There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Just as there are numerous ways to engage your students in using blogs.
Since we all learn better by sharing I’m hoping that you will share your experiences of student blogging by leaving a comment or write a post about:
- What are the procedures and steps you follow to set up your blogs (or usernames) and introduce your students to blogging?
- What challenges have you faced with student blogging and what advice would you give other educators to help them minimise/avoid these?
Don’t forget to leave examples of your excellent class and student blog posts so I can drop past and check them out!
Meanwhile you might like to also check out Alice Mercer’s Student blogging: Avoiding the potholes on the way session from Edublogs Free Live Web Events.
If you are enjoying reading this blog, please consider Subscribing For Free!
47 thoughts on “Student Blogging…..How Do You Do What You Do?”
Wow, this is very useful.. Thanks for sharing this and hoping I could implement it too.
I learn how to use a blog and incorporate it to my IT curriculum. I am open to any ideas and suggestions – I am a new teacher.
@davieafreeman and lucja — apologise for taking so long to respond as I’ve been reflecting on if I should follow up with a post that explains how to break it apart into simple steps. Still haven’t decided. You might also like to read my follow up post where I share some of the information from comment on this post. Plus I suggest you read through the comments on that post because there has been interesting conversations happening.
I am new to the blogging community. I plan to fully incorporate this into my classes for the next school. If anyone can share how to successfully complete this task, it would be great.
@sgracew re- your questions “Do you pre-screen all posts? Is there a service that will screen postings? Do all students participate, etc.? All information for a “newbie” would be greatly appreciated.” That really depends on the teacher. Some teachers will set up the blogs so that all student posts can only be approved by the teacher while others are happy for students to post them knowing that they can always remove a post.
Gets back to what you are comfortable with. I recommend you start with a class blog where you write the post and they just comment. As you get more comfortable you can add students to the blog and get them writing posts. Just start slowly and feel your way. Connect up with some of the class blogs of similar age and watch how they do what they do.
My Environmental Science class is about to begin a program to recycle food scraps in the cafeteria by using worm bins. They will be making a video to teach the whole school how to use the bins, and I thought this would be a fun topic to begin my first class blog on. I’d like to have them blog on topics like what went well, what did the students think, what can we do to make it better, etc… I really have no idea how to go about starting this, and will looking into that… What I’d like is feedback on whether this would be a reasonable topic and way to use a class blog. Also, if you have any tips to make this first experiment successful, I’d appreciate that as well.
Environmental Science and recycling is a great topic for a class blog. I’d start bit by bit. Browse some of the classroom blogs to get a feel for how simple or complex they can be. Then… learn how to put your page together: the name of your blog, your theme, relevant links, and then your first post. Sue has some great posts here in The Edublogger for learning to use your blog. I’m not sure how old your students are, but they would almost probably be thrilled to be involved in choosing all of the above. The first widget I’d recommend is either a ClusterMap or a FeedJit, the students get so excited when they see visitors. Start with a simple blog, then little by little add more. First, write a post and have your students practice leaving comments, then when they get the hang of it, involve them in the writing of the posts…picking the topic and helping to write it. If your students are older, they could be assigned a post! Share the blog with parents and the rest of the school, and invite them to leave comments. I hope that helps get you started!
Thank you for the tips! I’m getting ready to jump in, and your advice is very much appreciated!
@dthompson.sd I agree with Teresa there is so much they could write on a class blog about the how process and it could be fun. They could share basic facts about worms, how waste products are decomposed and they could get other schools to drop past and talk about their programs.
Definitely exciting and please let us all know if you need help!
Both of my blogs are set up so that primarily students are responding to teacher posts. Teaching students what their school-based email addresses are is the toughest part of this! I do allow students to register and become users if they want to and encourage them to write book review posts when they are so inclined. When students do set up usernames, I have them use their school network id and password and tell them that they should use their first names and last initial when posting. One of the best things that I’ve done since choosing to start blogging is become an Edublogs Supporter so that I could add threaded comments. I’ve been excited and amazed by how “into it” my students have gotten! I have yet to venture into individual blogs and probably won’t since I am not a classroom teacher. However, if one of my teacher wants to try it I’ll be happy to help! Some of my most successful ventures in blogging have been collaborative projects with my Language Arts teacher and other librarians. We did a county-wide book club for “Twilight” back in the fall and there are currently 3 “book projects” going on between two blogs. Also, I love being able to post podcasts and videos that students create to promote particular books. Sometimes I even make some of my own!
It sometimes is challenging to go through all the comments I get when an entire class is supposed to be posting, but I like having the authority to approve all of their comments. It makes my principal feel better that inappropriate content doesn’t make it to the site without me seeing it. Also, sometimes students don’t pay enough attention to what post they are commenting on and I have to delete what they have written because it doesn’t belong on that page or post. I really wish that there was a function that would allow me to change which post a comment belongs on in those cases! My primary blog is Book Bytes at http://lgeslibrary.edublogs.org but my newest project for younger readers is Book Bits at http://bookbits.edublogs.org.
Apologies for taking so long to respond to this comment but we had 24 hours where comment notifications went sent and I think your comment was written then.
Threaded comments is one of my most favorite features because you can respond easily back to each person. It only becomes hard when a new comment is placed somewhere in the thread and you have to search.
Hello again I just wanted to metion top gear is my new favourite show and im a big fan of it what is the weather like where u live its starting to get warm again here
I am feeling like a small fish in a big pond. This is my very first journey into the bloggin universe and I see wonderful opportunities for my students. I am somewhat overwhelmed and not sure where to start. I teach grade 7/8 students and have not decided if I want them to have their own blogs or to have a class blog. I see the merits of them having their own, but I will have to monitor their comments and entries. All these entries are very helpful to me as a new blogger. Thanks.
Most people when they start out feel exactly like you. I would recommend that you start with a class blog and the students initially just writing comments as response to your posts. As you go along gradually increase their ownership; getting them to help make decisions with the design of the blog and what widgets you add.
When you feel they are starting to get it – I would think about either adding them as users so that they could write posts or slowly give each their own blog. It is much better to take it slowly. I suggest you join the Student blogging challenge and connect with them as it does help.
I am very new to the blogging community as well. I would love any more information on the Student Blogging challenge and any other important items that a newbie might want to keep an eye out for.
I am very interested in becoming more proficient with this tool since my school will be blessed enough next year to have laptops for every student! I need to become proactive in using this tool and allowing my students a new way to interact and journal/write!
Thanks to any and all who can give insight and advice.
Hi Wilson, the student blogging challenge has almost ended however they do have a blog that continues called Student Friends blog.
If you keep a close eye on this blog you will find up most of the up and coming events.
My advice if your students are going to have the laptops soon is to start blogging and using this different technology yourself for your own learning as that will help you when you use it with students.
I have my juniors and seniors keep blogs for two reasons: 1. More involvement with technology. 2. More writing experiences, but in a format that they enjoy.
Their parents first have to sign a permission form that explains why we are blogging and that their identities will be kept private, etc. I also post this and a student contract on my blog.
The students must provide me with the Email addresses and passwords that they will be using for their blogs. (I encourage the students to set up a separate Email account for this, but also emphasize that I will never use the password for any other reason.) This is in case they try to add something that is not school appropriate. If this happens, I first warn the student to take it off, then if it is not removed, I remove it myself. They must also sign a bloggers contract.
Once the blogs are set up, I teach them how to use the different aspects, such as adding pictures, posting, gadgets, etc.
I have a few assignments on my blog that they must do, and add different ones throughout the semester. They are also encouraged to blog on their own time, as long as what they do is school appropriate.
I have all my students’ blogs linked to mine so they can easily read each others. I check each blog at least once a week, but the time is worth it and very enjoyable!
My students enjoy their blogs and most of them blog outside of class. I hope they are becoming life-long bloggers. Some of the students I had first semester, but not this one, are no longer linked, but I know they are still blogging, which makes me feel very good.
You can check out my students’ blogs by linking to mine at http://simsbumponablog.blogspot.com/.
Thanks for all the useful info you always send.
Hi Alice, thanks for sharing that information. Do you also have a system in place where if they change their password they have to give you the new one?
How have you found encouraging them to write posts that are school appropriate? Has there been any issues with this?
When you check their blogs are you going to their blog page or are you checking them using a RSS reader (such as Google Reader).
Always happy to share the information as I learn extra tips that will help educators with their blogging.
If I find that I cannot get onto a student’s blog with the password given, our tech people block the student’s blog until I am given the correct password. This has only happened once, so I feel fortunate. They do not like having their blogs blocked at school!
I have only had to remove a couple of videos because of language, but most of my students are mature enough to know better.
I use the RSS reader first, but I also read all comments that others have left, so I go straight to their blogs.
Thanks Alice for telling me how you handle students who have changed their password. Definitely can imagine that they don’t like their blogs being blocked.
Great new about reading your blogs in a Feedreader. I’m sure you would also like to save time reading the comments also plus know immediately when comments are posted. You can also do this using your feedreader. All you need to do is take their blog URL and add it to your feed reader so it looks like this http://simsbumponablog.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default/?alt=atom
That should automatically grab their latest comments.
For Edublogs user you would add the comment feed so it looks like this – http://theedublogger.edublogs.org/comments/feed/
I would also set up folders in my Google Reader. Let me know if you want me to explain how to do this.
I teach 6 periods of the Technology Exploratory class, and my students are 7th and 8th graders. I only have had these students since mid-January…they’re with me for one semester. Part of the time they are working on Fireworks and Flash (curriculum inherited from the previous teacher…they love it) and I pull small groups to work on a variety of other things, the first one being their blog.
Procedures…We start with learning how to log in. Yikes, take this slow, especially resetting their password and remembering what they reset. We use the same password as they use on the school server, but often the reset goes awry…be prepared to reset a few the next time they log in.
After they get in, I send them straight off to pick a design template (this gets them hooked!). Then they go to settings, rename their blog, and if time, write their first post (making sure they know they can write in color if they so choose).
The next session, they leave comments for 3 students (I assign at first to make sure all receive comments.) They add another post. That’s as far as we’ve gotten. Our blog is LMS Tech.
Next steps for us: 1) add a link on their blogroll to our class blog, Google Docs and one other (appropriate) web site they like. 2) Learn to embed code for something (not sure what we’ll embed yet, in the planning stages).
I learn so much about the kids that I would never have known…some are musicians, some play online games with people around the world, and one girl races motorcycles! I would never have known them as well just by having a quick conversation with them.
We’ll use the blog to get to know each other, showcase work, and later this year to report on research they’ll be doing. I’m trying to introduce applications they can use in high school (and can showcase on their blog) such as Google Docs, our wiki, Animoto, etc.
Discussions we have before starting….We talk about being representatives of our school, so they must be polite, sound intelligent, and be careful of how they respond to others. We talk about how when something is written, if you can’t see the person’s face, you don’t know if they are joking or being serious…so a comment like “You’re so weird” could be in fun, or could be an insult. Most students understand that, but I keep close watch on the comments, because about 1 student per class needs to rework a comment.
We only focus on the positive at first, and talk about how to respectfully disagree. For example, one student shared that she played the accordion, and a fellow student said, “I don’t like to play any instruments I don’t know why. But I think that the accordion is a cool instrument to play..” That’s what we’re looking for! What a great skill to learn for their future.
Challenges…Time, of course.
Being inappropriate? Yes, (they are middle schoolers) some kids post inappropriate things, and we talk about it, and the student takes down or edits whatever was inappropriate. We have a “3 strikes you’re out policy,” so a student receives a strike when they’ve been inappropriate. After one strike, I usually don’t have any more problems with the same student.
Thank you, I am most of the time the first one to get the work done. I will ask my teacher on Tuesday, how he likes blogging.
Again I just wil leave comments on whatever one I’m on. Sorry
This was the first year I started blogging with my students and I have found it very successful.
I did a lot of prep work before starting and e-mailed many bloggers (teachers) to see what was successful for them. I was surprised at all the feed back I received and used many of their rules for blogging.
I teach high school and gave each student their own blog. I feel this helped them in the sense they felt ownership for their own personal blog.
I try to ask questions that make them use critical thinking skills but have relevance to their life.
I use wikis with my lower level students because they have more success with that platform.
During the month of April our English Department will be putting blogs for use for National Poetry Month. Those blogs will not have personal blogs for students but just comments.
Thanks Mr. Kanach for sharing the link to your class and student blogs plus pleased to hear it is going well. I notice that you have put the links to the student blogs on a page — have you thought of having the links on a side bar on your blog? Or would you like me to show you how you can do it?
Totally agree with you regarding ownership. Can make a big difference to the success of blogging. It is one of the reasons why Ning like communities can struggle, if there are only limited numbers involved, because ownership makes you more likely to contribute.
Notice also that you are providing each student feedback – which is excellent. But was wondering if you are finding that the students are interacting with each others blogs much?
Yes , can you reply with how to put the links on the side bar?
Hi Jim, just leaving the comment here so others know how I’ve explained to set up a blogroll.
“You do it by using a blogroll – here is my post that explains how.
If you look at Sue Wyatt’s blog and scroll down the right hand side of her blog you will see that she has 2008 and 2009 students – she created these using a blog roll with categories.
I was originally going to have individual blogs for my third grade students (age 8), but some parents were hesitant about their child being on the Internet, so I decided to do a class blog instead. I’m glad I did a class one, as the posting and comment monitoring is manageable for me. I love the blog, and will continue doing one in years to come. Our purpose is to share what we are learning. The class decides what stories should be covered, and we try to post at least once a week. My third graders write their posts on their wireless AlphaSmart Neo computers and then download to my blogger account. I have written permission from all parents allowing their child to participate. Some parents requested that their child use a fake first name.
Through our blog, my third graders have learned how to deliver information in a logical way. They’ve learned about the importance of enhancing a story with illustrations/images. (Image choice has lead to wonderful discussions about limiting personal information and copyright issues. My students have use of a class digital camera.) They’ve also learned about the value of providing appropriate hyperlinks to readers who might want more information about a topic. The comment section has been a fun part of the blog. Parents and students are good about following up, asking questions, and keeping the learning alive. I’ve created worksheets with fake comments, and as a group, we evaluate whether a comment should be published or rejected because of too many capitalization, punctuation, or spelling errors.
Sometimes students cover a classroom story, but get the facts wrong. I have several students who are our “fact checkers”. They verify the facts of a post with the writer(s) before the story comes to me to be published.
Having a classroom blog has provided a forum for my students to practice their writing skills and share what they have learned. Enthusiasm is high, and some even stay in at lunch to work on a post! They love that people actually read what they write and are over the moon when they get a comment.
When this school year ends, I will link the blog to my website, and I will start a new blog for the ’09-’10 class.
Hi Linda, I definitely think starting on a class blog is a good way to start especially if parents have some concerns. Plus as you say it helps you get use to managing the posts and comments.
The idea of a ‘fact checker’ is interesting – do you rotate them through that responsibility? Excellent to hear how excited they are about blogging.
Your class blog is looking really good. Love how you are using a mixture of photos, facts and videos. Excellent to also see how you are connecting with classes in different locations.
Thanks for your comments. Yes, we do have a mixture of photos, facts, and videos. At first, I was the one coming up with ideas and telling them how to set up a photo. Now, they have taken it over. They decide about the stories, the photos, and the hyperlinks, too! Listening to them discuss what photo they need and how to compose the shot or what link would help the story is very gratifying for me.
The Fact Checkers came from a writer who used the word country instead of county. He was certain he had it right. That’s when I asked for volunteer Fact Checkers, people who were willing to follow the writer to their information to verify. (I wanted them to understand that it is important that information be correct for our readers, not because the teacher said so. I wanted them to take ownership of blog’s credibility.) The five or so students who volunteered, happened to be the highest readers. They all wanted the job, and are good at it. We rotate between them. They are good at spotting plagiarism, too.
Yes, it has been great to connect with other classes. We found 2KM from your site, I think. Great discussions and exchanges have occurred.
Thanks for your support!
Hi Linda, thanks for telling me more about the use of media plus the fact checkers. I really love the idea of the fact checkers and hadn’t thought of that one before. Excellent idea and love how you are encouraging blog ownership.
Always happy to support educators with their blogs.
I worked with our humanities department to set up a blogging project in their American Studies class. We did a complete write-up of the project including handouts, blog setup guide, project overview, and even a survey of the students afterward. Check it out at http://hhm.wikispaces.com
Hi Daniel, thanks for sharing the link to your wiki. Like how you created a nice set of instructions on how to set up the blog and start blogging. Was also interesting to check out their survey responses.
I have had a class blog for a few years now and I have changed things up a bit as I have gone along. My students (10 and 11 year olds) don’t have their own blogs. They are users on our class blog 56js.ca . Initially, I started by not having any student names on the blog. Students were identified with a number. This year they have their first names with their numbers. The parents were fine with this, permission forms were sent home.
The login usernames are all numbers and I use the same accounts from year to year, I just change the passwords at the start of the year.
I haven’t used the blog as an archive. At the end of the school year I have been clearing it off and starting fresh with the next group of students. I am not sure what the value in keeping the previous years work on the blog would be. It is really of interest to the students and their families at the time. They can take what they want off the blog to keep it or ask me for copies.
This year I am trying to write everyday with the agenda. Adding pictures from the creative commons area of Flickr.com has really livened up my blog and made it more appealing for my students.
I bought, or more precisely rent, a domain name to make it easier for my families and students to find the blog. There are many sites out there that will let you do that and it isn’t all that expensive. Instead of having to type jsmith.edublogs.org , my domain name 56js.ca points to the blog.
We use the blog for writing, posting videos, art, audio, assignments, links. I am still learning lessons about how much I can put on it. Visiting other class blogs really inspires me and my students. They love to see all the dots come up on our world map and the comments from their peers, families and people from far away places are what keeps them writing and interested. The blogging challenge this year has really opened things up for us.
Because we have limited computer time in a week and my students take a while in their typing, I will often type up their writing for them but the work is all theirs. I hope that as time goes on the kids will be able to take more responsibility for this.
I am very pleased with the work that my students are doing right now on writing newspaper articles. Visit us at 56js.ca or http://jsmith.edublogs.org/.
The newspaper articles are at http://jsmith.edublogs.org/category/newspaper-articles/
Talk about a long winded comment. Byt the way, I think the cat thing is okay.
Hi Jane, so I assume that you will be using nicknames to change their display names each year?
Interesting about whether to keep the posts from previous year or not. I know when Sue Wyatt was setting up her blog again for this year she discussed whether to have a new class blog or use the same blog. She ended up staying with the same class blog. I can understand why with how you reuse student usernames that you need to clear the blog — but the blogger in me wants to set up a “save the posts” campaign. To me they represent history, journey and progress — but that is my opinion.
Like the idea of the domain name as that would make it easy for the parents and students. I also like how you have created a student login that links directly to the new post area. Hadn’t thought of that but it would definitely have to be a time saver.
Would like to leave a comment for your students but was having trouble working out which post to add it to. Perhaps the students would like to write a post with some questions they would like to ask me and I could pop past to answer them?
It was an excellent comment packed with interesting ideas on how you do what you do. I also had a good look around your blog and checked out the excellent work your students are doing. Glad the cat quote didn’t offend.
Thanks for the comments to the comments. Here is another comment….
I change the students names each year. This year they are using their own first names but the nickname idea has appeal too, especially for “new to blogging” families and kids.
Wish I could take credit for the student login link directly to the writing page…that was a Nathan Toft idea.
I will get the students to think about a post that you can reply to. They really do love to get comments, especially from people they don’t know.
Speaking of which…I would love to hear how others are getting families involved in the commenting on their child’s work. I have tried direct e mails (Dear Family, this is to let you know that young Becky has written a post that you can see by clicking here. Please leave a comment for her…etc.) I don’t get many, if any, comments from families even with that. I am still amazed at meet the teacher nights and parent interview nights at the number of families who have never visited the blog. The smartest thing I did this year was to post a daily agenda. Parents love to visit that but I wrestle with the thought that my posting the agenda is taking some responsibility away from the students…Oh the dilemmas.
At Back-to-School Night, parents all said they would definitely comment on our blog. Yes, they would love to support the project.
In reality, few parents actually comment.
One thing I have done is to put kids in charge of gathering data about comments. We call them the Comment Collectors. Each child is given a check every time he/she comments or a parent comments. (A check with a dot means it was a comment from a parent.) The kids seem to enjoy monitoring who is visiting our blog and which posts have the most comments. I think it helps encourage students… to encourage their parents. It isn’t what I’d hoped for, but it has worked a little.
Thanks for clarifying Jane. Been a full on week traveling which is why it has taken me longer to respond. Let me know when the post is written and I will drop past.
Nathan always has excellent ideas. His avatar is my favorite avatar – notice you have the female version. This time was it your idea or his?
I’ve decided to turn your question about parent commenting into a post — hope you are okay with that? As I’m also interested in others thoughts.
Hi Linda, I really like the idea of the comment checker. Will be interesting in time is this method results in students encouraging their parents to comment more.
Sorry Jane, forgot to mention although may have mentioned above to some one else. One thing I would try is adding an email feedburner subscription to your blog. Then when you have parent night, if possible and practical, have your blog turned on and get them to sign up for notification by email.
Parents are more used to email and at least this way they get the latest news delivered to them. Then you could start building into your posts ways of encouraging them to click on the link in the email to visit the blog. For example we’ve just adding new photos to our sidebar.
Hello everyone. I am new to the blogging experience…well at least the use within the classroom. I have read many interesting comments and have certainly gained insight from your experience. So far, I have not seen any tips concerning the management of the content posted. Do you pre-screen all posts? Is there a service that will screen postings? Do all students participate, etc.? All information for a “newbie” would be greatly appreciated.
Blogging is scaring!
I only blogged with my students in 2007. (This year and the previous one I used wikis, I don’t have much access to computers where work so I have to limit myself). Well, from that 2007 group, three students (they were 9) continue blogging, on their own, without a teacher, in English ( I teach English as a foreign language). I think I did something good with them. I had access to three or sometimes two computers, I didn’t introduce them to blogging in class, they started blogging at home. However, what we did in class was visiting other blogs and leaving comments, (I didn’t do this on purpose, just intuition). So they knew, from the very beginning, blogging is about conversation. Some of them got it, that’s why they’re still blogging.
Well, it is scaring: give voice to your students, they’ll speak up. Scaring, specially for the institutions.
Sue… I have a cat.
Interesting Gabriela – wasn’t it was one of your former students posts that I recently visited – is that correct? Her writing was amazing.
What I’ve noticed in the blogging challenge is the students who English is their second language are doing really excellent blogging — in some ways their writing is better than some of the English students. But that might also relate to how long they have been blogging for.
Limited access is definitely a problem and off course giving a voice can be frightening.
PS my favorite animal is cats and no cat was harmed in the writing of this post.
Yes, she’s is one of my former students.
I also noticed what you say about about posts written by native and non native speakers. I’ve thought about this. In general, students here in Argentina finish secondary school without having learnt how to write properly. This (among others) is one of the causes of failure at higher education. While “writing” is one of the skills to be developed when you learn a foreign language, it is not developed in Spanish, our native language. Maybe the same happens in English speaking countries. But I’m just guessing…
Blogging is a great tool to enhance writing skills.
PS Good to know the cats in your area are safe.
Hi Gabriela, that is interesting what you say about learning to write properly. Definitely blogging enhances your writing skills and the non-native speakers blogs really emphasize that aspect.
I’m such at cat lover I adopt all the cats in the neighborhood. I won’t get another cat because we live on a busy street. But our neighbours have cats which come and play in our garden because it is big. Over time I’ve convinced them I’m nice and get to pat them.