The debate rages about the world of blogging and its value. Many school library media specialists are being required to include it as part of their instruction. Follow these tips to get the most out of the experience for yourself and your students.
Blogging can give an important voice to students, but as with verbal speech it needs to used responsibly. Teens often want to push the envelope on what is acceptable to write on their blogs, images, and links to other sites and blogs. The school librarian needs to think about the ground rules for blogging, just as with any other assignment. Consider these tips before beginning.
- Set the Ground Rules First.
Stress that student behavior needs to be appropriate, just as behavior on school trips reflects an image of the school, so do blogs. Students need to see this as part of nettiquette. Do students have to sign a code of conduct as part of other school programs? Adapt it and have students sign it. You may want to require a parent signature. Be clear that bullying, libel, or cursing will not be tolerated. Include a practice piece before anything is allowed to be posted to the Internet. Bloggers should be clear in their writing.
- Blogging is NOT Social Networking.
MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites are designed for a different purpose than blogs. A well thought out reflection on a piece of literature is different than "Hey, wanna be my friend?" Have students design questions for commenters to respond to that are essential to the blog. Comments should be well thought out as well. Assign students to read specific students' blogs and post coherent, clear comments. Resources for Blogging in the Classroom has good planning resources for you and your students.
- Just because it's a Freebie Doesn't Mean it Doesn't have a Price.
Many of the free blogging sites may be tempting, but they have their own problems. Advertisements cannot be controlled. There are alternatives, such as ClassBlogMeister which has several templates. It offers librarians and teachers the opportunity to review blog entries and comments before they are posted. The "teacher" also adds student names that have permission to blog and comment. This adds a layer of student safety. Another option is 21Classes.
- This is a Blog, Not an Essay.
Think of blogs as spirals rather than straight lines. Blogs can be linked by topic rather than date. This allows someone to go back and reflect on a news event that occurred last month.
- Go Ahead--Blog
Don't be afraid to blog yourself. It can be reflections on last teen book you read. It doesn't have to be a lesson on the literary merits of the book, but ideas and impressions the book inspired. Allow students to comment on whether or not they agree, disagree, or offer another good book with a similar theme. You can also blog on your reflections of what happened in the library that week. What was the high point? What was the low point?
Blogging offers you and your students an opportunity to connect in new ways. This is another facet of reading and writing literacy for which students need to develop skills.