As I viewed a wide variety of classroom blogs this week, it struck me what an awesome educational tool a blog can be. The library blogs I looked at last week were all great resources for the school community. They showed the fantastic activities and learning that go on in the library. They offered links to wonderful resources for students, teachers and parents. Some of them even offered opportunities for students to contribute in some way. But with these classroom blogs this week I found something more; each of them in their own right are a powerful educational tool, an opportunity for students to learn, grow, and even build up their own digital footprints. The teachers who maintain each of these blogs have given their students exciting and engaging opportunities to learn in new ways and are empowering them to become effective 21st century learners. I am convinced after seeing these excellent examples, that all classroom teachers, from elementary to high school, need to seriously consider making use of a classroom blog. As a school librarian I will most strenuously advocate the use of this tool, showing teachers the most effective ones I found for their grade level and giving trainings on how to build one and the best ways to use it in their classroom.
Here are three really good examples of how best to use a classroom blog:
High School Blog
Mrs. Emery, Language Arts teacher at Florida Virtual School, created a blog entitled Creative Writing Club. This blog touches on all areas of creative writing and gives students opportunities to practice characterization, voice, and plot development. Each activity spans from one to two months and writers have the opportunity to share their writing with others and get feedback if they want it. The current activity involves students writing a short story based on the lyrics of a song. The blog also has writing prompts, designed to get the creative juices flowing, as well as upcoming meeting dates, the yearly schedule, the current activity, an editing submission form, and short story submissions from former students. One topic Mrs. Emery had her students exploring was how music effects writing. She provided a link to the website Helping Writers Become Authors, where students could read an article on this topic.
There is no page for additional resources, and I think that having one could really boost the overall effectiveness of the blog. The blog is great idea though, and I could see it even replacing the need for an after school creative writing club. With the blog, the teacher could post the writing prompt and provide links to resources for students to use, and then students can post their submissions from the comfort of their beanbag chairs at home. This blog most definitely engages the learners and has them actively participating. It’s sole purpose to help develop budding writing skills and so so in an engaging and effective way.
Middle School Blog
In her blog, 2021 Tech Savages, Mrs.Conway has created a space to post the activities she is doing with her 8th grade technology class – but all of the posts are written by students. In one post a student, Jack D. explains how (and why) the class created 60 second book and movie trailers, posts pictures of the process, and includes two examples of the trailers that were created. In another post Jeeweon and Andie explain how they used an app called “Superimpose” to put random heads on other random bodies. They then posted examples of ones that were created in class. In one student post, Wesley W. and Wilks F. discuss the 2015 Student Blogging Challenge that their teacher has invited them to take part in.
This classroom blog is a very simple, straightforward blog with two main purposes: to communicate to the community what students are doing in their technology class and to engage students in the learning process by having them summarize what they learned. I can see this as a really great way for parents to get a first-hand look at the really great activities they are doing. I love that the students write the posts because it gets them so much more involved and engaged in the process. In the process of posting, they are learning to synthesize what they learned so they can summarize it, using 21st century skills, and practicing digital citizenship. I noticed that the students don’t use their full names, which I am sure is a result of parent concerns. I do think it could be even more valuable for them if they were able to use their full names. A positive digital footprint is an important step to becoming a full-fledged digital citizen and can wind up serving them well later on in their life. I would definitely encourage teachers to get parent permission to post full names.
Elementary School Blog
Andrea Campagna has made a blog for her third grade classroom called Mrs. Campagna’s Class. This blog is similar to some of the library blogs I looked at in that it is a forum for communication, assignments, news, and resources. She has a page for parents to find links to the class handbook, newsletters, schedules, and handouts. She also has a page with math learning links like the game Soccer Score where students can practice their multiplication facts in the midst of a game of soccer. She also has a reading page with a link to Compass Learning, a site that her district subscribes to which provides practice with both reading and math skills. On the main page, Mrs. Campagna posts things her class is working on, such as a lesson where students read a book and posted answers to a posed question in Google Classroom.
She also has a “Blogging Challenge” where students are asked to complete a task and then write about it on their personal student blog in Edublogs. One student named Jack has a blog entitled The Very Happy Blog. In it he posts his answers to the blog challenges, but also has posts about his favorite games, movies he has seen, and pictures of the pumpkin he carved over the weekend. I noticed that his grandfather posted a comment on his “About Me” page. It struck me how amazing it is what third graders are capable of these days. I am very impressed that Mrs. Campagna has brought her class in on blogging and that she obviously sees the rich educational opportunities it creates.
Again, I noticed there were no last names. A positive digital footprint can be a very powerful thing for grownups, it’s true, but I am wondering how early one needs to start building it. Is it necessary for a third grader to have a digital presence? Maybe it is enough for now for them to practice digital citizenship, learn how to be responsible, respectful, and how to use technology appropriately. So many parents are resistant to their child’s image and name being out there in cyberspace that I think it might be okay to leave that battle for middle school or high school educators to fight. By the time they get to middle school, students have internalized many of the digital citizenship rules and are better able to understand the importance of creating a positive digital footprint.
I also noticed that Mrs. Campagna posts lots of pictures of her students in her blogs. I don’t know if she excludes any students who don’t have permission, or if she has somehow gained everyone’s permission to take their photos and post them. Their names aren’t attached to photos, so that might make a difference in the minds of the parents. I do really love the photos. It is great to see the concentration on their faces, or the smiles as they show off their accomplishments. As a parent, I would love to have this window into my daughter’s classroom and am thinking that if I could get parents to overcome their fears, they would love it too.
As you can see, a classroom blog can just be a means of communication and a place to put resources for students and parents, but it can also be such a powerful tool for learning. Mrs. Campagna has really done an excellent job at making her blog just that, and it has inspired me to try this with my own class.
Kids Working on Computers. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 30 Jan 2016.