With technology advancing in even the smallest of schools nationwide, the use of blogs in the classroom is becoming a must. Weblogs are used as educational tools to not only teach students, but also as a means of keeping parents informed of what is going on in the classroom, as well as the entire school.
Why Teachers Use Blogs and Other Social Networks
Sending your child to school is different than in past generations. No longer is every single piece of school news and homework written down on paper. Many teachers, especially in middle and high schools, use e-mail, blogs, forums and websites to discuss school issues, disperse information, and for the most part as a communication tool between the teachers, parents and students. Today, schools use websites, social networks and blogs to post:
- Homework and class assignments
- Lunch menus
- Tuition and student fees
- Uniform and/or dress code policies
- Progress reports
- Report cards
- Non-scheduled school closings (due to weather, emergency, etc.)
- School calendars
- School supply lists
- Discipline policies
- Information on admittance procedures
Because most families have access to at least one computer on a daily basis, many schools are going paperless in effort to reduce the amount of paper being used and/or wasted. Older students are required to log in either at home or in the classroom to receive and file homework assignments. No longer will the excuse, "My dog ate my homework" be acceptable! Parents of younger students can access the school's private website or blog to receive the same information. Schools have saved thousands of dollars every year going paperless.
Reach More in Less Time
Updating a school or class blog with pertinent information can be done quicker and more easily than contacting each class member or parent personally. This includes a last-minute school closure due to inclement weather or an emergency. Parents and older students are recommended to check in with a school's site several times a week for updates, or they can sign up for a news feed and have the updates sent directly to their e-mail.
One of the benefits of a blog is the feedback that can be provided. Various issues can be "talked out" through a blog's comments or forum. Teachers can also provide answers to homework questions, as well as respond to other concerns parents or students may have. A teacher's response via the Internet is a lot quicker than waiting until class starts the next morning.
Using Blogs as a Teaching Tool
Besides using blogs as a means of communicating with parents and students, weblogs are also being used as a teaching device. Middle and high school students are creating blogs during various classes as a way of learning from each other and dispelling the negativity blogs may have. Students can create weblogs and present ideas on a variety of subjects including:
- Social studies
Teachers can set up private accounts for each student, keeping them secure by allowing only limited accessibility. These blogs can then be accessed during class time (or at home for homework), where they can be updated, edited or graded. Students can critique each other's weblogs, which can provide valuable feedback for both the students and the teacher.
Learning Around the World
Additionally, blogs can do more than simply connect students in the classroom: They can bring schools together from all over the world. Through one of several notable educational programs available, students in the United States, for instance, can connect with those overseas and vice versa. And what they can learn from each other cannot be found in any textbook, including differences and similarities in:
- Music styles
- Classroom learning techniques
How to Set Up a Classroom Blog
There are a few different routes you can take when setting up a classroom blog. The first question to ask yourself is whether you want your blog to be viewed publicly over the Internet or only by the class involved. If you want a public blog, then you can sign up at one of the many free blog hosting programs available:
Or you can use one of the up and coming specialized blog hosting sites developed especially for teachers and students:
Once you decide on a host, have your class help you decide on a name, background, graphics, etc. You can then decide how you will run the blog, how often it will be updated, who can have access to it and whether or not to enable comments. As a teacher, you also decide if your students will be allowed to access it during school time and what type of content is and is not acceptable. It's best to have ground rules in place before the blog is live. You can use the blog for:
- Classroom management
- Personal journal
- Online notebook
- Class discussion
- Personal expression
Examples of Classroom Blogs
The following public blogs were created for classroom use:
- Sarah, Plain and Tall
- Learning in Greece
- Biological Minds
- Miller's English 10 Classroom Blog
- Mrs. C's Class Blog
Use of Blogs in the Classroom: The Future of Learning
As more teachers become social networking savvy, and schools become wired to allow Internet access in the classroom, you will see many more blogs of this type appear. Students today are being taught from early age -- some as young as preschool -- the value of computers and the Internet. There's no doubt that the use of blogs in the classroom will prevail as a learning tool.