Blogging is a new tool available to students that will help them expand their writing skills and the ability to communicate effectively. If teens are taught to follow the same kinds of safety rules that they would follow in any situation, then blogging is also a safe activity.
By adapting the technology of blogging into the classroom environment, students will learn to expand their ideas, consider their audience, and express themselves both formally and informally. Blogging as a teen will also help students develop the tools that they will need to know to use the discussion boards that they will be required to utilize when they get to college. Therefore, blogging is something that should be incorporated into the middle and high school curriculum.
Is blogging beneficial for students in a school setting?
Writing in general is important for students. Any forum that encourages your students to write can also inspire them to expand their thought process and allow them to practice their grammar skills. Blogging in school is a way to get your students to write in a way they may find more accessible and enjoyable than writing on paper.
When your student writes for school in general, he or she is focused on telling you a story. That is fine, but if they are forced to think about a wider audience, then they may tell the story differently. They may know that some of their fellow students have different interests, so they may add things their friends will want to read. If others in the school or community, like parents and other adults, also have access to the blog, they may expand the topic to include things that are of local interest. If still others outside the community can also access their posts, then the students’ writing may take on topics that appeal to a more global community. Therefore, writing in a blog can encourage your students to think more about their audience and learn to write based upon who they are communicating with. The idea of audience can become a bigger part of your lesson plan as well. As a fifth-grade student at the Institut St. Joseph in Quebec City, Canada put it:
The blogs give us a chance to communicate between us and motivate us to write more. When we publish on our blog, people from the entire world can respond by using the comments link. This way, they can ask questions or simply tell us what they like. We can then know if people like what we write, and this indicate(s to) us what to do better. By reading these comments we can know our weaknesses and our talents. Blogging is an opportunity to exchange our point of view with the rest of the world not just people in our immediate environment.
This fifth-grader has learned to understand the advantage of addressing a wider audience and using their comments to expand his or her thought process. Your students will develop similar skills by using a blog in the classroom.
As you know, many college students take at least some of their classes online. Those classes usually include a discussion board, which is essentially a blog. If teens learn how to blog appropriately in school, then they will likely be ready to use the discussion boards in college to their advantages. Even some classes that meet on campus have begun to employ the use of the discussion boards so the students have access to their classmates when class is not in session. It gives the students the opportunity to ask each other questions about assignments and allows a wider range of responses than simply phoning or emailing one or two classmates to ask their opinions. Blogging in discussion boards has become an important skill for college students, and will only become more significant by the time the teens in your class get to college. By including blogging in your curriculum, you are giving them a skill that will help them succeed in college.
How can I incorporate blogging into my curriculum?
Blogging can be incorporated into the curriculum in a similar manner any writing or research assignment is applied. Most school districts have websites with areas for classroom blogs. Some teachers use that blog-space to post homework assignments or communicate with parents about things of interest that are happening in the class. These are important uses of blog space. However, the potential for using your blog as an additional teaching tool is enormous. For example, you could post a daily writing prompt that students can access and respond to in the blog. They can read their classmates responses, and learn to develop their own ideas. You can even have the students respond to each other’s posts to encourage the students to expand their ideas by responding to their classmate’s questions.
There should be clear rules about the use of the blog. Students should know that they should respond in a constructive manner to their peer’s posts. It is necessary to control destructive criticism because it can discourage students from writing. Rather, student should use the blog to exchange ideas in a manner that will encourage thought and communication practice.
Language rules on the blog should be similar to the rules you have in your classroom. If they are writing creatively, and colloquial language enhances their story, then they should be allowed to use it. If the blog is a discussion group, then you should accept the same kind of language that you allow in informal discussions in you class. If you are comfortable with it, students should be allowed to use abbreviations and shorthand expression on the blog during informal discussion sessions. You should be aware of the meaning of the initials and perhaps post a list of allowable shorthand, and a list of forbidden initials that exclude shortened phrases that include expletives, if you normally wouldn’t allow them in class discussions. If the project is a formal research paper, on the other hand, then the grammar rules you would employ in a traditional paper should apply on the blog. In other words, be consistent. Don’t change the rules simply because it is an online forum.
Who should be able to read my students’ blog postings?
The subject of audience is one that should be decided by the administration of your school. Administrators should be encouraged to think about the positive and negative aspects of allowing a wider group of participants. They should also decide the level of participation and who should be able to respond to the posts as well as read them.