The use of Weblogs to share personal thoughts and opinions over the Internet is capturing the interest of students across the world. But because content can be irreverent and even offensive, administrators are justifiably wary about using blogs in school. With the right guidance, Weblogs can be one of the greatest online communications vehicles in K-12 education.
For example, consider the success of The Write Weblog, an online journal-writing project with a group of students in the J. H. House Elementary School in Georgia's Rockdale County Public Schools. After this experiment became a hit, teachers and administrators started their own blogs. Consultant Anne Davis--who publishes the EduBlog Insights site--worked initially with 14 "Blooming Bloggers" to use the online diaries for self-expression, to develop insights into the qualities of good writing, and to compile tips to transform student essays into "masterpieces."
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Users could enhance their blogs with graphics, photos and links to other resources. And, since readers could add comments to the dated entries, writers got instant feedback.
In addition to student Weblogs, several JHH teachers established class blogs--such as "McCuller's Weblog" about activities in a third-grade classroom--and administrators devised blogs for school communications. In reflecting on the past year, principal Joyce Hooper says, "One of the highs has definitely been my experience with blogging."
Other school examples include the Green Meadow Elementary School in Wisconsin's Oshkosh Area School District, that set up Weblogs for each grade level linked to the district Web site. Also, the collaborative School Technology Leadership Blog was established to follow breaking developments in technology. Similarly, Will Richardson, supervisor of instructional technology and communication at New Jersey's Hunterdon Central Regional High School, launched the successful Weblogg-ed to share reflections and discussions on using Weblog-related technologies in schools.
The Exploding Blogosphere
The use of Weblogs is now exploding; blogs are being used in corporations, government, the media and among private citizens, so students also need to understand their importance as information sources. Technorati.com, a search engine that monitors the blogosphere, tracked more than 15.9 million Weblogs last August, and found that the number had doubled in six months. Approximately 80,000 blogs are created worldwide each day, which translates to a new blog every second. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found further that blog readership now exceeds 27 percent of all Internet users, and 12 percent of users have posted comments. Weblogs are key components of the online culture for insights and opinion on almost any conceivable topic, as blog directories such as Bloogz.com and Technorati confirm.
Blogs are becoming universal thanks to powerful new software that simplifies online publishing for individuals who know little about computers. These tools range from fee-based services such as Manila, Moveable Type and TypePad, to free options including Blogger.com and LiveJournal.com. Weblog technologies allow millions of people to share ideas, and millions more to add additional thoughts, which makes blogs more like conversations than libraries. As a result, the grassroots power of reading, writing and commenting on blogs shifts the use of the Web profoundly, from users being passive consumers of information to becoming active participants.
Odvard Egil Dyrli, firstname.lastname@example.org, is senior editor and emeritus professor of education at the University of Conn.