Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Re: Using Blogs in the Classroom, for Bridging Learning Theory, Instruction, and Technology


In the past, I have used blogs to spice up our large-group classroom discussions.  Normally, I assign a particular topic to each student and ask him or her to become an expert in that topic and regularly report on it in a blog.  In my Eighth Grade Computer class, for example, topics include Internet neutrality, copyright issues, cell phone and iPad apps, new gadgets, government regulations, all things Google, Apple Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, social networking, web 2.0 issues, etc.  Students are then responsible for using the blogs and the information contained within them to "co-host" a class discussion with me at least once and to contribute more informally to the class discussions they aren't hosting.  I like the way blogs can empower the students as speakers, helping them to solidify their opinions and allowing all of us to keep informed about the constantly-changing landscape of technology.

Right now, we publish to a site that is only visible to other class members.  I would love to be able to publish our work to a site that is more public, but I am worried about Internet trolls and cyberbullies.  I don't want my students to get hurt and I don't want my school district to suffer any liabilities, so I would have to create an appropriate form for the students and their parents to sign, first, of course.  Then maybe it would be more appropriate to have them publish group work to begin with.   What do you think?


  1. Your class seems awesome! Your absolutely right when you say that "blogs (and technology in general) can empower students as speakers." I am curious if any of your students use the concepts and tools taught in you class to spice up a Biology or History report? This may be a new, while still safe, arena to expand into if the internet at large is too unknown. Not to mention collaboration across departments is so crucial in creating validation for student learning. Something to consider, let me know what you think!

  2. Thanks, Nick. I hope the students still think it's fun--every year, we need to give them a little something new, don't you think? Every year, I have quite a few upperclassmen who come back to me asking for access to my computer class pages so that they can refresh their memories about how to add video to a Powerpoint or make the smartbuilds work in a Keynote or add vocal effects to an iMovie or something like that. So, I know they're using their skills in their English, Science, Math, and History classes, which is gratifying. Some of our English and History teachers even link to my webpage and use the materials there when they launch a project--it saves them time. I wish I could find a way to work more closely with some of the other teachers in my school. Because I teach classes that only last a semester or a trimester, direct collaboration (co-teaching, etc.) has been challenging in the past--but we keep talking about it. How does your school handle collaboration?

  3. I like your idea of using blogs for a classroom discussion! What a great way to have each student assume the responsibility of being the "expert" of the topic and being the leader of a discussion. A skill that is useful in many jobs that your students will hold one day. I am not sure what site you use but I use Blogger for my classroom blog and in the settings I can pick the option to see all comments before they are published to the blog. It is a little more work for you but it assures that outside participants' comments are appropriate for my students to view. I am not sure if that helps your problem with going public. As a school, we also have forms that parents must read, check appropriate permissions, and sign at the beginning of the year.
    Do you allow all their work to be done at school or do most of your students have access to a computer and internet at home? What do you do for students who do not have access after school is out? I have come across this problem with the few outside assignments that I have given, so I make sure those students have time in lab or on the classroom computer