and because of the Morgue File’s free license, you don’t have to attribute your sources.
  • Office.com Images – Microsoft’s online Clip art and stock photo library
  • Wylio – Made for bloggers, this site lets you search Creative-Commons images and then creates code for you to easily add these images to your blog with a proper citation.

Teach Commenting

One of the most interesting components of blogs are their social nature. Blogs are just one part of a larger conversation going on within the Internet. One way that you can keep the conversation going is to make sure students not only blog, but learn how to comment on other blogs.  

Assess with Rubrics & Audits

Make sure to hold your students accountable for their blogs. Consider making a standard rubric to assess student blog posts, and make sure to conduct blog audits to see how often students are posting.


Models for Student Blogs

Check out these sites for great examples of student blogs in action. Blogging has become an integral part of the curriculum at these schools:

These articles and blog posts contain links to exemplary student blogs:

'Blog Marketing Up Close Pen Graphic' photo (c) 2008, Maria Reyes-McDavis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Related Trends:

Online Education, Digital Literacy/21st Century Learning

Recommended Articles

Resources for Implementation Strategies

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