October 2006


Education Up Close

Using Blogs to Integrate Technology in the Classroom

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. The education blog can be a powerful and effective technology 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.

Although blogs have been around for years, they have recently gained in popularity and consequently have received more media coverage.

Blog Talk
Blogger:any contributor to a blog
Blogging: the processes of creating or maintaining a blog
multi-Blog: an online "conversation" taking place between several blogs

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 by computer savvy teachers to create a classroom that extends beyond the boundaries of the school yard.

User-Friendly Technology
Fortunately for teachers, 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 participants in classrooms.
  • 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
    Class blogs can serve as a portal to foster a community of learners. As they are easy to create and update efficiently, 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. For example, a class of older students can help a class of younger students develop more confidence in their writing skills. Students can also participate in cooperative learning activities that require them to relay research findings, ideas, or suggestions.

  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. Teachers can also bring together a group of knowledgeable individuals for a given unit of study for students to network and conference with on a blog.

  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. Teachers and peers may conference with a student individually on a developing work, and expert or peer mentoring advice can be easily kept for future reference.
Blog Risks to Consider
School districts have guidelines and acceptable use policies (AUP) regarding the use of school and division-wide computer networks and the Internet. These terms and conditions identify acceptable online behavior and access privileges. Policies regarding the displaying of any student work must be adhered to strictly. 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.

Blogs are created by individuals for various and assorted purposes. Content should be recognized as the opinion of the blogger, and, therefore, may not necessarily be factual.

Preparing Students for Blogging
  • Determine that all students' AUPs are in place and up to date.
  • Inform parents of procedures and secure parental permission.
  • Teach students safe, acceptable, and sensible behavior as online authors and readers.
  • Review policies and guidelines pertaining to student access.
  • Teach the non-posting rules of no complete names, e-mail accounts, or references to reveal location.
  • Set clear expectations regarding tone, respect, and consequences.
Steps for Getting Started on Blogs
There are a number of free blogging tools available.
  1. Go to one of the available free blogging sites (Blogger at www.blogger.com is a very popular one).
  2. Provide the necessary information requested. (user name, password)
  3. Create a title for your blog.
  4. Accept terms and select a template.
  5. Publish!
Read More about Blogs

blogs: a history and perspective
rebecca's pocket
This blog presents an essay on the history of blogs from their naming in 1997 by Jorn Barger. It also defines the "profound experience" of blogging.

Why Blogs?
Blogg-ed
This is another blog that compiles excellent ideas for using blogs in education. It also includes many first-person accounts of blog use in the classroom.

This article was contributed by Mollie Crie, an educator with 22 years in the classroom. She currently teaches for Bedford County Schools in Forest, Virginia.