Last week on Twitter, someone had asked what Web 2.0 tools were the most beneficial to classrooms. For me, there was only one answer: Blogging. What is so great about blogging, you ask? There are numerous educational benefits to blogging, both for students and teachers. In fact, the very first blog post that I wrote was about classroom blogging.
Blogging is about literacy, something as teachers we strive to impart on our students. As teachers we should also be modelling literacy so students have an example of where they should be heading.
Taking this idea further, blogging can be a way for students to demonstrate their learning by creating a product. For example, if students are learning about Japanese culture, they could create a series of blog posts demonstrating what they've learned. Within these posts could be not only text, but weblinks, images, videos, and slideshows that the students have created or found. Once the posts are published, other students, teachers and parents could then leave comments or feedback for them. The online conversation, post-publication, is where learning occurs on a larger scale. Readers have the opportunity to analyze and synthesize the information from the post and consider the viewpoints of others.
As a teacher, blogging can be used as not only an instructional tool, but also as a reflective tool. Teachers could create blog posts with their thoughts and feelings towards an idea, for example the Libya situation, and ask students to respond with their feelings. They could use a blog as a way to reflect on their teaching practice with other colleagues, by seeking their input and feedback.
Here are a number of links with ideas for utilizing blogs in your classroom:
33 Ways to Use Blogs in an Educational Setting
10 Great Ways to Use Blogs in the Classroom
Blogs in Education
Ways to use Weblogs in Education
10 Ways to Motivate Students to Blog
As for which blogging service to use, there are a number of different providers that I would recommend. First, with students I would recommend starting with edublogs.org. You can sign up as a teacher and create student accounts underneath you. It has very easy settings to change who can view and comment on your blog, depending on your comfort levels. For teachers, I would recommend using either Blogger (which this blog is created on) or Wordpress. Both of these services are fairly easy to set up and maintain, however, I believe that Wordpress is more geared towards advanced users (don't quote me on that one though).
Here is a video created by students who are sharing the reasons that they like to use blogs as an educational tool.