Global Teacher - WEB 3.0 Community and Research Project

What is a Weblog?

Blogging — or Web logging — most often is thought of as an activity for people who like to keep diaries or who want to share photos of their holiday with family. These days students of all ages are blogging on a daily basis in a variety of exciting ways?

At its core, blogging — or Web logging — is an online diary or journal. Take a look at any blog and you’ll immediately see the connection between it and a traditional diary. Often arranged in calendar format with the most recent post first, blogs contain rantings, wishes, commentary, and anything else a writer thinks about - often with graphics and audio and video elements.

Many teachers are anxious about taking their students online. There is no need to be concerned! It’s not dangerous if you set in place some basic rules; in fact, it might be just what you need to get your students “re-interested” in journaling or writing!

Blogs (short for “Web logs”) are web-based diaries or journals — online thinking spaces where students can write their thoughts. A blog can be a private space or a place where readers can respond in a bounce-and-catch style of communication.

In Writing With Web Logs authors Glen and Gina Bull herald blogs as having “the potential to reinvent how we work with journals in classrooms, challenging teachers and students to think about writing in authentic ways. “However, blogs have far more potential than this. As David Warlick points out on his Web site, the blog has evolved rapidly into something more:

1: A blog is a Web Publishing concept that enables anyone - first graders, political pundits, homeless people, high school principals, presidential candidates - to publish information on the internet.

2: Blogs ( a shortening of weB LOG), or blogging has become a journalistic tool, a way to publish news, ideas, rants, announcements and ponderings very quickly and without technical, editorial and time constraints. It essentially makes anyone a columnist. In fact, many established columnists now publish their own blogs.

3: Blogs, because of their ease of use, and because of the context of news and editorial column writing, have now become a highly effective way to help students become writers. Research has long shown that students write more, write in greater detail and take care with spelling, grammar, and punctuation, when they are going to an authentic audience over the Internet.

BLOGGING IN ACTION

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Blogging: One Teacher’s Experience

To learn more about the blogging experience and its potential to engage students of all ages make sure to read Zen and the Art of Team Blogging by Heather Blakey. In this article Blakey provides testimonials from participants that highlight what a powerful medium blogging can be.

Educators know that students write better when they have a real audience — not just a teacher with a red pen. In the past, finding such an audience was a challenge. But with Internet access and some basic software, any student can write for the world to see. Although blogging in schools is still in its infancy, anecdotal evidence suggests that students’ interest in, and quantity of, writing increases when their work is published online and — perhaps even more importantly — when it is subject to reader comments.

So, what do students blog about? In her blog entitled ‘Postcards’, storyteller, Cora Zon shares postcards that students send from the fantasy realms she encourages them to visit. Geelong teacher, Gail Casey has her students use blogs to explore digital storytelling through blogs and other digital media.

Matthew, a teacher at Melbourne High School runs a Blog - About Books. Pretty simple really. It is essentially a record of what he has been reading lately, with a few thoughts thrown in,and maybe a link or two to something interesting. Meanwhile, students at Latrobe Secondary College have packed their bags and are working in the cyber city of Cyberia.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO START BLOGGING?

Many school classes have used such Web-based programs as Blogger or LiveJournal and Edublog. Although easy to use, those tools are not specific to the education community and may not have all the safety and supervisory features a teacher, particularly a primary school teacher looks for.

Enter Global Teacher and Global Student. This community was set up by the Victorian Education Channel in conjunction with SLAV (State Library Association of Victoria) and it provides a managed environment for teachers and students to work in.

SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY

Although every K-12 student must be kept safe, the age and emerging critical skills of elementary students make ensuring their online safety paramount. You would not take your students to Amsterdam without taking special precautions and you should not visit this world without being aware of some of the inherent dangers of the seedier parts.

Rather than being frightened you simply need to be informed. People do not refuse to go to Amsterdam because of their liberal and tolerant outlook and likewise, teachers should not take an alarmist view of interaction on the net. The key is to be informed and minimize risk.

First, find out what DEECD and your school say about posting student work and names online. Often, students’ first names may be published, along with group photos, as long as there is no indication which name belongs to which student. But do check carefully before proceeding down this pathway.

Be sure to test run and navigate WordPress so that you are familiar with all the safety features provided, ensuring that you have the final say about what goes online. Features at Global Teacher/Student, enable you to edit out any identifying information (such as a student’s home address!) before it becomes public.

Blogging in the elementary grades is an exciting and doable activity. Make sure to enjoy the adventure.