By Megan Ray Nichols
In many cases, school-aged children are actually more connected than their adult counterparts, chatting on social media and reading blog posts instead of news articles.
Educators can use this to their advantage by creating and implementing a blog as part of the classroom curriculum.
The benefits of blogging in the classroom are many. Not only can you make learning more relatable, allowing students to show what they know using a format they’re familiar with, but blog assignments allow students to learn a variety of new digital skills.
Use these steps to start your first classroom blogging experience.
Step 1 – Get Started
Setting up a blog for your classroom is easier than you might think. The first step is to choose a platform—we’ll discuss some of the best places to set up your classroom blog later in this piece.
Once you’ve picked your platform, the task becomes choosing how you’re going to manage the blog’s content. Are you:
- Setting up a blog where your students can discuss current classroom topics or assignments?
- Creating a platform where your students can post their own work?
- Make a place for your students to keep track of the assignments for a given day, week or month?
Whatever your goals, having an idea of what you want to do makes it easier to set everything up the right way the first time.
Next, it’s time to choose a theme. Many blogging platforms, like WordPress, provide you with a variety of themes that you can choose from for no additional charge, and they are infinitely customizable.
With these details out of the way, it’s time to share the new blog with your students and open the forum for discussion. This is also a good time to discuss what will be posted on the blog and how the posting schedule will be handled.
If you’re not tech savvy, don’t worry—take advantage of your students’ skills and offer extra credit to a team of students who can set up and/or maintain the blog.
Step 2 – Set a Schedule
Setting a schedule for when posts will be uploaded and when they’re due sounds like a stressful task. With Google Calendar, however, this process is seamless.
Simply set up events and calendars and share with specific individuals or make it available for all students to see.
If you use Google Classroom, the new Google Calendar integration will make the scheduling even easier. Be sure to include the names of students’ who have tasks to complete and set up reminders so students are alerted as the due date gets closer.
Step 3 – Create Ground Rules
Setting up ground rules for your blog is a great way to make sure your blog is productive, eliminating gossip or inappropriate use from the beginning. Some possible rules might include:
- No profanity in posts.
- All topics are up for discussion—there’s no reason to shy away from hot-button topics, especially if they’re related to current events. It’s a great way to spark discussion and debate, both in the comments and in the classroom.
- Always make your comments constructive, even if it’s constrictive criticism.
You can always change or update the rules as the blog evolves in your classroom.
Step 4 – Content
Now it’s time for the most important part of blogging—your content.
The easiest way to get started with content creation for a classroom-based blog is to publish a few posts about your blog and what it’s for. Use a variety of styles, media and embedding options in these posts so they can be used as templates for students to replicate.
With the introductory posts published, it’s time to transfer the creative control over to your students.
You can use the blog for just about anything, from labs to class discussions and everything in between.
Use these 50 creative blog writing prompts to get your students thinking.
Step 5 – Grading
The best use of blogging in the classroom happens when it’s incorporated into your cucurriculum. If you only have one student posting every week, then commenting on that post or providing some constrictive criticism either in text or in the classroom should be considered as part of the assignment.
If everyone is posting once a week, encourage peer feedback by requiring students to constructively comment on at least three blog posts a week.
However you use or grade your blog, it should be used as a way to elevate your students, encourage collaboration and teach 21st century skills.
Best Blogging Platforms
Here are some of the best blogging platforms for educators and students alike.
WordPress: WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms for everyone, not just educators. Benefits include:
- You don’t have to buy a domain name, simply create a blog name and it will be paired with .wordpress.com. For example: MrsRingsClass.WordPress.com.
- The platform has hundreds of free themes, customizable tools, and ways to incorporate other programs like Google Calendar, videos, pictures and social media.
Edublogs: Edublogs is a great education-based blogging platform that uses many of the same tools that WordPress provides, including a free platform. Unfortunately, its free platform only provides 100 MB of storage space, which will quickly run out with frequent posting.
The Pro version costs $39.95 per year, but Edublogs does offer a WordPress-based network that schools and universities can take advantage of.
Kidblog: Kidblog is one of the safest and most secure blogging platforms for kids and students. For $36 per year, this platform offers similar features as the two previously mentioned, in addition to added security and management features that most educators would find helpful.
Creating a blog may seem a bit intimidating, especially if you aren’t tech savvy. Don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of this 21st century learning tool—it’s a smart way to help foster your students’ creativity while using the technology that we take for granted every single day.