Over the last few days I have been investigating classroom blogs. I perused a range of articles and visited a number of New Zealand and international class blogs. Combined with my own experience, this post has resulted in a culmination of thoughts on purpose, platforms, and the process of establishing a classroom blog.
Encourages student reading and writing. Not only is there novelty in using digital technology to write, there are a range of other aspects to motivate students. Work is going to be seen by the public, so kids want it to be good! To be able to leave a comment you need to read or analyse a post. Most browsers (Safari, Chrome etc) allow text to be read aloud by the computer and convert speech to text to aid dyslexic or students with difficulties to contribute their thoughts in full.
Communication with home. Folks at home can not only see what is going on in class with photos and student work, they could also have access to homework expectations, upcoming events, notices and newsletters - possibly through a link to the school website.
Communication with wider community. Many class blogs have a widget that shows where visitors to the site are from, a great discussion around communities and connectedness. Your class could establish a relationship with a class from another country, possibly one whose language you are learning!
Teach digital citizenship. Having students familiar with blogging provides opportunities to discuss safe and responsible internet use, and also teaches aspects of privacy, copyright, and cyber bullying.
Development and integration of skills. Blogging draws on a number of skills and subject areas including reading, writing, graphics and design, typing, layout & composition, computer and ipad skills, as well as numerous digital skills for various programs. It also provides a useful context for these skills to integrated and developed, skills that will be beneficial in the future!
Learning beyond the classroom. Because students can contribute, read, or comment on blogs wherever they have the internet, learning extends beyond the classroom.
Access to resources. A class blog can be used as a learning hub where links or media can be kept and categorised. Possibly there are a collection of flipped videos to be viewed at home, examples of quality work, or learning resources such as online learning games or activities, e-books, or relevant student friendly information websites.
Student portfolio. The use of page or label tags allows posts to be collated under all sorts of categories including student names. Over the year kids build up a portfolio of work, either digital work, photos of class work, or achievements outside the classroom.
Teacher portfolio. In a similar vein, posts could be tagged with particular Registered Teachers Criteria or Key Competencies to illustrate how criteria is being achieved. Why create a separate document?
Think about purpose
There are many reasons to create a blog. It’s best to start with one main focus, ‘communicate with parents’ or ‘encourage student writing’ and get this underway before you move on to your next focus. This will prevent blogging from becoming overwhelming, avoided, and fall to the wayside.
Pick a platform
There are a number of platforms, or companies that provide blogging services, to choose from. Many of them are entirely free, others have a charge for premium services. Education blogs are made easier to use and manage by a number of features such as multiple administrators, and no advertising. Not all providers have all the features, so it’s good to make comparisons.
Here is a table of blogging platforms and their features created by Richard Byrne to help compare.
Parent permission and safety
It’s a good idea to have a plan of attack in terms of teaching digital citizenship, for students and also parent peace of mind. There is a huge selection of resources online, but having a comprehensive set of guidelines published by a reputable source is a great start.
MOE e-nabling e-learning
Common Sense Media
Preparing to publish. Google Docs is a great way to have students collaborate on writing and editing, and looked over by a teacher, before it’s published by students. Alternatively, the teacher could lead the posting.
Feedback. Giving students feedback on their posts, formal or informal, will improve the quality of the classroom blog. This assessment rubric is a good start, but ideally the class would create their own feedback rubric. Explore other education blogs to search out criteria for your class rubric - take note of classes that might be of interest down the track for future connections.
Comment. Leaving constructive criticism is a lesson in itself. Quality comments can be practiced with the Google Docs comment function. They can also be monitored and removed by the blog administrator, to avoid any tom foolery! Use your class feedback rubric as a basis for comments and then expand to content feedback.
Connect. Keeping the blog active is important. Having the blog connected beyond the classroom keeps students and teacher motivated to continue posting. Family and friends is the first level, possibly other teachers or students in the school, but think about classes from a school in another town, even another country. Language and culture exchange possibilities abound! There are a number of widgets to track visitors, some take up more space than others. Believe it or not, there are even people around the world who are ready and willing to comment on kids posts! Twitter #comments4kids
Share. By sharing and re-posting you can avoid doubling up on work as well as connecting with a wider audience. Share posts on the school Facebook page, and when students are savvy, have posts originate from their individual student blogs.
Organise. There are a number of features to organise your blog. Labeling posts can visually illustrate student contributions, and pages can categorise subject related information or home learning. It may be worthwhile blind tagging posts with key competencies or registered teaching criteria to have the blog become a teaching portfolio.
Personalise. Having a background with a bit of personality makes a good first impression. Easy to read and consistent font with posts would be my preference yet others seem to prefer letting students take ownership of all design aspects. One thing I would avoid is many small photos under one another as it drags out the post.
Integrate. The best way to keep blogging is to make it part of the regular programme. There are numerous ways to do so. Perhaps another post.
No reason to not have a classroom blog really! Let me know if you need a hand, or visit these great sites to do it yourself.
Tuitive can help with the establishment of your blog. I offer workshops for both staff and students so the finer points of blogging to bog you down. The most important aspect is that you enjoy your classroom blog!
https://www.theedublogger.com/check-out-these-class-blogs/ (list of class blogs)
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/digital-citizenship (digital citizenship)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XEyLTbUfKusx5apVU1r_SJvu_wTeBfiBTr4tHtDLj3I/pub (platform comparison)
http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/Professional-development/Digital-citizenship-modules/Digital-citizenship-and-cybersafety (digital citizenship)
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1jyGHhbVuF9OMoSj5N1KpISweaF8q4-XuE1WC5D_qwRA (quality blog post rubric)