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The Rise And Rise Of The Blog: Do Blogs Have A Place In The Classroom?

Back in 2012, teacher Michael Drennan wrote in the Guardian about his experience of using a student blog with his GCSE and A-Level students. In it, he reflects that the process fostered collaborative learning and motivated class discussion. He said of classroom blogs: “Students realise how high the bar of public domain writing is. This can be initially intimidating, but that removes all apathy or sense of the humdrum. Asking all students to write blogs as learning unfolds and interlinks empowers the teacher to be more supportive”.

With this in mind, it’s perhaps not a big surprise that the number of schools with blogs has steadily risen over the past few years, with plenty of reading available on why teachers should involve it in the classroom as well as anecdotal evidence that underlines how enriching it has been for students of all ages. It would appear, then, that blogging is a word that has been native to children from the very beginning of education for a good while now, and this isn’t likely to reverse.

Where did it all start?
Blogging began back in the 1990s, and by whom will largely depend on who you ask. However, it’s widely agreed that a men named Justin Hall was the first person to publish a blog. The term ‘web log’ or ‘weblog’ didn’t come along until 1997, gradually becoming the shortened moniker we recognise today.

There have been myriad websites for keen bloggers over the years; many will recognise Blogger and LiveJournal as the ones that paved the way for more sophisticated platforms like WordPress, which found its way to the public in 2003. Today, there are millions of bloggers worldwide, some of which have turned it into a full-time, profitable career.

Blogs and the classroom
If we go back to the humble beginnings of the blog, there is a sentiment that all teachers can appreciate – the documentation and sharing of life experience. Teacher Toolkit released a post last year that included tips for teachers on starting, running, and maintaining a class blog; you can read it here.  

The benefits of classroom blogs are plentiful, and can even act as a facilitator to further engage parents in their child’s learning experience. Beyond that, keeping a blog can yield life skills that are transferable across the board.

Fostering creativity
The most successful storytellers are creative people that have nurtured their skills over time. The content available on the Internet is vast, and that’s putting it somewhat lightly. Creative thinking gives the writer leverage on putting together something that is unique, original, and untouched. With most things in life, practise is the master of progress.

Improve your vocabulary
Neatly following on from the previous point, regular blogging can encourage students to ‘up the ante’ with each new post, bearing in mind that what they are saying will more than likely be shared and read by others. Rather than asking them to repeat themselves, you’re inviting and challenging them to find other ways to describe their subject matter.

Personal development
Reading back through old posts is a brilliant way to identify areas for improvement, and can also serve as a way to reflect on progress so far. Being able to take a step back, learn from mistakes, and understand development is something that will never stop being useful, no matter how you apply it in daily life.

Of course, there are always drawbacks when it comes to exposing young people to the Internet, and the fact that the content they produce becomes a part of the public domain, but Drennan argued that it’s not a powerful enough reason to ignore blogging altogether: “None of the risks justify avoiding student blogging. Defamatory/provocative remarks are a behavioural issue, not a technological one: don’t deprive all of an exciting outlet because of the remote possibility of misuse by a tiny few.

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