A Tale of Two Blogs – The Benefits of having an Open Blog

I was recently asked what are the benefits of blogging and found myself having so many wonderful things to say about it.

Blogging is a fantastic learning tool and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of utilising an open blog in the classroom and will compare it to the private/closed blog I initially used.

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Photo credit:  via dreamstime.com

The main benefits of the open blog (comments are moderated by me and there are guidelines based on this) are:

  • Students’ literacy skills improve. They learn how to answer questions posed in the blog and by other people, respond to others in a respectful manner, pose their own questions and navigate around the features of an internet website.  They have also become more adept at typing and some students know how to copy and paste their typed comments in the event it is not sent.  At the start of the year, I wrote most of the blog posts and replied to most of the comments. Now my students can comfortably reply to anyone who writes on the blog and I provide less support.
  • Students are engaged.  Students love seeing their work and that of their peers. They love being able to read and respond to events and things that they have been a part of. I provide class time for my students to write comments, but more than half of my students also voluntarily respond to the blog at home.
  • There is an authentic audience. Often the only people who read student work is the teacher and themselves.  Using this blog, students are creating work and writing comments for a real audience. Using widgets like ClustrMaps shows students that people around the world are looking at their work. Siblings, parents, parents from other classes and other teachers in the school have viewed the blog and some have even commented.
  • It is used as a vehicle to teach internet safety. The blog is a great way to teach cyber safety and the importance of being safe online.  My students know that anything we write on the internet can be seen by the whole world and as a result, we must be very careful about what we choose to include. They know that surnames, addresses, email addresses and specific details are not things they should publicise.
  • It can be linked to all areas of the curriculum. The fantastic thing about having a blog is that it can be used to share student work, reflect on a specific unit in maths, reflect on our learning, share school excursions, and so on. The possibilities are endless!
When I used a closed/private blog last year, this is what I found:
  • Students were not engaged. When I asked students if they wanted to write a comment, the majority of my students were not interested. This could be due to the fact no work or photos were displayed so there was little they could relate to.
  • There was no authentic audience. As it was private, it meant the students could not access it at home to show their parents. Other teachers within the school could not comment and people from around the world were not able to view it.
  • It could not be used as a vehicle to teach internet safety. As it was closed, I could not say to my students “We need to be careful about what we write on the internet because anyone can see this.”
  • The failure of the closed blog almost made me give up the idea of having a class blog, but after seeing some amazing open classroom blogs, I decided to persevere. And I am glad I did!
Before starting my classroom blog here I had no experience with blogging and had never attended any PDs. What I found most useful was looking at fantastic classroom blogs like this and simply googling anything I didn’t know. For example, I wanted to insert a page and didn’t know how so I simply googled “how to insert a page on edublog.”
There is still so much more about blogging that I would love to learn!
What are your experiences of using a class room blog? 

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