Connecting with Other Classes Through Blogging

One of the things I love most about blogging with my class is the global connections we have developed. When I first started blogging in 2008, I didn’t even think about the possibility of connecting with other classes. It was a good six months before we started to cross paths with other blogging classes around the world.

One of the first connections we made was with Mrs Yollis’ third grade class in California. Read one of the first posts about our friendship on Mrs Yollis’ class blog here. Our friendship has now developed over three years of blogging with different cohorts of students.

There have been so many highlights from our connection with Mrs Yollis’ class. Apart from regular conversations through comments on each others blogs, we have skyped a number of times, worked on many collaborative projects together and one of my students has even visited Mrs Yollis’ class. Excitingly, that number will increase to two this week!

Photo courtesy Linda Yollis

Riley meets Mrs Yollis! Photo courtesy Linda Yollis

On a personal level, I have learnt so much from Linda Yollis and she has shown me the power of setting high standards for students, involving families and taking risks (among other things).

Mrs Yollis’ class is not the only class we call our blogging buddies. There are classes from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Asia, Europe and Australia featured on our blogroll who we have had meaningful connections with.

I have found many teachers are inspired to embark on blogging with their class when they realise what a powerful avenue for global collaboration blogs are.

Here are some tips for forming friendships with other blogging classes:

DO

  • Visit Sue Waters’s compilation of class blogs from around the world and add your blog to the list.
  • Work on building your own PLN. Twitter is a great meeting place for teachers who want their classes to connect.
  • Show a genuine interest in blogs you start commenting on and work on being an active member of the blogging community.
  • Find blogs that are at a similar stage to you. If you have just started blogging, you might get more out of a connection with someone at a similar stage as you rather than someone who has been blogging for many years with an extensive blogroll.
  • Hunt for like minded educators. The teachers I have bonded most with are those who have classes around the same age group, who post at a similar frequency, who have a regular online presence and who share similar teaching philosophies and goals for blogging.
  • Keep blogging relationships student centred. While I enjoy collaborating with other teachers, our core business is the students. Help students to get to know their blogging buddies, develop their relationships and extend their learning.
  • Smart small by getting into the routine of commenting on your new buddies’ blogs before delving in to more structured collaboration.
  • Encourage parents to be part of your blogging community and comment on your buddies’ blogs or attend Skype sessions. Blogging is something your whole school community can be a part of!

DON’T

  • Rush in to finding blogging buddies before you establish your class blog. I have found it is most beneficial to ensure your students know the basics of blogging such as safety, etiquette and quality commenting before embarking on collaborative ventures.
  • Start writing comments on random blogs simply saying “please visit my blog”. I see this all too often! Like all friendships, blogging relationships require give and take and develop from genuine interest.
  • Introduce your students to too many different blogs at once. In 2009, I tried to have my students comment on and keep up with dozens of different blogs which only resulted in confusion for both me and my class. We launched this year with our Quad Blogging project and have three core blogs we visit regularly. Additionally, we have a variety of other blogs that we drop in on on a semi-frequent basis which were introduced after we got to know our Quad Blogging buddies. We get a LOT of people visiting our blog and asking us to connect with their class but there is only so much we can do. I no longer feel compelled to start ongoing relationships with ALL of our visitors.
  • Give up – if you have trouble finding a suitable class to connect with or finding time to develop relationships, keep trying! It is worth it.

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What are your tips for forming friendships with other blogging classes?

22 thoughts on “Connecting with Other Classes Through Blogging

    • @ Jennifer, teaching and learning is so much better when we’re not confined to the four walls of our classroom. We love it! Thanks for your comment. :)

  1. Hi Kathleen
    It is essential that we connect our students globally as the global world will increasingly become their playground, workplace and perhaps business. It is great to hear what you are doing with your little ones. It is one of my goals to help my students develop a learning network of their own and both blogging, videoconferencing and virtual classrooms can help do that.
    Great to also hear you will be at both the Innovations Showcase and ICTEV conference and that you will be promoting this message further.
    I have also signed up for your session at the Showcase, but the web conference coaches have a stand to promote the use of virtual classrooms in education, so I may be tied up there now. I wonder why food is of prime importance in a conference! Perhaps it helps us relax, strike up conversations points, gives ‘good value for money’ considering the cost of attending conferences etc! Look forward to seeing you and hearing more about your great work with blogging.

    • @ Anne,

      Great point about the world being our students’ playgrounds, workplaces and business partners.

      I would love to start trying out virtual classrooms – you are doing an amazing job there. There is so much I would LOVE to do – just need more hours in the day!

      Sounds like you’ll be busy at the Showcase!

      Good points about food. It’s so funny how food can make an event memorable. I guess we’re all foodies at heart! :)

      Kathleen

  2. Hi Kathleen,

    Fabulous post! This is so helpful for a new class bloggers who don’t have the insight of experience. Your practical tips for what to do to build a PLN is just as valuable as the tips for what not to do.

    Your post is at such a good time in my learning process. The other day I had a conversation with some students about blogging in class. One student said he wished that they went back to just pencil/paper and not posting. When I inquired about his this, I found out it’s because he wrote a post for the class and no students commented on it. I reminded him that he was the first student to write a solo post for the class blog, and that the other students were still learning how to comment, and weren’t ready yet… and then asked him if he were to write a solo post again, what he thought might happen at this point… His response was rather mature for his age. — Had I read this post (specifically about not jumping in too soon) and could build a time machine to go back then, I would have advised waiting so more in the class were ready.

    Another tip you share is finding at a similar stage in blogging to connect with. I know as I’ve worked with some classes and teachers who are new to blogging, I’ve purposefully taken them to blogs such as your class to show them fabulous models from posts to comments. They’ve responded positively and were able to learn from those quality interactions. Is this still okay to do this, or do you think it would be more valuable for them to search for those at a similar stage and they could grow with?

    Or, is the best approach more of a combo of the two? Meaning, let them practice quality commenting with classes such as yours, then after that hook and experience of success, steer them towards finding their niche and PLN?

    Thanks again, Kathleen, for sharing your insight. It is fabulous to be able to ask questions openly. I have so much to learn.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy Watanabe

    • @ Tracy,

      What an interesting insight about your student being put off by not receiving comments. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I guess it’s good to show students that it is okay to make mistakes and if it doesn’t work then there is no harm done.

      I think I should have made myself clearer when I suggested new bloggers find someone at a similar stage to themselves. I definitely think new bloggers should look at more established blogs for ideas and leave them comments. I guess I was trying to say that someone who already has many global connections might not be able to “take on” another blogging buddy and you might be able to go further with a class that doesn’t have any blogging buddies. When Linda and I met, we knew very few blogging classes and we instantly gelled, collaborated and learnt together. Now Linda and I have so many blogging buddies, we always try to encourage new visitors however the idea of doing projects or commenting regularly on a new class blog might be a bit hard to manage. I hope that makes sense! So basically, keep doing what you’re doing and use the combination approach.

      Thanks again for your support, Tracy.

      Kathleen

  3. Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks for this post. Being new to all this I found it very useful. I think the ‘less is more’ approach is something I should keep in mind rather than launching into developing multiple relationships with other classes. It is a timely reminder for me to slow down a bit.

    A problem I am having at the moment is how to keep up with replying to comments particularly those written by students. It is very important to me to reply to comments we receive, firstly as a sign of respect and secondly it will encourage others to write comments if they know they will get a response. For comments written by children I have an even greater desire to respond to encourage them to collaborate globally. The issue I have is that I want to include my students in this process. At the moment I read the comments out to them that we receive and then get them to help me compose a message. But sometimes due to time constraints I can’t do this so I just reply myself (and then I feel guilty!). Teaching prep there are limitations with getting them to reply to comments themselves as it would take them weeks to do it. Maybe I should timetable a period in the week, maybe after lunch that is blogging/comment time – what do you think?

    • @ Sue,

      I can’t believe how many of the thoughts you have expressed here have been a problem for me in the past too!

      As I said in the post, when I first started making connections, I tried to keep my class up to date with SO many blogs that we were going a bit cross eyed! Quality over quantity, I have realised.

      I have had the exact same problem with replying to comments. This really is an issue in the P-2 area I think. Like you, I used to always do the replying with the students. Then I started to find that this is just not possible. We sometimes get 50 comments on posts now :???: we can’t do blogging all day!

      When I first started to do the replying myself (in my own time) I felt guilty too! But I looked to (blogging expert) Linda Yollis and saw she always does the replying and realised it is okay!

      After spending so much time working on composing comments in Term One, I am now in a position where I can send students over to the computer (when they finish their work etc) to reply to comments. Granted, only some students can do this independently and I am still reading over their comment before they hit the submit button. By Term Four last year I had a group of bloggers who could do the replying quickly and independently for me. It was great! Obviously you are not going to get to that level with your preps though!

      I have also gone through the dilemma of whether to dedicate time to blogging each day. We used to not have a set time for it and I used to squeeze in blogging wherever I could (while feeling a bit guilty about taking time out of our program). Kelly and I now start each and every day with about 15 minutes on blogging where students can read out the comments they wrote at home, we can look at other blogs, we can read new posts and if time permits we can compose a comment together to model new writing conventions.

      I would definitely recommend setting time for blogging regularly where you can sometimes do replies together and doing the rest of the replies yourself (reading them out to students at a later time IF you have time).

      During writing time, you could also work with a small group to compose a reply from time to time. What an authentic task to learn about literacy!

      Finally, I recommend encouraging parents to sit down with their child at home once a week (or more) to read through post and comments. That way, the students will see your replies even if you don’t have time to show them in class.

      I hope that helps a bit! Maybe I should blog about this in the future!

      Kathleen

      • Hi Kathleen,

        Thanks for your quick response. It makes me feel better that you have had similar issues in the past. Thanks for letting me know that it is okay to reply on behalf of students. I suppose a balance is what is required.

        We are getting a lot of comments at the moment from students from classes overseas (seems they are doing as part of writing session) and I find these the hardest to keep up with and am conscious of replying in a timely manner so as not to discourage them.

        I will definitely timetable blogging comments and may even write a blurb on our blog that all comments will be replied to on Fridays or something similar – when I figure it out!

        Thanks for the tips, I will let you know how I go.

        Sue

        • @ Sue,

          I forgot to mention – there are some times when you just have to do a bulk reply. Once again, this is something I used to feel guilty about but we sometimes have the same situation with a whole class of overseas students writing similar comments and Kelly and I have debated how to approach it. If time is short and students can’t reply, we sometimes do a bulk reply to everyone from that class. Better than nothing!

          I like your idea of saying you’ll do replies on Fridays.

          Really, we need to beat ourselves up less about all these replies. I have found a large percentage of class and teacher blogs don’t worry about replying at all (but like you I feel it is the right thing to do).

          Let’s know how you go!

          Kathleen

  4. Thank You Kathleen,
    I can’t emphasise enough how much your overall efforts relating to blogging have motivated and guided me. As we are all in different circumstances and have different abilities there are bound to be different approaches to blogging. That is one of the things I like about blogs, each one is different and when you find a like minded community then that’s a place to begin to develop some deeper connections. However there are some overarching truths and you identify these with great clarity and focus.
    I still find it very frustrating that local education authorities block so much. You tube, blogspot.com, even edublog.com and Vimeo! Some individual sites on application can be ‘whitelisted’. If ever the leading players could organise a request for open access, or at least optional access to the places we all need to use, I’d love to sign up to it. To be fair I more or less understand the You tube block, but there are too many wonderful posts that are not accessible in class.

    The point that you make about placing children at the heart of everything is crucial. As a new blogging school, this is often my hardest challenge and greatest worry. However for me it’s essential to try to get some activity going on the blog, increase the children’s involvement incrementally and through use and reference put the children in a situation where they are eventually choosing to blog, because they want to.
    We all work hard we really shouldn’t be beating ourselves up too much.

    Mr E
    Hawes
    England

    • @ Mr E,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I always appreciate your support and comments!

      I can’t begin to imagine how frustrated you must be with so many valuable resources blocked! I can only hope, in time your authorities can be convinced that educating and not blocking is key!

      I love this “we all work hard we really shouldn’t be beating ourselves up too much.” and I am always trying to remind myself of this because I think I do beat myself up too much! I am always thinking the blog should be more student centered, our classroom should be more inquiry based and basically I should be doing better! I guess you want teachers to strive for continual improvement but we do need to go easy on ourselves sometimes!

      Great to share my thoughts with a like-minded educator!

      Kathleen

  5. I love the lists & agree with all you have said. I have now got a second career from commenting on class blogs. I have developed a relationship with the children so that I can be a critical friend when they post pieces of work.

    • @ Mrs Skinner, I feel the same way. Blogging is my second job! It’s great to be a critical friend.
      Kathleen

  6. Dear Kathleen,

    Thank you so much for all of your kind words! I truly feel fortunate to have connected with you and enjoy working with you immensely. Together, we have learned so much and I look forward to the many wonderful experiences we’ll share in the future! Maybe one day it will be me sitting in yourclassroom or vice versa! ☺ (However, it does feel like you teach right next door!)

    Once again, you’ve hit the nail on the head with your topic! Global connections are one of the best parts about having a blog! However, making and keeping the connections take dedication and your tips are solid.

    Like you, I really recommend starting with a class blog, learning the basics, and as a group…try to make connections with other classes. That way, when students are ready for their own blogs, they already have a couple of classes that they know and there might be opportunities for comments that come about from those class connections. It’s also a good idea to allow students to earn blogs in batches. That way they’ll be able to support one another with comments.

    I love your tip about showing a genuine interest in blogs you start commenting on and work on being an active member of the blogging community. . That is one of the foundations for a connection. Friendships stem from comments that show a true interest in the blog/class. Try to make a connection to a post or add new information, and then return to see if you got a response. If so, continue the conversation or pick a new post from that blog to leave a quality comment. I, too, see a lot of comments like We have a class blog and hope you’ll visit. Here is the URL. A more sincere approach will probably get you the results you’re looking for.

    When I first started out, I hunted for those like-minded educators. I left lots of quality comments on classroom blogs, and I noticed that some teachers responded and some didn’t. Like in life, the ones who responded, I continued to visit and comment and before too long, we had a real connection. Like you said, don’t give up!

    I also love your tip about limiting the number of blogs you’re following. The Quad Blogging project is a great way to make deeper connections. If you try to connect with too many, it can get confusing and certainly time consuming!

    It broke my heart to read about Tracy’s student who wrote a post, but didn’t get any comments. Using Twitter and the hasthtag #comments4kids is a fabulous way to publicize that a child needs a comment. I recommend everyone read your wonderful post about using Twitter!

    However, I will say that writing for your own blog really brings home the importance of commenting. There’s nothing worse than publishing something and it just sits there. I try to use the disappointing experience to help encourage student bloggers to get out there and start commenting themselves. When my students complain that they don’t have many comments, I’ll ask, “Well, where did you last leave a comment?” and usually I get a sheepish look and in that moment, they get it…blogging is reciprocal. Everyone likes comments, but comments come from the relationships that you’ve built. Student bloggers need to understand that as well as teachers. I always say, You’ve got to give, to get.

    Finally, responding to comments is essential for building relationships. At the beginning of the year, I try to respond to the comments myself. Whenever a comment would come in, I would apply that old adage, “Have it in your hand once,” and I would immediately respond. I don’t do well when a bunch stack up on me. During our morning blog time, I would teach the entire class the concept of responding. I’d type what the students wanted to say, and anyone who contributed got their name on the reply. As students learn to type, I will put a “Hot List” on the board of recent comments. Anyone who finishes his/her work, can go to the computer and respond to one of our readers. Working in pairs really helps. Obviously, the “recent comments” gadget can help guide students to comments that need a response.

    Fabulous post, Kathleen! Thanks for all the support you give!

    :-)
    ~Linda

    • @ Linda,

      What fantastic advice you have offered as always! I agree with everything you said!

      I thought you would understand about the need for sincerity because I have seen “We have a class blog and hope you’ll visit. Here is the URL” comments on your blog quite a bit. We both love to support new bloggers but we both prefer the approach people like Shawn Avery and Judy McKenzie took, showing a genuine interest in being part of the blogging community. They are now firm friends of ours.

      I have had the same conversations with my student bloggers (over and over again) about the importance of leaving comments for other people. It is just so important.

      I love your strategy for having students reply to comments. You always have an effective system for everything! :lol:

      Thanks for your practical tips about forming connections (leave a comment, go back and see if they replied) and using the #comments4kids hashtag.

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise here, Linda. Thanks again!

      Kathleen

  7. I’ve been introduced to your thoughtful advice about blogging by Mr. E (Hawes). My class started blogging this year first in class only about book club (books they were reading) then we branched out to the world. That site at kidblog got full and seemed hard to add to so I was doing a Flat Stanley project with a school in Australia that recommended we blog. We started with that school and have added a few others. I am doing all the typing at the moment since I didn’t want to get the upgrade version for students for a short period of time. Our school year ends June 10th. Next year they will do more of their own typing like they do on the kidblog site and I expect to get the upgraded version on edublogs. Your articles are great and I’m learning a lot from reading them. I still need to figure out what I did wrong when I tried to embed a Photopeach video. It wouldn’t work after I copied and pasted the URL so I did it a different way. It’s there but I would like it to show up like it does on our blogging buddies blog.
    So much to learn for both me and my students but we are loving every minute of it.
    Our site can be found at http://brendatodd.edublogs.com

    • @ Brenda,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you are finding my blog useful.

      It sounds like you’re off to a great start and making some wonderful connections.

      I tried to find your PhotoPeach on your blog to figure out what your issue was but I couldn’t find it. Just in case you’re unsure, when you get the HTML code off the PhotoPeach site, you need to click on where it says HTML in your post and paste the code in there. You might already know that!

      I hope you enjoy the end of your school year. Not long to go for you now! We’re not even halfway through our year here in Australia.

      Kathleen

  8. Pingback: Activity 9: Connecting with other classes | Edublogs Teacher Challenges

  9. i love the idea of global classrooms there is so much potential for new experiences and learning in a fun environment. the tips you have given for connecting globally are great. I have just started a blog for art as i am the art specialist. so far i have students report and photograph projects and activities to share on the blog. through the challenge i am learning new ways to present things so hoping to pass that onto the students. We would love to connect with art students around the world but so far the flag counter has caused a bit of excitement :)

  10. At our middle school, we started small. We had students post thoughts about WWII. Each teacher had a different topic and each teacher’s blog was shared with the other teachers so students could access comments on three different blogs and comment on each others’ thoughts.

  11. These are some great tips and will help take our class blog to the next level of connecting outside our own school.

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