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An innocent comment on Twitter this week set quite a conversation flowing across the globe. To blog or not to blog with ones class? Or more precisely  how to keep teachers blogging with their classes. It would appear I am not alone in finding other teachers love the concept of blogging, the idea of a class blog attractive but fail to understand the commitment required and so give up fairly quickly. I know that this has occurred in my own school and in many others. So my question today is why? Why do so many teachers start off enthused, with their class as eager as they are to connect and collaborate around the word and then give up a few months later? Or not bother to restart the following year?

Some of the comments I read this week included:

  • I find getting ppl to start blogging is rarely the problem..getting them to maintain!
  • First few posts are fun, then enthusiasm wanes
  • Had some success spinning off the web 2 blog, and a lot of hand holding #unsustainable

Personally I think it all comes back to our overstuffed, over-busy lives as primary teachers. With curriculum demands, parent demands, testing demands and more. If one adds a new class blog into that mix without letting go of something else, then that becomes a recipe for chaos and exhaustion.

After all, it is easy to start a blog, easy to make it look good. Many blogging platforms will help you do this. My ten year students can add widgets and calendars and pretty decorations with ease. Yet as we point out to them when they start, it is a different matter to keep up to-date with posts, to write relevant and interesting ones regularly and to maintain this day after day, week after week.

My class blog has been up and running for the past fifteen months now and I cannot see myself ever teaching without one. So today these are my top tips to running and maintaining a class blog.

1. Share the load. I co-author a year5 blog with the other year 5 teacher @pruthomas. That way we can take it in turns to write posts.
2. Often we ask a student to write one for us. That way our students are completing authentic writing tasks and helping us.
3. We have found this year that we have been able to re-use some of the ideas we had last year, such as our popular “what was testing like for you post” we wrote during NAPLAN week.
4. Set aside time for blogging. Friday afternoons are often blogging afternoons for us. Fifty minutes of real reading and writing. Reading other student blogs, commentating on other class blogs. They read and comment, we whip up a quick post, a win-win situation.
5. Set aside time to check the flag counter and the globe widget. We had our first visitor form the Czech republic this week and the students were thrilled, especially since we are reading a novel set in that area of Europe.
6. Hold a parent afternoon, we will be having ours soon. Enthuse the parents and the students together.
7. Tweet your best posts and encourage comments from others around the globe. Then read those comments together in class.
8. Enjoy learning how to create slide shows of your students art works and then wait for the complements to role in from the parents who are too busy to view them on the wall at school.
9. Celebrate your special days or excursions, write about science experiments or the books you are reading.
10. Follow the teacher’s blogging challenges, with the wonderful help and advice from edublogs.

Make blogging a natural part of your daily routine, a habit and a priority for your class. it doesn’t have to take much time and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

For that I believe is the key. To work successfully, blogging has to replace something else. It has to become a habit and a natural part of your daily classroom life, an extension of your reading and writing program.

  • I keep telling my student tchr atm that u can’t do everything! Unfortunate but true reality of teaching!
  • Blogging is no longer a priority but instead a habit that just happens for me.
  • Yes,it’s a habit/a classroom hub..not a novelty

What advice could you add to this list? As the more teachers who can keep up with a class blog the richer, more varied and more diverse the opportunities for authentic reading and writing my class and yours have.

 

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13 comments

  1. Ed

    Some great ideas, Henrietta, thanks. My perspective is that it’s hard to sustain something unless you really see its value. When it comes to technology, I think it’s imperative to start from the learning, rather than the tool. We’ve tried to do that with class blogs at our school, not pushing teachers to start one because blogs are fun and worthwhile enhancements to learning (although they are!), but to start one when they feel it will serve a particular learning purpose for their class. Hopefully this will mean they will want to sustain their blogging endeavours!

  2. Hi Henrietta,

    Excellent post. This is something I can’t stress enough to people when I help them start blogging; they have to work out how they are going to keep the blogging going!

    I agreed with every one of your points. The Family Blogging Afternoon was something we just implemented this year with a great deal of success! Read more about it here http://primarytech.global2.vic.edu.au/2011/03/23/family-blogging-afternoon/

    As we talked about on Twitter, you have to make blogging a priority into your classroom and then it will become a habit. Blogging is now something that is part of my daily work program where as when I first started I was just grabbing time here and there with less success.

    I also believe you have to have a passion for blogging yourself to get the most out of it. I recently made a comparison with another teacher at my school. We both use iPod Touches and blogs in our classroom because we realise the benefits, however I am very passionate about blogging and spend hours and hours each week working on blogs and just a small amount of time playing with the iPod Touches. He is the opposite – he will spend hours finding new apps and uses for the iPod Touches but just dedicate a small amount of time to blogging. I’m not sure if that passion can ever be forced.

    Whatever the case, I’m like you. I could not imagine having a class without a blog now!

    Kathleen

  3. Dear Henrietta,

    I agree with your views wholeheartedly, and I also agree with Edna’s and Kathleen’s comments.

    If teachers want to commit to class blogging, they need to take the time to learn the blogging basics, improve their skills, develop an audience and instil a love of blogging in their students. This all takes time and patience, and unfortunately, too many teachers don’t persist with the blogging journey.

    Luckily, there’s lots of us out there that do love the power of blogging! 🙂

    Kelly

  4. Jasmine Dwyer

    Thanks ladies for your timely advice.
    I am considering starting a class blog and am just doing a lot of reading about them first. I’m getting into twitter for networking possibilities and have taken part in some edublog teacher challenges. I suppose my questions are:

    What does your day look like?
    How is blogging so embedded?
    What are your daily routines with blogging?
    What are parents/students/teachers roles and responsibilities with blogging?

    Kindest regards,
    Jasmine Dwyer
    Northern Territory

  5. Linda

    Thanks Henrietta – I’ll show this post to our teachers. While many see the value of blogging, many feel they are drowning keeping up with the kids’ posts and comments. I was planning to have a ‘show and tell’ in a PD session, where teachers could have some time to explore other class blogs within our school, see what others are doing and enthuse each other. The ideas you have given above are a valuable addition to the discussion I hope will be generated.

  6. Dear Jasmine
    It is great to hear you are thinking about starting a blog with your class, I hope you have read the excellent comments below as I agree with Edna, Kelly and Kathleen that you need to take the time to learn the basics and you need to work our how to connect bloggin into the learning that is going on in your classroom. Blogging is embedded in my Year 5 classroom with a Friday afternoon session but I know that blogging is embedded in Kathleen’s year 2 class with a daily routine of reading and responding together. As to roles and responsibilities I think that depends on if you are expecting to let your students contribute and if so how much. I plan to write more on this subject next week. I suggest you also check out Kathleen’s post she recommends below, as it is excellent.

  7. Hi Jasmine,

    To answer your questions briefly:

    What does your day look like?
    – 20 minutes whole class blogging at 9am every day (reading comments, posts, responding to global blogging buddies etc)
    – students work on blog comments during literacy rotation each week
    – 1hr in computer lab on blogging each week
    – most students use the blog at home at least once a week (some every night lol).

    How is blogging so embedded? part of literacy blog – we use blogging for authentic reading, writing, speaking and listening tasks.

    What are parents/students/teachers roles and responsibilities with blogging?
    We have a progression in our grade two class
    1. learn about quality commenting
    2. learning about posting
    3. students can earn their blog.

    At the start of the year, teachers post and students/parents comment. Comments are fantastic for conversations when you teach the students how to do this.

    Like Henrietta, I have on my to-do list to write a post about how I embed blogging into the day at a later time. Also check out my blogging posts here http://primarytech.global2.vic.edu.au/information-about-educational-blogging/

    Hope that helps!
    Kath

  8. Hi Henrietta. Maintaining a blog is obviously a wide-spread problem. I’ve seen at least 4 teachers at my school set up a blog but fail to maintain it. I think that one of the key aspects is the reading and commenting on other class blogs as this enthuses the kids, which in turn helps to keep the teacher enthused. However, the setting up and the initial stages does need a time commitment and a willingness to take some risks and do some personal learning, and it’s my experience that some teachers find that difficult.

    I’ve had a class blog for four years now, and it is just a habit I suppose to keep it going. My students have at least one blogging related task as part of their Lifestyle Homework contract each fortnight, and seeing what other classes are doing is a great stimulus – whether it is to do with blogging or not.

  9. Henrietta,

    Great post! I agree with everything that you’ve said, and I echo the thoughts of Edna, Kathleen, and Kelly.

    Integrating blogging into a classroom can be a real mind-shift for teachers…it was for me. When I first started out in 2008, I felt guilty spending time on our blog. I kept thinking I was teaching “computer technology skills” while taking time away from my reading and writing lessons. I noticed immediately that my students were interested in reading the posts on our classroom blog, as well as the posts from their blogging buddy classes. They were eager to contribute comments and communicate with one another. I decided to tap into that enthusiasm and our blog has become the centerpiece of our class, a real hub for learning.

    Blogging is a regular part of my morning language arts period. Sometimes the students read a post or comment individually, while other times I have them chorally read. We compose comments together, or they work in pairs to write quality comments. The authentic writing practice has been so beneficial for my third graders. Because they practice writing so often, they can sit down and compose a quality comment with ease. I never get students who say, “I don’t know what to write.” That’s powerful!

    Linda commented that teachers “…feel they are drowning keeping up with the kids’ posts and comments.” That is why I would recommend starting with a class blog. It is a great way to introduce students to the elements of blogging, proper netiquette, and Internet safety. In my class, I allow students to earn their own blogs if they demonstrate responsible classroom behavior and are consistent contributors to our class blog. (I have the parents be the administrators.) I would not be able to keep up if everyone had a blog!

    One other thing I’d add is that it can be tough at the beginning when a teacher and students put so much into the blog, and there is little support from families. That can be discouraging for a new blogger. It took a lot of effort to get students and their parents to read and participate in my class blog. I sent home letters every time I published a post, and I responded to everyone who commented…or I tried to! ☺ It is a very new idea for parents and they need to be educated about the benefits and encouraged to support the project. It is well worth the effort! Like Kathleen mentioned, a Family Blogging event can really help get a classroom blog going!

    Thanks, again, for addressing such a wonderful topic!

    ~Linda
    California

  10. Thanks for a wonderful post and discussion. I’m a long-term blogger (started back in 2003) but have been interested in how to integrate this into teaching practice in the future. There are plenty of great ideas for students at different levels. Thank you so much, I’ve bookmarked this site.

  11. Thanks for the timely post Henrietta. A family blogging night is on my list of things to incorporate next year as I feel parent/community involvement is key to ongoing success. I agree with all that has been said and would like to add a couple of observations that help keep blogging enthusiasm high in my class . . .

    My students and I spend quality time visiting blogs and are inspired by what we find. It leads us to think critically about our blog and helps us develop new ways to showcase content.

    I teach my students early on how to schedule posts for publishing at a later date. This lets us take advantage of a few unexpected minutes of “free” time and is a great plan to use with a substitute teacher.

    John

  12. Pingback: Integrating Blogging into the Curriculum | Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom

  13. Thanks so much for this post! The commitment to a blog is definitely where most struggle. I know a lot of teachers are looking for management ideas that do not add more to their overflowing plates.