What You Wanted To KNOW About Student Blogging

Sue Waters and Richard Byrne at ISTE unpluggedRichard Byrne and I co-hosted an ISTE Unplugged session on blogging at ISTE 2010 in Denver.

Thanks to everyone who submitted their blogging questions and here’s my responses — for those who were unable to attend!

I’ve focused my responses to student blogging and will do a follow up post on the general blogging questions.

What sort of rubric do you use for blogging?

There are opposing opinions on whether you should or shouldn’t use a blogging rubric; and if you do use a rubric how you would use it.

Konrad Glogowski’s posts are a ‘must read’ to appreciate the need to move the emphasis from grading to focusing on blogging conversations:

For examples of blogging rubrics check out:

  1. Clarence Fisher’s Blogging Rubric
  2. Ryan Bretag’s Blogging Rubric post and Blogging Rubic

How do you have students blog for homework if they do not have access to the internet or a computer (in a poor, rural area)?

Steven Anderson covered this during our session by explaining how his schools provide open lab computer access for students without access at home.

What I didn’t have time to mention is some are using alternative approaches to providing a solution.

For example, in Scott Newcombe’s School District they are providing students with mobile phones which could be used for mobile blogging.

To moderate or not who has the time?

Educators have differing opinions on moderation and use two main approaches:

  1. Students are allowed to publish own posts and approve all comments
  2. Students posts and comments aren’t published until approved by a teacher

Normally those that moderate are either required to by School and/or District policy or are concerned by the risk of inappropriate content being published.

Here’s how you moderate all comments and posts on student blogs — if you need to/want to take this approach.

Those that don’t moderate all comments and posts generally spend a lot of time educating their students about blogging processes and appropriate online behaviour.

It’s common with this approach to see students’ slowly progress from writing comments on the class blog to publishing posts on the class blog to eventually having their own blog.

Good practice with this approach is to monitor all comments and posts from student posts using Google Reader — here is how you do this.  Google Reader makes it easier to monitor all the student content and if necessary deal with inappropriate content.

Could people please share ways to increase the audience for their students’ blogs? Students are excited and motivated when they begin blogging – but without a real audience, excitement and motivation begin to diminish.

What can we do to increase readership?  How can a student blogger attract more readers?

Realizing that your blog is being read by a global audience and receiving comments from readers in other countries is highly motivating for student bloggers.  It encourages them to blog and improve their writing.

Here’s examples of how you can help your students attract more readers:

1.  #comments4kids

The #comments4kids hashtag is used by educators to tweet student posts that deserves to be commented on such as a post that is awesome or student that needs encouragement.

Here’s more information about #comments4kids:

  1. #comment4kids Wednesday
  2. Comments4kids wiki

2.  Student blogging challenge

The Student Blogging Challenge is run twice yearly starting in March and September.

It runs for 10 weeks where students are given weekly task designed to improve their blogging skills while connecting them with a Global audience.

I’m wondering how best to create a scenario in which students blog 3-4 times per week, but also a site that will work as a legitimate social network for the course as well (groups, pages, etc.).

What’s the best way of going about putting together such a network?

BuddyPress is one of the best ways of transforming a fully functional blogging platform into a social network.

BuddyPress is a suite of plugins for WordPress that transforms into a fully functional social network platform.  It is very similar to using a Ning site, except BuddyPress doesn’t have Ning’s blogging limitations as it’s a multi-blogging platform environment integrated with a fully functional social network platform.

Here’s more information on BuddyPress:

  1. The BuddyPress Manual
  2. WordPress as a Learning Management System – Move over, Blackboard

Check and try a BuddyPress site for yourself here!

Final thoughts

Thanks to Richard Byrne for co-hosting this session with me.  Special thanks to Kim Caise for all her hard work supporting ISTE Unplugged and to Paula Naugle for giving permission for us to use the photo.

Thanks again to those that submitted questions via our Google Form. Apologies but I’ve left one question on student blogging for another posts as I’d love to hear others thoughts on it.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

  1. What did I miss in my responses?
  2. Do you have any other questions on student blogging you would like answered?
  3. Remember I will be doing a follow up post on the general blogging questions — so please leave a comment with any questions you would like answered.

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Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

40 Responses

  1. Paul C says:

    Sue, a pleasure to visit and see the advances made to ameliorate student blogging. Glad to see progress on so many fronts. Your session at ISTE looks most useful.

  2. schasteen says:

    Thank you for this informative post! I’ve tagged it onto my own post about the use of blogs and wikis from ISTE (http://theactiveclass.com/2010/07/04/web-2-0-in-the-classroom-blogs-and-wikis-iste10/ ). That session was about a small study on best practices and common use of blogs and wikis among teachers. They actually found that student blogs for the purpose of communicating with the wider public didn’t work so well, for the same reason that your Q&A states — they didn’t have a readership, and quickly lost interest. They found that when students were writing things for their own local community (ie., fellow students) then it worked better and was more authentic. I’d be curious to hear what other of their suggestions do, and don’t, match with your experiences.

  3. Sue Waters says:

    @Paul C thanks for the nice words as always. My session was an unusual session as it was a unconference session where we did it outside of the normal conference session. I really love this type of approach but we did have technical issues with the IWB which meant we couldn’t interact as much with the audience in Elluminate as we couldn’t always see there responses.

    @schasteen Thanks for sharing your post from ISTE (and all your excellent other posts from ISTE – I’ve bookmarked them all so I can go back and read through them.

    Yes it was interesting to read “students didn’t really care about posting a blog post to the entire world – they cared more about communicating with people in their local community or classroom. They care about what those people think” When done well with a global community we see the absolute opposite impact and you see a considerable improvement in student engagement, motivation, desire to improve written communication skills. I can ask educators have their students that blog with a global network to share their thoughts if you like?

    Another interesting comment you have are “The best blogs were whole class blogs, where a teacher would post a question and students would respond via comments.” Class blogs and individual student blogs both complement and contrast each other. If that makes sense? Personally I believe there should always be a class blog that connects and gels together the student blogs. In terms of class blog vs student blogs it is all about age of students and personal ownership.

    Think of student blogging in terms of what you know as an adult blogger. Most group blogs for adults really struggle as there is no sense of ownership of the blog. It is the same on a class blog — the class owns it not the student. When a teacher structures how students blog on their own individual blog you see that personal ownership happening. But it is really easy to dismiss it too early on how a student is blogging on their student blog as it can take 6 months or more to see that marked change in how they blog. But when you think in terms of an adult blogger — that is no different than most adult bloggers.

    With blogging it really is about how you structure your student blogging program. Think of it in terms of any classroom lesson — some approaches are better than others.

    But I totally agree with this “the reverse-chronology listing of posts in a blog” That is my biggest challenge with teaching our community how to use blogs and we really struggle with many new people using pages too much when they should be using posts. I’m still trying to visualise how I can tackle that one in a post.

    Oops and sorry for my long response but there was lots of interesting points in your post.

  4. schasteen says:

    Sue,

    Thank you for all the thoughtful comments! I’m an education researcher rather than an educator, and I’m always interested in these sorts of discussions not just of what works, but “why?”

    You said, “When done well with a global community we see the absolute opposite impact and you see a considerable improvement in student engagement, motivation, desire to improve written communication skills.”

    I think this is a classic example of “implementation matters.” We’ve seen this a lot with the use of clickers. Some people use it great, students buy in, and everyone loves it. Some people just haven’t quite gotten the right way to use that technology to actually engage students, and use it to make their lives easier rather than to help their students. Students aren’t as enthusiastic then. (BTW, I’ll be blogging soon about the research behind clickers too).

    So, it’s tough with blogs — we have less of an idea of what the “best practices” are, so teachers are just trying different things. Some things work and some don’t. I’m not sure we’ve identified the “killer app” for blogging in the classroom yet. It sounds like it depends on your goals. If you’re trying to create classroom community, maybe a class blog. If you’re trying to prepare students for the next day’s class, maybe a teacher blog with targeted questions that students answer. If you’re trying to improve students’ communication skills, maybe individual student blogs. But each have their own implementation challenges.

    ” I can ask educators have their students that blog with a global network to share their thoughts if you like?”

    That sounds like a *really* interesting blog post for the future! And a chance for them to test those communication skills…!

    Stephanie

  5. Sue Waters says:

    @Stepahnie I think there is now a lot of information on good practise and that it is more a case it takes time for educators to perhaps a) come across the information they need to understand the process b) to appreciate what is required. The other aspect is as you highlight is that blogs can be used in so many different ways.

    Often the most successful student blogging programs are coordinated by teachers that have been doing it for several years. Or are by teachers who are being closely mentored by teachers who are very experienced with student blogging.

    The other aspect is it can be really hard to understand what is involved in blogging and using it well if you don’t blog yourself — you learn a lot personal blogging that helps you structure your program. I’m not saying that every one who uses blogs with their students need to have their own blog but it does help. It helps you understand the reluctance of people to comment, how to engage readers so they comment and what is involved in blog conversations — that blogging isn’t about publishing content — it is about shaing, communicating, connecting and challenging each others beliefs so we all learn together.

  6. Taylor Rose says:

    I am curious about privacy concerns with these student blogs. As we well know, the internet is home to all walks of life. Have you seen any push back against student blogs from concerned parents or administrators? Is there a protocol teachers should follow to ensure student safety?

  7. This is a really interesting post Sue and it raises so many points that I think I may need to blog about my thoughts at my own personal blog. Just to briefly add my thoughts to the discussion at the moment though. I started year5rc in January of this year, with the idea of taking part in your student challenge. Along the way we seem to have lost sight of the challenge as we have been so busy connecting, collaborating and communicating in our own way. My co-teacher and I use year5rc as a message board, a display space, a questioning space and more. Our students who have personal blogs use them in this way too. Displaying work they are proud of. Holding mini competitions amongst peers and friends. Commenting on each others in ways that would not happen in the classroom. making friends outside of the traditional peeking orders. Reading and writing in massive and authentic ways and so much more. I honestly could not imagine my classroom without blogging anymore. What is even more exciting is that year1, 2, 3 and 4rc are on their way. We are creating meaningful and real digital finger prints and having a last along the way. So thanks for all your help and inspiration.

  8. Sue Waters says:

    @Taylor Rose Good questions. My personal belief (from experience) is it is best to make sure that all parties are adequately informed of the process so they are aware and have input.

    There is a lot of concerns about the Internet because the traditional media tends to focus on the negative aspects rather than talk about the positive parts.

    With parents and family it is best to inform them as much as possible so they understand what you are doing and why — but also give them some choices as to how their child gets involved. I know of some where they give the parents the choice of whether their child is allowed to post online publicly. I think giving back so choice to the parent means they feel more comfortable with it.

    In terms of public versus private blogs — I believe where possible (where you are allowed) that it is always best to use public blogs. Part of that process means you have to spend a lot of time educating them on appropriate online behavior. Hopefully this means when they are online at home they are more likely to use appropriate behavior when using any online tools with their friends. You don’t tend to see this approach taken when private online tools are used which means they don’t necessarily learn the skills of appropriate online behavior.

    In terms of online safety I suggest you read my series of post on setting up class blogs – http://theedublogger.com/tag/class-task/

  9. Sue Waters says:

    @Henrietta Miller I think it is excellent you lost sight of the challenge because you were too busy connecting, collaborating and communicating in our own way.

    The whole idea of the student challenge is to assist educators and their students with their blogging. We really encourage all educators and students to work out their own approach to how they use the challenge so it is excellent to hear that is exactly what you did!

    Well done and please let me know when you have written your post as would love to read it.

    So now we would all love to hear what was more motivating for your students. Connecting with each other or a global audience? Or did they both complement and enhance each?

  10. hghowe says:

    I am so glad that I found this blog and posting, and so sad that I missed your presentation at iste!

    Our school is about to implement a program this year (in a few weeks!) that is encouraging 9th grade students to improve their digital footprints, and blogging is going to be a part of that. I am very nervous about how to get these students’ work read by people outside of our school. I will use comments4kids, but I am concerned that it is a little bit “young” for high school students – it looks like mostly elementary and middle school. I will look into the student blogging challenge, too.
    I want to get the students responding to blogs, so that they are building their digital presence, and I am also working on building my own PLN and hope that I can advertise some of the students’ work to jumpstart their exposure. But I worry that it won’t be enough.

    What more can I do? Any ideas are welcome.

  11. Sue Waters says:

    @hghowe Definitely was an informal presentation session with ISTE unplugged — which is what I love the most. And for those that were watching it then it was probably the most hilarious presentation they had ever seen due to technical challenges with the equipment.

    I know it sounds weird but regardless of age the same approach works well for all. Doesn’t matter if they are 5 or 50 years old — with blogging you need to build in that same fundamental approach. As a general rule unless someone has worked closely with them already your high school students aren’t technology and blog savvy so still need to be guided through the process.

    The key is take a slow and steady approach. Start by laying the foundations well using a class blog and then gradually progress them onto their own student blogs.

    I strongly recommend you work through my series of posts on setting up a class blog as it will help you through the process. Focus on first getting them interacting well with each other on the class blog and then slowly move towards a global approach.

    Here are the class blog tasks to help you:

    1. Week 1 – Create A Class Blog – theedublogger.com/2010/01/05/week-1-create-a-class-blog/
    2. Week 2: Set Up Your Blogging Rules and Guidelines – theedublogger.com/2010/01/11/week-2-set-up-your-blogging-rules-and-guidelines/
    3. Week 3 – Add A Visitor Tracking Widget To Your Blog Sidebar – theedublogger.com/2010/01/19/week-3-add-a-visitor-tracking-widget-to-your-blog-sidebar/
    4. Week 4 – Add your student blogs to your blogroll – theedublogger.com/2010/01/28/week-4-add-your-student-blogs-to-your-blogroll/
    5. Week 5 – Add Students To Your Class Blog So They Can Write Posts – theedublogger.com/2010/02/06/week-5-add-students-to-your-class-blog-so-they-can-write-posts/
    6. Week 6 – Help Parents Connect With Your Class Blog – theedublogger.com/2010/02/12/week-6-help-parents-connect-with-your-class-blog/
    7. Week 7 – Add Your Student Blogs To A Folder In Google Reader – theedublogger.com/2010/02/19/week-7-add-your-student-blogs-to-a-folder-in-google-reader/

  12. Tara Benwell says:

    I run a monthly writing challenge on MyEC. At first our learners were just posting their “assignments” in the comments. Later they took it upon themselves to create their assignments on their own blogs. It was a giant leap, but it went very smoothly. New writers have many examples to look at and don’t seem too worried about creating their own posts. We use the comments on my blog (the hub) to share links to the student blogs. The writer who posts first often gets more comments than I do. It’s fantastic. They help each other correct mistakes and ask me for advice. If I know the writer well, I add bonus challenges (via comments) to help “improve” a sentence. Those who write on the assigned topic are more likely to create their own blog posts outside of the assignment. I’ve never been a happier writing teacher than I am today.

  13. Maximise says:

    Hi, Sue, thanks for some very helpful advice – an excellent site! However, I have a problem trying to get my head round the concept of ‘Class Blogs’:

    Consider a hypotetical school of 1500 pupils and 100 teachers. Each teacher will have contact with a variety of students and equally every student would have access to those teachers and also to selected peers which would be different for each and every subject.

    In fact, I would often set my pupils into groups of say 5 or 6 and encourage them to work together (ie collaborate) and compete with other groups. I see this as requiring a ‘Whole School’ policy with teachers requiring access to variable groups within each class, pupils having to establish privacy settings within their individual groups and, in a Secondary school, each teacher would need to access maybe up to 20 different classes in a week.

    I’m not trying to be difficult, but just wonder if anyone has thought through the practicalities of such a situation.

  14. Sue Waters says:

    @Tara That is excellent news and an example where the program is working well. When you see the students move to that point where they are helping and learning from each other that is when you know it’s happening. You must be really happy.

    @Maximise We generally see one of two approaches. Selected teachers blogging with their students or a whole of school approach. Normally we are more likely to see the whole of school approach on an Edublogs Campus site.

    In those cases they are more likely for each student to have their own student blog which may be used for all their subjects and they may keep their blog as they progress through the school year levels. So in these cases the class blog is often subject orientated with all the year levels the teacher delivers on the same class blog.

    Regarding privacy it varies considerably from open all the way through to private blogs.

    You also see variations in the approach depending on the age of the students.

  15. Delaney Kirk says:

    I use blogs in various ways in my college courses. I’ve written on my experiences and tips for using blogs here: http://tinyurl.com/2533xp4

  16. Sue Waters says:

    @Delaney thanks for sharing the link to the article you’ve written. I’ve bookmarked it so I can read through it in more details.

  17. misskittie says:

    You make an important point when you state that “often the most successful student blogging programs are coordinated by teachers
    that have been doing it for several years.” Will Richardson, in his book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010) also stresses that teachers should become involved with blogs personally prior to introducing them into their instructional program. While it might mean creation of a personal blog, it doesn’t have to. Instead, reading and posting comments to an existing blog, or subscribing to an RSS feed to support learning about something in which we are personally passionate about, can help educators to “experience the connections that come after the work is published and shared” (Richardson, 2010, p. 9). I am certainly finding this true personally. I have begun a masters program on integrating technology into the classroom in which we are currently exploring blogs. Up to now, I have had very little experience with blogs and, therefore, have no real idea of the potential pedagogical implications. As I am venturing into the world of blogs, I am beginning to develop some foundational understandings about how they work to support learning. As part of this process, I have really appreciated your postings which answered common questions about blogging and gave step-by-step instructions for setting up classroom blogs. I am looking forward to reading more of your discussion topics.

  18. Maximise says:

    Sue, thank you for your article, ‘What You Wanted To KNOW About Student Blogging’, and in particular the links to the work of Konrad Glogowski. I can see the point of a student making the effort to design a blog on a particular topic. (I’ve been blogging for several years on the single topic of ePortfolios.) However within Secondary education, pupils might be following up to 15 different subjects. In this situation I cannot visualise every child in a class EACH generating 15 different blogs.

    If, on the other hand, each child was to maintain only one blog it would be far too easy for peers or permitted audiences to move off topic and follow several other different strands – as so often happens even in adult forums used by us professionals!

    Glogowski appears to be dealing with older students following a single course of study and in this case the blog is a central tool in the collaborative learning process. In such a scenario I have no problem with using a blog.

    The issue, for me, therefore becomes one of deciding whether the blog is a realistic tool for ALL subjects (which I believe it is). At one time we were concerned that children might experience ‘death by a thousand worksheets’ or more recently ‘death by a thousand PowerPoints’. So, if we are to avoid ‘death by a thousand blogs’ what do you suggest?

    Best Wishes,
    Ray Tolley
    FEIDCT, NAACE Fellow, ACQI, MBILD
    ICT Education Consultant Maximise ICT Ltd
    Winner of the IMS ‘Leadership Regional Award 2009′

  19. Sue Waters says:

    @Ray Tollley, we are now seeing the more coordinate approach on Edublogs Campus sites where students will have the one blog that they use for all subjects and it is used by them as they progress through the years. This is because Campus users tend to take a more institutional approach as to those using Edublogs.org blogs who use a more blog per class approach.

    Using this approach they can use Categories and tags on posts to sort them via Subject and year level.

  20. Sue Waters says:

    @misskittie I agree with Will that teachers should become involved with blogs personally prior to introducing them into their instructional program. Ideally personal blogging, reading other people’s blogs and commenting prior to student blog.

    I hold similar viewpoints with any online tool we use with our students, You first have to experience how it changes your own learning to appreciate how to structure it to empower student learning.

    You are more likely to succeed if you take this approach. However, I know of some really successful programs where teachers haven’t been personal bloggers and have gained the experience by starting slowly using a class blog and gradually gain the skills. Especially those that connect with other class blogs.

  21. Rob Videoman says:

    Very informative blog, see you later. Rob.

  22. Meredith says:

    Excellent discussion – especially the piece about public versus private blogs and identifying the purpose of the blog.

    One teacher over on EdVoices used blogging / “virtual journaling” through Blackboard (so entries are private), and had a positive experience. Check it out here:
    http://www.edvoices.com/blog/2010/11/22/virtual-journals-a-new-twist-on-the-classroom-question-box/

    Thanks!

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