Despite fears, student blogging cautiously takes off

The power of blogs - the ability to publish into the real world, to participate in discussions without speaking up, and to collaborate with other students - is too good for some teachers to ignore.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

Although many school districts are fearful of giving students unfettered access to the Internet, some innovative teachers are using Internet blogging to encourage students to write, reports The Seattle Times.

"Never in 25 years of teaching have I seen a more powerful motivator for writing than blogs. And that's because of the audience. Writing is not just taped on the refrigerator and then put in the recycle bin. It's out there for the world to see. Kids realize other people are reading what they write," said Mark Ahlness, at Seattle's Arbor Heights Elementary School.

Blogs have gotten a bad rap from many educational administrators fearful of exposing students to possible run-ins with pedophiles, and potential litigation from parents. But most schools have adequate filtering systems to protect students - and teachers, students and parents must be well-versed in the Internet safety protocols.

It's obvious that MySpace is a very huge phenomenon. The question posed by David Warlick, founder of the

Warlick says that students use blogs differently than adults.

"The work becomes a conversation instead of a one-way delivery of information," said Warlick, a former teacher and author of "Classroom Blogging: A Teacher's Guide to the Blogosphere."

Other teachers have had success by integrating blogs into current curricula. At Skyview Junior High School, a virtual book club elicited more participation than in-class discussions.

"Some students who might be reluctant to join a classroom discussion could feel more free to participate online. Students embraced the technology by making the blogs their own, with interesting designs, added music, etc.," said Bob Mueller, who runs the computer lab at the school.

Still, teachers and administrators often keep tight reins on how blogs are used and their connection to the Internet at large. Shannon Palermiti, a teacher at Sammamish's Samantha Smith Elementary School wants to make it clear that classroom blogging is not an academic version of MySpace.

"The type of blogging my students do is nothing like that. The students cannot add certain personal information and cannot add friends. Because of the way I have it set up, only people with our class password can view [student] blogs."
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