Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Seeing is Believing: Blogs in Educational Context

What are Blogs?

Here’s an explanation, in “plain english” to help us better understand blogs.

(Blogs in Plain English by Lee LeFever – Common Craft)

Web 2.0 tools are important in the teaching practices of the new educational landscape.

(Why Let Students Blog? )

Looking at the Blogs of other Educators

By visiting the blogs of other educators, we can start to see very quickly how other professionals are using this web tool. Mainly, these examples show how blogs can be used in the context of professional development.

As a starting point, let’s take a look at a few blogs of educators:

* 2 cents worth by David Warlick
* Weblogg-ed by Will Richardson
* Neverending Search by Joyce Valenza

A second site to visit in order to gain some understanding about how educators are using blogs is taking a look at Edublogs. Edublogs hosts hundreds of thousands of blogs for teachers, students, researchers, professors, librarians, administrators and anyone and everyone else involved in education.

This web site is specifically designed to provide blogs as a place for:
- providing blogging accounts for educators and students
- forums to answer questions
- troubleshooting
- feedback and discussion
- reflections
- support

Blogging across the curriculum

Next, let’s start to narrow down our scope of the blogosphere, and try to imagine its uses in our classrooms. Although there are obvious connections for reading and writing which point to blogs having their place in English language arts classrooms, blogs can be used in all subject areas. Here are few suggestions to consider:

* Math – students can work on math problems with peers from another class
* Science – students can compare results of science experiments with other classes
* Language classes – students can converse with native speakers
* Phys. Ed. – students can log and analyze their workouts and/or diets
* History – students can construct resource sites for their studies
* English language arts – students can respond to literature readings
* Art – students can critique art work and projects

Take a peek at a few examples of some real examples of how classroom teachers are using blogs in their subject areas:

A Science blog: http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=84725
A Math blog: http://mykhmsmathclass.blogspot.com/
An Art blog: http://mshearman.edublogs.org/
An English blog: http://mrscaldwell0.edublogs.org/

(There are many examples of classroom blogs to be found at: http://supportblogging.com/Links+to+School+Bloggers)

These are only a few examples! What other uses for blogging can you start to see for your classroom?

Source: http://mrcoyle.edublogs.org/

Setting up a Blog

As Richardson suggests, teachers must become bloggers themselves so that they can fully understand the potential of blogs as a teaching and learning tool. Teachers should start out small; create accounts and gradually familiarize themselves with the blogging software and the experience of publishing online. They may wish to begin only responding and posting to existing blogs before writing and publishing their first post. As teachers get more settled into the rhythm and mental work that is blogging, they will learn to write more critically and indepth.

An introductory use of blogs for teachers can be as a course management tool to put basic information relevant to the class, such as: handouts, assignments, deadlines, upcoming events, etc. This does not require them to have students to set up their own accounts (unless they decide to do so later on). The information is completely controlled by the teacher. As teachers feel more comfortable, they can introduce their students to other uses of blogging.

As a staring point, I would show my staff the process of setting up a blog with Blogger or Wordpress.

Ideally, this professional development session would take place in the computer lab, with each teacher sitting at a computer station, while I guide them using an large screen projection of my computer screen. By providing a demonstration of how to set up an account, followed by instructions on managing the settings, teachers can then get started “hands on” with personalizing their blogs. It is important that an adequate amount of time be given for teachers to investigate the features and settings of their blog accounts.

This document, Setting up a Blogger.com account for use in the classroom, provides extremely helpful information pertaining to setting up a Blogger account; something I would use as a handout for teachers to supplement a demonstration.

(For teachers who are familiar with blogging, and wish to start investigating how they can set up blogging accounts for their classes, I would direct them to Edublogs.)

A Brief Introduction: Adding RSS Feeds Through an Aggregator

Although the primary focus of this particular professional development session would be to introduce blogging to teachers, there may also be an opportunity to demonstrate how RSS feeds can be utilized along with blogs. Therefore, only a brief introduction to this web tool might be given at this time. A PD session completely devoted to RSS feeds and the Internet would be a logical next step in the process of learning about Web 2.0. Richardson’s chapter “RSS: The New Killer App for Educators” from Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms would provide a guide for this explanation and demonstration.

1 comment:

MrsC said...

Thanks so much for linking to my English blog as an example of blogging in context. I am no longer teacher at Mtn. Brook, but I hope to blog with my new students at Moody High School. I will add you to my Bloglines account and keep you posted. Best of luck in your educational endeavors. 10 more days of school left !!!!!