Learning to Blog?

Wordle: Teacher
I spent last Friday at the in-service for making a website. The presenter was Rebecca Hines, who is from Florida, and teaches about meeting the needs of all the learners in the classroom. It was a lot of fun for me.
The goal set for the day was that every teacher would leave with a blog they could begin using right away for whatever purpose they chose to set - parent-teach communication, in-school tool for students, or individual site designed to meet the needs of an individual student. Of course I already have a blog and was familiar with the basics, but I was able to learn a bit about the practical applications for a teacher, and all the teachers were sharing some sites that they have found useful for students. It was a really good day.
Because I already have a blog, my goal was to help Kathy set up hers, and along the way to pick up what I could about the internet and schools, and to network a bit. I introduced myself to other teachers as I helped them trouble-shoot their blogs.
In at least one of my college courses I have already made classroom a web page, but the idea of doing the classroom web page in blog format was a new thought to me. One option for setting it up is as an in-depth asassignment to be worked on at home or school. For example I may have found a marvelous video on National Geographic Kids that I want my students to view. I could make it the entry and follow it up with a questionnaire that was made in Google Documents so the children will have accountability for watching it.
A flexible option for homework could be to link an educational game related to what the class is learning in a given link and tell the children that as one option for their "Give Me Twenty" (free-choice-homework) they could go online and play the games. As an example we found the website SpellingCity where students can type in their weekly spelling words to practice and play with.
Another option for the classroom web page is a substitute for the newsletter. Make an announcement to parents that a feild trip is coming up, party where volunteers will be needed, or just letting them know what is going on in the room; make it private and include photography of what is going on in the classroom to give parents something concrete to engage students in conversation. This is of particular value when helping with special education students who are included in your classroom. They may have particular challenges telling parents about their day in school, but provide the parents with some starting points and you will have increased the language opportunities for your students at home!
To make this parent website important to the students you can assign special projects when the students will be "guest writers" and they can tell parents about what is going on in the classroom. Parents will be able to respond to whatever goes up and in this way they model for the children that school is important, and that model is one of our most valuable teaching tools.
The last way that I mentioned for using a blog in the classroom is to set up a specialized learning plan for special needs students. Again the main thought is students with IEP's who are doing work that is in some way different from the rest of the class. The work that you present on their personal site may not be on grade level, but will be appropriate to the ability of that student.
The gist of what I learned is that there is a lot more to be done in the blogging format than I had thought. I am looking forward to designing some blogs that will meet the needs of my classroom, and I hope that other teachers will be inspired to think up wonderful new ways to tap into the Internet.