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.