Using Blogs to Enhance Middle School and High School Education

7/1/2008 5:00:00 AM

from Educators' eZine

Recently, blogging has become a popular form of communication. Blogs have always intrigued me, but I never got around to actually having one—until this semester. Basically, a "blog" is a website where an individual writes entries in a chronological order, which are displayed in reverse chronological order. The term "blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to add content to a blog.

Blogs have a variety of uses and objectives. They can provide commentary on a specific subject or serve as a personal, online journal. Most blogs combine text, images, and links to other blogs, websites, and related media. Moreover, blogs provide their readers with the capacity to leave comments and remarks. Since many college students already have a personal blog (or some form of online journal program) and are familiar with this form of communication, I decided to use this interest to promote reading and writing in my education courses.

Using Blogs to Train Preservice Middle School and High School Teachers

In my Se370: Improvement of Reading in the Secondary School course, I require each student to create and write in an educational blog. This blog focuses on a specific educational topic, which is of interest to him and the specific area in which he plans to teach. This blog assignment is meant to serve as a model for what preservice educators could use in their future middle school or high school classrooms.

Please take a look at our class blog: http://professorluongo.blogspot.com

Each student blogger is required to blog at least two times a week. Each posting is supposed to be two to three paragraphs and contain references to educational journals or readings. Moreover, I encourage my students to review and share educational websites, educational blogs, and newspaper articles. Additionally, the student is required to respond to at least one other classmate's blog each week.

Use of Blogs in Middle School and High School

In addition, I use the educational blog to start a discussion of how blogs can be used in other educational settings such as the middle school and high school.

During this discussion, we examined and used the information at this site Support Blogging!

During class and on the blog, we discuss how high school students can use blogs to discuss various topics without the pressure of speaking in class. High school and middle school blogging can be used to delve into topics on a deeper level. Most high school and middle school teachers have limited time with their students. Let's face it—how often can each student actually speak in class? Not too often. Therefore, the blog provides these students with an outlet to discuss class topics as well as add questions to the group or teacher. The blog can also be used to promote research.

Educators may also use a blog to provide information to students, parents, community members, administration, or other teachers. The blog may include daily homework assignments, notices, or examination study sheets. Furthermore, it can be a living document of what is happening in the classroom. It may become a daily activity for one student to blog while the class is in session. It can provide support for absent students or teachers or parents who want to know what is occurring in the class.

Teachers can use blogs for pre-class preparation and dialogue generation. If a teacher posts a blog on a certain day (let's say every Friday afternoon), the students will know that they are required to post to this blog by a certain time (let's say Monday's class session). Since the teacher has access to these blogs and can pre-read the information, the teachers can modify the lesson to meet the needs and interests of the blogging students. This practice gives teachers the ability to point out particular views without putting pressure on the students to think of ideas spontaneously. A teacher can state, "Just as Josh said in his blog..." Using this technique occasionally allows students to see that their teachers are taking not of their opinions and reading what they wrote. Additionally, a blog can be an effective way to introduce students to new material as well as review materials that are no longer being discussed in class.

The Reality of Blogging

Furthermore, I discuss the possibilities and realities of blogging with the class. I remind the students that the blog is public and anyone can see it. These individuals include faculty, friends, family members, and potential future employers. I encourage them to use spell check and appropriate punctuation. Overall, I urge them to develop a comfortable, ongoing, blog-writing style, which can be conversational, informed, and willing to share expertise. Also, it can include questions they have of the class or the professor.

Many educators, parents, and administrators fear the safety of online communication. There are special programs that allow teacher control as well as filtering on the blog posts and comments. Often, blogs are created to be private and allow feedback only from classmates or specified individuals. Our class discusses how to promote safe blogging by suggesting that public student blogs are completed under nicknames and do not include any personal information or photos. Teachers must understand hat successful student blogging.

Conclusion

The beginning of my blogging life has been a positive one. I have found out many interesting tidbits about my students. I have also heard their concerns and worries over Praxis issues and classroom management. These bloggers have a new voice. They are heard and read everyday by an instructor who hopes she is teaching them how to use this useful and productive communication tool.

Here is another excellent resource entitled Blogs in Education.

Email: Nicole Luongo, Ed.D.

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