Monday, October 03, 2005

Using Blogs to Support Literacy

A blog is a web-based journal, log or diary that first appeared around 1999. Since then the number of blogs have multiplied. Technorati recently reported that they are “now indexing over 16 million blogs, with about 100,000 new blogs created every day.”

Blogs usually have only one author although sometimes, as in the case of a collaborative blog, there may be more than one. An author will generally write about what they are doing, an opinion about something or a reaction to something. It is not uncommon to see postings that reference or discuss another person’s blog. Blogs are also in reverse chronological order. At the top of the page is the most recent posting with the older ones following. Postings are dated as to when they were posted.

Blogs are public and lasting. Anything written in them can be read by anyone who finds them. They can be searched for by using Technorati or Google’s new blog search engine. Once you find a blog you like, you can continue to follow it by subscribing to its RSS feed. This will make it possible for you to follow it in a newsreader or aggregator such as Bloglines.

Blogs are becoming very popular in schools, because you don’t need to be a web designer to create them and they are free. Schools can use online software such as Blogger, or install “free for educational use” software on their own servers. Blog editing software uses a WYSIWYG (what you see if what you get) editor to type in your content. Blog entries can consist of text, links to internet sources or podcasts, photos and /or videos. Use of video allows signing students to post in their native language.

Administrators are using them to keep parents informed about school events. Teachers use them to post homework assignments, handouts from class and class news.

Blogs and Literacy
Blogs are also being used for literacy, both reading and writing. Teachers are encouraging student writing through two features of blogging-posting and commenting. By posting to a blog, a student’s work is essentially published for the public to read. It gives students the feeling that what they write is important and that their opinions can be heard. Through the comment feature the public is able to comment on student posts and students are able to comment on each other’s.

Teachers can encourage student reading by assigning news articles for them to read and comment on, by having students read and comment on each other’s blogs and by posting teacher blog entries written on the reading level of their students.

Class blogs are another popular use of blogs. In addition to posting class news, assignments etc. teachers also use blogs for class discussions, student collaboration and to post student work. Parents are able to read what is happening in the class and then comment on entries their child or the other students post (click on the comment link at the end of one of the postings that this links to and you can see parent comments.) uses a collaboration blog in their O.R.E.O. project. Participating classes use a specific style of Oreo cookies to measure different objects. They then post 5 of their results to the project blog and read postings from other classes.

Last year, Team 6/7/8 at Kendall Demonstration School used a blog to communicate with Sgt. Earl (Jay) Beatty in Iraq and his wife in the U.S. It helped to make the war more real for them. His tour of duty ended in May and when he returned Jay, his wife and son visited the school to meet the students.

We as adults are falling behind the students in our technology awareness. Although they may not necessarily know the word blog (my daughter didn't) a large number of teenagers and/or thier friends now Xanga. (My daughter tried it for a week and quit but does follow her friends blogs.) We need to start to take advantage of something that students enjoy and use it for education.

Resources to Check Out
Weblogs for Use with ESL Classes

Blogging and RSS-The "What's It?" and "How To" of Powerful New Web Tools for Educators by Will Richardson

Blogs and Blogging: A Homerun for Teaching, Learning, and Technology - a mini-course about blogging

New Kids on the Blog-an article in NEA Today October 2005 issue.

Clerc Center Blogs-list of blogs and additional ideas for using them

Blogging Software
Blogger-online software

Blogmeister-online software

Kidzlog-download and install on your computer or server. Very kid friendly. Charge

Wordpress-download and install on your computer or server.

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