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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Blogging with Students
Sandy Scragg

Have you heard? The latest trend for using technology in the classroom centers around BLOGS. What's a blog? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Short for "web log," blogs started as online journals and these days have evolved into much more. Basically, blogs are web sites that the author can readily edit and update, usually written in the first person. Most blogs have messaging capabilities so that comments can be posted to the site, and some blogs are multi-user, meaning any “member” can post his/her thoughts—not just one author. Today, blogs have taken on some high profile spots, from those teetering on the edge of journalism, to those still posting daily thoughts, to multi-user blogs becoming online magazines, to photo blogs, where little or no writing is evident, just picture upon picture.

Blogs can be a powerful tool in the classroom and are used in all subject areas, but are most frequently employed as a literacy tool. Blogs have been successful at motivating students to write, and their messaging capacity fosters an online community that extends outside the classroom doors. Most school blogs are a combination of single and multi-user—so each student has their own writing space, but each student in the class can communicate online as members of a group blog. Being on the Internet, student blogs can be read by anyone with a web connection –and students can use that power to connect to famous authors, scientists, professionals, mentors…and each other. Schools with blogs across the country have joined together to collaborate on projects together.

Want to learn more about blogs? Thankfully, they're easy to set up and can be done so for free. Go to blogger.com to set up a free account for yourself and your students. Blogger is a site that contains no flashy, inappropriate advertisements, making it perfect for schools to use. Have your own server to host your own blogsite? Check out blogging software such as Movable Type or Manila, available at low-cost…even free in some cases.

Remember, blogs are essentially web pages out there for all to read. Remind students to limit personal information they divulge, including their ages and last names, and nix any physical descriptions that could be misconstrued. Even better, try not to let students use their own personal email addresses; use an address provided by the school, or check out Gaggle.net to set up free, monitored student email that gets checked in and out by the teacher. Play it safe, and blogs can be a wonderful tool in the classroom.

Want to read up on blogs or read some blogs written by students & teachers? Check out the links below:

Educational Bloggers' Network:
http://ebn.weblogger.com

Will Richardson 's blogsite:
http://weblogg-ed.com

Glencoe article on blogs in the classroom:
http://glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/educationupclose.phtml/47

Blogs at East Side Community High School (NY):
http://blogs.writingproject.org/eastside2008

Will Richardson 's blogging video:
http://weblogg-ed.com/weblogs_in_ed_video

Educational Weblogs:
http://educational.blogs.com/

Up the Down Staircase—a teacher's blog:
http://upthedownstaircase.blogspot.com

Heritage School (NY) Blogspot:
http://nycwp.org/heritage

School Blogs
http://schoolblogs.com

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail Sandy.

Sandy Scragg is a consultant forTeachers Network's TeachNet Project. She has been a technology trainer, staff developer, and an English teacher for the New York City Public Schools.

 

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