TEACHING TIPS – Using blogs in the writing classroom

Instructors use blogs in the classroom for a variety of purposes and in a wide range of ways.  One common purpose is to present course materials, such as daily assignments, with each assignment in a new blog entry. Blog software makes this process very easy, with little to no knowledge of HTML required.  Instructors can also set up their blogs so that students can comment on entries, which creates an online discussion forum that takes the place of the forums in CULearn.

Another way of using blogs is for students to work together to contribute to a blog that is designed for a specific audience and purpose. These blogs might be created by students in small groups or by the whole class. Students can practice being co-creators of content that is tailored to a specific rhetorical situation, with the added advantage that the blog can be open to public readership. They can also collaborate on these blogs with students across multiple sections of a class, which helps to create a sense of online community.

A third way of using blogs is for each student to create his or her own blog and use it for a variety of purposes, including posting journal entries and reading responses, sharing resources, commenting on topics relevant to the class, posting drafts for feedback, and so on.  These blogs can be made visible only to a select group of viewers or to the general public, and students can “subscribe” to each others’ blogs and comment on them regularly.

Anyone can create a blog using free blog hosting web sites that are generally very easy to use.  The most popular sites are WordPress.com and Blogger.com

I prefer WordPress because it’s more flexible and more widely used, but Blogger might be a good choice for someone with no blog or web site building experience. I’ve had students keep their own blogs on wordpress.com without any problems. I currently use a version of WordPress that I installed on the site that hosts my own domain names, which gives me much greater flexibility.

I use the “full” version of WordPress to run all of my class web sites as well as this site (which has instructions on how to use the full version, some of which would be applicable to those with blogs on wordpress.com).