If your students are not blogging for various tasks in your drama course, they are being left behind on the side of the road. Blogs have been mainstream for over a decade now, the software that runs them gets better all the time, and as each year passes more and more educators are discovering just how relevant blogs can be to our wonderful discipline of drama.
I consider myself a fairly early adopter of blogs in drama education. I started blogging with my drama students back in 2006, and have continued to consistently use them ever since. This post is not intended to be a review of the various companies and their blogging software. Hands down, WordPress is the best blogging service around today, so I’ll get that one out of the way now.
My students blog for:
- certain performance tasks (not all)
My students blog during:
- individual performance tasks (single blog for each student)
- group performance tasks (a series of group blogs with multiple authors on each blog)
Here’s just a snapshot of what my students use blogs for in their drama courses at various levels of high school:
- posting personal reflections of the performance-making process (frustrations, successes, etc.)
- publishing academic reflections of the performance-making process (addressing assessment criteria etc.)
- posting images of potential or actual costumes
- publishing ideas for creating scenes in drama plays
- publishing post-performance reflections
- posting script drafts for others to see
- publishing images of props for use in plays
- posting a record of work undertaken during a class earlier in the day
- publishing checklists of tasks to be done during the performance-making process (
strikethrough when completed)
- posting timelines and deadlines for others to see
- posting developing research information
- hyperlinking to relevant external websites (about the play, ensemble topic, playwright, era, performance style, theme, theatre practitioner etc.)
- commenting on group blogs as a means of communicating and agreeing with classmates’ ideas
- commenting on other students’ blogs posts to offer advice, encouragement, support, appreciation etc.
- posting videos of rehearsals or polished scenes for classmates to see and/or offer critical feedback
I highly recommend using the WordPress software for blogging. WordPress is the daddy of the blogosphere, offers the most functions, and today powers an estimated 20% of the world’s websites. WordPress software can also be used to make the site look like a traditional website. Here’s a few tips while using WordPress in drama:
- if you want to publish a blog post with a time and/or date stamp at the top and a place for others to comment below, use the default “post” option
- if you wish to make information look like a traditional website page, use the “page” option to publish information
- you can also mix and match blog posts and web pages on the one website (eg. landing page is a “page”, while all other content is blog “posts”)
Newbies: If you’re a newbie to blogging, simply sign up for a free account at edublogs.org. Edublogs is essentially the largest blogging website in the world, founded by James Farmer. Behind the scenes, Edublogs is a multi-user blogging environment using the WordPress software. Note: paid upgrades for certain functions.
Intermediate: If you’re familiar with blogs and/or have dabbled in them briefly before, I recommend signing up for a free blog account at wordpress.com. Unless you pay for a paid upgrade, your free blog address will be whatever.wordpress.com. Most students and educators don’t care what the blog addresses are, anyway, so this is a great option. The blog is hosted for free on the wordpress.com servers and is regularly backed up in multiple locations so you will never lose your data. Note: there are some paid upgrades at wordpress.com blogs, such as domain name registration and video uploading.
Advanced: If you’re confident blog user and are already familiar with the WordPress software, you may want to download the software for free at wordpress.org. Note, this is .org, not .com as with above. The WordPress software package at wordpress.org can be uploaded to your school’s intranet server, for example, by yourself or your school’s IT technicians. The advantage of uploading this version of the software is that there are thousands of themes (graphical skins) and plugins that can be added to these blogs adding further functionality, normally in the form of widgets in the blog sidebar such as on The Drama Teacher. Note: the free wordpres.com blogs work fine for 90% of users, but have limited functionality, even after paid upgrades (eg. you cannot upload additional plugins yourself). You’ll need to know what you are doing with wordpress.org software and are responsible for your own back ups.
Multiple Blogs: If using multiple blogs, I recommend these options:
- Using the free wordpress.com software, the teacher and all students create their own blogs. The teacher’s blog is set up with a landing page (using the “pages” option). This main page then links to all student blogs via manual hyperlinking externally in the main blog sidebar. This doesn’t have to happen of course, but it can be easier for the teacher to find all class blogs this way. OR…
- Using wordpress.org software uploaded to your own server, follow one of these guides to unlock the Multisite feature: The Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Multisite, The Complete Guide to Creating a WordPress Multisite Installation. In this example, all class blogs are on the same network, internally controlled by the teacher on a single dashboard, and all having similar URLs eg. yourclassblog.com, tim.yourclassblog.com, sarah.yourclassblog.com.
Some of the obvious advantages of blogging in drama education include:
- it is as healthy blend of social networking and academic homework for students
- a drama workbook or journal is only seen by the teacher, whereas blogs can be seen by the whole class 24/7
- the teacher can check student progress and/or assess work on blogs at any time in any Internet-connected location
Primary/Elementary: if you would prefer everything a little simpler for your students, perhaps because you would like to introduce blogs to your Year 4 drama students, for example, a simple drag-and-drop blog service is Weebly. It’s a cinch!
Privacy: Finally, of particular concern for teachers and students is Internet privacy. All wordpress.com blogs offer the ability to ask search engines to ignore indexing the blog in search engine results. This means, while technically the blog address is publicly available on the web, the web address is only known to the teacher and students in the class and will not be found by others in Google, for example. It’s a simple check box in the security settings of the WordPress dashboard (admin panel). I have found in the past, search engines honour this request not to index the blog. I think there may still be in existence another feature to make a wordpress.com blog completely password-protected, also, if you prefer. If you are using the wordpress.org software, I recommend uploading it to your school’s Intranet and therefore make it only accessible behind a password login to that system.