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Taking advantage of Web 2.0 technologies: classroom blogging basics.

In the 21st century, technological hardware and software have changed many of the methods by which teachers can deliver instruction and communicate with students. Some of these new methods are considered Web 2.0 technologies, which include weblogs, social networking sites, and wikis. Web 2.0 technologies differ from traditional Web technology in that they allow users to alter information actively rather than accept it passively (Hossain & Wiest, 2013). Thus, these resources can enhance the learning environment by providing more opportunities for students to collaborate and share content (Angelaina & Jimoyiannis, 2012). Unfortunately, many teachers are not taking advantage of such digital resources, and therefore are missing opportunities to communicate with their students via the methods students use most outside of class (Larson, 2013).

One way to alleviate this disconnect is to integrate blogging into classroom instruction. This article discusses how blogging in education settings can enhance motivation, collaboration, and academic improvement for students from elementary school to high school. Also included are practical strategies by which educators can implement this exciting teaching approach as well as steps teachers can take to avoid common problems associated with blogging, such as Internet abuse.

Benefits of Blogging

A blog or weblog is a website allowing users to post content that appears in reverse chronological order. Newer posts appear first, and users can view older posts. Many blogs contain links to other websites containing similar content, thereby encouraging users to explore the Internet to access information related to the blog. Blogs can be public (viewable by anyone with an Internet connection), or they can be private (viewers need a password to gain access). Blogs also allow readers to write comments relating to the bloggers' content.

One of the advantages of classroom blogging includes interaction with an outside audience. For example, Howard (2011) used Edublogs to connect her elementary students in the United States with students in Australia. Edublogs, one of the most popular education blogging services, allows users to create student and teacher blogs that include videos, photos, and podcasts. Teachers can also use blogs to evaluate student work and interact with students (Vurdien, 2013).

When students post content on a blog to attract comments, they frequently become motivated to improve their grammar, word choice, syntax, and punctuation because they discover their writing now has a purpose and realize that grammar, usage, and mechanics are not just arcane rules only teachers care about (Davis & McGrail, 2009). The influence of an audience helps slower readers and writers by increasing their motivation, thus helping them to participate with less fear (Jerles, 2012). The increase in confidence and motivation also encourages bloggers to take risks, leading them to explore new topics in their writing (McGrail & Davis, 2011). When instructors allow pupils to write about their interests, weblogs can also promote self-expression and initiative (Lacina & Griffith, 2013). Thus, classroom blogs create more opportunities for reserved students to express themselves and share their thoughts (Brunsell & Horejsi, 2010). This outcome occurs as a consequence of the lack of face-to-face interaction students experience when blogging.

Ideas for Using Weblogs

Blogging can be used for any academic subject to encourage collaboration and acquisition of content knowledge. Duplichan (2009) recommends various ways for teachers to integrate blogging into classroom instruction; some of these ideas are listed in Table 1.

Safety and Blogging

When creating a classroom blog, student safety is paramount. Students may need reminders about not revealing personal information over the Internet. Sufficient classroom time should be devoted to instructing students on safe and responsible use of the Internet. Davis and McGrail (2009) discuss efforts to educate students about protecting personal information and about reporting anything that makes them uncomfortable.

Teachers can also increase safety by using blogging programs that require a password to publish. These types of online tools permit teachers to decide what goes online and to delete any identifying or inappropriate information. Class Blogmeister is a good program for teachers to use when they first start blogging with students; it allows teachers to either approve and post student work online or return it to the student for further editing. Class Blogmeister was created especially for educators and has many other safety features, which are essential for students in the primary grades.

A Well-Designed Plan

To start a blogging project with students, follow these steps:

1. Get approval from your principal or district.

2. Get permission from parents.

3. Explore sites that include blogs recognized for their quality, such as The Edublogs Awards (http://edublogawards.com) and Class Blogmeister (http:// classblogmeister.com).

4. Select a blogging provider. Examples of providers teachers commonly use for blogging are listed in Table 2.

5. Start the blog by visiting the blog site and following the directions.

Video tutorials on how to start a blog can be useful; teachers can view them by searching YouTube and typing terms such as "starting a blog" followed by the name of the provider. For example, to get a link for a video tutorial on starting a blog on Edublogs, type "starting a blog on Edublogs" in the YouTube search box.

Before students begin blogging, teachers need to prepare them to communicate well and to develop their own perspective. This can be done through practice, discussion, and linking to other blogs. Lacina and Griffith (2013) recommend teachers start slowly and take time exploring the blog to gain familiarity. They also recommend teachers practice blogging with students on paper before going online. After students begin blogging, teachers need to provide ongoing support to help students write clearly by having discussions about word choice and reflecting on previous posts. Another important consideration is recruiting readers from outside the school who are aware of the goals for the project to comment regularly on student posts. Selecting readers with more expertise in writing than the students in class encourages pupils to learn new ways to refine their writing. McGrail and Davis (2011) found that students experienced many positive outcomes from quality feedback. The audience in their study encouraged students to revise and improve their writing and transform their ideas and thoughts.

Conclusion

Classroom blogging can be extremely beneficial for students from primary school to high school. This teaching strategy helps students stay motivated by allowing them to take advantage of the technology skills they bring with them to school and by interacting with their peers and an outside audience. When used with a well-designed academic plan, blogging can lead students to improve in literacy; pupils frequently become motivated to use clearer, more precise language as a result of writing for a wide audience. The increased interaction also promotes collaboration skills that will help students communicate well with others in the future. Additionally, the use of a classroom blog allows students to improve their digital skills, helps them learn new content, and allows them to express themselves in different ways by using resources that permit the use of sound, pictures, video, and graphic design.

While these advantages may benefit students greatly, educators need to remember that blogging simply for the sake of blogging will lead to few academic benefits. In order for students to make academic gains, blogging should be combined with a program that emphasizes the process of writing and communicating well. Educators also need to take the appropriate precautions to avoid Internet abuse and to adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations pertaining to the publication of student content, including their pictures, work, and names. When blogging is implemented in this manner, students will likely benefit greatly.

References

Angelaina, S., & Jimoyiannis, A. (2012). Analysing students' engagement and learning presence in an educational blog community. Educational Media International, 49(3), 183-200.

Brunsell, E., & Horejsi, M. (2010). Create a classroom blog! The Science Teacher, 77(2), 12.

Davis, A. P., & McGrail, E. (2009). The joy of blogging. Educational Leadership, 66(6), 74-77.

Duplichan, S. C. (2009). Using web logs in the science classroom. Science Scope, 33(3), 33-37.

Hossain, M. M., & Wiest, L. R. (2013). Collaborative middle school geometry through blogs and other web 2.0 technologies. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 32(3), 337-352.

Howard, M. E. (2011). Not an unfeasible "extra." Science and Children, 49(4), 32-35.

Jerles, J. (2012). Blogging in elementary school: Why, how, and what teachers can do to encourage writing. National Teacher Education Journal, 5(3), 85-88.

Lacina, J., & Griffith, R. (2013). Blogging as a means of crafting writing. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 316-320.

Larson, L. (2013). From print texts to e-books: The changing nature of literacy. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 49(4), 168-173.

McGrail, E., & Davis, A. (2011). The influence of classroom blogging on elementary student writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 25(4), 415-437.

Vurdien, R. (2013). Enhancing writing skills through blogging in an advanced English as a foreign language class in Spain. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 26(2), 126-143.

Hani Morgan, Editor

Hani Morgan is Associate Professor of Education, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Table 1
Descriptions of Different Types of Blogs

Type of Blog         Example

Creative Writing     Students write an essay explaining what they
                     would do if they were the principal and received
                     a million-dollar donation to improve their
                     school.

Literature Circles   Students share their thoughts about the texts
                     they read. Teachers instruct them to clarify
                     their thoughts and explore the perspectives of
                     their peers.

Current Events       Students respond to questions about various
                     topics of concern in today's world, such as
                     endangered species. Teachers ask questions like:
                     "What can be done to protect wildlife?"

Reflection           Students write their thoughts about new content
                     learned, an event at their school, or a favorite
                     book.

Display              Teachers post student work, including art and
                     writing projects.

Opinion              Teachers can ask students to offer their
                     perspectives on various topics such as whether
                     athletes should be banned from professional
                     sports for using steroids.

Visual               Students create a personal time line of their
                     life and post digital photos of themselves
                     starting as early as the day they were born,
                     continuing to the present.

Learning             Students describe the study habits that help them
                     perform best on tests.

News                 Teachers share news with parents and post
                     homework assignments and other important
                     information to keep parents connected to the
                     classroom.

Table 2

Blog Providers

Provider                  URL

Class Blogmeister         http://classblogmeister.com
Blogger                   www.blogger.com / start
Edublogs                  http://edublogs.org
21 Classes                www.21classes.com
ClearBlogs                http://clearblogs.com
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Title Annotation:Focus on Technology
Author:Morgan, Hani
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 1, 2014
Words:1726
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