EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is based on the edWeb.net webinar, “Finding a Safe Environment Where Your Students Can Blog” by Shannon Holden and sponsored by Shutterfly. The webinar archives can be viewed on http://www.edweb.net/.5a011ae2/.
Reading and writing go hand in hand. Love of reading is nurtured by opportunities to create and express oneself through writing.
Student blogging is a great opportunity for writing. When students blog for each other, social engagement is created, and students become aware of themselves as writers. Blogging creates a dialog between teacher and student, and allows student collaboration. It can alert parents to what is going on at school, and enables tracking of student progress. Blogging increases student motivation to write and read others’ writings. It can be used with any subject taught.
However, care must be taken when providing a way for students to communicate through online text in an open forum. The privacy of writing alone, combined with separation from the reader, tends to make online correspondence much less civil than other communication. So classroom blogging may need screening by the teacher. Thankfully, there are tools which enable this.
Kidblog is a free website/app tool that does not require student e-mail addresses to set up accounts, although the teacher must provide an e-mail address. With Kidblog, teachers can create a class, add students to the class, customize class privacy settings, publish posts and manage files (with 100MB of free space). The teacher can set every student blog post and comment to be approved by the teacher before it is published. Teachers can add parent and guest accounts. Kids don’t have to remember complex usernames and passwords. Kids can select other kid posts from a menu of names, and the class activity feed makes it easy to find the most recent conversations.
The free version of Kidblog displays ads on the teacher side, and there is a limit of 50 students and two teachers per class. Paid versions range from $5 per month per class per month to $2 per student per year, and provide ad-free use with more students, more students, more space, and more tech support.
Edublogs is similar to Kidblog except it is geared toward older students. Students must have an e-mail to join, and sign themselves up using an invite code from the teacher. It is based on WordPress and has a similar dashboard. Similar to Kidblog, teachers can choose whether or not to moderate posts and what the privacy settings are.
Also similar to Kidblog, there are levels of membership; the paid versions give access to plug-ins and enhanced teacher tools and tech support. More than two million students and teachers use Edublogs.