The classroom blog: This is how you do it, science style!

bakernhm.jpg Last fall, whilst I was in London at the Natural History Museum, I was lucky enough to spend some time with a group of high school students who had travel all the way from the northeastern United States. They were totally engaging, and completely enthralled with the prospect of taking in the museum exhibits and learning some biodiversity science. They were, in a word, awesome! Why the enthusiasm? Well, I suspect a lot of it had to do with the fact that they had to write pieces for their classroom blog. This (as in using blogs in a classroom setting) seems like a brilliant idea. And the science blog run by these students with their teacher, Miss Stacy Baker, is definitely one of the best out there. In many ways, the blog format offers students and teachers a great platform where they can broach topics, share ideas, practice their writing, and even interact with experts in the field. In particular, I love how there is this degree of "relevancy" in assignments structured this way. In other words, no longer is the student's homework something to be discarded and forgotten once graded - now the work is actually a piece of writing that exists in the public realm. In fact, the work that these students produce has lead to some pretty amazing opportunities (a good example being some of the students being selected to blog for Nature) Best of all, as you can see from the video below, even the students think it's cool:
So how do you do this in your own classroom? Well, Stacy has gone to the effort of sharing her experiences, so that some of the logistics of starting a classroom blog are less daunting to the newbie. This includes outlines of how she structures the assignments, mechanisms for student evaluation, and information on the issue of permissions and public access. Anyway, check out their blog (some of them are even reporting right now from the Science Online 2011 conference). If you're a science-y type, leave a comment or two. Better yet, if you're a blogger and you have a teacher friend, maybe you can offer your help in setting one up (you know how easy this actually is). Based on these students' experience alone, it looks like it would be well worth the effort. The Extreme Biology Blog



  1. For the last few years I have been writing, lecturing and doing whatever I can to push forward better use of technology in education, especially Science. Since Uruguay has given a laptop to every single elementary student, and now is stating to work with middle school, I had great hopes that would produce a major jump in all good things about learning and school.

    over two years later, it has not happened.

    As I mused on that, I realized it had a lot to do with the fact that they are not actually *using* the things to learn – computers, enormous investments in connectivity, etc, are dead in the fact there is extremely little give-and-take, too much of the later, little or none of the former.
    Blogging could make a huge, humongous difference at least to get started, and thus the handful of teachers in Uruguay who have adopted this medium are actually among the very few whose practices have something to do with this being 2011 and not somewhere a generation back.

    BTW, I have only one criticism on Ms. Baker’s class stuff. Even though it is obvious that Stacy is generous (see her Prezi stuff if you want proof), she has committed that very common sin of those who should know better: Her blogs are marked as “copyright”, not under some sharing license – even though they use WordPress, which “is both free and priceless at the same time. The core software is built by hundreds of community volunteers”. Next time I visit I’d be happy to see that beside biology and blogging she also has got this right about collaboration and good community practices…

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