It's a long time since I promised you "ideas on how to use the blogs in the classroom."
Let's just start with a quick review:
Blog- A free internet site. I recommend "blogger", since it's the one I'm familiar with. I can't promise you that all blog services have the options required for a closed blog. If you know of others, I'd certainly like to know about it.
You can use blogs in a variety of ways in the classroom. I have to admit, that the school I teach in does not have internet access for all students. It's a dormitory school, so I can't use these ideas with my own students, but I know that many student-bodies do have internet, whether at home or school or both.
Blogger has the option of closed blogs, which can have up to one hundred members and no outside access. As far as I understand, it can be more private than facebook and similar internet "services." Remember to warn your students of the dangers of internet "confiding," "chatting," etc. Many people are now having major problems deleting what they had once innocently (or not so innocently) posted to facebook. All internet activities can be "hacked" into.
Back to the blog. To sign up for blogger, they will (probably - things could have already changed) ask you for a gmail address. If you don't have one, sign up for one when you're opening the blog according to instructions. You can do this all in English, just scroll through the languages they offer. As teacher, you must be the only one with administrative rights. That gives you control for safety, security and discretion.
Once you've opened the blog, "investigate," click around the various options on the screen menu. That's how you get to know how to use it. Don't project ignorance to your students. They shouldn't be allowed to take over, for security sake more than anything.
You can have a class contest/project to choose the name of the class blog and write up anything else for the template. Unless you have oodles of teaching hours, I wouldn't waste too much class-time on the "setting up." What they can do would be to write short, individual "bios," which you can put on the blog's sidebar as a "who's who." That's a nice writing project.
When it's ready, send out invitations to their email, via the blog, to all of the students to contribute and be members. You can use the class blog as a newsletter. To make sure they see your announcements, send them notices that something new has been posted. They should be encouraged to comment to posts. You can also have them write letters and articles, making the blog an interactive class newspaper.
That's a start.
The Eye of the Storm