With some of the projects we've got going on here at TBG, I've been thinking a lot about who should blog and how certain parties should open their blog to comments. When a friend of mine approached me asking for help setting up a classroom blog for a summer class he will be teaching, I thought it was a great idea. It got me thinking: should teachers blog? And, if so, how should they blog? I think that blogs could be a great addition to just about any classroom in any grade level–from first grade through university. There are a variety of ways blogs can help teachers reach their students and effectively communicate subject materials:

  • Use the blog to foster discussion about issues. I could see this being a great tool in classes like literature, politics, or even social studies, which are heavily based on discussion. We all know by now that blogs create conversations online. Why not build conversations between teachers and students?
  • Use blogs to teach tech. This is sort of a no-brainer, but worth pointing out nonetheless. On Kathy Cassidy's blog, she has introduced her students to all kinds of new media, including wikis, flickr, skype and webcams, and podcasts. Similarly, Mrs. Myrmel's Class Blog produces periodic podcasts that feature the children reading a variety of materials, including jokes and poems, in a format resembling a newscast. I really can't think of a better way to introduce kids to new technology than getting them involved through the classroom, and there are endless possibilities for projects using different types of technology. While the blogs of Mrs. Myrmel and Kathy Cassidy are for classes of young children, I think these techniques could apply to students of any age.As an example, I had a professor last year at AU who focused his class around creating a database of case studies on environmental conflict issues. He took a class full of students who had never built anything online and transformed them into website creators. Were we great at web design at the end of class? Far from it. But we did get a great introduction to what goes into building a website, using HTML, and what it means to be part of an online network. (My project is here–don't laugh too hard.)
  • Use blogs to teach things other than tech. Kathy Cassidy, a teacher from Canada, has a fantastic classroom blog set up for her first and second grade students. She uses the blog to give her students extra reading and writing practice, allowing them to blog on their own, and allowing others to comment on the student blogs.
  • Use blogs to connect with parents. Involving parents in their children's education can be difficult, and I think blogs can really help simplify this process. Teachers can publish students' work online, and parents can comment on their children's blogs, giving them messages of encouragement and providing them with a mechanism to check in on how their kids are doing.

If nothing else, I think using classroom blogs is a great way to get kids involved and interested in their work, and can serve to reinforce what teachers are trying to express in the classroom. A huge part of learning is allowing kids to explore, and the Internet can be a powerful tool to facilitate this exploration. The New York Times published a great article about classroom blogging a couple of years ago, when blogging first started taking off in schools. Definitely worth skimming if you're interested in this subject. The Deseret News also has a great (and more recent) article on the same subject. Technology Evangelist also makes some great points about teacher blogs. While recognizing that teacher blogs, particularly in high school and middle school, could be a target for vandalism or abuse, the benefits of teacher and classroom blogs probably outweigh the possible risks. I really like his point that "Teachers are People"–do the private lives of teachers really need to be tightly guarded secrets? Probably not. It might actually help kids if they realize that their teachers are actual adults that do real adult things when they're not in the classroom. Another interesting tidbit I came across when researching this post: The Edublog Awards: Recognizes great work in the realm of education blogging. Anyway, I guess the point here is that while classroom blogging might be a bit unconventional, it can be a great tool for teachers trying to teach tech or any other subject. Instead of avoiding blogs because of their informal nature, teachers should embrace new technologies and leverage them to enhance students' learning experiences. As explained in a picture of one of Kathy Cassidy's students, there are a variety of ways to communicate, many of which our parents did not have access to. Learning is a multidimensional process and comes in many forms.