Utilizing the online classroom effectively can open up a world of possibilities. I hope with the last couple of posts, people might strongly consider moving a lot of their teaching and resources online. It's the environment used most by our students, and we really need to consider doing the same. This blog is about just that; using 'their' environment to not only educate them, but others as well.
The idea of writing a blog, to some, may seem like a waste-of-time kind of idea. Who's going to read it? Who's going to care? What can I write about? All this may be true, if you don't have anything worthwhile to say. For me to suggest that this blog is followed by many, is a huge overstatement. I'm amazed actually if anyone at all is reading this now? Many students will also have these feelings and opinions. However, blogging has become a huge voice in today's world. It's what has allowed thousands to spread the word about various issues and events. It's allowed for the dissemination of information to the masses. It's what has given many people a platform, and thus an audience who would never have been able to achieve such feats previously. Encouraging students to take their voices online can greatly aid in the learning of the classroom, as well as their awareness of what's out there.
For the most part students have simply written statements online in 140 characters or less, or about things they saw, heard, or did today to their group of 'friends'. I believe many have not given much consideration to really formulating an opinion online, and having to defend or appreciate the comments left by others. For the most part, students feel that whatever they post online goes without defense or critique. Blogging can really force students to consider what they write, and how others will perceive their writing. But how do you go about getting your students to blog? What activities can you use in the class? And how do you keep students interested?
Raising awareness of blogs and generating interest has to be accomplished before you can even begin to ask your students to blog. Therefore, introducing your students to online blogs is the first step necessary in getting your students to blog. Blog hosting websites like blogger.com, wordpress.com, or edublogs.com, contain thousands of excellent blogs that you can use to illustrate blogging to your students. Tumblr.com will allow students to 'collect' blogs and follow them using their computer, tablet, or mobile device. There are plenty of examples out there to show them just how many people are blogging, and all the different uses for blogging.
The next step is to have your students learn the steps, characteristics, and rules of blogging. The best strategy that I believe to do this is something I found on, well, another blog. It's called 'Paper Blogging' and it illustrates to students all the necessary skills required when blogging. I could go on, but why not just check it out:
Lastly, what can you use blogging for with your students? Other than asking them to blog about the day's lesson and what they learned, felt, or thought from it, there are countless activities that can be done. In the past I have had my students blog about economic news events that have taken place throughout the semester. They had to summarize what happened and the impact the event would have on the economy. It's an activity that can be translated to many classes and courses, and is a simple one. However, one that I believe would lend itself to much greater critical thinking is something discussed just the other day at a PLC meeting. What about posting one simple question to the students the very first day of class, that the students would have to continuously address throughout the semester/year?
This idea was posed for Canadian geography, so I will do my best to use that course as an example to illustrate the concept. The idea is to pose to the class on the very first day the question "What makes Canada such a special and unique place to live?" It is also in your best interest to inform the students that the very same question will appear on the final exam. Each student would then construct a blog where they would address that question and write about Canadian news stories, lessons learned in class, and any other ideas they had regarding the question. They could choose either side of the opinion in answering it, but the whole idea is to continuously have students comment on Canada and the uniqueness (or lack of) that this country has. They could source news articles, other peoples blogs, and videos. They would also comment on each others blogs, critiquing or agreeing with each other along the way. Not only would students critically assess Canadian geography, but they would also engage in an interesting conversation online. The final step to this activity is to pose that very same question on the final exam. For those students who continuously blogged, answering the question will be relatively simple, as they have already put forth all the necessary hard work and critical thinking. For those who did little blogging, they would then have to really work hard to answer the question. An interesting idea, and one that I will be trying next school year.
For other ideas, search online, there are hundreds of activities that you can use blogs for, and students will appreciate the online experience.