I’ve been asked a few questions lately about setting up student blogs so I thought it would be timely to update my post from 2010 about the process I use.

2012 will be the fifth year that I have been blogging with my class and the fourth year that I have had some student blogs. I have learnt a lot along the way and, of course, I am still learning all the time.

My involvement in educational blogging began with setting up my own professional blog, then starting a class blog and finally moving into student blogs.

While having a professional blog is optional for teachers who want to blog with their students, I do recommend having a class blog before moving on to student blogs. A class blog is the ideal avenue for the students to learn about the blogging process.

Early in the year we always do a lot of work on quality commenting, creative commons and copyright, internet safety, netiquette, typing, writing styles and more.

This diagram, which I have shared a number of times, outlines the general process I implement in my class.

Blogging progression K Morris

During 2011, I focussed more on step one and four, than two and three, however, it still demonstrates a model that I have found to be effective

At the start of the year, we let the students know that they may have the opportunity to earn their own blog from about Term Two onwards.

The idea of earning a blog is one of the many blogging tips I got from my Californian friend, Linda Yollis.

To earn a blog the students have to…

  • Write quality comments on our class blog on a regular basis.
  • Reply to comments on our class blog regularly. Our class blog is a team effort.
  • Show an interest in others’ blogs (eg. leave some comments on our blogging buddies’ blogs).
  • Demonstrate an understanding of cyber safety and netiquette when writing blog comments and using the internet.
  • Show a general enthusiasm for learning about blogging.
  • Demonstrate support from family. Students will not be chosen for a blog without family support.

This isn’t a clear-cut checklist, but more of a guide as to what we’re looking for.

Why haven’t all of my students had blogs?

Up until this year, I have been working with seven and eight year old students. Blogging is a big responsibility for children of this age (or individuals of any age for that matter!). The students need to be ready and committed. The support of parents is also essential.

I have seen far too many blogs that have been set up enthusiastically but not maintained regularly or simply abandoned after a very short time. While my students are not locked in to blogging forever if they find it is not for them, I want them to be committed to giving it a good shot.

I also need to be able to assist and monitor all of my student bloggers. I know I could not do this effectively if all of my students had blogs, however, in 2012 I want to look into ways to have more students blogging.

How I set up the blogs

I use the platform Global2 for my class blog. This is an Edublogs Campus Subscription offered by DEECD (Victorian Education Department).

To set up the student blogs, in the dashboard of my class blog I went to Users and then Blog and User Creator. In the set up process I added myself as an administrator which is crucial because I need to be able to access the dashboard of my students’ blogs in case any editing is ever needed.

The students have their own usernames and passwords for their blogs. Students require an email address to set up their blog which I generate through our school website.

The process I followed

1. I asked the students who I thought had earnt their blog if they would like a blog (probably a silly question, it is always a yes).

2. I sent a detailed email to the students’ parents explaining how the blog will work, responsibilities and support. I asked them to reply via email so I had their permission in writing. Here is a sample email in PDF format (tip: right click and open in new tab/window) K Morris Sample Student Blog Permission 2012

3. Once permission was obtained, I set up a school email address for each student and set up their blog.

4. I sat down with the students and discussed their ideas for their blog. We talked about what they think they will post about and how often they will post. We also revised cyber safety tips and discussed what is and is not appropriate to post online. There are always a number of authentic opportunities to discuss internet safety issues as the students go through the blogging process.

5. The students stayed in for a couple of lunch times to get started on their blogs. I began by showing them things like how to change their password, how to change their theme, how to rename their blog, how to use basic widgets, how to add links, how to write a post, how to write a page and how to add hyperlinks in posts/pages. A lot of the time, the children figure things out for themselves and I encourage this. This is how I learnt to blog!

6. I typed and laminated a document with all the information the students needed to keep at home and school. This included their email address, blog address, usernames and passwords as well as the links to the Edublogs support site.

7. The students who start blogging first are always great mentors to the students who start blogging later in the year. Peer to peer tutoring has so many benefits!

8. After the initial set up sessions, the students just tended to ask me questions as they arose and we often had a “blogging club” one lunchtime a week. I subscribe via email or RSS to my student blogs to keep track of what they’re up to.

What will change in 2012?

I’m always reflecting on the way I do things and I’ve had a number of thoughts about 2012.

  • I’m moving from Grade Two to Grade Four. As the students are two years older, I am hoping I will have a lot more students blogging. If I had more students with blogs, I could integrate writing posts into the classroom curriculum, rather than it being an extra-curricula activity.
  • If I do have more students with blogs, I wonder how I will find the time to set up blogs, provide assistance, comment and monitor the blogs. In 2011 I had 9 out of 22 students blogging and it was a lot of work. In 2012 I will start the year with 27 students. Perhaps I will rely more on peer-to-peer mentoring and have parents become the primary administrator – as Linda Yollis does.
  • My “blogging club” in 2011 was an ad-hoc arrangement which worked really well. I am hoping it can become more of a timetabled event in 2012 where I can work with some of my current and former students.
  • Forming connections through our class blog has been a rewarding experience. I am hoping I can encourage more student-student blogging connections in 2012. Could there be QuadBlogging for students? Could students form their own personal learning networks (PLNs)?

Final thoughts

Blogging has an incredible number of benefits for students and, if they are ready and willing, having their own blog is a great privilege and learning opportunity. I won’t deny that it is a fair bit of work for you as a teacher but like all things in life and in teaching, the more you put in, the more you get out!

Further reading

Linda Yollis has an excellent system for student blogs. Read about it on her Educational Blogging wiki.

Check out the post Ronnie Burt wrote on The Edublogger blog recently. He links to interesting research about the benefits of student blogging.

Do you have any questions about blogging with students?

Do any of your students have blogs? How did you go about it?