Writing & Reflecting - Blogging


Let's talk about blogging! What it is, why you might consider trying it with your students, and what you need to know to get started. This page will provide you with links to resources and reminders to access later, so don't worry about taking notes.

This is me:

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Twitter: @danikabarker
Google+: http://gplus.to/danikabarker
Email: email@danikabarker.ca
Website:www.danikabarker.ca
Blog: www.dbarker.edublogs.org
Feel free to follow me on Twitter or email me if you have any questions. I'm happy to help out!

So what's a blog?

Blogs in Plain English



Benefits:

  • Building metacognition
  • collaboration with peers
  • authentic audience
  • sharing with parents

Platforms:


Blogger
This video provides a simple overview of how to set up a blog using Blogger. One of the reasons why I like Blogger is that if you already have a Google account (ie/ gmail), you can use that to sign in. Also you could create a number of "dummy" gmail accounts for students and let them use that to log in so you have access to everything.

Edublogs
Edublogs is a platform that is specifically designed for educational blogging. It is free but will have ads unless you purchase a pro account which is really quite reasonable and allows you to create up to 50 blogs with complete privacy control and without ads. This video will explain how to set up and Edublogs blog.


I use Edublogs for my class blogs. My class blogs are essentially my daybook. Students and parents can see what the plan is for the day and I include links and information as well. My class blogs are completely public. Occasionally I have students comment on the blog so if they do I ask them to use first name and last initial only. I have my blog features set so that I have to approve any comments before they are posted. Here's an example of one of my class blogs.


Ning
I use Ning for my student blogs. Ning is actually a social network platform like Facebook except that you can have the site open only to those you invite. The reason I like Ning is because it allows me one site that I can use to access to see all of my students' blogs without having to go to different sites. I can also use it for discussions, and sharing media. But I'll just talk about blogging for now.

Ning isn't free anymore but you can apply to have Pearson sponsor your Ning for free as I've done.

One blog with many writers or multiple blogs?

  1. If you're totally new to blogging, I would suggest setting up one blog and using it the way I have to post daily updates, links, and reminders, and then have students participate by commenting on blog. But don't be surprised or discouraged if students aren't blown away and amazed by this level of technology integration. It's a start and it's a great first step.
  2. Next I would suggest adding a few students as writers on your class blog. Depending on which platform you use, the process will be slightly different.
  • Blogger: Go to your Dashboard--> Settings-->Permissions--> Add Authors. You can add authors by entering their email addresses. If you're concerned about students using personal email addresses, you can create dummy accounts through gmail so that you have access to all the information.
  • Edublogs: Go to your Dashboard-->Users-->Add new user. Again, you will need email addresses, but Edublogs also allows you to modify the user's level of control over posting (eg/ they can post but they can't edit any other posts).
At this level of use consider having students take turns writing a weekly/daily post to share with parents and classmates what they've learned this week. The class could work together or in small groups to brainstorm the big ideas from the day/week and then students can take turns composing this information.

3. The ultimate goal in my opinion is having students create their own blogs because if you want buy-in, students need to be able to customize and personalize their space on the web. If they're writing on your blog, they can't really take ownership over their work.

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(And yes, I'm aware that this blog post does not represent perfection in terms of spelling, grammar, and punctuation; however, we talk about the different between formal writing and writing to learn. The purpose of blogging in this class is to reflect on ideas and share them with classmates, so minor errors are not a major concern for me in this class. I am stricter about it in my ENG4U class though.)

Creative Commons

When teaching students about writing online, I think it's important that they realize that just because they can find media online, it does not make it theirs to use in any way they want. I encourage students to use Creative Commons Licensed images and media wherever possible and to always give the creator credit by using a hyperlink.

Assessment

Blogs almost always represent formative assessment tasks. I do not mark all of them, and when I do I often have students do self evaluations and then choose the blog post they think represents their best work. This is the rubric I use for my media class where we blog once a week. I use a modified one for other classes where we might only be blogging in a particular unit.


Keeping it Organized

If you use Ning, it's pretty easy to keep track of your student blog posts because you can set your preferences so that you will get an email alert whenever a student posts.

If you use Blogger or Edublogs, I recommend using Google Reader. Rather than having to check your students' individual blogs to see if they've posted, you can set up an RSS feed for the blogs so you'll be able to see them in your Reader.

Tips and Tricks


Don't feel you have to comment on every blog post. I usually do at first to get them started but once they understand how to write an effective comment, they don't really need my input.

Remove the banner from a Blogger blog. Why would you want to do this? Blogger uses a banner at the top of the screen that allows you to randomly access another blog, which can be great for discovering new blogs, but you never know what you're going to get! So click here to find out how to remove the banner. It may look complicated but it's really just cutting and pasting.

Richard Byrne has great resources on blogging on his blog, Free Technology for Teachers. I highly recommend it!

Additional links added throughout today's sessions:
Kidblog: http://kidblog.org/home.php
Follow @grade1 on Twitter. Aviva's very helpful!