Why might blogging be good for children?
There seem some obvious reasons for using blogs in the classroom or at home:
1. The Internet is an important form of technology that this generation needs to understand and learn to use for varied purposes. Just as we seek to introduce children to varied purposes for literacy and different texts and genres, we need to encourage them to explore the many applications of the Internet for communication and learning.
2. Each application that we experience on the Internet requires a range of web-based generic skills as well as some that are unique to the application.
3. Children need to experience web applications like blogs as creators. Just as we want children to use written narrative forms like literature as readers and writers, so too we want them to explore some web applications as creators not just users or consumers.
4. The act of writing a blog post can lead to significant research and related learning. For example, it is an excellent way to develop web comprehension and research skills.
5. Blogs offer authentic readers and audiences for children. So much classroom writing is simply for the teacher 'as examiner', but blogs offer 'real' readers who will respond as learners and fellow writers. This is powerful.
6. Blogs can offer a means for children of many nationalities to communicate and share their ideas across the globe.
7. Blogging can offer a wonderful means for children to practice a second language.
8. Using blogs as creators as well as consumers highlights the need for children to consider issues such as truth and fiction, privacy, copyright and so on.
a) Showcase blogs
One of the most common ways teachers use blogs is to showcase children's work. The blog can be set up to showcase work in specific subject areas or can vary by form. For example:
- Poetry and narrative writing
- Videos (class activities, class performances, readers' theatre etc)
- Podcasts (personal stories, public speaking, family history, oral reports etc)
b) Classroom News blogs
This is a common way for teachers to blog. It can have an important role in keeping parents informed about the work that their children are doing as well as being an excellent way to showcase children's work. Here is a 4th Grade class blog in the USA (here). News blogs offer less opportunities for children to compose than other forms of blogging but has a place.
c) Literature response blogs
This application offers children a greater opportunity to respond to the writing of other students. It is simply a way to take activities online that require children to respond to literature that they have read (or which has been read to them). Often the teacher posts the first entry or task and students then respond to the book that has been read. Here's one 7th Grade blog that does some reader response (here)
d) Writing blogs
These are simply blogs that allow children to share their writing. Here is a wonderful example of how one parent set up a blog to allow her child to write his own 'Choose Your Own Adventure' story (here).
e) Mirror blogs
This blog application typically encourages students to respond to a blog entry (often written by the teacher) that invites some form of reflection or comment. For example 'Mr Crosby's 6th Grade' blog (here). The name 'Mirror blog' is simply a metaphor that relates to the fact that the sites encourage students to reflect on their learning.
f) HOT blogging
Lisa Zawilinski has an approach to blogging in class that she calls 'HOT Blogging'. While I don't find the name that helpful, the idea of using a blog to develop higher order skills is useful. It involves encouraging children to share different perspectives on a topic and exchange information with one another. The aim is to develop online comprehension and communication skills while promoting collaboration. It builds on Nancie Atwell's idea of the Dialogue Journal. She suggests a 4-step process that involves:
Step 3 - After reading the responses of classmates, students begin to summarise content, develop their ideas on the topic further etc.
Step 4 - Considering varied responses and appreciating the views expressed.
Encouraging children to explore blogging is a useful way to get them to explore the Internet while writing and reading for varied real world purposes and with authentic audiences.
Look for writing opportunities that encourage children to write for 'real' audiences.
Think of creative ways to get children writing together; for example, try using a 'never ending' story strategy with different students writing each entry to build on the previous entries.
1. Interesting article on blogging by L. Zawilinski (2009, May). 'HOT Blogging: A Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher Order Thinking. The Reading Teacher, 62,(8), 650–661 (here)
2. Reading to Learn: Using 'Text Sets' (here). In this post I talk about an approach to learning that can incorporate the use of the Internet.