Over the weekend Lisa sent me a link to an article from THE Journal about the Dos and Don’ts of Classroom Blogging. There are a few things I don’t completely agree with (like some free blogging sites such as Blogger or Edublogs can work well), but over all it makes a few great points. It has me thinking about why I blog with my kids. Ironically I was asked this very question last Thursday by three different people, so here’s my answer…
Teachers who blog with their students can do so in a multitude of ways. For example, some teachers host a class blog where students are the writers. Other teachers have students develop and maintain their own blogs and then comment on each other’s work. In my case I maintain the blog and write the content while my students are free to post comments (yes, I can delete any inappropriate messages).
I chose this format mainly because it works for the subject I teach and the age group of students in my class. In the future I may choose a different format. Currently, the main reason blog with my students is for connectedness and engagement outside of the school day. I started my first classroom blog last year as a temporary project. Mr. Wood’s Science Blog was as very simple Edublogs-based site I set up as a weekly review of concepts discussed in class. The kids enjoyed posting answers, but the topics seemed a bit dry for them and after the newness had worn off my students stopped posting.
A few months later I went to London over spring break. Since I had been planning the trip for a while I had talked about it in class. About a week before I left the kids asked if I would be posting pictures anywhere. At first I said no, but then I thought about it and realized a blog would be a perfect format for documenting my trip. So before I left I created a Blogger blog, Mr. Wood’s in London, and gave the students the URL. While I was in London each day I would take pictures of the places I visited. At night once my feet were worn and tired, I would post my pictures along with a short summary of what I did during the day and head off to bed. Since evening in London is early morning in California, when I woke up the next morning I found that many of my students had read my post and left a comment or two. It ended up being a great online conversation between my students and I while we were all on vacation. Even after returning to school I found that students were still posting comments. I had certainly connected and engaged.
After the success of Mr. Wood’s in London I decided to start a class blog for this school year, Wood’s News and Notes. At my school site we use Moodle for hosting online course resources. While this is a great free, open source tool the way we have it set up requires a username and password for every participant. I needed another way to keep parents and students in the loop as to what was happening in class and when updated grades were posted and I didn’t want to create accounts for all of my parents. It would be nice if families could also subscribe to it with their email address or through an RSS aggregator. Blogs are perfect for doing just this. So far, our class blog is quite popular. Most days it gets around 50-100 hits all from local IP addresses in our local area. In other words, the kids and parents are visiting it. While they are there, they’re also posting comments and following up on the information I leave for them. I almost always post on Fridays and if for some reason I forget to write – I hear about it.
I am certainly no expert in the area of classroom blogs. However, I have found it to be a great tool with my students. I can only imagine the power it would have in an English class or with high school students. If you are thinking of setting up a blog I certainly encourage you to do a little homework and then dive in. With some very basic safe guards in place it can be quite successful.