Thursday, April 30, 2020

Children as Bloggers: How Class Blogs Can Promote Literacy, Learning & Thinking

As an educator, I've been blogging for almost 15 years and have written a number of blogs for varied purposes. But how might we make better use of blogging with children? I wrote about this topic ten years ago! I thought maybe it's time to return to the topic. Many teachers have experimented with blogging for children as have some parents. But could we make better use of the Blogosphere? In this post I thought I'd outline a few basic ways in which children could become bloggers, and why it's worth considering.

Why might blogging be good for children?

There seem some obvious reasons for using blogs in the classroom or at home:

1. Encouraging children to explore new internet applications for communication and learning is important.

2. Children need to experience web applications like blogs as creators, not just as consumers. Just as we want children to use written narrative forms like literature as readers and writers, so too we want them to explore web applications as creators not just users or consumers.

3. 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.

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. Skills like checking your sources, not plagiarising content engaging readers etc.

5. Blogs also 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 around 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.

How can teachers and parents use blogging to promote learning?

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. Here's a blog just about poetry blogs.
  • Units of work. Here's one for a 5 year old 'Prep' class based on a 'Kindness' unit (The term 'Prep' class is used in some Australian states)
  • Drawings and art units (here)
  • Videos (class activities, class performances, readers' theatre etc)
  • Podcasts (personal stories, public speaking, family history, oral reports etc)
Kathleen Morris tells how she got into showcase blogs for her students (here) as well as how colleagues have used them.

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. I love Kath Murdoch's children's response blog (here).  

d) Writing blogs

These are simply blogs that allow children to share their writing. Here is a wonderful site that shows you how to help children to write their own 'Choose Your Own Adventure' story (here).

d) Science blogs

Using blogs to share ideas on science or activities for science is also a great way to give children a chance to read and write scientific texts. Here's a great example 'Science Fix'.

e) STEM blogs

Sites that offer opportunities to share the outcomes of Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) projects and ideas are another great application of blogging for children. Here's a great one called 'Learning is Messy'.

Summing Up

Encouraging children to explore blogging is a useful way to get them to use technology to share and promote writing and reading for varied real world purposes and with authentic audiences. As well, it encourages children to write for 'real' audiences.

The above should not be seen as the only options, try to be creative with blogs. Once you are familiar with the various options for setting up a blog, play around with your site and think creatively about how you might use this powerful technology application to stimulate children to read, respond, write, reflect and learn.

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