This year, we are using Edublogs K-12 in our district. We’ve had only a few short weeks to introduce teachers to the platform officially (and some teachers may not lay eyes on it until after school officially opens), but many are up and running with their own sites. These teacher sites will be used to communicate with families and the rest of the school community, as well as facilitate blogging practices within the classroom. Our next step is to add student blogs to the My Class feature and get busy blogging!
When I think about blogging in schools, I envision communities where kids fluently use their spaces to reflect on learning, share with one another, post project work, ask questions, think critically, engage in conversation around one another’s ideas, and connect globally with peers. This isn’t always the reality, though. We might embark on the blogging adventure, gung-ho and full of enthusiasm about the possibilities, only to become easily drained by the day in and day out must-dos that zap our creative energies and cause us to fall back on what’s comfortable, what’s mundane. How can we keep the passion for documenting our learning alive and make the most of this powerful platform we’re given?
Last fall, I shared this bit about blogging while I was thinking through our blogging goals for the year. Some of our classes enjoyed many successes with blogging last year. Others dabbled, and still others didn’t include any type of blogging activities in the classroom. As the tech integrator, what are my next steps to help teachers feel comfortable with, and see the value in, this practice? Here’s what I’m thinking:
1. Show teachers what blogs can do to support learning. Provide a variety of examples of classroom and student blogs and blogfolios in action. Help teachers appreciate that the blog is a highly versatile platform through which students can document FOR learning, as described and illustrated by Silvia Tolisano here:
2. Get the leaders on board. And hands-on. As far as I am aware, none of our district administrators actively blog, either as a form of home-school communication or as professional practice. The impact of a digital age leader on his teachers, students, and school community cannot be underestimated. When leaders model, practice, and share these methods, it sets the example for the rest of the school community that this type of sharing, learning, and communication is valued.
3. Make sure teachers are comfortable with the technical ins and outs of the platform early on, so their energies and efforts can be focused on planning for learning. Edublogs and WordPress dashboards can be pretty mind-numbing to someone who is new to the platform. Once familiarized with the themes, menus, and settings, however, it’s a breeze to publish new posts and keep pages updated. I’ll front-load support in this area to help teachers conquer any techno-fears they have that might prevent them from digging deeper and planning to include blogging activities on a regular basis.
4. Help students own it. We must relinquish control to the learner whenever possible. Over blog themes, page heading, posting topics,widgets and styles, integrated blogging activities, with whom and how they connect to comment and engage in conversation, and how they document and share what they’ve learned. Give kids choice, promote their voices, and empower them as autonomous, responsible readers and writers. If I had someone constantly looking over my shoulder telling me I could or couldn’t post something on my blog, or that an idea wasn’t good enough to share publicly, or I needed to address every misspelling or grammatical error in my post to the point where it interfered with my creative flow, I’d probably grow weary of blogging, too.
5. Get classrooms connected. Try as I might, I don’t have enough time in the day to comment on every elementary classroom’s blogs. I wish I did! Helping teachers connect their students with others through Quadblogging, The Global Read Aloud, and #comments4kids will help amplify our students’ voices and forge lasting relationships with other students, teachers, and learning communities.
6. Support and inspire. After the initial honeymoon is over, teachers will likely be looking for ways for students to use their blogs more creatively, to make thinking visible. I’d love to see our kids develop their spaces into digital portfolios which can then be shared at student-led conferences. I will be sharing many resources from Silvia Tolisano, whose work on blogging I consider to be among the best, and from Sue Waters and the Edublogger community.
I’d love for you to share in the comments your advice for how I can best support teachers with blogging this year, as well as any go-to resources you have to inspire students and staff!
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8 Replies to “Blogging for learning.”
I think the hardest hurdle for you will be convincing the teachers that the time spent blogging is valuable, especially when testing drives so many of our classroom decisions. IMO the biggest difficulty in blogging is the time it takes, I always allow half again as much time for students to write on blogs as I do for them to write on paper.
Good luck and let me know if there is anything I can do to help you convince them about the awesome possibilities for connections blogging allows.
Thanks, Will, I will surely be contacting you to help our kids form some global connections this year!
I hope to see our students (6,7th grade) create blogs this year. It is only our 2nd year as a school. I would love to stay in communication with you as we go. Thanks for your reflections!
Laurie, thanks for commenting – please reach out to me anytime if you’d like to connect our classes. Our 6th grade classes would really appreciate it, and I’m sure we could learn a lot from one another!
First, I just wanted to say hello! It’s been a while. I hope you — and that beautiful boy of yours — are doing well.
Second, my most successful blogging efforts have always started by creating a feed reader full of student blogs for my kids to explore and then requiring that they read and post comments TWICE as often as they write new posts for their own blogs.
That builds community — kind of like the quad blogging approach you mention — by building connections between readers and writers. I will comment on what you write, which means you are more likely to read and comment on what I write.
But it also provides kids with models of what other posts might look like and what other topics might be worth writing about. Sometimes kids (and their teachers) struggle to figure out just what to do with a blog. Lots of reading fixes that.
Finally, each comment serves as a starting point for potential posts. They are like rough drafts — a place for someone to polish some initial thinking that they can expand on later.
Heck — that’s what I’m going to do with this comment! It’ll be a full-fledged post on my blog probably before the end of the day tomorrow.
Rock right on,
Hi, Bill- I love how you’re creating a community of readers right alongside your community of writers. It’s so important, and kids cherish when other read their work. That’s why I’m digging Edublogs’ new Reader – kids can subscribe to classmates and even other Edublogs users’ blogs right in their Dashboard space. It’s a new feature that’s in beta, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how that works. Teachers, of course, can moderate and read and comment right from their dashboards as well. Talk about convenient! You said, “Sometimes kids (and their teachers) struggle to figure out just what to do with a blog. Lots of reading fixes that.” – and I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for examples of quality blog writing, commenting, and portfolio work. Thanks so much for replying here! Happy back-to-school 🙂
Love this idea and just challenged my entire K-6 school to get blogging up and running in every class this quarter. We have several classes that have already started and many more who are eager to start. We would love to connect our kids to your kids and be happy to collaborate with your efforts in any way possible. Do you already have a collection of great class blogs you are sharing with your district teachers?
Thanks for commenting! I would love for our students to connect with yours! I’ve been sharing this blogging resource with schools and teachers I work with. There are links to examples of student blogs as well as blogs being used at other levels and a number of resources to support classroom blogging:
Hope that helps! Reach out via email or Twitter when your classes are ready to connect!