Part one: Teacher tips for blogging projects

I’ve been doing a bunch of work lately with teachers who are interested in incorporating more digital learning opportunities in their classrooms.  Often, the first tool that they express interest in are blogs.

Blogs offer teachers and students a natural bridge between work that they are already doing (producing written reports and reflections on classroom content has been a part of classroom experiences since Socrates was stumbling around the agora with groups of learners) and work that they’d like to be doing:  Exposing students to a broader audience that can publicly challenge their thinking.

There are several considerations that teachers interested in blogging must think through before starting classroom projects, however.  Three of the most common questions that I’m asked about blogging in schools are answered below:

Should I have every student create their own blog?

Heck no! For blogs to survive and thrive, they need to have a constantly updated stream of content—at least 2 or 3 posts per week. Blogs that are not updated on a regular basis lose the attention of readers, who have plenty of other options in today’s digital world.

Because most K12 students will struggle to generate 2 or 3 meaningful posts per week—and because monitoring the content posted on 50+ blogs can be an overwhelming challenge for any teacher—it is best to start any classroom blogging project with one blog that every student in your class or on your academic team can post to.

While you’ll have to work with one username and password—which could lead to inappropriate or unpolished entries being posted by students that you don’t completely trust—your chances of generating an audience for your students are far greater when your students are working together to generate content.

Does blogging always equal writing?

Believing that blogs are ONLY opportunities for students to practice writing skills is a fatal flaw for most classroom blogging projects. Instead of digital soapboxes, teachers and students must begin to see blogs as interactive forums for continuing conversations around topics of interest—and interactive forums require two-way participation.

That means your students need to become avid readers of blogs, too. Consider organizing a collection of student blogs in a public feed reader that your students can visit during silent reading time or while surfing the web at home.

Encouraging students to read blogs written by other students serves three primary purposes:

  1. Students who read blogs see models of writing that can be use as comparisons for their own work.
  2. Students who read blogs are exposed to ideas for interesting topics that they may want to explore and write about in new entries for your blogging project.
  3. Students who read blogs connect with potential audiences for their own ideas.

Should I open student posts to comments?

Absolutely—as long as you’re willing to review comments before they become “live” on your classroom blog.

The comment section on blogs characterizes the participatory nature of digital learning experiences.  Not only are blogs a forum for your students to express their own thinking and ideas, they can become a forum for thinking and ideas to be challenged—and challenged thinking is the primary source for new learning.  When readers force your students to reconsider their original positions, you’ll see a level of mental wrestling that you’ll be proud to celebrate in your classroom.

Don’t forget to systematically teach the skills necessary for writing effective blog comments, too, because commenting gives students opportunities to practice reacting to ideas in writing. What’s more, comments left on entries written by other authors can serve as first drafts for future posts on your own classroom’s blog.

Finally, commenting emphasizes the community nature of blogging and draws reciprocal readers—people interested in looking closer at the ideas expressed by your students—to your classroom’s blog.

 

I’ll post Part Two in this series of posts—answering more common classroom blogging questions—sometime next week