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Blogging in (and out of) the classroom

by Kelly Walsh on May 24, 2009

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Teachers and students blogging as a part of their course work.

This week we’re going to look at the use of Blogs in the classroom as a part of the educational process – blogging as a direct part of the course experience. Next week we’ll follow this up with a list of Blogs that educators may find useful. Let’s dive in…

Teachers have been using blogs in instructional situations for years now, and the Internet abounds with postings and articles about blogging in the classroom. Many of these resources are out of date, so I spent a fair amount of time finding current references that provide useful insight into blogging activities conducted by students as part of the classroom learning experience. There are many blogs related to the educational experience (such as those focused on what’s going on in a given course, or those based on teacher’s experiences and observations) but I was interested specifically in situations in which the blogging effort required student participation, and where the process impacted the student’s learning experience.

The following links provide some insight into a variety of situations in which blogs were integrated into the course experience:

  • Teacher Anne Mirtschen had her students in grades 4, 5, 8, and 9 participate in a cross cultural blogging effort involving schools here in California and Texas, reaching across the world to schools in Australia and South Korea. She provides a nice list of learning outcomes, which illustrates some of the benefits of student blogging. Read about it at http://murcha.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/blogging-across-cultures/.
  • This 6th grade English class used blogs pretty extensively, with the teacher blogging regularly about assignments, and all of the students having their own blogs. At the end of the year, awards were given out for “Best Overall Blogger”, “Most Consistent Blogger”, “Best Use of Images and Links”, and so on. Here is the link: http://areallydifferentplace.org/.
  • This Blog post from Educause member Hector Vila discusses a number of blogs used in college courses, and references various benefits associated with them. Note this intriquing quote, “These students are each exploiting hypertext writing in neverbefore seen ways, moving across the arts, across their side-blogs, as well as their personal blogs. Arts Writing course is now a portal, visited by experts in the arts! The blog, then, has metamorphosed the class into a professional ‘outlet’, run by student-experts-critics.” 
  • This Biology class blog won a 2008 Edublog award for “Best Classroom Blog”.  Ninth grade students (ages 14-15) and AP Biology students (ages 16-18) are the primary contributors to this blog. 
  • Naturally, online courses lend themselves readily to utilizing blogs. This posting discusses how students in an online journalism course blogged about why they wanted to study this topic.

To provide more ideas about course-based blogging, I am going to repost this thoughtful list of “Seven Activities to do with Your Class Blog”, originally posted by Tom Daccord as part of a comment on this Classroom 2.0 discussion about “Blogging As Assignments” (great stuff Tom!).

“Seven Activities to do with Your Class Blog:

1. Post a homework question
a. Each student writes a one-paragraph response.
b. Read a few before class to see what your students think about the reading.
c. You can require students to respond not only to the reading, but to each other’s
responses as well.
2. Start a discussion
a. Pose a question and require that students post at least three contributions to a discus-
sion over the course of a week, or more contributions over the course of a unit.
3. Invite outsiders to comment on student work
a. If you know the author of a book you are reading, have students write feed-
back and have the author respond.
b. Have students or tteachers from another school comment on your students’ work.
4. Have students post discussion questions for tomorrow’s class
a. This is great when you know you won’t have time to plan.
b. If you know that you’ve flubbed a class and students are confused, have them
post questions about things they don’t understand.
5. Have students post their notes for the day
a. Assign one student per day to be the scribe for the class. This is great for
discussion-based classes where you want students to focus on the discussion
and not have to worry about taking notes.
6. Post progress reports on team projects
a. Students can post their work to the blog so that others can see what they are
doing. They can also comment on each other’s work.
b. If faculty are trying to work as a team or core group, use a blog to communi-
cate with each other about lessons, etc.
7. Have students create their own blogs for any independent study
a. Have students post an outline of their week’s work before our weekly meeting.

Keep in mind that if blogging is presented as a peripheral activity, with little or no direct connection to your regular class instruction, it will be of limited effectiveness. I’d recommend you think beyond that first blogging assignment and plan out several regularly scheduled blogging assignments with clear goals. Many bloggers—teachers or otherwise—start with a flurry of posts and then stop blogging; plan for regular blog activities, even if it’s just every two weeks.” - Tom Dillard (Classroom20.com discussion forums)

Last, here’s one more related blog post from Anne Mirtschen that I couldn’t resist including here – 20 reasons why students should blog (my regards to Anne for her great work).

Hopefully these examples, along with Tom and Anne’s lists and insights, inspire you to give blogging as a part of your course activities a try. Please be sure to stop back next week and check out my suggested list of blogs that educators may find useful. And as always, comments and feedback are encouraged and welcomed!

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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