For young people blogging represents a new way to not only write, but to create as well. With all the great information and media available on the web today, a blog is the perfect way for young people, to research, vet, and create a living project instead of just a 3 page book report or social studies report. The fact that blogs exist in a digital space means that kids can add to it indefinitely, and learn more and more about what interests them. Helping a young person create a blog about something they are interested in only fuels their desire to learn more about that subject. If we can use blogs as a way to help young people find their life’s passion, then they are invaluable.
Creating a “good” blog should be the goal. What do I mean by a “good” blog? I mean a blog that has information or opinions that are well founded, researched, validated and appropriate to the blog’s subject. With this goal in mind young people can learn a variety of important activities and values that will help them as they move toward the professional world of business.
Among some of these are:
- Learning how to utilize web search and news feeds to find information on their blog topic. Knowing how to research information on the web is an important skill. Many people to this day do not know how to use Google, Bing or Yahoo search effectively.
- Vetting information found on the web to validate its correctness or authenticity. In business we all know that “we better have our facts straight” before we present them to upper management. Learning how to vet information is crucial to creating factual research and presentations
- Understanding and respecting copyright laws. The openness of the web lends itself to the inappropriate and often times illegal reproduction of articles, images and other media. Teaching young people about the proper way to credit sources, reproduce or use media and information not only teaches the legal aspects of reuse, it also instills the value of respect for others work.
- Learning how to write creatively. Being able to write in a compelling, story-telling way creates interest from the reader. Interested readers will hear and listen to a writer’s message. Being a great writer is just one aspect of being a good communicator. Great communicators are always in demand. You can verify this by looking at almost any job description in the knowledge based economy.
- Learning the power of illustration. I don’t mean the ability to draw here. I mean the ability to include appropriate and eye catching images and video to illustrate a blog post’s message. When young people learn how to find and embed media to illustrate and add meaning to their message, they learn how to use pictures to convey their message. This is a critical skill in business as people respond to pictures more than printed words.
Along with all these great lessons, young people will start to understand that blogs are messages that need maintenance and care. They will understand the dedication and commitment to keeping the blog updated and moving. So they can even obtain some rudimentary project management skills. Blogs are an all-around great creating project to help young people find their voice and assemble their view of the world.
Resources for Student Blogs
There are several great resources for setting up blogs for students. You can use these to create a fully functioning blog. Among the top two are:
These sites are great because they don’t require that the student have an email address to create an account or blog. Most “production” blogging tools require an email for validation of the person’s identity that is creating the blog. But these two sites waive that requirement which is nice since many young people don’t have email accounts with a web service yet.
Probably the best blog tool on the internet today is WordPress. It can be found at wordpress.org and it does require an email address for account creation and verification. Edublogs is built on a sub-set of WordPress functionality. If parents want their child to have an email address and learn the account verification process as part of the educational process then WordPress is the way to go.
Best of all, all the above sites are free. There are no signup or usage fees.
I believe it is important for parents to subscribe to their child’s blog to provide some oversight in the blogging process. Parents will be critical in helping young people understand what is appropriate as a post, and what to look for in post comments.
Many spammers and advertisers comment on blog posts as a way to advertise their products. With any good blogging tool comes the ability to approve the comment for visibility on the blog or to trash the comment. Young people may need help in learning how to decipher what is spam and is a valid comment. This is a great way to start and continue a learning experience on identifying inappropriate or inauthentic behavior in cyber space. These bogus comments are mostly just harmless, but they represent a bigger problem on the net and young people should become aware of that fact early on so they can start to identify risky messages, approaches and behaviors.
Parents should subscribe to their child’s blog. This will give parents visibility into every post their child makes on their blog. In fact, parents should set the stage for their child’s blog as more of a group project than a solo project. In a group blog project parents could act as the editor-in-chief or even better, act as the “customer” of the blog and respond and react to the content, approach and tone of each post. This will help both parent and student learn the tool and the blogging paradigm. It will also help the parent stay more visible in the process.
Some Great Examples of Student Blogs
Elizabeth and I included blogging as a baseline requirement for the “technology” instruction in the middle school that implemented The Portland Project social media pilot program. Elizabeth has done amazing work developing creative assignments focused on blogging.
“Working with students creating blogs and online journals has been a wonderful activity to connect and collaborate with students,” Elizabeth tells me. “It has allowed me insight into my student’s lives. We have been able to participate in group discussions based on their writings, and utilize collaborative and peer teaching methods.”
Here are a couple links to blogs done in her classes. We believe that as a result of learning and using blogs in school, several students in her classes have found their lives’ passions. To be a part of that event is an honor of which every teacher dreams.
The topics have ranged from school news blogs, to skateboard park review blog, to preventing animal cruelty blogs. Remember these are middle school students ages 11-3.
Oceanography Blog – Includes a presentation Prezi created by the student to educate regarding oil spills and their effect on the environment. Grade level: 6th Grade, 11 years old. Blogging tool: WordPress. URL: http://carversedge.wordpress.com
“Personal Narrative” blog projects. Writing a personal narrative is a benchmark goal for 6th grade writing. Grade level: 6th Grade, 11 years old. Blogging tool: WordPress
• http://babiigurl20.wordpress.com - Includes a media slideshow created by the student.
• http://timefortoni.wordpress.com - Includes video of creator singing with friend and posted to youTube.
Group blog project. Students had to meet some cooperative goals in writing, editing and production. Grade level: 7th Grade, 12-13 years old. Blogging tool: WordPress. URL: http://top5dancecrews.webs.com/apps/blog
Simply put, blogs are an excellent vehicle to teach and reinforce so many things including technology, values, and creative publishing. Parents should participate with their children in the blogging process and stress that it should be utilized in the school system as well. Blogs started the social media, Web 2.0 revolution and can continue to foster changes in the way we teach and learn. In short, use them!