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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Discussion on Blogs

Digital Discussion: Take Your Class to the Internet

How to set up a blog in your classroom.

by Helena Echlin

published 9/7/2007

What's Next: Digital Discussion

Credit: Mystic Aquarium
This is a multipart article. Click here to go to the beginning.

Many teachers have started to experiment with blogs. For some, a blog is an electronic notebook -- one students can't lose (or claim the dog ate). For others, it's a forum where a class discussion can unfold 24/7. Either way, blogging can be a powerful educational tool. Suggestions for setting up a classroom blog follow. (Keep in mind that these ideas assume student access to computers and the Internet.)

Decide the Main Use for Your Blog

How you structure classroom blogs depends on their utility. Here are various approaches:

  • Classroom management: Use a blog to post assignments, handouts, and notices. You can also put up study notes and have students take turns summarizing what happened in school that day.
  • Learning journal: Patricia Harder, a seventh-grade teacher at Henley Middle School, in Crozet, Virginia, uses individual or small-group blogs as a place for students to "write reflectively" on what they learned from a particular assignment and how they might do better next time.
  • Online notebook: Limiting access to teacher and individual students only, you can use the blog as a way to track students' progress. Harder found using a blog this way particularly helpful when she suspected one of her students had a learning disability. "I went to the committee that evaluates students for learning disabilities and was able to present them with a record of the sentence structure my student had used," she explains.
  • Class discussion: Assign blogs to small groups, or set up a single blog for the whole class. You may post entries for discussion, or have individual students and guest bloggers post entries.
  • Personal expression: Give students individual blogs for posting whatever they want. This might seem like a recipe for disaster, but Konrad Glogowski, who teaches grades 7-9 at Fern Hill School, in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and is the creator of the Blog of Proximal Development Web site, found this format to be a huge success. Inspired by an audience of their peers, his students posted poetry, journal entries, and reactions to articles they had read, as well as prolific comments on the blogs of fellow students.

Decide How to Grade Work

Use blogs to post homework for traditional evaluation."An assignment might be, 'After discussing a short story in class, post an entry on your blog, commenting either on the class discussion or the story itself,'" Glogowski says. Although he does not grade the personal entries, he adds, they "help me assess a student's engagement and effort, which I might mention when conferencing with parents."

Set Up Your Blog(s)

At one of the free blog-hosting sites, such as Blogger, setting up a blog takes only a few minutes. Just follow the instructions (create an account, and choose a name and template). If you want to limit accessibility, list the email addresses of those allowed to see it. However, some schools have blocks on Internet access, so you may want to subscribe to a service such as Edublogs or Class Blogmeister, which have additional features.

Protect Your Students

If your classroom blog is publicly accessible, make sure students use first names only and do not provide personal identifying details. You will also have to set clear guidelines on what is appropriate regarding content and comments.

Bring the Blog into the Classroom

When Glogowski's students began blogging, their enthusiasm delighted him. Then he realized that what they were writing had little to do with their curriculum. "The question was, how could I help them channel that energy into academic work?" he asks. His solution: Discuss the blogs in class so students could understand that the confidence and creativity they showed in their blogs had a place in the classroom, too.

Helena Echlin is a freelance writer in San Francisco.

Sample Blogging Lesson Plan

Following is a suggested lesson plan teacher Konrad Glogowski created for eighth-grade students on constructive blogging procedures.

Grade level: Eight
Subject: Language arts
Lesson title: "Writing Constructive Comments in a Blogging Community."

Objective: To help students identify the main characteristics of a constructive blog response and allow them to compose such responses.

Resources needed: Student comments (short and constructive) posted in the classroom blogging community.

Procedure: Inquiry approach, Socratic approach, class discussion The teacher will spark a discussion on blog responses by using specific, constructive, student-generated examples from the classroom blogging community. Using the Socratic method, the teacher will guide a discussion on what makes these comments helpful.

The teacher will also use short, congratulatory comments from the class blogosphere to initiate discussion about how these types of responses compare to other, more constructive, comments. The teacher will ask students who received mostly congratulatory comments to speak to the class about the effectiveness of these types of comments, and how this kind of feedback made them feel.

Checking for understanding, guided practice: The teacher will instruct the students to write a short response to any student entry posted online. Students will then choose an entry and compose their responses directly online or in their notebooks. The teacher will circulate the classroom to observe and guide students.

What do you think of this lesson plan? Your (constructive) comments would be greatly appreciated!

Edublogs We Love: Ten Top Stops for Internet Interaction

These Web sites are the cornerstones of a vast online educational community.

by Edutopia Staff

published 9/6/2007

This is a multipart article. Click here to go to the beginning.

It's seems everybody has a blog these days, including teachers and other people who are passionate about education. Here are some of the most popular sources of big and deep thoughts:

David Warlick's 2¢ Worth
What makes Warlick's 2¢ priceless is a mix of intense curiosity, refreshing enthusiasm, and photos that speak of a wry and observant personality.

Around the Corner v2
Miguel Guhlin's blog features the quote "Courage can't see around corners, but goes around them anyway." Look past its uninspiring interface, and you'll find just this kind of pithy talk.

Dangerously Irrelevant
In ongoing debates about education, the borderline-irrelevant topics often prove enlightening. The only danger is in not paying attention to them.

Joanne Jacobs
Jacobs practices a kind of free linking and free thinking that takes you from country to country and from religion to technology to health, all in the orbit of education.

Kathy Schrock's Kaffeeklatsch
The keyword in the name of this blog refers to an informal gathering to drink coffee and chat. As a Web barista, Schrock serves a compelling educational brew.

Leader Talk
Written by school leaders for school leaders, proof that those at the top are fighting for change, too.

Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Uses plain language to highlight exciting technology and innovation in education.

NYC Educator
It may be the Daily Show of education blogs, combining parody, retro images, and a skeptical sensibility in service of a true concern for our educational future.

PBS Teachers: Learning.Now
Checking out the well-crafted entries on this site is like a one-on-one with a patient mentor: lots of wisdom, few wasted words.

As its snowy mountain logo implies, Will Richardson's weblogg-ed is a breath of fresh air. Without clutter, his entries can be meditated on in singular simplicity. (Full disclosure: He's on our advisory board. This blog reminds us why.)

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