This post explores 6 practical tips to support you to start blogging in your classroom.
- If you are working with young students or have some community/policy nervousness about your students being online, check out the capacity for tailoring privacy settings in your chosen blog platform.
- I love Blogger, and the Blogger Junior iPad app that is SO easy to use. In Blogger’s settings/basic tab, one can ensure a blog is not searchable or listed. You’ll need to share the address with those you want to have access to it, but it is completely secure from the outside world.
- If you’re not a Google user, Wordpress or Edublogs are also free and frequently chosen.
- With older students, or later, when you have processes in place to manage student input and overcome nervousness, you can open up the settings and share the blog/blogs more widely, capitalising on the advantages of an authentic audience.
- Comply with school rules about images of students online. I always had parental permission for the use of children’s photos as part of the enrolment process, and we went out of our way to ensure names and images weren't able to be matched up.
2. Start with a whole class blog
- Involve students in creating lists of possibilities for the blog. What might go into it? What ‘ground rules’ might need to be in place?
- If it is a learning blog, consider student writing teams with different topics, tasks, themes.
- Have all students post regularly, perhaps as part of the assessment process or as a reflective tool.
- Involve students in peer and self assessment of blog posts. Use your own as a role model. Explore what makes a great post, what works and what doesn't together or seek digital feedback.
- Use the blog as a platform for collaboration and encourage learning from each other.
- Blogs can be a great space for project based learning, sharing and communication of insights and progress.
- Is it an issue blog, or a MAD (making a difference) blog or a special interest blog? I have worked with classes that set up Flat Stanley blogs - to share the adventures of Flat Stanley in their lives with other classes across the globe. I have also seen a blog for ‘Polly the Parrot’ a weekend home visitor. Families reported their time with Polly in text, photos and video. Each Monday morning, Polly’s host would share the family’s additions to Polly’ Blog.
- Consider guest/surprise bloggers posting to the blog. They might set off a new topic, introduce a controversy or provide input/stimulus on a class theme.
3. Remember parents
- Our experience tells us that attention should be paid to enabling parents to be a supportive audience for their child’s writing. We saw a teacher role play an approach to sharing blog posts at the beginning of the academic year, ‘Meet the Teacher’ night.
- Other teachers have shared ‘How To’ or ‘Sharing Tips’ notes with parents. For many, this is a new medium, and unless they are experienced with learning logs or portfolios, this is a new process for them.
- Perhaps your students could use a Google doc and create ‘Tips for our Parents’ as they ersearch and consider what is helpful.
- Of course the safety issues should also be aired with parents. Show them the safety mechanisms in the blog, help them to understand that their child should not provide personal information beyond first name in online spaces.
4. Individual Blogs
- Blogging works best when students have their own blog and their own log in. This builds responsibility and accountability, as well as ownership and pride. Personalising one’s own blog is great fun, and a terrific way to express one’s self.
- Blogs are places where students can express their opinions, ideas, dreams and learning. The opportunities are endless, and who knows, you may be inspiring a future content based entrepreneur!
- Writing for an authentic audience is a powerful motivator.
- ePortfolios are an obvious starting point, but individual blogs can be platforms for so much more.
- Blogs are storage points for student work, thinking and ideas over time, consider how your assessment practices might change to accommodate this. Also consider using a system to monitor student blog posts. I’ve tried Feedly and NetNewsWire with success, its easy to see who has posted and what.
5. Teach digital citizenship
- Teach students to use their own words, own thinking and own ideas. Plagiarism is a concept students should learn as early as possible. Besides, skills for the future now include content creation, and this is not cut and paste!
- Also show students how to credit their sources and to hyperlink to additional information and others’ blogs.
- Teach the use of analytics, where readers come from, how long they stay, what pages attract attention etc. Great skills for the future.
- Teach students (or have them teach each other and you if you don’t yet know how!) how to embed the products from the digital tools you use in your classroom, photos, video, widgets and more. Making the most of this platform means learning how to showcase more than just text.
- Peer mentoring, supporting each other with insights (content, processes or digital expertise) can be easily built in. I have seen a whiteboard hanging in a room, that students write questions on and others answer (in writing or by physically supporting), provide support or share knowledge.
6. Plan for the future
- At my last school, we created individual blogs for children from when they started with us at 18 months or on arrival at the school, and these blogs will stay with them throughout their schooling. They are learning journals that we hoped would span their time at the school. Reflections, reports and ideas were shared.
- We fully expected that their blog’s themes and individuality would grow and change with them over time, and looked for this capacity in our chosen platform.
- Consider how you might promote the blogs once they are established and the security issues are managed. A class Facebook or Twitter account might be the way to go.
- Connecting with other schools in your district, across the country or across the globe will expand the authentic audience opportunities.