Blogging has become an essential digital skill for journalists, especially scholastic journalists.
Harrisonville High School journalism teacher Brad Lewis uses edublogs.org in his beginning journalism classroom because it runs on a WordPress platform, which creates familiarity with the School Newspapers Online CMS his news staff uses, and allows him oversight capabilities.
“Since I was doing this for the first time, I wanted to be able to approve posts before they went live,” said the Harrison, MO Wildcat News adviser. “Right now, the main objective for these blogs is for classroom purposes only.”
He said he hopes student blogs transform into mini-publications, “allowing students to build their own online newspaper or memory book (yearbook) that others can look at, read and enjoy.”
In the Winter issue of Adviser Update sponsored by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, I wrote the “This Struck Our Fancy” sections about the benefits of blogging for scholastic journalists.
Knowing all the benefits blogging provides students, I implemented classroom blogs based on student choice, which means students and I have made the following mistakes, to name a few.
- Giving students a list of potential blog sites, students spend a monumental amount of time choosing which blog site to use, including some who have had to start completely over because they signed up for one with a 30-day free trial period, which expired;
- There’s no consistent place to go to grade, so my evaluation of student blogs has been sloppy at best; and
- Every blog site has a learning curve, so whenever there is a student learning anything about digital uploads or digital publishing, the instructor, too, is swept into a learning curve of what the particular blog site can do and how it does it.
What’s really lost is time and organization, so having a blog site that allows students to sign-up via a learning management system led by the teacher seems ideal comparatively.
“When I first decided to use blogs in my classroom, I did a little back-and-forth when deciding what blogging platform to have my students use,” said Lewis, the Missouri high school publications adviser. “Did I want to allow them to choose their own (I was assuming that some students may already have personal blogs of their own) or did I want to chose one platform that everyone uses? In my research I came across edublogs.org.”
Advisers’ enthusiasm for blogging doesn’t always translate into the same for students, who sometimes “just see it as another ‘assignment,'” said Lewis. “I don’t see students getting as excited about it as I hope they would.”
However, Lewis perseveres, because, as he said, it has the potential to attract viewers beyond the school house doors, provide publication opportunities to introductory media students, and establish a digital portfolio for future job searches.
“I believe that blogs are beneficial in a journalism classroom for many reasons,” said Lewis, who provided the following exemplary blogs.