Dear Parents: Moving to a Classroom Blog

I am getting ready to post on my school’s 21st Century Learning Blog a message for parents about the school’s move from Edline, the portal that was used in previous years for parent communication, to individual classroom blog.

School is moving on to individual classroom blogs

The purpose of the post below is to:

  • give parents an overview of what a blog is.
  • explain that blogs are a “work in progress”, as teachers and students will collaboratively create articles and conversations.
  • make clear that a blog does not replace a face to face parent-teacher conference or a phone call.
  • remind parents that the platform doesn’t serve as a place to communicate academic problems of individual students or to let the teacher know that their student did not have time, had difficulties or forgot to complete a homework assignment.
  • address how blogging supports essential skills and literacies
  • point out how a blog, in time, can become the hub as the global communication center.

In short, I am trying to show parents, that a blog is MORE than a shiny new tool (toy?).

Please add YOUR thoughts about blogging and parent education of its use and value in the comment section. What did I leave out? What is not clear in my post?

Here is the post…

All teachers at our school are using a new online platform this school year to communicate with students and parents. We are using a blog platform that enables non-Web Designers to publish and edit content more easily.

The word “Blog” comes from “Web Log” which is an Online Journal. Wikipedia defines a blog as:

A blog (a blend of the term web log) is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites.

A blog format distinguishes itself from a static website (like Edline was). It allows a two way communication between the teacher and her students, the students between each other and even for parents to leave comments that contribute to learning.

David Warlick, author of “Classroom Blogging- A Teacher’s Guide to the Blogosphere” (p.15-16), says that blogs are important for educators to take notice, because of

the direct and conspicuous relationship between blogging and literacy. It is about writing and reading- communication. If we can tap into the sudden notoriety of blogging as a cool thing to do, given our students authentic assignments of finding, reading, and evaluating blog-based information within the context of curriculum and then make them bloggers, communicators with a broadening audience, then we may do a more effective job of teaching literacy, both in the traditional sense, and within the context of an emerging new definition of literacy in a a networked, digital information environment.

Creating a blog is a process for our classrooms, teachers and students. As they are learning the nuts and bolts of blog lingo and logistics, such as posts, pages, categories, tags and widgets, they are also learning to use this new media as a way to extend learning beyond the classroom walls. Teachers are scouting the web to find age appropriate and curriculum related links that will allow individual students to deepen their knowledge of a topic, practice or extend specific skills taught in the classroom. In addition to links that connect to outside resources, the blog becomes a journal of individual entries/conversations by teachers and students that are displayed in reverse chronological order.

The format of a blog naturally invites to reflective thinking. This may happen in the classroom as a whole group activity, when teachers use the site to go over past assignments, classroom happenings or questions that were posted. It may happen when students use the blog as a source to review content discussed in class that day, or when they had time to digest and share their ideas, questions or doubts when they are more comfortable (for some) and not in front of the entire class. The reflection can also happen as a conversation starter at home between parents and students to look back on what was discussed in school. As teachers and students are learning to embed images, audio, video and other media into their blogs, the dreaded parent/child interchange of “What did you do in school today?- Nothing!” will be something of the past. Parents will be able to share learning conversations and events from their child’s classroom and visit/re-visit with their child virtually from home.

A blog is more than a shiny new tool!

By blogging, students not only are “going on a website” to look up their assignments, but they are learning to read and write with hypertext, they are writing to an authentic worldwide audience, lessons about online safety and etiquette are organically woven into lessons. Reading and writing becomes a tool to authentically communicate with classmates, teachers as well as readers from around the world. Learning how to tag, categorize, link and find information is an increasingly important skill in the Information Age. Our students, from Kindergarten on, are being exposed to these skills by being part of building a learning community on their classroom blog.

Will Richardson, author of the book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Tools for the Classroom“, identifies six traits that support blogging as a tool to improve students learning (p.27-28)

  1. Weblogs truly are a constructivist approach for learning
  2. Weblogs extend the walls of the classroom.
  3. Blogs archive the work that teachers and students do, facilitating all sorts of reflection and metacognitive analysis.
  4. A weblog is a democratic tool that supports different learning styles.
  5. Weblogs can enhance the development of expertise in a particular in a particular subject.
  6. Blogs can teach students the new literacies they will need to function in an ever expanding information society

A blog  is more than “just” a tool. It is more than a buzzword that you are hearing more and more in the mainstream media. A blog allows teachers to address critical skills and literacies while differentiating instruction in a digital medium that most of our students today are very comfortable with in using.

    The blog platform does not replace parent-teacher conferences, face to face conversations or private emails concerning individual students. The blog platform is a venue that allows school-home communication to extend and support existing communication venues. A blog, that in the beginning might be only a “replacement” for the “Friday Folder” and “Edline” with homework assignments or upcoming events shared, will evolve into a virtual place for collaborative work, shared ideas and conversation. Please have patience with us, as teachers are learning alongside their students to communicate in new forms. As we are moving ahead in the process of creating, maintaining and evolving with our classroom blogs, we will gradually invite more voices to become part of the classroom learning community.

    Blogs will connect us to a global classroom. All our classroom blogs are public. Anyone in the world with the URL (Web Address) can visit and read our blogs. This is done intentionally to encourage global communication and collaboration. Currently, all blogs “only” allow comments from registered users (our students). Part of the process will be to open commenting up to the world, always with a degree of”protection” in the form of comment moderation by the teacher before a comment is made public on the blog. This open policy is vital in making connections with other classrooms and curriculum content-related voices from around the world. It provides our students with an authentic audience for their writing, ideas and points of view.