Share your Blogging Experience and Tips For Educators New To Blogging

Image of a tip jarWhen you’ve never blogged it can be hard to visualise how to use blogs with students.

I like to stress that the most important aspect of blogging, and where the most learning happens, is in the conversations. So I’m hoping you will write a comment on this post or write your own post (which links to this post) so we can show educators new to blogging:

  1. How these conversations work
  2. Plus provide tips and links to resources that will help them work out how to get started blogging with their students

So can you please share with us:

  • Why you blog? How does it benefit you or your work?
  • How you use blogging with your students and how it has helped them (if applicable)
  • Examples of class and/or student blogs for them to check out
  • What are your 3 most important tips for educators, new to blogging, who would like to blog with their students?

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Photo uploaded to Flickr on May 3, 2006 by thoth92 licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0.

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62 thoughts on “Share your Blogging Experience and Tips For Educators New To Blogging

  1. Let’s see. I blog because I find that I learn things from reading blogs and I like sharing things. An example of a student blog is http://lildeb25.blogspot.com/ and my blog is http://www.lmmath.blogspot.com where I post assignments. Students in this past inaugural year have used blogs mainly for summaries and reflections on their learning. It worked well, but was sometimes a stretch. I teach high school math. Some ideas are to have students set up an aggregator, have them set up comment monitoring and have them subscribe to some blogs that will interest them.

  2. I’m the CPO of an e-learning project in Madagascar (the country, not the movie), so it’s really really interesting to discover the Edublogs blogs.
    We are preparing a blogging platform such as Edublogs, for malagasy students and teachers. The main aims are:
    – to express themselves, to share about their country, study and work
    – to create a social network between them
    – to exchange with international schools, to learn foreign languages, to meet students and classes online and why not in place.

  3. Below is the checklist I give students for the design of their blog. I’m big on checklists…since technology involves multiple directions and my kids are often ELL students, I can glance at their work, and tell them which step to focus on next…it’s easier for them to focus and feel that even though what they’re learning is complicated, it’s also do-able.

    In addition, if the concept is new, I show students how to do the next step on the projector, but I also email students directions with screenshots, it really helps them to be independent, and me to not be crazily running around helping.

    For example, below where I ask them to find a quote and add it to their blog, I emailed them a link to a quotations website if they needed it, and a screenshot of where I wanted the quote added to their blog.

    Blog Design Checklist
    Check this list to make sure you included all the items. To get an “A,” your blog must have all these features.

    -Pick a theme – you can’t use the default (the original theme).
    -Your theme choice must have at least one sidebar.
    -You must create a new title for your blog.
    -You must have a quote under your blog’s title (or in a widget).
    -You must have all the required widgets (you decide the order, add more if you want to):
    o Pages
    o Links
    o Recent Posts
    o Archives
    o Recent Comments
    o RSS 1
    o Meta
    – You must create and upload an avatar. Go to the LMSResources wiki (http://lmsresources.pbwiki.com) and click on the “For Fun and Learning” page for links to avatar sites.
    -Your blogroll must have at least two links:
    o a link to Beginnings (http://lmsilgunas.edublogs.org)
    o a link to LMS Resources (http://lmsresources.pbwiki.com/)
    – You must have erased all the default items.
    – You must add your first post.
    – Leave respectful, thoughtful comments for the people in your group.

  4. I started blogging only a few months ago, and I have to admit, I’m hooked. I have 2 blogs. One is for my class ( http://kulikowski.edublogs.org ). I post weekly and ask my students to respond. So far, I have tried several different types of posts and I am mostly looking for my students to practice their writing skills, think creatively, and connect with both their classmates and any others who choose to read our blog.

    My other blog is more for me to discuss my professional thoughts about using technology in my classroom and share some of the projects I have done/am doing with my class. I have been hoping for people to post comments, give advice, etc, but haven’t had much of that yet. Some days, it’s just a chance to vent out my frustrations with lessons or tech-related issues I am having. That blog is http://techieteach.edublogs.org

    So far, I am FAR from really understanding the secrets of blogging, or even really being able to give any type of sound advice to others, but hopefully that will come some day.

  5. Sue,

    I had access to a “news aggregator” that subscribed to David Warlick, Joyce Valenza, and Will Richardson. When that site was about to close down, I went online and found out about Google Reader.

    When I saw a comment on one of my “foundation” blogs, I added them to my RSS feed. If I read a listing of top bloggers, I checked their sites out, too.

    Once I began blogging myself, I took a look at the blogs of my visitors. I do the same thing with my followers on Twitter.

    It’s almost too easy to find interesting blogs. I have over 300 subscriptions in Reader now! (not all of them post regularly).

    I follow mainly librarians, teachers, and IT but have a few lifestyle & hobby sites also.

  6. Hi, Sue (and everybody),

    We had eight high school ESL classes from seven different countries participating in our blog during the last school year, and have classes from eleven countries lined-up to do so this coming school year.

    And there’s always room for more!

    And I’ve “borrowed” so many ideas from so many others that I suspect I owe far more than anyone “owes” me!

    Larry

  7. And the rest of my comment 🙂

    @ Lisa Huff I love how you used the AP English Language students blogs to engage your students. What a great way of them learning about current events, providing them with choice plus learn about commenting. I really liked the way you have used the eportfolios with them; especially how they got to chose the tools they used. I’m sure your links will definitely inspire other educators — thanks for sharing.

    @haythorneg Thanks for sharing the link to your blog and explaining how you use it with students. Great tips I especially love the Sneaky tip. Are you finding the parents are starting to visit the class blog more? And your blogs that you use with other staff — are they starting to use the tips you share on the blogs?

    @Chris You have raised lots of interesting points relating to adequate access, ownership, social networking and commenting. I would love to hear the thoughts from others on these points you raised.

    It’s a fine line balancing safety issues with ownership. How much
    more access do you feel they need per week to make your program more effective?

    @Jane The best aspect I loved when you showed me your class blog (when we meet f2f) was when you explained the connections your class had made with other educators. It was so great to hear the stories behind each post, the global connections and realise how much the students gained from these interactions. What feedback have you had from the parents, family and friends?

    @tilgunas Your post that explains how you stepped your students through learning to blog is really good. Educators find embedding can be challenging — so he definitely deserved to be congratulated. I can see from the blogs you have shared that they have gained so much. Well done to you, the teacher and the students. Let me know how you go with 6 classes of blogs. Your checklist that you used with the students — is that available to check out online? Would love to see how you use it.

    We all owe people like Larry and Vicki so much (I think Larry may be blushing above 🙂 )

    @Colleen that is okay — test away.

    @Heather Are you part of the 23 Things project that is running at the moment with Global Teacher? I checked out your Reading Review blog and think it is a really great way to engage staff. The reviews by staff? Are you going to let others comment on their reviews? (I’m an absolute book lover and would love an opportunity to interact — perhaps even right my own review. Yep I’m passionate reader). Wonder if in time worth expanding to include photos? — since as Simon points out above some people are really engage with images.

  8. Apologies in advance but this is long response and broken into two comments. Taking the time to read through the comments, reflect and respond is back of my learning process 🙂

    BTW I also had trouble adding the HTML links 🙁

    @David Your slideshow “Brave New World Wide Web” is excellent. Have you thought of adding your voice or music to create video or SlideCast?

    Your example of the importance of knowing when to bite your [digital] tongue is excellent and shows how blogging conversations can take so many interesting paths with the students learning so much more, if you give them the opportunity.

    These are really valid points in your reflections on using Web tools with sudents “I think sometimes the focus is a little too much on just ‘using the tool’ or ‘creating the content’ and not enough on skills like: How to have a meaningful online discussion; How to design a page/project/powerpoint; How to provide meaningful feedback to a fellow student; or What does appropriate online behaviour look like?” Its challenging for new
    educators to scaffold these skills with their students since they
    themselves are often learning to use the tool. What advice would you give these educators regarding the scaffolding?

    And what can I say love how you explained how do you know they are learning when they ask the right question. The comments between your students were excellent — especially this comment in response ““ umm Charlotte I was actually hoping that you would actually post something to either contradict or go along with my observations.. not
    just say that’s meaningful and true.. Tell me what you think is meaningful and true!!” – – – – -”

    @Simon and we are both glad that you now blog 🙂 . This issue with blocked sites is soooo frustrating and I’m sure that a wiki is not an ideal solution for you. We can also post photos directly from Flickr to Edublogs it is a really cool feature.

    Obviously photos really engage you so it is excellent to hear that you are part of the 366photo group on Flickr. From my point of view you have learned a great deal and I’m always amazed about what you are getting up to next.

    @Larry Wow the ESL class blog is amazing. How many sister classes do you have that sharing their information on this blog? I think I should get my 9 year to check out your posts on http://burbankarw.edublogs.org/ — that is such cool information on mountain climbing

    @Mary How are you finding the response from the librarians in your area? Are they engaging with new thinking and ideas in the fields of school libraries and technology? Do many of them have their own blogs?

    @Diane Those are excellent tips and advice for all new bloggers.Your point “I’d suggest that you read a variety of blogs and notice what catches and keeps your interest: manageable blocks of text; clear, precise language; and striking images appeal to me” is really interesting. The shared friends feature of Google Reader has made me so much more aware of how our likes and dislikes are so individual.

    Can you share your tips of finding blogs worth reading?

    @Ken Nope I don’t believe that you have thought too deeply but
    definitely has made me ponder. Surprisingly I really struggle with language; the more complex a persons use of words in writing or text the harder it is for me to interpret the meaning. What I have found is the more I write the better I become at coping with it all.

    In terms of reading/writing — it’s the reflection that’s important
    for the learning. Language can be a barrier to this reflection 🙂

  9. I started my first blog as part of a Web 2.0 online course where we blog about each weeks activities. It’s still going but I think I’m going to continue with it when the course finishes.
    I started to see the possibilities so I have now set up a blog for our staff (secondary school) called the Reading Cafe. It’s a blog about books and reading because lots of our staff are readers and are always wanting to know what to read next. It’s only just been launched so I’m not sure how it will go. I have incorporated a reading challenge where staff will log their books read by writing a review (post) on the blog. We have lots of teachers here who are a bit scared of technology and I’m hoping that this might be a way of introducing them to blogging by stealth! If anyone is interested this is the blog: http://mpscrc.globalteacher.org.au
    Heather

  10. Here are the links that are messed up above:
    tilgunas.edublogs.org – University class blog
    lmsilgunas.edublogs.org – 8th gr. class
    kevin180.edublogs.org/2008/05/22/about-me/#comments – Comment Example
    ruben180.edublogs.org/ – MSNBC video embedded
    sergio180.edublogs.org/ -MyStudiyo example embedded
    Hopefully this works.

  11. Like Jane, I have blogged so far in conjunction with students. I have used one blog as a resource and discussion area for my “Technology for Educators” class at a local university.

    In addition, although I was out of the classroom this year, after I attended California’s CUE conference (I had not attended for about 5 years!) I “borrowed” an 8th grade reading intervention class from April to June a couple days a week and we learned to blog together. Some of the students had me last year for a technology exploratory; others were not at all experienced in tech use. We think it was a fantastic success!

    As Jane and Larry mentioned, just the fact that their work was published gave students their first motivation. We designed the blogs, designed avatars, then they wrote their first post–introduce yourself, tell why you chose the quote on your blog, and finally, talk about the issue you think is most important in the world right now.

    The class was divided into groups of about 6, and each student had to leave a comment responding to the posts of everyone in their group.

    What worked well was the idea that comments are a conversation. It fit in perfectly to the intervention unit which focused on writing summaries. We practiced aloud first; I posted an issue, in partners one person gave his/her opinion, the partner had to summarize that opinion, then respectfully agree or disagree. Since many are English Language Learners, I had them pick a sentence starter (e.g., “So what you’re saying is… or “In other words…”)

    Then they posted and generally did a great job commenting! Here are some examples: first example
    ; second example

    We had time for them also to use Google Docs to put together a summary of an article on one of the many natural disasters we had in May. From there, they had a choice to create an Animoto video to embed (we did this on a private page because of copyright issues), embed an MSNBC video that explained the disaster to them, or create a quiz from MyStudiyo.

    Example of embedded MSNBC video: (This guy I’m proud of, he really knew nothing about technology and hung in there big time)

    MyStudiyo example

    This was a class that had no motivation for their intervention class, and not because of their teacher, she’s fantastic. They were at the end of 8th grade and just couldn’t keep going. But on the computer, they worked. They had to write. They had to follow directions. And they saw results. One student received a comment from a teacher from Brazil. They saw our ClusterMap and how people visited from all over the globe. Wow. They were creating something that counted.

    We ran out of time, so they weren’t able to comment on each others’ projects at the end, but I’m looking forward to next year.

    My assignment is 8th grade reading intervention and 7th grade Language Arts. I’m looking forward to it, as well as wondering how I will manage 6 classes of blogs!

    3 most important tips:
    -Take each thing step by step… I had a check-off list with each of these which all contributed to their grade for “Blog Design”: Logging in, choosing a theme, renaming their blog and for the tagline choosing a quote that meant something to them, adding widgets (I required some, then let them choose others if they wanted.), creating and uploading an avatar, and finally, adding their first post and commenting on the students’ blogs in their group.

    -Model what you want to see. The commenting activity I mentioned before worked really well. The PowerPoint setting this activity up is here (scroll down)

    -Have high standards, students rise to them! One goal I had for them as we explored the Web 2.0 applications, was for them to register, follow directions, and try to figure out the app themselves in expectation that they can continue using these tools in high school.

    Thank you to Larry Felazzo and Vicki Davis who I’ve gotten tons of ideas from!

  12. I started blogging as a way to provide my students with a purpose and audience for their writing. I have found that many reluctant writers will complete their writing now as they know that there are people out their who read their work. I also wanted to give parents an easier way to access some of their child’s writing and also look at some of the activities we do in class.
    We publish photos/slideshows of things we do in the class or as a class on the class page of the blog and the students each have their own page attached. Parents, grandparents, friends and blogging buddies can read all of this and the students love to have feedback from other students, family and friends about their blogging.
    You can find our class blog here:
    http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=98041

    I also have a personal blog that does not have much on it yet but I would like to document my journey into blogging and the Web 2.0 world on there – hopefully sooner than later. I’m still working on it!

    Our family has a blog too which we use to keep in touch with family who are not near and other family members have blogs too!

    I think the 3 most important tips for educators new to blogging would be:
    1. Have a go – there’s lots of help around and if I can do it anyone can.
    2. Let the students have a say in what you put on the class blog page and in what format. Depending on their age they can do most of the blogging for you.
    3. One of the best things about my journeu into blogging so far is the connections I have made with other educators who blog with their students. There is a whole world out there waiting for you!

    Go on! Have a go!
    Jane

  13. I have been developing my blogging slowly over the last few months inspired in part by the Comment Challenge (although I did not participate that much).

    I have a personal blog that I am using as a place to reflect on what I am doing and also to promote what I do to schools in my area (www.larkrise.net). This is also (but probably shouldn’t be) a place where I experiment with themes/plugins etc.

    Second I am promoting a multiuser blog in my local school and learning quite a bit in the process. This is a 4-11 (UK) primary school (http://shepeaustow.net). We started out with a main school blog, one for each of the four classes, some extras like the office etc and have since added blogs for a few of the children.

    Even the keen teachers find it difficult to write very regularly and although the children have some home access they tend not to update their blogs unless specific time is allocated in school. As has been said forcefully elsewhere the key is in engaging in conversations with others, but in the case of the children even this is not enough. Whereas if I ever get a comment on my own blog I am thrilled and reply within the hour (or so!) the children are much more laid back and will not reliably respond.

    I think this happens for a number of reasons. Part of it is the age: these children are from 8 to 10 and do not socially network as readily as slightly older children (not absolutely sure about that). Ownership must an issue too. We have given them their own blogs but have to retain some control, and we moderate all comments; so the blog is theirs, but not absolutely. We have also tried to encourage them to use them in a school related context and obviously to support their writing.

    I think that we just need to hang on in and also to consider dedicated curriculum time for them to blog. We should continue to build in curriculum opportunities that we will support through blogging. Finally I think we need to note when they are getting comments and to be very pro-active in supporting them to respond and engage.

  14. I use blogs with other staff mainly in my school – posting tips I pick up on various feeds on applications I think may be useful for them in the classroom. I also run a blog with my 13 year-old students of French. We use different pages for grammar revision, audio files, and interactive games and relevant videos. On the revision page we have uploaded the students’ PowerPoint revision materials on different tenses. You can see this at http://www.haythorneg.edublogs.org. They love it and it has motivated them to really get stuck in this year. I have a bottom ability group, but they are so keen on French I’m finding it hard to promote them out of the group (“please don’t make me go…”) and most of them have opted to continue with French next year.
    Top tips: Consult the students on which relevant widgets they would like to see in the sidebar, and/or on the design template and uses and names of pages.
    This one is sneaky: use a widget that is filtered by school (in my case, that applies to the vodpod widget) because it stimulates their curiosity and gets them logging on at home for more exposure to your subject.
    Lastly: have a live connection by your desk at Parent-Teacher meeting so the students can show the blog to their parents while they wait to speak to you. I also had a slip of paper with the address on to give to them to take away.

  15. This past school year, my AP English Language students used blogs throughout the year. Two projects were very rewarding:
    1) One quarter they did weekly blog posts on a current issue. Each student created a Google Reader account and subscribed to several news sites. Reading current issues regularly, they had to select a topic of their choice each week and write an argument. The last week, they omitted writing a post and “comment blogged”: I required them to visit six blogs and enter a conversation by posting a comment (three had to be blogs outside our school).

    2) The last quarter my students created ePortfolios, documenting their progress toward the NETS for Student and the Arkansas English Language Arts Standards. It was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve undertaken. If you visit some of them, you’ll notice several of them used other digital tools–other than the blog–to format their portfolios. But–that’s the beaty: these kids started with the blog, then discovered other tools and used them in combination to create a product they wanted.

    You can visit the student blogs at the class wiki. This summer, I’m using another blog for my summer assignment. Also, I have several posts and blogging resources (rubrics, writer’s checklists…) on my blog.

    Hope this helps inspire other teachers.Blogging has been one of the most beneficial undertakings I’ve tried over my fifteen years of teaching.

  16. Kia Ora Sue!

    I feel a post coming on 🙂

    Virginia Vonkers highlighted in her post that ‘writing forces learning’ – a phrase that she had mentioned in a previous post and that had come from one of Tony Karrer’s handouts.

    There is a lot in this that people maybe either take for granted or miss all together while posting/commenting. I may be presumptive in thinking that people feel that the learning only happens when they read what others have written. My gut feeling is that it’s not as simple as that though it may be for those who read posts but never comment.

    Sorry for thinking too deep about this 😉

    Ka kite

  17. I started blogging because I wanted to emulate the people I was reading in my RSS feeds.

    I continue blogging because it gives me a creative outlet, a space for professional reflection, and a connective highway to the rest of the world.

    I’d suggest that you read a variety of blogs and notice what catches and keeps your interest: manageable blocks of text; clear, precise language; and striking images appeal to me.

    Comment on other blogs and link to other bloggers: they will return the favor and visit your blog.

    Consider joining Twitter. You will build up a PLN (Personal Learning Network) and have access to a treasure trove of resources and possible blog topics.

    Don’t be afraid to express your opinions, but be aware that ANYTHING appearing online is public and permanent.

    By becoming a blogger yourself, you will be modeling the process for your students and have a better grasp of the possible problems they might encounter. And you will also be able to describe the very real benefits of this mode of communication.

    1. This advice was very helpful to me as a newby to technology and teaching. I appreciate you simple, clear message and hope I can navigate back to you for future opinion. thanks!

  18. I don’t work directly with students, so my blog has a different focus. As the Director of Library Services for a school district of about 35,000 students, my blog attempts to keep our campus librarians up-to-date on new thinking and ideas in the fields of school libraries and technology.

  19. Hi, Sue,

    I’ve used blogs with students in two ways:

    1) Using one blog as a vehicle through which ESL classes from throughout the world share VoiceThreads and other mixed media projects telling about their countries and responding to each other’s presentations:

    http://esleflstudents.edublogs.org/

    This has been a great opportunity for students to practice language and technology skills for an authentic audience, plus learn about different cultures.

    2) Using one blog as a way for students in my, and other, ninth grade English classes in our school to respond to prompts related to the thematic units we’re studying:

    http://burbankarw.edublogs.org/

    Even though we’re just beginning to use it, students appear to take greater care in their writing because others besides me will read it.

    Larry

  20. Hi Sue,

    I blog because… Sue told me to! Well not quite, but you have encouraged me to journal my experiences, and I thank you for your support. It would be a pointless exercise if no one read my updates, and if I received no feedback.

    I started blogging after reading many blogs written by others. I knew I wanted to do the same, but I took a while to find a focus. I decided to write about my experiences as a beginner using web2 tools so that other teachers thinking of doing the same could benefit.

    I encourage my students to blog but as they have limited Internet access, it doesn’t happen very much. That’s the main drawback. My students communicate mainly using images (photos and videos) so I try to encourage image posting at their Ning network. Since access to this site has been blocked, I’ve been developing a Wikispaces presence because this site is not (yet!) blocked.

    For my personal musings, I chose WordPress because I can blog images directly from Flickr. Every posting is a story based on an image. I like its uncluttered appearance as well. I guess these would be two tips from me. Additionally, I try to keep the message simple by using plain English.

    I joined the 366photos Flickr group at the start of the year. Members post one photo each day of this year to the group photo pool. This has been an achievable goal for me, although I’m now a few days behind. I like to tell a story with an image here as well, and agreeing with you Sue, the learning happens in the conversations. It’s flattering to receive even the smallest comment, so I make sure to comment on others’ photos when I post my own, especially those who comment on mine.

    I’ve learned a lot in the past few months – a little about photography, uploading to websites, formatting text and html – but mostly I’ve learned about building a community of practice.

  21. Lots of links to share, hopefully I’ve described them enough for you to be selective.

    The use of blogs and wikis in my classroom changed how I look at teaching and learning. Students become participants in the teaching and learning like they never have before. Here is a slide show, ‘Brave New World-Wide-Web’ that looks at what I mean by this

    Here is a blog post: “the use of blogs to learn not just to teach”

    Here are a couple blog posts I have written about blogging with students… I’ve added a quote to let you know what I talk about in the post:

    How do you know when students are learning? When they ask the right questions!

    The fact is that I am not used to letting students take ownership of their learning in this way. I want to ‘teach’ them… isn’t that my job?

    And finally, this reflection was for a wiki project
    However, I wouldn’t start a blogging project with students without re-reading what I learned about Scaffolding, Timelines, Experts, and Grades… as seen in the post.

    I hope what I have offered here will be useful to others:-)
    Dave.

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