Building a Web Presence: Weblogs Are Becoming Essential in School Districts across the Country
Richardson, Will, District Administration
HERE'S THE RECIPE: GIVE teachers and students Weblogs in which to write and publish work for global audiences, add pointers on publishing and communicating safely online, drop in a pinch of collaboration and support by experienced bloggers, and watch what happens.
For fifth-grade students in Georgia, working with education consultant Anne Davis, the result was a group blog called "Blogical Mind" for exchanging ideas on literacy inside and outside classrooms, and individual student blogs on related topics. Examples of the latter include "Eddie's Rainbow of Thought," "Victoria's Dreams of Wonder," and "Mia's Hall of Fame," linked to the collective site and also accessible directly. The blogs are drawing readers throughout the United States and as far away as Australia, and the bloggers are learning the importance of online communities and having a "clickable" presence on the Web.
Unfortunately, many administrators prevent school users from establishing an online presence, fearing that simply being online puts their districts in danger. Many are also influenced by the few but tragic incidents that have involved social networking sites such as MySpace, even though 40 million adolescents are participating in such sites. But while the Internet does indeed carry risks, as does life offline, tens of thousands of students and teachers publish content to the Web daily in safe and ethical ways. For example, students in an AP psychology class in Nashua, N.H., created video projects about sleep disorders and posted them on YouTube; elementary school students in Omaha, Neb., recorded and published podcasts on the school site Radio WillowWeb; and school bloggers in many places are connected to the world and participate in amazing conversations about topics that interest them. All of this comes from having an online presence, and Eddie, Victoria and Mia are learning how to find students and teachers "out there" and are helping others find them. In this new Read/Write Web world, not knowing how to do that limits our students to whatever happens to be within the four walls of the classroom, at the place and time that they are there. …