Blogs as a teaching tool

As the Internet becomes an increasingly pervasive and persistent influence in people's lives, the phenomenon of the blog stands out as a fine example of the way in which the Web enables individual participation in the marketplace of ideas.

Teachers have picked up on the creative use of this Internet technology and put the blog to work in the classroom. Even though newer and more appealing Web 2.0 technologies are on the move, education blogs can still be a powerful and effective tool for students and teachers alike.

What is a blog?
A blog (sometimes referred to as a weblog) is a Web publishing tool that allows authors to quickly and easily self-publish text, artwork, links to other blogs or Web sites, and a whole array of other content.
Blogs are set-up like conventional Web sites, with navigation links, and other standard Web site features. Blogs have one standard characteristic, however: the posting. Blog postings are text entries, similar to a diary or journal, which include a posting date and may include comments by people other than the author, photos, links, or other digital media.
Postings are often short and frequently updated. They appear in reverse chronological order and can include archived entries.
Blogs work well for students because they can be worked on at virtually any time, in any place with an Internet-enabled computer. Hence, they can be used to create a classroom that extends beyond the boundaries of the school yard.

User-Friendly Technology
Blogs are surprisingly easy to use. They require minimum technical knowledge and are quickly and easily created and maintained. Unlike many traditional Web sites, they are flexible in design and can be changed relatively easily. Best of all, students will find them convenient and accessible via home or library computers.

Educational Benefits of Blogs
In addition to providing teachers with an excellent tool for communicating with students, there are numerous educational benefits of blogs. Blogs are:
  • Highly motivating to students, especially those who otherwise might not become participant in the classroom;
  • Excellent opportunities for students to read and write;
  • Effective forums for collaboration and discussion;
  • Powerful tools to enable scaffolded learning or mentoring to occur.
Using the Blog in the Classroom
As an educational tool, blogs may be integrated in a multi-faceted manner to accommodate all learners. Blogs can serve at least four basic functions.
  1. Classroom Management (blogs may serve as a portal to foster a community of learners; they can be used to inform students of class requirements, post handouts, notices, and homework assignments, or act as a question and answer board);

  2. Collaboration (blogs provide a space where teachers and students can work to further develop writing or other skills with the advantage of an instant audience. Teachers can offer instructional tips, and students can practice and benefit from peer review. They also make online mentoring possible);

  3. Discussions (a class blog opens the opportunity for students to discuss topics outside of the classroom. With a blog, every person has an equal opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions. Students have time to be reactive to one another and reflective);

  4. Student Portfolios (blogs present, organize, and protect student work as digital portfolios. As older entries are archived, developing skills and progress may be analyzed more conveniently. Additionally, as students realize their efforts will be published, they are typically more motivated to produce better writing).

Safety issues

Take the necessary steps to secure parental permission before using the blog in a participatory manner.
Blogs may be viewed publicly, as any other Web site. Students must be trained on issues regarding access, privacy, security, and free expression. As blogs have no publisher, producer, or editor, students must carefully consider the content of postings to avoid anything defamatory, libelous, or an infringement upon the rights of others.

Source: Teaching Today (abridged and adapted)
Photo credit: Mike Licht, via photo pin cc
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