Despite my well-documented loathing of blogger as a content management system over the last term I’ve set up 28 (!) individual student blogs using google’s platform. As a result, I thought I would do a write-up of the process for any teachers out there interested in going down this path.
First of all do you have a purpose to your blogging. Unless you can articulate this right now then stop. Setting up student blogs is a lot of work unless you know why you are doing it then there really is little point.For me blogging has come out of a desire to give my students a chance to interact with students outside of our community and also an authentic audience for their writing. Your whys might be different from me and that’s all right. Just know why you are blogging.
Next up get your kids commenting. In my opinion commenting is underutilized as a way to teach blogging to students. First of all, commenting offers a opportunity for others to model effective posting to students. The more posts the students read, the more exposure they have to blogging before the students start posting. If you already have a class blog, get the kids to comment there but there are hundreds of fantastic blogs out there for kids to learn how to interact with others online.
But what if the kids say nasty stuff online?
Have you taught them how to comment? I firmly believe that just like any other classroom activity blogging requires active teaching by the teacher. You’d never go out on a field trip without first talking through good behaviour with your students. The same is true with blogging, you need to model good behaviour and supervise your students. I read and respond to each of the students comments on my class blogs and am now monitoring all activity on the individual blogs. For ease of tracking, I’ll get the kids to fill in a form using google docs to show where they have commented when we are commenting on other schools blogs.
Early on the term the class and I co-constructed our class’s quality commenting checklist. In retrospect the quality commenting checklist has also served as a document for my students and I to have an ongoing conversation about good online behaviour and netiqutte. I still have a little giggle every time my students pull each other up using text language or the importance of spelling as I know that came from the work we’ve done around quality commenting.
More importantly if there are comments where I feel a student might have said something that breaks our guidelines, I’ll have a conversation in private with them. My class also audited each others comments on a Monday morning using the checklist which gives an opportunity for peer review. In short you want to have a heightened awareness by the kids that this isn’t facebook and there are higher expectations for them.
Ok so you are ready to take the plunge and start setting up blogs. My advice probably is only of use to google apps schools but imagine that some of my thinking is going to be applicable to other platforms.
First up you might want to decide on a system for both naming and addressing the student blogs. The name refers to the title of the blog which is seen on both the header and the tab at the top. The student’s first name is usually a good idea or you could add the school eg. “Stephanie @ University on the Hill.” The address refers to what you type into your browser so this blog’s url is traintheteacher.wordpress.com.
If you are using blogger, then using firstname.blogspot.com isn’t going to happen as the addresses are long since taken. For the student blogs I’ve used the acronym of the school the student’s first name the first letter of the last name and the year the blog started so it looks something like this: tttstephaniet2011.wordpress.com. But have a fiddle around and decide on a system.
Now you are ready to create your blogs.
Wait for part 2 where I give the technical details.