It’s no secret that blogging is more than just a hobby.
For many people around the world, it’s also a career, but could it be even more than that? What about blogging in the classroom, is that an option? Could this practice benefit students across high school and college?
In a word? Absolutely.
As bloggers, we grow our knowledge and learn new things each and every day.
Blogging stretches all kinds of mental muscles, and it affords limitless opportunities to expand your knowledge. I myself have learned more about writing, SEO, web design, and HTML coding[toc]in the last few years than I have in my entire life.
It’s incredible how much potential blogging has as a tool for education, so teachers, let’s find out how to get this into your classrooms.
Here’s what we’ll discuss today:
- Ways to bring blogging into your classroom and daily lesson plans
- The litany of benefits blogging brings to education
- Deciding the purpose and goals of your blog
- Setting up your classroom’s blog
- Easy ways to promote and grow your classroom blog
Blogging + Education = A New Era
As teachers, you are always challenged with finding new innovations that make your subjects interesting and engaging for your students.
In high school and ultimately college, the complexity of these subjects reaches a climax that demands a revolution in how we teach students. Here’s more on the state of educational blogging.
At this point in their lives, hands-on experience and long-term retention of the information is critical, but you of course already know that. We’re here today to see how blogging is that answer to that age-old question. Whether you’re on board or on the fence, it’s time to see the future of education.
1. Create a Classroom-Run Blog
While it may be easy to reconcile blogging with a creative writing class or a composition class, the horizons are so much further than that. Regardless of your topic, blogging has room for it. The first part of this method is bringing the entire classroom on board with the idea.
In the first stages of the blog, you should open up a discussion among the students, allow them to suggest ideas and concepts for the blog’s broad topic. You can also divide the students into groups, assigning each of them a niche or piece of your subject be it history, math, English, or anything else.
Once the students have brought options to you, consider voting on them to see what your blog’s overall subject will be about and which groups or individuals will handle specific posts or types of content.
When it comes time to set up the blog, you can offer extra credit perhaps to students who are tech savvy and willing to volunteer on getting it up and running or publishing posts.
Check out some sample blogs here.
From here, the blog becomes an amazing tool that has no limit:
- Continue assigning posts to students (they can present them once they’re live)
- Expand and promote the blog to encourage additional guest posters and opportunities for interview posts.
- Hold contests where the best written post or posts go live.
2. Use a Blog to Communicate with Students and Parents
Who needs a school newsletter, am I right? In all seriousness, people don’t get their updates from school papers anymore. In fact, over 50 percent of Americans get their news from smart phones and still more use tablets. This means that if you want to have a field trip or a fundraiser, you need to reach out to students and parents where they are.
A blog that keeps up on the latest news and developments for your school or class is the best way to ensure these things get read. You could also go the extra mile and post reminders of upcoming due dates and tests for your students who tend to forget. As a tool for communicating and reaching your students and parents, blogging is king.
3. Start a Blog About Your Subject
While you can certainly have a blog that is run by the class as a whole, you can also start one yourself based on the subject you teach. Here you could go into more detail than you would ever have time for in the classroom. It could be a great tool for students to learn more, or a means to study for upcoming exams.
In other words, this could expand on your current subject, or act as a study tool for your students to use when they’re not in class. The possibilities here are endless, and each of them benefits you as a teacher and your students immensely.
What it comes down to is finding out how one of these, or an entirely different approach can be used in your classroom. There’s no real limit to this, so let your imagination take over.
How Does Blogging Benefit Your Students?
Now that we’ve seen some of the ways you can tailor a blog to work in your classroom and ultimately grow your power as an educator, let’s see what these kinds of changes can do for your students.
1. Freedom of Expression
Blogs are a window into the mind of the writer. People know blogging as a casual and honest affair, and that’s because it is. When your students blog, they can write in their own voice, speak their minds, and ultimately express their opinions in a welcoming environment.
When the blog goes live, suddenly your students are open to a world of people who may or may not share those same ideals. Still, this experience will connect them in significant and profound ways and teach them the confidence to speak their mind.
2. Experience They Can Take With Them
Depending on your subject, teachers have all heard the classic “when will I ever use this” line. Well, blogging teaches a number of valuable skills that will help your students succeed in their career regardless of the subject.
The ability to communicate their passion and enthusiasm while also constructing great posts and designing them with visual appealing images are all skills that will serve them well.
The sheer amount of writing, communicating, and designing that blogging will afford them is experience beyond priceless.
3. They Become Experts
It’s one thing to cram eight chapters of textbook in for an exam. That knowledge is fleeting. They don’t take anything away from that for the long-term haul, and that’s just not what education is all about. I think we can all agree there.
This is what is comes down to:
Blogging about a subject turns novices into experts.
There’s no other choice. When you write thousands upon thousands of words about something, doing research all the while, you become an expert in that subject. It’s unavoidable, and possibly the best way to learn in my opinion. Instead of having the information fed to them, students are taking it and putting it down on paper in their own words.
They live the information instead of simply seeing it. This is huge in terms of learning something for the long-term. Hands-on experience will always leave more of a lasting impression than something that is simply boiled down to a few questions on a test.
Michelle Lampinen, a high school English teacher in New Jersey wrote a great article on this here.
Now that you’ve decided to do this, it’s time to get the details in order. First of all, you’ll want to decide your blog’s topic, purpose, schedule, and layout. Let’s go through each of these.
1. Blog Topics
When speaking about a blog’s topic, we’re talking about more than just “history” or “math.” We’re talking about a unique portion of your subject that could benefit from this format. For example, say your class seems to struggle with a particular era of American History. Let’s say Colonial era for example.
Your blog could be about Colonial America and you could assign specific events, figures, or battles to students to write posts about. Suddenly the most daunting part of their curriculum is their strongest subject.
Every blog needs to have a goal or a purpose. In this case, education is the broad goal, but narrow that down and you’ll find the true pieces of the puzzle. Are you trying to target a rough area like the topic mentioned above? Perhaps you want to make your students more comfortable with providing feedback on each other’s work, something that comments on a blog could easily do.
Maybe your students have this amazing idea and they want the world to know about it. Maybe you’re trying to raise awareness or hold a fundraiser. Blogs connect you to people around the world, far beyond the classroom. Deciding on your purpose will allow you to harness that potential.
3. Scheduling Posts and Assigning Authors
One important thing to consider is how and when you will post. If you decide to let your students write the posts and you publish them yourself, then you need to establish a schedule, possibly a rotation as well, that dictates who is writing posts and when they are due to go up.
This way you’ll have a well-oiled machine on your hands that practically runs itself. Bonus points if your students are able to upload the posts themselves.
4. Layout and Design
Depending on which route you take, designing your perfect blog post could be something simple, or it could be something that allows you to get more creative. Now there’s of course some etiquette that should be observed. When writing a blog post, always include these best practices:
- Start with a solid, eye-catching headline
- Use an image towards the beginning of the post
- Break up paragraphs into 3-5 lines each
- Use numbered lists and bullet points
- Throw in a few more images
- Use headers to separate sections
- Wrap things up with a nice conclusion at the end
Starting a Blog
Starting a blog is easier than you’d think. In fact, it can be done in under ten minutes, seriously! Of course, there are options to choose from.
Normally when I write about blogging, I’m writing for people who want to make a business out of it, who want to make money and work from home.
Since this approach is different, I’ll tailor the instructions accordingly. The first thing you should know is that there are free blogs, educational blogging services, and self-hosted blogs. Don’t worry, we’re going to cover each of them in detail so you understand your options.
Now normally I would caution against starting a free blog because of their limited options and scope for the long-term. Looking at this from an educational standpoint, a free blog could be the right choice for you, at least in the beginning.
If there’s no budget from the school to support the endeavor, then this is a good way to get the idea off the ground and maybe prove to them that it’s worth investing in.
Ultimately this choice allows you to get started quickly and with no cost out of the gate. It doesn’t provide you with a ton of options, but it will do the trick. If your goal is to get the project funded by the school, allow me to recommend a game plan.
Check out WordPress.com first. Here you can make a free blog on the phenomenal WordPress platform. Not only is this the blogging platform that most of the internet uses, but if you start on their free site, you can transfer to the paid one that much easier down the road.
You’ll notice with free blogs though, the website won’t be exactly what you want. Say your doing Colonial America, your website’s name would look like www.colonialamerica.wordpress.com. It’s not impossible to remember, but it is a reminder that you don’t own the blog.
Still, this is an option for a teacher looking to get started without any initial investment.
Educational Blogging Services
Another option is to use one of the educational blog services out there. Yep, that’s right, this idea is on catching on fast. Out of the ones I saw, Edublogs was by far the most impressive in terms of features and focus on student engagement.
These types of blogs will offer a free trial of sorts. For example, the Edublogs service will allow you a small amount of storage and a few features to give their tools a shot. The lowest paid option is around $8.00 a month and offers the full suite of their features in addition to far more storage space.
The ease of use and low entry fee make this a great option if you have a little funding and you want to use something that won’t throw HTML coding at you or complicating processes. It also has a lot of features that put power in the hands of the students, making it a unique and focused tool.
Treehouse is a great resource to learn HTML coding for free.
This is where we get to the nitty gritty. I find that among the three options, this one is the most flexible and viable for the long term. Free blogs give you a quick, no cost start up and educational blogging services provide you with the framework to make your blog about the students and education without any work on your part.
Then we come to self-hosting which is the blank canvas of blogging. This option puts everything in your hands. From the layout, to the design, to the post content, to the tools it has. This option can be daunting in theory, but in practice, it’s just as easy as any other option on this list.
Let’s say you can secure some funding and you want to build a blog that will sit immortal upon the halls of the internet. This is the way to do it, the way to own a website through and through and control every aspect of it. If you the concept of coding scares you, don’t fret. If you use WordPress to power your blog, it will be like working in Microsoft Word, only with a few more options.
If you decide to go this route, remember that OnBlastBlog has countless resources to help you through the simple and easy process of setting it up. You can choose any of these options and succeed, but this one is the most expansive of the three by a long shot. You have your own URL website name, and total control of everything on the blog and it’s blogging tools.
Now that you’ve set up your blog, it’s time to talk about spreading the word. Just because your blog is educational and in a classroom setting, that doesn’t mean you can’t show the world what you’re doing in your field.
For more resources on educational blogging, check out educause.edu.
While the purpose of your blog may be educational, that doesn’t mean you can’t get noticed.
What if your blog idea could benefit other students around the world? Surely you would want them to see it so they could reap the benefits as well, right?
Here are some quick and easy ways to promote your blog. Whether it’s to spread the word or you want students to see new posts, these methods will make that happen:
The big one here. Facebook is where your students are, so meet them in a familiar place by making a page specifically for the new blog. Invite them to like it, and post updates when new posts go live on the blog. Encourage comments on both the page and on the blog for additional engagement.
Whether it’s to present a new post, or a reminder of an upcoming test, a Twitter profile for the blog will allow you to make those quick announcements at a moment’s notice.
While not a prevalent as Facebook, Google+ is a great way to connect your blog with other teachers and educators. Through a tool like this, you could even bring in guest authors to post on the blog, thereby increasing the educational potential of it.
By now you’ve seen how blogging in the classroom is the future of enriching education and ultimately giving your students the best possible method to learn. Regardless of which approach you take, remember to promote the blog and ensure that it’s used to the fullest potential.
Before we part ways, I want to offer a few final tips for you that will help grow your blog and allow it to reach the fullest potential it can:
1. Link to Your Sources
When discussing a topic, or having your students write about it, encourage them to link out to their sources. Not only does this encourage them to give credit to their sources, but it also provides additional information for other readers to expand their knowledge of the subject.
Doing this is simple. You simply highlight a relevant word or phrase and click the “hyperlink” button. Paste the web address and tick the box for it to open in a separate tab. This way, when someone clicks on it, it doesn’t pull them away from your site, but it allows them to see more information.
2. Keep Track of Your Visitors
You’ll want to make sure that students are actually visiting the blog when they say they are. To ensure this, you can use a tracking program to see how many visits you get on each post. Something like Google Analytics would work perfect. You could also require comments from each student on other student’s posts for full credit.
This will also allow you to see if you’re getting visitors from other places as well, giving you the ability to measure you blog’s growth. Whether you use the aforementioned tool, or something different, it’s always nice to know who is visiting your sight and where they came from.
I think that about covers it ladies and gentlemen. There are countless subjects and tactics you can use on a blog, but the bottom line is that they are a perfect tool for education. Blogging in the classroom is the future, plain and simple.
Have you tried using blogs in the classroom? What educational benefits do you think they have? Share you thoughts and experiences in the comments below!