10 20 ways to think about your class blog…

One of the ways I like to encourage learning based on my school’s learning principles is to promote the use of class blogs. In the lower primary years, the blogs are often used to communicate with parents and to share the learning that takes place at school. As we move higher up in the school though, the class blog has the potential to be so much more than that.

I’ve written about class blogs several times in the past, but my thinking  has changed as I have watched the blogging experience unfold at my school. I have seen even the most motivated teachers become disappointed by the lack of student interest, poor response from parents and the absence of the anticipated authentic audience.

A great post this week by Andrea Hernandez, entitled Where is the Authentic Audience? got me (re) thinking. And another thought-provoking post by Kath Murdoch exploring what inquiry learning is NOT, as a way to understand what it IS, inspired me to consider class blogs in the same way.

I think that a class blog is not (just)…

  • A  place to post questions, worksheet style, with an expectation that all students will respond.
  • A space for teachers  to assess and comment publicly on students’ writing.
  • A sort of online vacuum, into which students’ writing is sucked, never to be seen by anyone.
  • A compulsory homework assignment.
  • Something managed entirely by the teacher, who makes all the decisions as to what will be posted and when.
  • An occasionally used alternative to writing on paper.

(With apologies if you use your blog successfully in some or all of these ways!)

Some questions to consider…

1. Do you teach students how to write meaningful comments that promote conversation?

2. Do you set aside time every day to check  for new comments and  discuss the comments that come in?

3. Do you encourage your students to respond to each other and whoever else comments?

4. Does your blogroll include other class blogs within your own school and are your students actively engaging with these?

5. Do you encourage your students to comment on class blogs at schools in your own and other parts of the world?

6. Have you and your students considered ways to involve their grandparents and retired people they know as a potential audience?

7. Do your students have ownership of the layout and theme of your class blog?

8. Do you frequently discuss the potential  audience and purpose of blog posts?

9. Do you model good writing for your students by blogging yourself? ( A collective in-school blog doesn’t require a great time commitment).

10. Do you regularly read and comment on other teachers’ blogs and discuss your learning with your students?

11. Do you encourage students to take photographs of great learning experiences and share their reflections with the world?

12. Do you have a visitors map or a flag counter and check them every day with your class to see who has visited and where they are in the world?

13. Have you considered a class Twitter account to share learning and tweet your posts to other classes?

14. Have you thought about blogging as authentic writing, rather than another separate thing you have to fit in?

15. Do your students choose where to post their writing and thinking, with the blog as just one option?

16. Have you exposed your students to great blogs (not just class ones) so that they can discover what makes a blog appealing and interesting?

17. Have you helped your students see how blogging is different from other writing? Can they drill down to the essence of something, add images and use  hyperlinks?

18. Do your students see the blog as an additional place to share and provoke thinking, and to make thinking visible?

19. Is your blog a place to continue the learning conversation from school to home and back?

20. Are you working on building a learning community which includes yourself, students, parents and other learners in your school and the world?

25 thoughts on “10 20 ways to think about your class blog…

  1. Laura Coughlin

    I have just begun a class blog http://sjsdblogs.com/coughlinsgms and your question #2 is where I find myself getting stuck. I am the only teacher in my building interested in blogging, therefore I have to fit my class blog in around all of the other initiatives and expectations in my building. I don’t think my blog makes it onto the “what a blog is not” list, but many of your 20 questions fill me with anxiety as a new class blogger. I am especially interested in 13, 16, and 17, but struggle to find the time to fit those conversations in. Thanks for a great post!

    Laura

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    1. Jody

      Dear Laura,
      I have a class blog, but thus far it has been merely a way for me to communicate to parents. I want it to truly be a “class blog” and just haven’t quite known where to start. So…I struggle as well. I have looked at your blog, and I think it looks great. I like that YOU blog as a way to get students interested in topics that are relevant to them and that you included their comments on your class assignment. I also like your unit page. I usually just post my lesson plans and leave it at that. What I think I see in your unit page is that you are interested in inquiry, and you base everything in your unit around one big or driving question. That is my absolute goal this year. Have you been involved in PBL? Or read Jim Burke’s “What’s the Big Idea?”
      Thanks,
      Jody

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      1. Laura Coughlin

        Jody-
        We have a big question we use to guide the reading for each unit. The goal is actually to be doing this successfully next year, but I wanted to try it out. We share the same question with social studies. Actually, by the end if this unit I had lost track a little. That’s why it’s a practice year, I guess! I haven’t read that book, but hope I am heading in the direction of PBL.

        Laura

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  2. whatedsaid Post author

    Hi Laura
    The aim of the post is to provoke thinking, certainly NOT to invoke anxiety! I think being the first to have a go at blogging in your building is great and looking at the blog, you have made a very good start. If your students want to connect with a bunch of 12 year olds in Australia, I’ll share your blog with one of the teachers at my school!

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  3. Chris Chivers (@ChrisChivers2)

    Hi Ed,
    Strikes me that a blog post is enhanced writing for an audience, with all the additional expectations which arise from that. The writing has to be more considered, well structured and engage the audience. The potential for editing and rewriting is immense. World wide collaborative writing?

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  4. Layla Sacker (@lsacker)

    With all “new” genres it takes time to explore what it is and what it is not. Thanks Ed for the pathways to thinking about blogging. I agree – (and this is advice to self) don’t get anxious and let the learning grow.

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  6. teach2you

    Thanks so much for the detailed advice, I am just starting a class blog with a grade 6 class in our ICT lesson which will later expand into other subjects like English. I am looking forward to leaning and teaching at the same time! I am sure the kids will love it!

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  8. Clint Hamada

    Hi Edna,

    Thanks for this post. It is very helpful to me and to other teachers at my school as we make a school-wide blogging platform available to all students in grades 5 – 12. Of all your points, I think #20 “Build a Learning Community” is the one that I feel should be stressed above everything else. That is the “why” of blogging. The other 19 questions are ways that help specifically define “how” to build that community!

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  10. Amber

    My name is Amber and I am a student at The University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I am taking EDM310 and we are required to follow different blogs posted by teachers and students and then leave comments on their most recent post. You can follow my class blog at EDM310blogspot.com. I see a lot of teachers that have a class blog, but they are not being followed by parents and the students are not using them except for when they are at school. I know that where my kids go to school, many of the parents can not afford a computer at home. Some of the teachers blog and others do not blog at all. I think that class blogs are very useful, but I see that they are not for everyone. I do feel that the more we teach the younger kids the more it will become a part of everyday life. you have to just keep trying and never give up.

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  11. Debra Rosenquist

    Last year I began my classroom blogging adventure with my second graders. I just wrote a post reflecting on my experience so far, so your post was very timely for me. It is so helpful to hear from teachers who have been doing it for awhile, and your questions really help focus on those key elements of blogging. For me, it is very important to make it authentic and imbedded in my instruction. I have found it to be very meaningful for my students and it definitely improves writing! Giving my students ownership of the blog is important – it takes time with younger students. Right now we write posts together as shared writing. My goal this year is to have students eventually choose and write blog posts. I am still working on ways to make my blog a learning community. But I believe it is well worth the effort.

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  12. Luke

    Great list of reflective statements to the classroom blogger. somethings I can tick as do that, some things tick as trying to do that, a couple of ticks for I need to do more of that and one or two come out as the next step.
    Great list and glad it changed from 10 to 20.
    Most important thing, as I se it, is giving ownership to the students n a meaningful context.
    Cheers

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  13. Megan Croll

    Excellent points to think about. I’m in the early stages here. Still weighing up blog vs wiki. What’s your thinking?

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  17. patty0821

    I am teaching English in a senior high school in Taiwan. Neither my students nor I am a native speaker of English but I am constantly thinking about the possibilities of introducing authentic materials of English to my students. I started a class blog a few months ago and keep following some interesting teacher blogs. I am also interested in how a blog grows and matures, so I would click on posts that were written many years ago. After reading this article, I reflected on my class blog and noticed that I had fallen into many of the pits you mentioned. As a teacher blogger, how would you view the application of blogging on TEFL? Can the aforementioned ideas of class blog be applied to a teaching context like mine? The following is my blog of news English, http://patty102.wordpress.com/
    I would also like to recommend a great teacher blog done by a friend of mine, http://benology0317.wordpress.com/ Both of us just started our blogs this September. As far as I know, there are very few English teachers integrating blogging with their teaching in Taiwan. However, by sharing my own experiences with others, I hope blogging could benefit more English teachers and learners in my country.

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  18. Arj Bartholomeusz

    Hi Edna,
    Thankyou for your post. Our school is in the midst of trying to develop a culture of blogging and your post certainly resonated. The tips will help to give us some direction as we move from the initial blog set up stage to something more meaningful and sustainable.
    I hope that you don’t mind (please let me know if you do!) but I have referenced your post here – http://ictberwick.global2.vic.edu.au/blogging/
    Thanks again,
    Arj B

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