In the districts I serve, our instructional resources team (which I used to be a part of before my AT shift) has been training and equipping teachers to use online tools to integrate technology into the curriculum. Using blogs as a way to get students writing and publishing has been an important and well-received strategy.
E School News posted an article headed, "Blogging Helps Encourage Teen Writing".
In it, they gave these statistics:
"Forty-seven percent of teen bloggers write outside of school for personal reasons several times a week or more, compared with 33 percent of teens without blogs. Sixty-five percent of teen bloggers believe that writing is essential to later success in life; 53 percent of non-bloggers say the same thing."
The study, who conductued it and comments on it can be found on the link above. One expert, Bradley A. Hammer of A Duke University Writing program said, "In real ways, blogging and other forms of virtual debate actually foster the very types of intellectual exchange, analysis, and argumentative writing that universities value."
I have a goal to implement blogs as an assistive technology application and support for students.
A.) This tool can support students that cannot write with their hands due to orthopedic and fine motor issues. Using an on-screen keyboard and mouse, or auto scanning and switch access, they can access their blog, password protected, at home and at school for note taking and research report writing. Having a social bookmarking account on Digg, Spurl or one of these types of sites, gives them a place to bookmark sites with topics of interest under various categories for research and recreation. Google's home page and notebook are also great tools for this.
B.)Blogs can support students that have a print disability where they need to hear what they write but don't have funds to purchase expensive software for text to speech and writing support. Using a free text reader in conjunction with a blog, or a widget that turns blog posts into audio posts complete with Mp3 conversion downloads (like Odiogo which is the one I use), students can create a no-cost audible writing support.
C.) The blog can provide needed motivation and collaboration through writing, adding images, and allowing peers to comment. This makes writing come alive in a social platform. Struggling learners that need remedial support should be given an opportunity to learn the required skills in a rewarding and engaging way - not isolated with drill and practice worksheets "because they can't handle anything else."
Teacher motivation, available technology in a classroom and paranoia on the part of district IT departments and administrators can be challenges,but we need to think outside the box. Blogging and social bookmarking are incredible resources. They are where we are headed. Having a study support the use of blogging for increased academic skills gives us one more reason to add it to our teachers toolbox.
All the best to you!