Classroom Blogging – Still Worth Doing
Blogging in the classroom – people seem to love it or hate it. Some people may believe it is passe’(1) while others are using it as a primary part of their instruction and feedback process(2). Let’s look at blogging in general and how you go about setting up a classroom blog and what you can do with it.
There are very easy ways to set up a class blog. You can use sites such as blogger.com, wordpress.com, kidblog.com or edublogs.com. Each of these is free, so you can set up a class blog without spending any money at all! And, actually, edublogs is based on WordPress and it allows you to create a blog, add students, and get publishing quickly. Again, all free. Though, there are upgrade options for edublogs if you need them. No matter which route you take, you’ll need to create a new account and get logged in. The basics of blogging are this: write about something happening in your class and let other people respond. Those other people can be other teachers, students, people from the community, whatever. Each site I mentioned has ways to limit who can respond and how. For example, you can set your blog so that you, as instructor, have to approve any comments before they appear on the site. I wholeheartedly recommend this!
Now, before I go too much further, you may be asking yourself, “Yeah, but what do I write? How often do I write?” You may say, “I don’t have time for this, are you crazy?” Well, I can help answer some of those things. First of all, WHAT you write is totally up to you (or your district if there is a policy). Depending on your grade level or subject area, it can a sight word list, vocabulary, a book study writing prompt, homework help, whatever! Or, you can have the students write posts about the things they did or learned earlier that week.
For example, a third grade class might pick two students per day to write a quick summary of what they did the day before – just a couple of sentences about what they learned or did. Sometimes, they could talk about a field trip, sometimes they simply tell you that they had gym class. The students post under the teacher’s account. Anyone can comment, but the teacher must approve the comments before they are published for the world to see. They key here is that the students post AFTER something happened, not BEFOREHAND and not DURING. So, if they go to the zoo, you won’t read about it until after they’ve already been there and returned. This is for their safety. They also would not use last names when they post. I’ve seen other classes where students use only their initials.
How much time does it take? It can take no time at all, really. A quick sentence or two to provoke some thought. You may find something that bears further explanation and take a bit more time with it, but it doesn’t have to be long, or poetic, or mind-blowing. It can be those things, of course! But, it doesn’t HAVE to be. And, if you get the students involved, it gives them a way to PUBLISH their thoughts online! Yeap, once they put it out there, they are blog authors! They will tell their parents, grandparents, friends, you name it! Also, don’t worry about spelling, grammar, etc for the young students. The idea is to get them to express their thoughts. For older students, that’s different. I would apply any of the same rules you have for other written work they have to turn in. Some classroom blogs use photos, some don’t. A lot of that will depend on your district’s media release policy and whether or not you even want to use pictures. Examples might be photos from a field trip, from a science experiment, or maybe pictures of class projects. There are all kinds of reasons to use photos and they don’t have to show any of the students. If they do show students, then I suggest using a program (like Microsoft Paint) to cover the actual faces with shapes.
A blog can be a great way to extend your classroom beyond the four walls you visit every day. So, head over to edublogs.com, kidblog.com, wordpress.com, or blogger.com and start up your classroom blog today! If you do, let us know! We love checking out classroom blogs and will be happy to offer any tips or tricks!
(1) I have heard presenters at various conferences mention that classroom blogging is dead and passe’, but I was not able to locate any online articles to support that sentiment.
(2) Examples of teachers using classroom blogs are abundant via web searches. Here are a couple examples and/or posts about using blogs in the classroom: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/adamjcopeland/2015/02/16/student-writing-gone-public-blogging-classroom http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/ http://www.teachingquality.org/content/blogs/bill-ferriter/three-tips-classroom-blogging-projects http://blogpals3.edublogs.org/