Tidbits in Tech: Integration in Education/Use of Blogs in Secondary Education
- 1 Introduction
- 2 What is a blog?
- 3 Two types of educational blogs
- 4 History of blogs used in education
- 5 Integrating blogs into a classroom
- 6 Pros and Cons of classroom blogs
- 7 Ethical Considerations
- 8 Looking back on past advancements
- 9 Blog Vs. Website
- 10 Future of blogs in the classroom and Conclusion
- 11 References
The classrooms of today do not look like the classrooms of even one generation ago. Seemingly constant advancements in technology give today's students more opportunities and tools for learning and give teachers more options for instructing these students. One such tool available to students and teachers is the blog. In this chapter we will explore the types of blogs most beneficial for secondary classroom use. We will also discuss the history of their use and the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating them into the classroom, along with ideas for using them. Finally, we include useful references where interested educators, parents, and students may go to find more information on blogs and how to use them for educational purposes.
What is a blog?
According to the website Blogs to Teach, blogs are “websites published in a series of entries, with the newest entries on the top of the page” (http://www.annettevee.com/blogstoteach/). Writers, also known as “bloggers,” may write on any subject they wish. Normally bloggers choose to write about subjects they feel they have some “expert” knowledge in, or feel especially passionate about. A mother with a newborn may create a blog for sharing milestones and pictures of the baby with distant family. A teacher with a great lesson plan idea may share with colleagues across the country or even across the world. Blogs of any subject are easy to search for——just type a subject key word and the word “blog” or “blogs” into a search engine.
One unique feature of blogs is their versatility. When the blogger is finished composing, he/she is able to draft additional responses quickly without having to redesign the entire page. Also unique to this type of communication is the ability to incorporate links and responses submitted by readers into the blog, giving other people a chance to have their opinions heard.
Two types of educational blogs
There are two types of blogs which will be discussed in this chapter. While there are certainly more types of blogs in existence, the two that are most useful and prevalent in a classroom setting are teacher written blogs and student written blogs.
Teacher written blogs are those which are composed by the teacher to benefit students in the class. These blogs might include information such as assignment clarifications, instructions for absent students, reminders to the class, and information passed on to parents. For instance, the teacher might clarify that the math test is on Chapter 8 or remind students that their English paper is due tomorrow. Blogs written by the teacher may also serve as a forum to announce upcoming events such as a school dance or a class field trip. Teachers may also use blogs for instruction. An example might be to use a blog to review the main points covered in a mini-lesson in Language Arts class that day. Teachers may also create quizzes which students must complete independently and submit in order for the teacher to be able to assess student knowledge of a particular subject. In addition, teachers may also use blogs as a way to model how to blog in order to encourage students to create their own blogs.
Student written blogs can be on any subject assigned by the teacher or chosen by the student. Students may work independently or with small groups to create their blogs to contribute to the classroom blog. These can potentially cover any subject in the curriculum. For instance, a science teacher talking about the human body could assign each student a major system of the body and ask them to create a post about that system. In a social studies classroom, students may be asked to compose a post featuring a European city of their choice. In both examples, students’ efforts could be combined into a classroom blog for which each child has contributed. Not only can students collaborate with fellow students in their own classroom, but they can collaborate with students in other classrooms around the globe.
History of blogs used in education
According to the Teachers First website, blogging has been used in education for over eight years. The same site reports that forty-eight percent of bloggers are under the age of thirty. Blogs written by anyone involved in education are also known as “edublogs.”
In their relatively short history, educational blogs have been used for four basic functions. The first is as a classroom management tool. Teachers can use blogs to pass information onto students, as will be discussed further in this chapter. The second basic function is to collaborate with others. Teachers can use blogs to instruct and encourage students to collaborate with them and fellow students. Blogs are also an effective way for older students to mentor younger students and for students to benefit from peer reviews. A third function takes advantage of the fact that students are outside of the classroom when they work on the blogs. Since students can access the writing of other classmates outside the school doors, they may have more time to react and reflect on what their peers have to say. Finally, blogs function as a way to organize and present the work of students in portfolios.
Integrating blogs into a classroom
Blogs are great tools to be used in the classroom and they can be integrated in many different ways.
They may be used minimally in the classroom——such as informing a student who was sick of their homework for that day—— or they can be used for bigger items——such as having students turn in homework on the blog, for students to work together on a blog for a project, etc.
Below are a few examples of how blogs may be integrated into a classroom.
Teacher written blogs can be used for:
- A reminder of assignments due
- The reminder can be useful for students who forget to write down assignments or parents who want to clarify what the assignment is
- Review of the lesson for the day for
- Parents helping students with homework or wanting to keep track of what their child is learning
- Students who do not remember something from class
- Students who were sick or away for the day
- A newsletter for parents on what is going on in the classroom
- This is a great alternative to paper newsletters (saves paper)and gives parents a chance to give feedback to the teacher
- It also makes sure that parents have access to the newsletters, since paper newsletters can easily get lost in a backpack or student locker
- Extra websites that can help students with assignments or learning
- Websites will help support the teaching that the teacher may not be able to get through during class
- It can also provide other resources to aid the students with their homework or to further their learning
- A discussion board where students can give their opinions and ask questions
- In a discussion board students are able to expand on their ideas and to think more critically about their responses
- A discussion board may also be an alternative for students who are too shy to speak up in class
- A way for those who come up with an idea after the topic has passed in class to still share their opinion with the teacher and other students
Student written blogs can be used for:
- Collaboration on an assignment/project
- Students can collaborate on an assignment/project in a blog to help them see the progress being made
- Students do not have to worry about work being lost through emailing or accidentally leaving a group member out of an email
- Discussion of the day's lesson
- Students can discuss points in class that they did not understand or want clarification for. Students who understand that topic can provide more information to these students and can also ask any questions they might have on a different topic.
- A digital portfolio of students' work
- This is a great way for students to keep a copy of their work without worrying about it getting lost in a desk/locker/backpack/etc.
- Students can keep a portfolio for years and add to what they have in order to see the progression that they have made over the semester and possibly over years
- A way to work on projects outside the classroom
- Students can easily start a project at school on a blog and finish it at home
Pros and Cons of classroom blogs
If used effectively, blogs can enhance a secondary education class; however, there are some aspects of blogs that make teachers, parents, and students leery of using them. The following is a list of the advantages and disadvantages of classroom blogs.
- Students can interact with their teacher and classmates through online dialogue. This gives students a sense of community and a chance to read multiple viewpoints (Caverly 2008).
- Outgoing students generally do not overpower the less talkative students in a blog setting. Blogs allow the timid students to “post questions, comments or solutions they have found to problems, without the anxiety of speaking in class” (Web and Wild 2004).
- Teachers can post a discussion topic and get discussion going outside of the classroom. They can also answer questions, post relevant websites or videos, and keep students on-track.
- Teachers can teach students the responsibility that comes with posting online (Davis 2010). They can teach plagiarism/copyright information, appropriate language, constructive criticism and other topics that will aid students in future dealings with blogs and other posting websites.
- Because blog posts are never deleted (unless inappropriate), a teacher can read students’ answers and see their thought processes. They can also evaluate their in-class teaching by reading the types of questions that students post on the blog. This also allows teachers to re-teach specific material in class if necessary (Halic 2010).
- If students find a relevant article, website, or video, they can share it with their peers on the blog. They can also post their thoughts on a topic, a discussion question, or a peer's post, which promotes critical thinking. This also improves writing skills, especially if grammar is emphasized by the teacher.
- Teachers and students can have trouble accessing blog websites at the school. This is because of the government act CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act), which requires filtering software to be used (Tolisano 2010). This means that students have to access these blogs from their house or a location that has internet, which might not be easy for students who are poor or who cannot access internet readily.
- If not limited to the students in the class, anybody can post comments on the blog. This could result in inappropriate language/subject matter and/or links to inappropriate websites. Even if limited to these students, inappropriate content can still be posted by the students of the class. Rules and punishments would need to be established beforehand and followed through on, though damage could already be done before the teacher can delete the post.
- Privacy issues are a concern to teachers and parents. Sometimes too much personal information is given out by the students, which puts their safety at risk (Davis 2010). Teachers and students need to think seriously about the information they are putting on the internet. A possibility to prevent privacy issues is to find a blogging site that can block anybody not in the class.
- Though blogs are considered a social networking tool, they cannot replace face-to-face interaction and discussion. Some teachers might replace classroom discussion with online blog discussions. This would not be beneficial to students due to the fact that face-to-face interactions are essential to many jobs students will take in the future. They need discussion in class to develop and improve these skills.
- If teachers do not structure the blog with specific discussion topics and have clear expectations, the students might use the blog to have personal conversations and thus get the whole class off-topic (Halic 2010). The goals the teacher has in mind when posting specific discussion topics also might not be achieved and thus the blog in this case would fail to help students in any meaningful way.
- Students would have to voluntarily go on the blog, read the previous posts, and then add their own comment, which would take time they might not feel is worth the effort. Motivation is the key to success, but teachers may not know how to effectively motivate their students without making the blog into a hassle instead of the beneficial activity it is supposed to be.
- Though peer feedback can be given, some students might not see the value of it (Halic 2010). These students do not care if Jimmy, Bobby, Sally, etc., don’t like what they have to say or, in some cases, they might care too much. They could get offended at negative feedback, which might result in cyber and/or face-to-face arguments.
The website Annetevee cautions educators to be aware of the potential risks of blogging and to protect students from these dangers. This can be accomplished by informing them of the pitfalls involved and by setting up guidelines and parameters in the classroom where blogs are concerned. The following issues should be addressed by the teacher when first introducing blogging to the class:
- Students need to be told, and reminded frequently, that blogging is a public forum. What they write may be viewed by a wide range of people. These may include potential future employers, family members, and strangers. In addition, what they post could potentially be available for others to read for years, even after it is long forgotten by the student.
- It is important for teachers to tell students not to post their last name, phone number, or address on their blog. In fact, it may be best to have students make up a pseudonym to use for their blog. This would be an appropriate name that is only known to the class.
- For the benefit of students who are uncomfortable with the public exposure they receive from blogging, educators can and should make adjustments to honor their desire for privacy. Teachers can show respect for these students by offering alternatives to blog assignments. For example, the students would still be expected to compose the blog but not post it. Teachers must be sure the students understand that completing the assignment in this manner will not jeopardize their grade.
- Perhaps most important of all, teachers must create a classroom climate in which students feel comfortable coming to them with any concerns. That way, if students do have hesitations or reservations about blogging, they can voice their concerns to the teacher and problems can be worked out.
If teachers are planning to implement blogging in their classrooms, they must be proactive in informing and protecting their students from the potential dangers and enable them to reap the benefits of this communication tool.
Looking back on past advancements
Though time will tell if blogs are going to be an effective and integral part of the future classroom, it is interesting to look back on some historical quotes:
- “Students today can’t prepare Bark to calculate their problems. They depend on their slates, which are more expensive. What will they do when the slate is dropped and it breaks? They will not be able to write.”
- -Teachers Conference, 1703
- “Students today depend on paper too much. They don’t know how to write on slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean slate properly. What will they do when they run out of the paper?”
- -Principal’s Association, 1815
- “Students today depend too much upon ink. They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”
- -National Association of Teachers, 1907
Quotes from Using wikis and blogs in education
Blog Vs. Website
Blogs, as mentioned earlier, are "websites published in a series of entries, with the newest entries on the top of the page." The style of a blog is more like a journal where entries can be read day by day when they are written. For the most part, you can think of a blog like a diary of the day to day happenings in a class. You can go back and look at previous entries and what happened in class weeks before. On the other hand, a website can be looked at as an overview of what the class is about and/or important information to know about the class. If you are curious on whether or not a blog or a website is better for your classroom, you will have to first look at the purpose of what the blog/website would be used for. You can use this table as a guide to sort through what you are looking for in a class.
|Design/layout||Organized list where information is sorted under specific topics||Journal/diary form where information is sorted by date|
|Format||More professional||More Personal|
|Navigation for specific information||Easy||Hard|
|New information/updates to find||Hard||Easy|
|When new information is added||Old is deleted||Old information is still there in a past entry|
|Classroom Use||What the class is about, syllabus, forms for parents||Daily lessons and activities, news on upcoming lessons/assignments|
Future of blogs in the classroom and Conclusion
The use of blogs in the classroom is still a fairly new concept and the future of the use of blogs in the classroom is also unclear. Some people think that using blogs in a classroom is a great idea for maximizing student learning. Others are skeptical and think that learning should be inside the school and that teachers should not force students to be doing extra work outside the classroom. Overall, teacher blogs are a great resource for teachers who have the time to plan and implement them usefully. Student blogs may be a useful tool but are only for classrooms where the majority of students have internet access outside of school. It is great to use technology in the classroom like blogs as long as learning can be maximized from the technology. One must decide for him/herself whether blogs would be a useful addition to the classroom or an issue that will weigh the classroom down and cause confusion for the students. For more information, visit Teachersfirst.com, which gives some great information on explaining what a blog is, how it can be used in a classroom, and how teachers can set up a blog for use in the classroom.
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