edublogs.jpegUsing Blogs for Digital Writing
Blogs, short for "Weblogs," 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 are a great way to showcase student writing online to parents and the community. Blog platforms like Edublogs and Kidblog are tailored to the K-12 environment, in that they allow teachers to create student user accounts so that students can author posts, as well as comment on them.


TIPS for blogging with students (from http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical/2009/11/part-three-teacher-tips-for-blogging-projects.html):
  1. Consider naming and training student editors. Teachers who are starting classroom blogging projects often enthusiastically jump in with two feet, encouraging classes to churn out dozens of entries, promoting posts with parents and peers, and building new lessons with their blogs in mind. Then, they end up buried by entries that are poorly written or by students who need technical help to get new pieces posted online. Eventually, they begin to question whether the time that they are investing in monitoring student work for quality and in facilitating digital novices is really worth it. Enthusiasm is replaced by exhaustion. That’s why student editors are so important for successful classroom blogging projects. Training a handful—three to five per year—super motivated students to proofread new entries and to support students struggling with technical skills can ensure that teachers don’t suffer from “monitoring burnout.” Over time, you’ll have veteran student editors who take great pride in the blog that your class is producing. Not only will they continue to write for you once they’ve left your class, they’ll serve as competent gatekeepers, polishing entries that aren’t quite ready to be published, monitoring comments that are being posted, and generating enthusiasm for the work that you are doing online.
  2. Require that students use pseudonyms while writing. For many schools and districts, the risks involved in introducing students to tools for communicating, collaborating and publishing content online far outweigh the rewards. Frightened by stories of internet predators, restrictions are placed on the kinds of information that students can reveal and the kinds of opportunities that students can be engaged in online. One step that you can take to keep your students safe—and to comfort district leaders who question your decision to begin a classroom blog—is to teach your students about the importance of remaining confidential online. Resist the urge to include the name of your school or yourself in your blog’s title. Refuse to link directly to any sites that readers could connect back to your classroom, and require that students use pseudonyms to sign their writing. As “cloak-and-dagger” as these efforts at internet safety may seem to you, your students are likely to enjoy them! Pseudonyms and confidentiality allow them to try on different identities and to be judged based on their thoughts instead of their age or their social groups. And the first time that their work is mistaken for that of anyone older than they really are, your students will be electrified!
  3. Include—and regularly explore—visitor maps and statistics on page views. As motivating as local readers can be for student bloggers, discovering that visitors from all over the world stop by to read their work never fails to amaze tweens and teens. To prove to your students that they are reaching readers in faraway locations, be sure to include a visitor map in the sidebar of your blog. While there are many services that will track the location of the visitors that land on your site, Cluster Maps (http://www.clustrmaps.com/) is one of the most popular because it highlights each visitor with a red dot on a digital image of the world. Before long, red dots will cover entire continents, reinforcing the idea that your students are being heard! Cluster Maps also reports the number of page views that your website receives on a regular basis—and can break those page view statistics down by continent. Consider asking students to track this information carefully in their notebooks or on a classroom bulletin board. Watching your readership grow over time will be just as motivating to your students as seeing where their readers are coming from.


IDEAS for use in the classroom:
  • Respond to a reading: Practice good reading strategies and check comprehension by asking students to respond to an assigned reading, reflecting on how it applies to their own experience.
  • Find the facts: Post a statement with no supporting facts. Ask students to find facts to support or refute the opinion, using links to reliable web sites and their own persuasive explanations. This could work well for environmental issues, political issues, or any topic that is debatable.
  • Post a Prompt: Put a biweekly writing prompt up on the blog and have your students respond to it by a certain day. Ask them to also comment on one of their classmates ideas. If you use the approval process before allowing student responses to show, you can skim posts to be sure there is nothing cruel or inappropriate.

EXAMPLES of student writing blogs: