Blogs are an incredible learning tool. But like an exercise bike, having one does not lead to self improvement unless you use it. And using it sporadically is only barely helpful. You have to invest time to get the great results … imagine now the sculpted/toned bodies of the models they use in ads for any exercise equipment … then imagine the sculpted/toned brains of your students using blogs. That doesn’t happen without consistent use.
Now that I think of it though, blogs are not like an exercise bike, blogs are like one of those pieces of fitness equipment that include multiple exercises – weight lifting, sit-ups, pull-ups, leg lifts and so on. Blogs are certainly writing spaces, but they lend themselves to not just publishing writing, but also response and discussion which is that higher level thinking we are vying for. But wait! There’s still more. Blogs also include, publishing photos, videos, podcasts, spreadsheets, slide shows, art work, and much more. AND all of those pieces can be written about and discussed. AND note its not even all writing, notice in my partial list it can be oral language and media … and of course it involves reading. So multiple exercises for the brain! AND all of that is archived and it is then easy to see improvement over time – you can see it, your students can see it and their parents can see it.
Did I mention the family connection? Not only is the blog available for student collaborators to see and interact with, the students’ families can as well. Students can go home and show parents what they did today, family members can comment … see what I mean? Oooh, and I’ve had experts like scientists and athletes and the like leave comments and interact as well.
Here’s the thing though, getting back to my initial point, that doesn’t happen if we don’t use them consistently. Blogs are powerful, engaging, motivating, learning tools. So use them consistently, and use all their possibilities. Otherwise it is like doing one or two writing projects a year that you turn into published books … “My Poetry Book” and/or “The Day I Was My Dog” – great stuff, but imagine doing that all the time and you (the teacher) doesn’t have to find the special paper and laminate and so forth.
Oh, and couple your class blog with a wiki and a photo sharing service like Flickr … it only gets better.
So if you have your students blogging because you want them to learn. Then really have them blogging all the time!!!! The initial time it takes to get them up and going will pay big dividends!
Learning is messy!