Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the expectations of what you now need to provide your students? Feel like there is no time to build a strong rapport with the community while offering a rich 21st-century curriculum? Blogging might help you in more ways than you could imagine!
Blogs have become well established in the online landscape over the last decade or so. The educational blogging community also continues to expand at a rapid rate as evidenced by the over four million blogs on Edublogs, and countless more on other platforms.
You may have no experience in blogging, or you may have dabbled in the past. Whatever your background, now is the time to consider starting a new blog.
Here are ten reasons why you should integrate blogging into your classroom or professional practice. And be sure to read to the very end for a summary infographic that you can share!
1. Home-School Connections:
Many teachers establish a class blog as a ‘virtual window into the classroom’. This was my primary purpose for beginning a blog back in 2008 before other advantages and uses became apparent.
Through reading and commenting on posts, families can be a part of what is happening in the classroom and have unmatched access to their child’s education.
Research shows that parent engagement is associated with improvements across a number of areas such as educational outcomes, behaviour and school attendance. Participating virtually now tends to suit many parents who are juggling careers and other demands. This is something that can be actively capitalized on through a classroom blogging program.
It is important to remember that most parents are busy people who need education and ongoing invitations to participate. As a teacher, I certainly found that actively encouraging parent participation in blogging was something that paid off. You may consider offering your parents: handouts, video tutorials, family blogging events, parent information evenings, commenting challenges or email newsletters.
2. Authentic Audiences:
In the traditional classroom, the only audience for student work was the teacher and sometimes classmates and parents. Blogs provide a much larger audience for student work and an avenue for feedback and self-improvement through commenting.
I found that students took particular pride when publishing work for our blog and often wanted to do their best for their impending audience. When we establish an authentic audience for our students we help them connect their classwork to the real world. After all, isn’t that what education is supposed to be about?
As author and educator, Howard Pitler points out:
With an authentic audience, learners are able to focus on their process and their intended results instead of merely focusing on pleasing an audience of one – a teacher with a red pen and an answer sheet.
3. Literacy Skills:
With a class or individual blog, students are reading and writing for a purpose and genuine audience. Unlike other approaches to teaching literacy, where you may study a genre or style for a few weeks, blogging can be an ongoing occurrence in the classroom.
When high standards are set, and explicit teaching is embedded, a blogging program can be a powerful catalyst to improved literacy skills.
Well known children’s author, Mem Fox, states that:
“We’re currently wasting a lot of time by giving unreal writing tasks in our classrooms….You and I don’t engage in meaningless writing exercises in real life – we’re far too busy doing the real thing.”
If we want our students to be motivated to use their emerging writing skills, we have to make writing purposeful, challenging, and real-to-life. Blogging offers this.
Traditional literacy skills are also no longer enough for our students. As innovative educator Silvia Tolisano points out, there are now many types of 21st literacies including: digital, media, visual and global literacies. A classroom blogging program can help integrate these literacies into your classroom seamlessly.
4. Classroom Community:
Creating a class blog requires teamwork and collaboration. Students and teachers can learn and share together. The Edublogs’ student and teacher challenges can be a great place to start this learning process.
A real sense of classroom community can be developed through blogging and establishing a class identity. Even if teachers are initially writing posts, students can take on roles and responsibilities such as capturing images, creating multimedia or replying to comments. A class blog mascot can also be a fun way to represent your classroom community.
5. Internet Safety:
Teaching students to be safe and responsible online is an increasingly important issue. Effective internet safety education does not involve one off lessons. This is a notion supported by the experts at Connect Safely who say internet safety concepts should be woven into the curriculum. They point out that students don’t distinguish between their digital lives and their personal lives, and there is a lot of power in using ‘teachable moments’ just as you would with any subject matter.
A classroom blogging program offers ongoing opportunities to discuss internet safety and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting. Blogging is an excellent way to learn about being a responsible member of an online community, digital footprints, netiquette, making safe choices and more. As Connect Safely identify, the key messages educators need to teach are: ‘think before you post’ and ‘be kind and respectful’. There is amazing potential to use blogging to promote these exact messages.
Using a platform like Edublogs offers you a lot of freedom to select the privacy settings that you and your community are comfortable with.
6. ICT Skills:
It can be easy to assume that students are ‘digital natives’ and come to school already equipped with a broad range of ICT skills. A review paper recently published in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education found that “information-savvy digital natives do not exist”.
Becoming an effective and fluent user of information technology requires explicit teaching and practice. Through blogging, many skills are able to be discussed and practised, often incidentally. These can range from keyboard shortcuts, coding, Creative Commons, research skills, using multimedia, troubleshooting and a lot more. Again, these learnings are all for an authentic purpose rather than through skill and drill exercises.
I have found this to be one of the most exciting benefits of blogging for both teachers and students. Blogging can help flatten classroom walls like no other tool.
Over my years of blogging, my students and I got to know many classes across the world who we called our ‘blogging buddies’.
The benefits of global connections are priceless. A sense of understanding and tolerance develops and students can learn a lot about the world in which they live. Blogging partnerships allowed my students to learn from and with their global classmates about topics such as geography, cultures, time zones, seasons, language, internet safety and more.
When blogging is established in your classroom, there is also the possibility to organise or join in structured global projects. The opportunities and potential outcomes are endless.
Sometimes the outcome of a global project might be based on making an impact in the world. This is something my students achieved through our Ugandan Global Project where we raised $20,000 for an African school. At other times, the outcomes of a global project might simply be based on student learning and development, such as a past project I was involved in called Our World, Our Stories.
And from a teacher’s perspective, once you become involved in blogging, your professional learning network can rapidly expand to be a lot larger than your school staffroom. You never know who you will meet and what wonderful relationships you can form!
8. Personal Development:
The process of blogging allows a lot of scope for personal development, for both students and teachers. Blogging offers reinforcement and feedback through comments beyond the immediate classroom community. This can drive self-esteem, personal reflection and growth, as well as confidence. Students and/or teachers may realise they have something important to say, and blogging may encourage individuals to speak their mind, reflect deeply and share their understandings.
Blogging is also a fantastic creative outlet. Whether it’s writing, designing your blog layout, or using photography, video, podcasts or other multimedia tools, blogs offer so much scope for creativity and fun. Blogs can also be used to showcase creative pursuits in art, music, sport, science or any other field.
In his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Sir Ken Robinson refers to ‘the element’ as the experience of personal talent meeting personal passion. He argues that students achieve to their highest level when they are in their element. Sir Ken points out that:
“…too many people never connect with their true talents and therefore don’t know what they’re really capable of achieving. In that sense, they don’t know who they really are”.
How can we help students to be in their element? Blogging can certainly be a vehicle. A blogging program can help to foster talents and passions while driving creativity.
While some people may be quick to say that blogging and social media can inhibit social skills, I see blogging as a terrific starting point for some students. Blogging can help certain individuals to practise their skills and transfer them to the ‘offline world’. I have previously written anecdotes on how students with ASD and confidence issues developed their social skills through a blogging program.
9. Lifelong Learning:
Blogging can be an excellent meta-cognitive process and avenue for reflection. The process of creating blog posts, allows you to ‘think about what you think’ and put those thoughts into words. Through delving into my thoughts on topics, and writing about what was happening in my classroom, I often came up with new ideas and strategies to use in my teaching. Additionally, when others offer thoughts and opinions on blog posts, you can be introduced to new perspectives that drive further reflection.
Effective teaching and learning does not occur in a vacuum, and establishing a broad network of global educators is priceless. It’s hard to believe that the majority of teachers are still relying on the insights of their immediate team or school when there are billions of people out there who can broaden their horizons!
Whatever position we are in, we must take advantage of the tools we now have for connecting beyond our immediate surrounds.
10. Blogging is versatile … and free!
What is a blog? It’s anything you want it to be really. It’s like asking ‘what is a classroom?’ We all know a classroom can be indoors, outdoors, in rows, in circles, big, small or even flipped. A blog is merely a website that can be customised to meet your individual requirements.
Blogs offer you the versatility to create a unique online space to represent yourself and/or your students and community. Unlike some online tools, blogging is completely free yet the potential uses and advantages are incomparable.
If you want to see some examples of fabulous class blogs, we have compiled a list of blogs separated into grades and subject areas.
You may be convinced, but what about your school leadership team or community? This post may help you to persuade them that it would be doing your students a disservice to not expose them to all the advantages that blogging offers.
Be sure to share this infographic summary of this post too!
What are some other reasons why educators should start blogging? What advantages to blogging have you uncovered?
Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!