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Blogs enter the classroom

The New York Times writes that last spring, "when Marisa L. Dudiak's second-grade class in Frederick County, Md., returned from a field trip to a Native American farm, all the students wanted to do was talk about what they saw. But instead of leading a discussion about the trip, Mrs. Dudiak had the students sign on to their classroom Web log."

Classroom Web logs, or blogs, many of which got their start in the last school year, are becoming increasingly popular with teachers like Mrs. Dudiak as a forum for expression for students as young as the second-grade level and in almost any subject. In the blogs, students write about how they attacked a tough math problem, post observations about their science experiments or display their latest art projects.

For teachers, blogs are attractive because they require little effort to maintain, unlike more elaborate classroom Web sites, which were once heralded as a boon for teaching. Helped by templates found at sites like tblog.com and movabletype.org, teachers can build a blog or start a new topic in an existing blog by simply typing text into a box and clicking a button.

Such ease of use is the primary reason that Peter Grunwald, an education consultant, predicts that blogs will eventually become a more successful teaching tool than Web sites.

"School Web sites are labor-intensive and are left up to administrators and teachers," said Mr. Grunwald, whose consulting firm in Washington focuses on the technology link between home and school. "With blogging intended to be a vehicle for students, the labor is built in. The work that is required to refresh and maintain an interesting blog is being provided by students."

One way teachers say they use blogs is to continue spirited discussions that were cut short or to prolong question-and-answer periods with guest speakers.

"With blogs, class doesn't have to end when the bell rings," said Will Richardson, supervisor of instructional technology and communications at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington, N.J., who maintained blogs for two journalism classes he taught last year.

Teachers say that the interactivity of blogs allowed them to give students feedback much more quickly than before.

"I used to have this stack of hard-copy journals on my desk waiting to be read," said Catherine Poling, an assistant principal at Kemptown Elementary School, also in Frederick County, Md., who ran a blog last year when she taught third grade at a nearby school. "Now I can react to what they say immediately, and students can respond to each other."

What, then, does this have to do with PR? Blogger Matthew Podboy ties in Poling's above-cited comment to the evolution of the press release: "Now here's the question - who's ready to predict when the press release - as we know it today - will disappear as a result of new communication vehicles like blogs and wikis? One year? Three years? In the short term, blogs and wikis will force PR consultants and communication folks to sharpen their releases and raise the bar on what constitutes "news." That's good for everyone. Who knows, over time they may disappear altogether. I mean, hey, we used to hand write releases and blast fax them on launch day, too."

I, for one, won't begin chiseling a tombstone for the press release, especially in the Nordic region where blog penetration remains fairly anemic. However, one can't ignore the breakneck pace of blog and RSS adoption in the United States. Nordic PR pros should pay close attention to these developments, particularly in light of the fact that fifth graders (!) and education professionals have begun to recognize the benefits afforded by these new vehicles. //Billy McCormac

August 20, 2004 in Posts in English | Permalink


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Billy, I'm glad to know that a savvy PR consultant like yourself is helping to increase the use of new communication vehicles like blogs. I'm sure others will follow soon. And I agree with you, we don't need to chisel a tombstone for the press release just yet - but if blogs force us all to write them a bit better in the near term, that'll be a win-win for everyone.

Posted by: Matthew Podboy at Aug 20, 2004 5:10:21 PM

Thanks, Matthew! I'm all in favor of shearing away superfluous content and honing the lead sentences of press releases. An eventual increase in the distribution of releases via RSS, which only gives you one or two sentences (at most) to make your point, will undoubtedly speed this process.

Posted by: Billy McCormac at Aug 20, 2004 5:59:10 PM


I can't be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. I just don't have anything to say recently.


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