What might blog use look like in the classroom?

While conducting research, most of what I came across was either (a) designed for higher-level education or (b) designed similarly to a classroom website to share projects.

However, I was able to find a study conducted by Manfra and Lee (2012). Their study examined a high school history classroom utilizing blogging as a constructivist teaching method. The study looked at authentic instruction from the premise posed by Newmann, King, and Carmichael (2007). Authentic instruction is characterized by, “higher order thinking, deep knowledge, substantive conversation, and connections to the world beyond the classroom” (as cited in Manfra and Lee, 2012, p. 121). Sound like anything we have been talking about?

The study involved two classes that provided readings to students via the class blog. Students were given assignments related to these readings that they were to post on the blog. The assignments may or may not have included responding to blog post comments of other students. In this way, the class blog became very interactive.

Manfra and Lee (2012) found several advantages to using the blog:

  • Integration of several types of sources including primary sources, secondary sources, political cartoons, letters, artwork, photographs, sound recordings, video recordings, text excerpts, and interactive websites (p. 122)
  • Students gave better comments when focusing on a single source and when provided with a “hard scaffold” (such as a specific question or prompt) (p. 123)
  • Students were more successful when they were able to make connections between content and personal interest or prior knowledge (p. 125)-sound like anything we have been talking about?
  • Blogging provided affordances not typically found in the classroom setting, including new ways to interact with text and self-directed learning (p. 127)
  • Students liked the indirect nature of contributing via blog post comments, which was less intimidating than speaking in class. This allowed students a “safer avenue” for class participation. (p. 127)
    • Stevens and Brown (2011) confirm this finding as applied to higher-education. They write, “using a discussion board, students were more honest in their conversations and willing to share researched information” (p. 33).
  • The social nature of the blog encouraged “student collaboration and construction of new knowledge” (p. 128)
  • Some students found the blog readings easier than traditional readings (p. 128)
  • Students could participate in the blog at their own pace (p. 128)

The disadvantages found by using the blog seemed to be issues that would occur in any classroom environment. These included limits in student’s literacy skills and historical knowledge as well as student understanding in how to effectively communicate via the blogging tool. It is important to learn from this that students will need effective scaffolding and teaching on how to use the blogging tool in order to get the best results. And of course, not all students liked the blogging format (you’re never going to get them all!).

Blogging doesn’t have to be the main focus of instruction as in the above example. This could be a homework supplement, a unit project, a form of alternative of summative assessment, students could be asked to contribute blog posts instead of writing papers….the possibilities for instruction are endless.

Powell, Jacob, and Chapman (2011) found other benefits to using blogs for learning. These included:

  • Tapping into skills that students already use outside of class
  • Regularly writing blog posts increased writing fluency
  • Feedback on the blog encouraged better writing (sounds like Brozo & Simpson’s (2007) finding that students are more engaged in editing when they know they will have an audience)
  • “Microblogging” required students to be precise with thoughts and ideas, an important skill for future doctors

Smartblogs.com (2012) suggests blogs could be used to maintain connections between school and home. Blogs can also be used to enlist parents as “virtual volunteers.” Parents can respond to blog comments or contribute to conversation from home and when it is convenient for them-what a great way to involve the busy working parent who want to help!

Linda Yollis (smartblogs.com, 2012) uses her classroom blog with her third graders. She suggests that the blog helps to “develop quality literacy skills” by providing a “global audience” (p. 7). Student comments are proofread by adults before being published. (Book) She also suggests that by utilizing the blog, she encourages (but does not require) learning to be extended to home. Her blog also helps her third graders “learn to be a citizen of the Internet”-what an essential 21st century skill?

Balsley (2012) compiled her reasons for starting a blog. She says starting a blog reignited her passion for teaching. Among the reasons she tells others to start a blog include: gets you excited and inspired, builds connections to parents and other educators, holds you accountable, and provides professional documentation, much like an online teaching portfolio.

What other applications can you think of for blogs and teachers?

Works Cited:

Balsley, J. (2012, June). 10 good reasons to start a blog. Arts and Activities, 14. 

Brozo, W. & Simpson, M. (2007). Content literacy for today’s adolescents: Honoring diversity and building competence. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Manfra, M. & Lee, J. (2012). “You have to know the past to (blog) the present:” Using an educational blog to engage students in u.s. history. Computers in the Schools, 29, 118-134.

Powell, D., Jacob, C., & Chapman, B. (2011). Using blogs and new media in academic practice: Potential roles in research, teaching, learning, and extension. Innovative Higher Education, 37, 271-282.

Smartblogs.com (2012, August 8). Blogging helps students learn key literacy skills and more. Curriculum Review, 7. 

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