By Mechelle De Craene
According to the Perseus Developmental Corporation, 52% of all blogs are created and maintained by 13 to 19-year-olds (Twist, 2004). Yet many teachers in the U.S. still do not use blogs as a learning tool in their classrooms. Additionally, when researching the few pedagogical blogs out there, I found that, of the blogs used in classroom settings, most were geared toward gifted students.
Thus, I pondered how blogs could be used by students with special needs. What I found was that blogging can be a tool that promotes autonomy in the classroom empowering students to take ownership of their own learning process. Additionally, the medium of blogs also allows students to share their knowledge in a publishable format which in turn may teach their online audience. Now more than ever, the audience can influence and inspire young authors, thereby scaffolding students’ writing abilities as their skills evolve. Hence, blogging can be very Vygotskian, so to speak.
Surprisingly, within our Information Age, pedagogical blogging was new to my school. Many of my peers had never heard of blogs before and much of the research on blogs comes from the U.K. When I explained to my fellow teachers, some expressed concerns about potential legal issues.
I still wanted to explore the use of blogs in the classroom, and selected a small group of 8th grade students (i.e. age 14). To start with, the girls and I had a “refresher” discussion on internet safety. Each of the girls picked a pen name for confidentiality.
Acceptable Use Policies (i.e. internet permission slips) were signed by the girls’ parents at the beginning of the year. “Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) typically establish expectations for how students and faculty will use school resources, procedures they are expected to follow and consequences when expectations and procedures are violated”(Grabe & Grabe, 2001).