What is a blog?
“A blog (an abridgment of the term web log) is a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. [...] The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs.” (Wikipedia)
Traditionally blogs provide commentary on a particular subject, or they are a more personal online diary, but they are increasingly being used for educational purposes – both by educators and their students. You can upload video, images, audio and documents to blogs.
Why should I blog?
A blog is an excellent way of communicating with your students, and because a blog can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection, it means parents can also see what their children have been working on. The main advantage of a blog is that you create an audience for their work – if pupils know that their story/poem/news item can be seen by anyone in the world, then they will make sure it is the best piece of work possible. In addition, it means they receive feedback by people outside the school – so a project on a particular country may be read and commented upon by someone from that country. If you don’t wish the blog to be public, you can make posts password protected. The facility to leave comments on posts is a way of encouraging peer review (these comments can be moderated to ensure there is no misuse).
Students who are reluctant writers in class, may find they can express themselves much better through a blog, with written text, but also through images and audio.
What should I blog?
You could create a class blog where you post homework assignments, news items and examples of work. Other ideas are Creative Writing blogs for individual students, where other pupils use the comments feature to provide peer review, and field trip/foreign exchange blogs.
You can see some examples below:
http://www.nodehillfrench.typepad.com/ – French department blog.
http://www.sandaigprimary.co.uk/ – Has links on the righthand side to all the Sandaig school blogs (poets corner, eco schools committee etc.)
http://mgsonline.blogs.com/ – Musselburgh Grammar School trip to France.
How do I get started?
1. First choose your blog provider. Here are some of the most popular:
WordPress – This is what the CLC uses. It comes with 3 Gigabytes of storage, but to upload audio or video files you need to upgrade.
Blogger – Simple, free, good-looking blogs, but currently blocked by YHGfL.
Edublogs – Blogs specifically for educators. You can upload audio and video, but you may need to pay for a space upgrade if you are using a lot of media (it comes with 20MB for free).
2. Sign up for an account – generally your Username becomes part of the URL (web address) for your blog, so think about one relevant to the subject you’ll be covering.
3. Choose a Theme (what the blog looks like/colour scheme).
4. Start posting. This is as simple as if you were writing a Word document – you can change font colours, add hyperlinks and images etc. very easily. Posts can be saved as Drafts, i.e. a work in progress, or Published, which means it will be viewable online. You can edit or delete a published post if you need to change anything.
5. Decide if you want students to be able to post items. If so, either use a generic login that everyone uses, or get each student to create their own login and invite them as users to the blog. A generic login is easier, but means if anyone posts anything inappropriate, you can’t identify them.
6. Educate your students about Internet safety and etiquette. Only use first names or nicknames on the blog and ensure no other personal information is posted that can identify the young person (unless you password protect the post). Ensure that comments are constructive and won’t cause offence. You can choose to approve all comments before they are published.
7. You and your students can subscribe to the blog, using a tool such as Google Reader. This means you can be kept up to date on new posts. This is most useful if you have a number of blogs to keep an eye on. See here for a Getting Started guide to Google Reader.
- The Edublogger – Tips, tricks, ideas and help with using Web 2.0 technologies and Edublogs. Has some good examples of how other educators are using Edublogs.
- How to start your own blog – Video on the blog of a MFL teacher in Nottingham.
- WordPress Tutorial – This is a video on You Tube (so probably only accessible at home) with step by step instructions on how to set up a WordPress blog.