There’s a very interesting article on blogs in the classroom on the New York Times website (free registration required) about the growing trend of teachers using blogs as a teaching tool in the classroom. An idea that actually makes a lot of sense.
One way teachers say they use blogs is to continue spirited discussions that were cut short or to prolong question-and-answer periods with guest speakers.
“With blogs, class doesn’t have to end when the bell rings,” said Will Richardson, supervisor of instructional technology and communications at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J., who maintained blogs for two journalism classes he taught last year.
Teachers say that the interactivity of blogs allowed them to give students feedback much more quickly than before.
“I used to have this stack of hard-copy journals on my desk waiting to be read,” said Catherine Poling, an assistant principal at Kemptown Elementary School, also in Frederick County, Md., who ran a blog last year when she taught third grade at a nearby school. “Now I can react to what they say immediately, and students can respond to each other.”
In one blog entry, for instance, Ms. Poling asked her students what qualities they looked for when rating books for a statewide award. When several students responded that a book has to be creative and grab their attention, she posted a follow-up question asking them if they used the same criteria for both fiction and nonfiction books.
While such a question could have just as easily been posed during a classroom conversation, teachers who use blogs say that students put a lot more thought and effort into their blog writing, knowing that parents and others may read their work on the Web.
Back in the 80’s when I ran a BBS system on my old Commodore 64 I can remember that there were a number of teachers as well as one or two school counselors who would frequent it regularly because some of their students were members. In the case of the school counselors I was asked not to reveal their true identities as they hoped to gain more insight into the kids they worked with by interacting with them on the BBS without them realizing who they were talking with. The teachers, however, made who they were known so the kids could communicate with them outside of the classroom. I always thought it was kind of interesting that these folks were making use of my BBS for something other than just a place to gather and chat about random topics and so the idea of using a blog as a classroom tool makes a lot of sense to me, especially with as ubiquitous as computers in the home has become today. My mother-in-law is a teacher for a local school district and I’ve not thought of asking her if this idea is one she might find useful, but I may point her to this article and see what she thinks.