This is the twentieth post in the Professional Development 2.0 series. If you have not already, I would encourage you to start with the first nineteen posts:
- Introduction to the New Professional Development
- Old and New
- What is a PLN?
- Parts of a New PLN
- What’s all that tweeting about?
- Why Twitter?
- Instant PLN!
- Investing in the Follower/Following Relationship
- Differentiating Development with the Educator’s PLN
- How Building a PLN Can Help Your Students
- What’s the Difference Between Social Media and Social Networking
- Introduction to Social Bookmarking
- How Social Bookmarking Works
- Characteristics of a Reflective Educator
- Writing to Grow – an Introduction to Blogging
- Why a Blog Instead of a Private Journal?
- Where to Start Blogging
- How to Find and Follow Great Blogs
- Comments – The Currency of Blogs
There are at least 2 distinct ways to use blogging to help students. The first takes what you already do and just includes your class. Having a class blog, whether in addition to or as part of your current blog, is a simple and effective way to improve both community and communication in the classroom.
Having a class blog gives parents a window into the world that their children spend so much time in. It opens up an avenue of communication between the teacher and the parents. It also helps to enable parents and guardians to better support their children. Posting your assignments, classwork, expectations, etc… gives the parents and guardians the tools that they need to help equip their children, whether it is simply by reinforcing the message that you are sending in class or by knowing what to help them with and how. Including parents and working with them is one of the most powerful things we can do for our students.
Having a class blog can also help students extend the classroom beyond the physical walls and time constraints of school. The students can continue conversations about class topics in the comments of posts. They can stay updated and feel like part of the class even when they are not physically able to be in class. We want to give our students every opportunity possible to succeed; this is one opportunity that can be tremendously helpful for many students.
Class blogs also present the teacher will an opportunity and an obligation to teach about responsibility and digital citizenship. Students often do not realize the consequences of posting certain things online; publicly having discussions requires the teacher to set the students up with a solid foundation.While students will of course make mistakes, by educating them on how to act responsibly online, we can minimize the effects of any potential mistakes they may make.
Pedagogically, I am always in favor of giving kids choice and enabling them to take control of their own learning. Having a class blog is an excellent tool; it is, though, limited in that students can usually only contribute in a limited manner through the comments. What if all of your students had their own blog, their own space to write reflectively, to think academically, to explore their passions, and to discover their voice? Would this not be a powerful tool?
Think of the benefits that you get out of writing your own blog, if you have one, and reading the blogs of others on topics of which you share an interest or passion. These benefits multiply manifold for students when they are equipped early on in their learning journey. Here are just a few of the positives that can come from students blogging:
- Develop habits of reflection and deep thought.
- Learn to write responsibly by having a public audience.
- Gain perspective by networking with people from around the world.
- Increase passion by building a community of people with similar interests.
- Deepen relationships with classmates by sharing and encouraging each other.
- Find validation in realizing that other students are going through similar trials.
- Build confidence by getting feedback from an authentic audience of both peers and adults.
Having students start blogging today will not result in all of these things happening tomorrow; it is a time intensive process. It is more than worthwhile, but it is a process that will take a significant investment of time in teaching and training the students as well as reading all of their blogs.
In terms of where to start, the same options apply as in the post Where to Start Blogging. However, there are also some other free options that have been developed specifically for this process. Kidblog is a website that was developed on WordPress MU that lets you make a set of class blogs for your students. Some of the advantages of doing it this way is that students do not need email addresses and students have accounts on the same platform which makes commenting on each other’s blog easier.