Classroom blogs can be a great way to teach online skills, such as blog management and article writing, and can help students learn teamwork, collaboration and leadership skills. It is also a great way to show off your students work to family members and the wider world, and keep them updated on classroom developments, events and projects. Students can write articles, post videos, discuss projects and upload documents. But, there are many issues that teachers have to address before pressing the ‘publish’ button on a classroom blog.
What blog technology should I use?
There are a huge range of blogging software sites that teachers can use such as Blogger and WordPress, and microblogs like Tumblr and Posterious have also become popular. Edublogs is an educational specific blog software website that caters especially for classroom blogs. It is fully customizable with lots of different templates, and can be made private or public depending on how you want the blog to be publicized.
Depending on your own IT skills, you can choose software that suits you and your classroom. Make sure that any software is compatible with all computers in the school, and that it is relevant to the skill-level of your students.
What about privacy and safety online?
Most schools have a section in their blog where they outline what guidelines they have put into place to ensure that students are kept safe from potential hazards, and that they behave appropriately online. This is a very important section, especially to inform parents about how their children will be using the blog.
Some key issues to discuss with students, parents and other teachers before starting the blog:
- Only identify students by their first name. No addresses, telephone numbers, or surnames should be published online.
- All students must have parental permission to publish photos of themselves on the blog.
- All students must have parental permission to comment and post articles on the blog.
- Photographs should not be headlined with student names.
- All posts must be moderated by a teacher before publishing them.
- Parents who comment on the blog should not use their surnames i.e. Rather than ‘Sarah Murphy, Peter’s mum’ – parents should write ‘Sarah – Peter’s mum’.
- All comments must be moderated by a teacher before publishing them.
- Parents should be mindful and respectful of the content published by the students.
- Any content placed on the blog should not be used without permission and attribution.
What kind of content should I put on the blog?
Before starting the blog, do some thinking into what you want out of the blog.
- What concepts do you want to teach?
- What do you want the learning outcome at the end of the year to be?
- How will the blog facilitate and support learning in your classroom?
- What do you want to publicize in the blog?
- Who will read the blog?
Write a list answering these questions to keep track of how your blog is developing over time. You will have a frame of reference to refer to you can stop the blog becoming either dead or full of useless content. Once you have this baseline covered, outline what you would like your students to publish on the blog. For example:
- Book reviews
- Updates on what students are learning in class
- Days out e.g. Our trip to the zoo
- Class projects
- Class achievements e.g. Shona won the spelling bee.
- Questions for parents e.g. What was your favorite subject in school?
- What I did on my holidays
- What students do outside of school e.g. John races BMX.
- Pets and favorite animals
Read some other classroom blogs to give you ideas and see how they have been used in other schools. Here are some great examples of how to do it right:
There is a great list of classroom blogs from Edublogger here, where you can search by grade and by country to give you some more ideas.