Unit 1:Web 2.0-Blogging
- From an educational perspective, Web 2.0 might be considered the single most beneficial advance in technology. Web 2.0 learning resources are based on easy accessibility, customization and integration. They are also designed to be learner-centered instead of curriculum-centered.
- There is debate regarding the appropriateness of Web 2.0 as a learner tool in the classroom. Some educators are concerned over the possibility that learning might get lost in the preoccupation with the technology. While this is a valid concern, the simple fact is that technology has become a center place in our society, and ignoring or minimizing its importance to young students would be a serious mistake. While there are some social aspects of any online learning site, this socialization also allows for more productive learning. Networking, collaborating and exploring forums that would otherwise be available is paramount to instilling growth and intellectual skill sets for young learners.
- Many Web 2.0 resources were specifically designed to be on-demand aids, used incidentally by the student. Others are much more involved, and typically are integrated more toward multi-learner collaboration. In a reading environment, the choice of a particular Web 2.0 resource will be based on both the student need and the classroom environment. We know that promoting comprehension includes exercises such as reading out loud or listening to someone read out loud, reading with a “buddy,” identifying meaning and exploring works with peers. There is a Web 2.0 resource for each of these best practices, as well as many others.
For this mini-lesson, we will take a look at the benefits of classroom blogging.
- Blog sites are easy-and often free-ways to explore the use of communicating as an aide in comprehension. While the relationship between a blog and reading a book might be difficult to envision, the residual benefit is often remarkable, particularly for younger students.
- Comprehension is often not an "on the fly" process, especially for new readers. The preoccupation with precision in decoding often clouds the process of comprehension, and a student can finish reading and have no idea what it was about. Until the process of decoding is not as strenous or deliberate, comprehension often occurs after the fact. One way to explore meaning is to talk to other students about what their thoughts are (think about the purpose of book clubs). An increasingly common practice is a classroom blog to discuss assigned readings. This requires the teacher to set up guides to direct conversation toward particular topics that will ensure cohesiveness in learning.
Here is a simple Blogger.com tutorial setting up a classroom blog
More tips for setting up classroom blogs using various sites
1. A teacher assigns Chapter 1 of "Alice in Wonderland" to a 4th grade class for reading.
2. When the student has completed the first chapter, they can go to the classroom blog and post a summary about what they have read. Some example questions to guide discussion:
* What are your thoughts about Alice's personality? * Why do you think she drank the contents of the bottle? * What are some of the characteristics of the White Rabbit? * Do you think Alice is dreaming? Why?
3. The teacher should encourage students to respond to others and instigate further discussions.
Look at this reading class blog for further examples of productive discussion that promotes comprehension. 
Benefits for Students
Classroom blogs are an interesting way for students to communicate for many reasons.
1. It allows students that are perhaps more apprehensive than others a forum to express themselves. Classrooms often have students that are more frequent contributors than others; shyness and fear of being singled-out are often reasons for low participation in class discussions.
2. Discussions with peers ultimately provides perspectives to students that they might not have garnered otherwise; it allows them to explore alternate theories, meanings and interpretations.
3. Students will have the flexibility to read the text at their own pace and engage in discussion when they are ready. Although there should be guidelines for class participation, blogged discussions to not require real time interactions.
4. Blogs that are a collaboration with other classes, especially those in in other countries or cultures, also gives students access to a broaderset of perspectives and experiences.
Benefits for Teachers
1. Blogs should not be viewed as an opportunity for the teacher to take a back-seat to the process of instilling comprehension. Teachers should be actively engaged in discussions to gather indications of content understanding. Blogs do, however, pull the focus from teacher guided learning to a more student centered forum.
2. Classroom blogs are a good way to engage whole class participation, but they are also a way for teachers to indentify students that may need extra guidance.
Next Unit: Graphic Organizers