Okay, so by now you have subscribed (or not) to this blog. You are probably now adding additional feeds to your feed reader (and you can “mash up” feeds, too, creating your own customized feed, but that is for another post.) If you have never set up a blog and/or used it for education, this post’s for you!
First of all, you may be wondering just what all this excitement is over these blogs (or weblogs, as they are more formally called.) Well, these free online tools simply give you the ability to create web pages without knowing HTML (that’s the markup language that browsers actually read to produce the web pages you see.) Blogs also offer you many options, such as adding pages, links, uploading images, audio files, and videos, and of course, encourage feedback from your readers. They can be individual or collaborative/group blogs. These online journals are organized chronologically, with the newest entry at the top.
Is there a place for them in education? Absolutely.
If your content area includes a lot of reading and writing, such as English, history, law, economics, and many others, then blogs can really help jump-start your students’ writing and creativity. For instance, in an English class, your students could use a personal blog to begin writing a paper, poem, whatever. Other students could read and respond to each other’s work (peer review), with the ultimate goal of a polished, finished paper after multiple drafts that could be archived in a blog. (For more ideas and to see a weblog in action, visit Will Richardson’s weblog-ed.)
As an instructor, you have the added bonus of being able to easily keep track of student papers and view their work and progress only, anytime, from any computer. The blog could be a collection of student writing that is “multi-genre” and becomes a complete piece once edited and finalized. Add to this the incredibly powerful aspect of having your work published online (viewed by the world), and you have an authentic tool to use in your class. But blogs are not only for English majors . . .
Think of using blogs for group activities, such as brainstorming, group writing, group research, or simply a group sounding board for issues related to your content/topic area. And since blogs are feed-enabled (this means you can subscribe to a blog and always receive the latest content in your feed reader), your students don’t even need to visit the blog to read the latest postings.
Think about using blogs for your class if your students need to do a lot of reading, writing, editing, and publishing. Not only will the blog provide motivation and ownership, but it will be a convenient and easy way for students (and you!) to keep track of their writing.