Making Educational Blogging Work for You

Originally published as a guest post on Free Technology for Teachers. 

I was introduced to educational blogging in 2008. A twenty minute tutorial by a Department of Education staff member was enough to ignite my interest and, four years on, blogging is something that really works in my classroom.

When I look back at how I first approached blogging, there are few similarities to how my blogging program operates today.

Initially, I saw blogging as a bit of fun. I thought it would be a good way to communicate with parents and archive classroom information. I didn’t realise that there are countless other benefits that blogging can bring when it is working effectively in a classroom.  

I used to think blogging was an add-on. I didn’t realise that it can be seamlessly integrated into the classroom literacy program. I used to feel guilty about taking time away from my reading and writing curriculum.

It was a light bulb moment for me when I realised that blogging is literacy; and an authentic and important style of literacy too. Now a day without blogging as part of my literacy block would be hard to imagine.

I used to think it was about the posts. Back in 2008, I had students writing posts from day one. There was no education or standard. Few comments were written and those we did receive were often limited to “I like your blog!!!” or “Our class is cool!!!”. The students’ writing just wasn’t developing. Working with teachers such as Linda Yollis made me realise the comments are the place to start. This is where everyone can get involved, collaborate, learn and practise their skills.

From the beginning of each school year, I now put the emphasis on writing quality comments. This requires explicit teaching, modelling, practice and feedback. I write the posts until the students develop the skills they need to write an effective post. From there the students can earn their own blog. It is a sequential process which has led to incredible gains in the students’ literacy skills, confidence and 21st century proficiencies.

I used to think participation would just….happen. Unlike traditional websites, the dynamic nature of blogs means people can be having conversations, interacting and learning from each other every day. My blog used to be a fairly dead space. It received a handful of daily visits and maybe one comment per post at best.

Over time I realised that participation cannot be left to chance. If you want parents to get involved you need to educate and encourage them. Parent handouts, videos, e-newsletters, Family Blogging Afternoons, posts for parents and Family Blogging Month competitions have all led to greater family involvement in our blog. Most teachers are well aware of the link between parent participation in schooling and improved student outcomes. Blogs provide a bridge between home and school, however, many families need to be shown the way … just like the students.

I used to think our class blog was just for our class. Little did I realise that an important aspect of blogging is getting involved in the online community. When I first began, I didn’t know any other blogging classes. Now we connect with blogging classes from all corners of the globe on a daily basis.

Global collaboration has led my students to learn alongside their peers and achieve amazing outcomes such as raising $20,000 for a Ugandan school.

Our classroom program is much richer because of our blogging buddies. Blogging partnerships have allowed my students to learn about geography, cultures, time zones, seasons, language, internet safety and more in an authentic way.

This is the fifth year that my class has been involved in blogging. I am constantly learning and tweaking ideas. Implementing a blogging program has certainly been a rewarding journey for both my students and myself.

Through integrating blogging into the curriculum, setting high standards, educating families, and being active in the blogging community, my students now reap the rewards that blogging offers. Yours can too! Not sure where to start? I have written a five step guide to getting started with blogging and many other posts on all aspects of educational blogging. 

What did you used to think about blogging?

10 Comment

  1. @ Kathleen,

    This is a great reflection on educational blogging.

    Incidentally, I was providing PD to the Grade 1/2 (and a few specialist) teachers at my school for our curriculum day today on blogging and how to set up classroom blogs, and it was amazing the shift in the way they thought about blogs just by spending that time working as a group to learn and develop their technical skills, as well as planning how to implement the blogs within their classrooms. (They were impressed – we left comments on my class’ blog… and not 20 minutes later one of my preps had left a reply for them!)

    It gave me pause to think about how far I’ve come, in only a year, in my thinking as well. Blogging is no longer a ‘techie’ thing – it’s literacy, it’s numeracy and geography. It’s global community and real world communication. It’s good, explicit teaching practice.

    I do have to thank you (and Kelly and 2KM and 2KJ last year) for being such great guides and showing me what the possibilities are and for inspiring me on my own blogging journey.

    So… thanks!

    Stef

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Stef,

      That’s so great that a) you’re getting some other teachers into blogging and b) they are already shifting the way they view blogging! Go preps! Writing back to the teachers’ comment would have impressed them. 😆

      You really have come a long way and I think it’s great that you have stuck with it. I have seem SO many teachers eagerly start blogging and then stop. Maintaining the blog is half the battle.

      I’m glad 2KM, 2KJ, Kelly and I helped you last year. You helped us too as we had so many fabulous conversations on the blog. And now you’re helping others!

      Keep up your excellent work,
      Kathleen

  2. Miss Jenkins says: Reply

    Dear Kathleen,

    Thank you so much sharing your thoughts and jounrey with blogging. It is through wonderful educators like yourself, that you have inspired us to start blogging. Before I started blogging, I thought it was all about the posts but your blog made me see that the real learning was within the comments. Therefore, we began our blogging journey with a huge focus on writing comments.

    Thank you much for continuing to share your ideas and learning.

    Best wishes,
    Casey

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Casey,

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment – it was great to hear from you!

      It’s funny that we both thought blogging was all about posts to begin with. I think if I had just stuck with focussing on the posts, my students wouldn’t have got as much out of blogging as they have.

      Happy blogging!
      Kathleen.

  3. Lisa Siese says: Reply

    I am interested in starting blogging this year – I have a ways to go as I am not only new to blogging with my class but blogging in general. I found your tips to be very useful but I am worried about how to manage internet access at school as our internet security is very tight. Do you have any tips for this issue?

    I will be starting my own blog this week… nothing like jumping in head first to figure things out!

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      I’m so happy you found my tips useful. Your students will certainly enjoy blogging. Unfortunately, the only tip I can offer is to try to talk to your school admin and demonstrate the benefits of blogging and internet use. I always feel that blocking is doing our students a disservice. Through supervised activities such as blogging, students learn how to be responsible online citizens. It’s so important to guide them, rather than leave them to develop their skills at home on their own.

      Good luck!
      Kathleen

  4. Lisa Siese says: Reply

    Hi Kathleen,
    Thanks for the suggestion. Our school is on a server and I think its “rules” are system wide – possible beacuse Bermuda is so small. I will have to see what I can do.

    I do understand the importance of teaching my students how to safely and effectively navigate today’s technology. I have teens of my own, one of whom adores fanfiction (especially the Harry Potter versions). It was not until I started the course I am doing now that I realised exactly what fanfiction is… I suppose I am becoming (more) 2.0 literate!

    My next step is to set up a blog of my own so that I have some idea what I am doing before I attempt this with my class. Go away Tropical Storm / Hurricane Leslie so our power stays on!

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      It’s very hard when your school has system wide rules. Our state of Victoria has things blocked in all schools but there is a way to unblock them just for your school (if your leadership team is willing!).

      It must be very eye opening having teens of youryown and seeing what they get up to.

      Stay safe! Hope Leslie doesn’t hang around!

      Kathleen

  5. Lisa Siese says: Reply

    Hi Kathleen
    I did not know that specific sites could be “unblocked” for specific schools. I will have to see what I can do. I can spend today’s storm day thinking up some great arguments for blogs in particular and some of the other blocked sites generally. 🙂

    Thanks for the ideas!
    Lisa

  6. I Totally agree with Mrs Kathleen Morris! I live in The Netherlands Europe. I think our way of teaching needs a update! I think that blogging is the future and it’s nice to see Mrs Kathleen Morris way of teaching!

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