Prior to beginning school year
Establish a school-wide agreement on the purpose of Student Blogs. Discuss what they are, WHY you have them, and how they will be implemented. The biggest point here: WHY are you doing this?
Create a Golden Circle and post it everywhere to remind people of your WHY.
Your blogging platform should have been chosen prior to this week and student accounts set up. Students will need their usernames and passwords for logging into the blogs. I would recommend loading a compatible app for Wordpress/Edublogs/Blogger like EasyBlog JR app on iPads as this lets students publish video, audio, text, photos at the touch of a button. Explaining how to log in and out of the blog is your priority this week!
If this is your first foray into anything digital, this would be the time to focus on what a Digital Citizen is.
If your students are already familiar with digital citizenship, spend time creating a Golden Circle with them about WHY they have blogs, HOW they will go about creating blog posts, and WHAT they will do with their blogs. This is also a good time to talk about being an Empowered User.
Documenting student conversations is key this week. You could video discussions, take notes, or have the students use Visible Thinking routines such as I Used To Think...Now I Think to show the change in thinking about blogs as you introduce them.
Think ahead to the types of skills you are going to want students to be able to do independently. For our students, we wanted them to be able to:
- start a new post
- add tags and categories
- insert media (photo, video)
- hyperlink text
Create video tutorials for these skills and work with students to practice these within a relevant context.
Create a ‘can help/need help’ board and encourage those who know what they are doing to share their knowledge with others.
Continue to ensure all students are able to log into their blog, create a new post, organize the post appropriately (refer especially to the Facets of Understanding to add depth to the posts) and publish their work. This should be starting to become an autonomous process.
Give authentic tasks and the time for students to practice blogging in class.
Keep a record of blog posts and use this week to continue conferencing with students to support them in their new learning.
Creating own content: Keynote
It is easy to add audio and voice to a Keynote and this is the opportunity for students to create a digital artifact, export it as a Quicktime file and import to their blogs. As creators of digital content, they will need to cite their sources appropriately and should be encouraged to create their own sources of media using cameras and Garageband if desired.
The process they are undertaking to create their own content is an excellent source for a new blog post.
At this stage, students may wish to explore their options with regard to their blog Theme and Widgets. The opportunity to personalize their learning space is one that should be given time and consideration.
Support students with video tutorials.
Develop peer tutors for those students who may need more support.
Creating own content: iPad Apps
Give students the opportunity to create their own content using iPad apps. A good guide for teachers and students is iPad Integration@Nanjing International School, an iBook that I authored when leading a 2 day workshop at NIS. It is a free download on the iTunes store.
During this week, draw students’ attention to their classmates blog. Create a page of links to all student blogs so students can easily access each other’s work and leave comments on their work. Spend some time discussing what makes a good comment and what is appropriate for online commenting.
Rethink your teaching and learning to include opportunities for students to differentiate their learning and show their understanding in a variety of ways.
Be prepared to give the students the freedom to create.
Continue to develop students and commenters on each others blogs.
Introduce the idea of blog subscribers in order to get another perspective on their learning. Have students think of 5 people that they would like to be subscribed to their blog (last year’s teacher, parents, grandparents, family friends, babysitters, older siblings, coaches..etc). Collect these email addresses and add as blog subscribers.
Talk about what to do with comments when they come in and how to respond to them to develop conversations about learning.
Conference with students, asking them to keep a record of their blog post comments (they they have left on other blogs) aka. COETAIL comments. Talk about what they can do to improve comments.
Introduce Blog Squads - (Triple Blog Squad, Quad Blog Squad, Penta Blog Squad) to develop interactions between classrooms. This could be at a grade level or cross grade level. The idea here is to build community within the school by having students learn about what is happening in other classes through the blogs.
The increase in commenters is to drive traffic to blogs to boost engagement. Have students look at blog stats to discuss this.
Beyond Week Ten
Continue to embed blogs into your classroom life, encouraging the creation of digital work and allowing the time and freedom for student reflection on learning.
Review the categories and have students go back over their posts and ensure they are all categorized. Create a category such as “Portfolio” or “Conferences” and have students add these categories to posts they wish to include in this context. Students can comment on their own work, indicating why the work is in this category.
Seek feedback from students about their blogs. What do they like? What do they need help with? What do they want to change?
Remind yourself and your students of why you started this and check in with yourselves as to how your vision for the project has panned out.
Consider creating a new Golden Circle based on what you know now.
Create a Google Form to collect feedback from your students.