More on the What, When and Why of classroom blogging and online teaching

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If  you happen to be reading this without having seen my previous post can I urge you  to check that out first. Can I then recommend you especially take note of the detailed and interesting comments, for which I am really grateful. It seems like there are many teachers out ‘there’ who want to help and advise those new to blogging. You also might like to read Kathleen Morris’s excellent instructions more about blogging.

Using blogs and social media to communicate with students was a practice that was first pioneered by online and distance learning teachers who needed to find a way to effectively reach students on a more personal level. Courses in online universities  rely on social media now as an important part of online education. The success of these methods has led social media into the traditional classroom environment, providing the technology for students, teachers and parents to interact virtually. So what are the best methods for teachers to use when moving to bring their classrooms online?

Since this is obviously a topic of interest to many, I am leaping back into the conversation with this second post to add to the conversation. My aim in the previous post was to add my thoughts on how to keep teachers blogging. Today I will try to reflect on the what, when and why of classroom blogging.

Why and when to blog?
Why or when indeed? As discussed before, unfortunately a class blog seems unlikely to survivefor very long once the initial enthusiasm has waned. Unless thought is given to the practical aspects of time management, together with an idea of what is learning can occur for the students of a class who are blogging. Some of the comments from my first post included the following:

  • Blogging is a regular part of my morning language arts period.
  • 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.
  • 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.

These teachers have blogging embedded in their teaching routine. Opening the class blog is as natural as opening a book to them. These teachers have discovered that reading and writing online is authentic learning.  Time management is not an issue for them because they have scheduled a time, either daily or weekly for a blogging lesson. The learning is not an issue because they can see how beneficial it is for their students.

What to blog about?
Our year5rc class blog is very much part of our home-school communication. We view ourselves as a partnership and our blog is part of  the way we keep the lines of home school communication open. We blog about goings on, we blog about our learning, we share our art, we report on carnivals and excursions. I find it hard to think that a teacher who starts a class blog cannot think of things they wish to communicate.

If you are new to class blogging or still exploring the concept you might like to check out 2Sparkley’s use of positive reinforcement and the great headline inthis post. Or Mitch Squires science video here. You would be hard pressed to match the amazing connections between Mrs Yollis’ class 2KM and 2KJ in Victoria. Room 13’s class blog is also used for homework as well as a great example of home to school communication. My class love to visit Mr Avery’s and watch some of his amazing maths videos. Classes are now blogging all over the world, just think of the connections you could make. We even have a class we are following from Denmark too.

To add to this debate, I would say that I see a distinction between a class blog and a student blog. This year we only allowed our students to start their own blogs a few weeks ago. They had to spend several weeks spent exploring others, reading others, writing comments and thinking about blogging first. We then sent home a detailed letter in which we put the parents in control of the blog. We actually discouraged many students from rushing in and we reminded those that did, that blogging takes work and commitment. To add to that we are not administrators for any of our student blogs. Yes we visit them on occasions, Yes we are interested in what they write. But no we will not drown ourselves in checking every last spelling and punctuation mark. All the students who have recently started blogs have their parents as co-administrators. And just like Kathleen  and 2KM we will have a blogging afternoon soon where we invite the parents in for a lesson in commenting and sharing.

So perhaps class blogging is not for everyone? Perhaps it is too hard to manage to cut back ones busy timetables and fit it in? The shame in that, is that those that do manage it all seem to agree that the interest, excitement and engagement a class blog provides is unlikely to be matched by anything else.

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3 comments

  1. Hi Henrietta. Thanks for the mention. We’re also planning a blogging afternoon in conjunction with our Year 1 buddy class. I can’t imagine life without blogging now, and my students love to see what other children around the world are doing.

  2. Hi Henrietta,

    Great post. To answer the big question of what to blog about, I find the blogs at my school that work best are the ones that just blog about their every day goings on. Some of the blogging teachers want their blogs to be showcases of the best and brightest, with only fully polished and finalised work going up. The result seems to be that their blogs get updated less and less frequently, as it doesn’t take hold in their routine. My approach is that our class blog is more like a daily diary, snapshotting whatever is happening. Students do some writing – put a couple of sample up. Students do some art – grab a camera and make a slideshow. Speech time? Let’s video some and upload them. Kids are asking great discussion questions? Make a quick post about it and continue the discussion online with comments, and invite the parents/community to get involved.

    With this sort of apporoach it’s easy to make blogging a part of your routine. I’ve gotten to the point where I feel weird when I do things in class and can’t find a blogging angle to it.

    I’m interested in your approach to student blogs. It’s great for kids to realise that blogging does take work and commitment. As with class blogs, once that initial enthusiasm wears off they are easily forgotten. Have you found as many kids/parents/families as enthusiastic in uptake without you being a part of the process as an administrator? Some of the feedback I have from parents at my school is that parents like seeing it happen and also like not having to worry about looking after it – i.e. they are happy to leave ‘control’ with me. The flip side of this seems to be that they are less often involved through commenting on their child’s work, which I find a little frustrating.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  3. Great ideas once again Mitch. I too have found student blogs are all full of excitement until the ‘work’ hits in, which is why I firmly put it back onto the parents this year. So far the ones which are going well are still coming from the self-motivated kids but Pru and I are definitely finding it less stressful as we can visit and comment but we do not have to do so. Just what the parents will make if it all in the long term remains to be seen. We are having an afternoon session for families in 2 weeks. I think that will help demystify and engage the parents in the process. We have not had quite so many students take blogging up but I think also we will not have so many drop out as a result.