Kidblog.org is an educational blog site that has been developed for teachers, by teachers. Using Kidblog, teachers and students can create conversations on the web. These conversations are listed in reverse-chronological order like other similar blog sites. Kidblog also allows students to leave comments on other students’ pages (but always under teacher supervision).
The site is commercial free, user friendly, safe, and simple. Teachers can set up an account for their entire class in minutes, and have complete control over publishing and privacy. Last but not least, it is 100% free!
Kidblog is a rather basic website. If you feel like you are not quite tech savvy or just don’t have the time to invest in web design, this site is for you. To begin, simply go to the home page at Kidblog.org and click on “Click to Create a Class.” You are brought to the account page, and it will ask you for your name. You will create a password, decide what you want the blog to be called, and provide your email. Once the account information is completed, you will be taken to your blog’s Dashboard. From the Dashboard page, just follow the tabs at the top to write a new post, review posts, moderate comments, or change settings. The only tricky part is, before beginning, click on the “Settings” tab. Under General Settings, make sure to click the SSL Login so that you enable SSL, which adds more security when you log in to your blog. (Here's another tip: When adding students to your blog, use numbers instead of typing names into the system. It is a real timesaver.)
The website works the same on both Macs and PCs. There is nothing to download, so there are no worries about clogging up your computer with viruses.
Before using Kidblog with your class, consider two things. First, think about the purpose of your blog. Are you going to use it for one project or will it be ongoing throughout the year? Will new posts be created or will conversations be continued? By adding comments, threaded conversations can become rather lengthy, while creating new posts allows the creator to have use of spellcheck, font changes, clipart, video clips, and sound clips from the toolbar. Second, make sure students have time to practice before actually beginning an assignment. Providing models of expected work is always a benefit. For additional support, check out one school district's Technology Resource Teachers' post on Kidblog.
So how can using a blog help students learn history? There are limitless ways to use the website, but there are a few strategies that work particularly well in the elementary environment. When first starting a unit, create a “KWL chart” on your blog. Have students blog about what they know, what they want to know, and eventually what they have learned. Students will be able to see other posts and scaffold their learning off the responses of others. As the educator, you can quickly assess, focus, and possibly redirect your unit to meet the specific needs of your students.
Another way to use Kidblog is to post video or audio clips. After our unit on the early 20th century, students viewed and listened to footage of Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt on Kidblog. Students had to decide who was a better president, and they blogged reasons to support their choices. Knowing that the writing was being presented to classmates encouraged a focus on the published quality.
Another angle for student blogging is to let each student roleplay a different historical figure. Have students create conversations and discuss different topics from varying viewpoints. What would Harriet Tubman say to Martin Luther King, Jr.? How would Benjamin Franklin respond to Dwight D. Eisenhower?
There are many educational blog platforms available, but in terms of ease of use, Kidblog has a great deal to offer. Students are more digitally versed than ever before, and Kidblog helps students quickly move from learning the platform to using the platform to learn.
To learn more about general blogging services, check out this Tech for Teachers entry. High school teacher Kyle Smith has suggestions for using blogs in the classroom. Eighth-grade teacher Amy Trenkle does, too. You can read a historian's take on blogs in Jeffrey W. McClurken's two-part Ask a Digital Historian answer: Here's part one and part two.