Everything You Need to Know About Blogging In the Classroom

Guest Post by Blogger Jon Patry

You can visit Jon’s blog at www.eduboot.com and follow him on twitter @jtpatry

Since January, the students in the classroom have had the opportunity to begin using a Web 2.0 application Kidblog to create their own blog within a larger classroom established platform.

It is always unnerving to use new applications and tools to engage the learner, as often enough there are going to be questions that can’t be answered immediately.  We as teachers need to start realizing, that we aren’t always going to have the answers, and more often enough a student might be the black box holder.

Using a blog in the classroom can have many purposes and ultimately it is up to the teacher of how they want to create the experience for the students.  In our classroom, the blog is used for written expression and communication.  There isn’t a particular curricular focus for the blog, other then it is our classroom and students sharing.

What is published and posted on the blog is up to the teacher, as the content list is endless.  The blog is flexible and the teacher can use the platform for sharing showcasing, collaborating, creating, questing and informing.  Or simply put:

collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication.

The teachers role begins with conversations with the students about what a blog is (great youtube video by CommonCraft “Blogs in Plain English”).  This resource helped opened up the conversations about what makes/creates a good blog, what makes a good post, how should we ask questions, and what types of information should we include.  Promoting digital citizenship was also a huge component to working within this unique digital space.  The role of the teacher is unique in the digital community as you get to facilitate the conversations or get the wheels moving, and then sit back and watch the conversations unfold.

English: Students working at computers at Wald...

English: Students working at computers at Walden School in Louisville. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We began to post assignments and webquests on the blog as a means for students to work at school and at home.  With the assignments posted on the blog, information was posted for all to see (parents and students).  Webquests were caged to provide a foundation for students to work from.  Questions and web links were posted to get the thought juices flowing, and students had the option to use just the information posted or venture out on his/her own and seek more information.  Time frame for task completion is flexible, but with the Internet made available 24/7/365, students have access anytime at home and school.

Now you are hooked, interested and you want to start a classroom blog!  Blogging is becoming a great tool to use in the classroom.  It is great to jump in and try this wonderful experience, but as a teacher you want to become comfortable with using the application itself.  First and foremost, before you dive in and get your kids blogging, you must insure that you have followed protocol and filled out the appropriate documentation.  Ask yourself the question

What is your purpose of the blog in the classroom?

There isn’t a one-size-fits all purpose for blogging in the classroom and it really is a unique experience for those who use it to communicate with the world.  Is your blog’s purpose to:communicate with parents, publish student work in a portfolio, daily journal, communication tool with students from across the globe (this year we were talking to students from Russia to New Jersey).

Here are some other suggestions to help:

Platform Selection

There are many great platforms to choose from in the blogging world, but you need to select a platform that is going to best suit your students needs.  Safety and security are also two important areas of concern from both the home front and the board. kidblog.org and edublogs.org are two sites that put students needs and concerns first.

Establish Guidelines

Most of these parameters are going to be established when filling out the Web 2.0 PIA document that is highly recommended to fill out. Many boards require such documentation to be filled out in regards to what type of information you are posting.  Some other questions to consider:

  1. Will the blog be public or private?
  2. What protocols are you going to have in place for commenting on the blog?
  3. Are you going to read all of your students blog posts and comments before they are published?
  4. How are you going to deal with inappropriate conduct on the blog?

Inform the Parents

This is a pretty important and vital step to your blog.  Most parents are going to be supportive about blogging, and in fact some might already dabble in the experience.  Often enough though many parents are misinformed about what a blog is.  This is why it is important to have your purpose clear and laid out to explain to the parental group.

Final Thoughts

Blogs in the classroom is a great medium for students to communicate and express ideas when the need for written expression is required or desired.  The blog itself becomes a personalized form of written expression for all students in the classroom.  This is especially important for those students whom are more hesitant to speak in the class or have verbal communications skills.  The blogging experience has been a positive experience this year and one that utilized technology in a purposeful and meaningful manner, and an experience that will be repeated in the fall.

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7 Comments

  1. Michael Harding

     /  June 7, 2012

    In recent posts I have been talking about student-directed learning, one of the precepts of the Living and Learning years. I wish that blogging had been an entity when I was a teacher/principal. What an amazing opportunity for students to spread their wings and soar. This venue allows them to do some critical thinking, some creative writing and some collaborative planning. If teachers believe that students have some ownership in what they learn and how they’re allowed to express it, isn’t this a grand place to let them shine? Of course, they must understand the ethics and the dangers of using such media. They need to understand that the role of the teacher is to protect them from harm. There is also room for teacher intervention when it comes to proofreading and editing.
    I am very impressed with Jon Patry’s initiative, and whether or not he believes he is providing opportunities for self-directed learning, he is. Sometimes, often in fact, I wish I were back in the classroom with all of this technology available to me. But now I can only stand on the sidelines and cheer for teachers like Jon. Lori I suspect that you are the kind of principal who gives her teachers the freedom to roam and the chance to shine. Well done!
    *michael harding

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the comments and feedback!

      Yes, Lori is a leader that allows for “freedom to roam” as long as there is a purpose for the roaming, which is something that I know both she and I really encourage to make technology a meaningful and purposeful tool (in and out of the classroom).

      The blog has been a wonderful tool in the classroom and a great tool for learning with the “dangers of media.” Safety, security and the power this form of media that the student has a grip on, is in the forefront of the digital citizenship education that I and my partner attempt to instill in the students when using the blog. The beauty of the sites that I have mentioned in the post, is that they put the students first and allow the teachers to control everything that is posted and commented.

      As the year has progressed and the confidence that I have in my 9-11 year old students has allowed the reins to be lifted ever so gently. The students on many occasions have gone out on their own and created their own threads and posts to indulge in the blogging experience (which is obviously encouraged).

      If you want to check out what the students have been doing in the blogging world here is the blog: http://kidblog.org/Room1617Blogzone/

      Thanks again Michael!

      Cheers,

      Jon

      Reply
  2. Lori Cullen

     /  June 7, 2012

    Thank you Jon and Michael for leaving amazing comments and follow up to this blog post. And, of course Jon for guest blogging here on my site. It’s great that you put up the link to your blog so everyone can see learning in action!

    Reply
  3. Michael Harding

     /  June 7, 2012

    What you are doing implies some risk-taking, of course, but the end result justifies the risk. Since I didn’t have any technology in my classroom I took different routes to provide students with opportunities to fly on their own. One experience left me terrified until I realized how much the kids had grown and how having someone trust and believe in them helped with their confidence and self-esteem. I invite you to check out my post on VoicEd titled “Learning to Live With Living and Learning- Risky Business”. Bet you wouldn’t try this in this day and age Lori.
    *michael

    Reply
  4. Hi all,

    We at Keeler School are just in beginning stages of looking at connected student learning to the world out there, and are testing out using iWeb on the Mac to do so. We have a couple of students doing their own blogs through choice, and teachers are starting to see the potential in the tool. Even our Kindergarten students are getting into the act! The teachers are working with the students to create blog entries in small groups where they can share their learning through text and media, and it is opening up the classroom. Early stages, but I am excited about where we are going!

    One tool I have been using for my own blog is my iPhone. I would really like to test out using Speech to Text with our students to enable them in this work. I often (using my Bluetooth, of course) will write and reflect in a blog entry on the 50 minute drive home from school. It takes me 10 minutes (plus thinking and editing time afterwards) compared to probably 60-90 minutes if I had to type it.

    Have you tried using Speech to Text with students in this way? We are going to play with it next year, and I see a ton of potential for blogging, as it has been such a game changer for me!

    Derek Rakowski

    Reply
    • Lori Cullen

       /  June 9, 2012

      Thanks Derek. I’m always amazed at the innovative ways educators work with children! I hate to say it I personally am behind the times with my Blackberry… I need an iPhone! What speech to text software are you using or thinking of using with students?

      Reply
  5. For myself, I am using the software that comes with the iPhone 4s, and yes, I would totally recommend getting an iPhone. It has absolutely been a game changer for me. The T2S works wonderfully and I use it for creating notes, blog entries and even answering emails that I know need a longer response. One of my favorite uses is “writing” a thank you to our staff on Friday as I am driving home.

    For students, we are looking at Dragon for the iPod Touches, which I will be ordering. I am especially excited for the possibilities for our students where writing just plain does not show what they know… Should be an exciting year next year, as I think the biggest thing will be getting teachers using it as well!
    D

    Reply

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