A few years ago, I attempted a class blog with Year 5 students. Not many of them contributed and now I know why. I was asking them to express their thoughts about a topic of little interest to them. I thought the technology would be the catch but as Jenkins et al explain, although technology is important, it is more important that it fulfill a need for a particular user.
I’d do things differently this time. My research on blogs has led me to three conclusions to support the use of blogging in the classroom. First, blogs provide students with an authentic audience for their writing. Second, and following on from the first, blogs provide an authentic opportunity for students to learn about appropriate online behaviours. Finally, blogs can be a useful tool to trace students’ learning journeys.
Blogging can improve Writing
Maria Howard (2011, p 33), a primary teacher, describes the enthusiastic and on-task behaviour of her students as they write posts for their class blog. She claims blogging encourages students to write because they’re writing for a real audience. Hani Morgan notes this may be particularly applicable for reluctant writers. When introducing students to blogging, teachers may feel more comfortable limiting this audience to parents, relatives and peers. As students and teachers become more familiar with the process, the audience may be expanded to more distant students, similar to the traditional pen pal setup. Morgan describes how quickly students identify the need to attend to grammar, punctuation and clear sentence structure when writing posts on which others may comment. Blogging for an audience may be a great way to improve the quality of students’ writing, but as Morgan points out, blogging for blogging’s sake will yield few educational benefits. This is where I went wrong with my first attempt to encourage student blogging.
Blogging can teach Online Safety
Another spin-off from blogging for a real audience is that it naturally teaches students about their online presence. Kathleen Morris writes that class blogging provides her students with almost daily discussions about online safety. No-one’s suggesting formal digital citizenship lessons be abandoned, but concepts covered in these lessons can be reinforced as students put theory into practice.
Blogging for Reflection
There are many ways to incorporate blogging in the classroom to improve writing. I’ve written about fanfiction in a previous post, and to my mind blogging and fanfiction fit like hand and glove. I can picture my students now, blogging about their favourite texts (including movies and games), commenting on the characters, images, and game strategy. But I would also like to try using blogging for reflection. Howard (2011, p. 33) describes how she plans for blog time before, during and after lessons to catch students’ before-and-after understandings. Presently I have student inquiry questions about living things on my classroom windows. It’s a visual reminder of the students’ ideas at the start of the unit, but they could have also blogged new questions and new understandings as the unit progressed, tracing how their learning evolved. Blogging can be a great way for students, teachers and parents to trace students’ learning journeys.
I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas about blogging. For further information about blogging in the classroom and tips for teaching students about posting comments see Traci Gardner’s Teaching with Blogs Strategy Guide.
Howard, M. (2011). Not an unfeasible “extra”. Science and Children, 49(4), 32-35. Retrieved 24.10.15 from http://search.proquest.com/docview/916226299?accountid=13380