Primary Tech

A Guide to Involving Parents in Your Class Blog

This is an update of some of the posts I’ve written in the past about getting parents involved in blogging.

About parents and blogs

One of the many benefits of having a class blog is the strengthening of home-school relationships.

A class blog can provide a virtual window into the classroom.

After having a class blog for many years, I have found that most families enjoy being able to keep up with classroom events and student learning.

Unfortunately, I have seen a number of teachers almost give up on their class blog because of the lack of parent participation and comments.

I often get asked how we get parents involved in our blogging community.

Our parents are no different to those in other classes. They are busy people who need education, encouragement and ongoing invitations to participate.

I have certainly discovered that you cannot leave parent participation to chance.

Educating parents

At the start of each year when I introduce my class to blogging, there are always many students and parents who don’t know anything about blogs.

I spend lot of the time at the start of the year helping my students learn about blogging, however, I have also come up with ways to educate the parents. This is very important. Parents won’t be willing or able to get involved in blogging if they don’t know anything about it.

As Linda Yollis says, everything is more powerful when parents are involved in their child’s learning so I definitely like to encourage parent participation in blogging.

Like students, parents have different learning preferences and I like to offer my parents a range of different means in which they can learn about blogging.

Introduction to blogging handout

On the first day of the school year I send home a blog permission note along with an information note.

You can find the PDF of both documents below.

4KM and 4KJ Blog Permission Note 2013

4KM and 4KJ Blog Information Note 2013

The information note lets parents know things such as:

  • What a blog is
  • What our blog URL is
  • Why we blog
  • What our safety guidelines are
  • FAQs based on common questions from previous years

Handout to help parents navigate the blog

There is a lot to know about effectively navigating the class blog so I created a handout for parents called 10 Steps to Navigating the 4KM and 4KJ Blog 2013

It includes information such as:

  • blog jargon
  • how to subscribe to email updates
  • how to leave and reply to comments
  • how to use our web app and Google calendar
  • how to search the blog
  • how to become part of our wider blogging community

A guide to navigating your class blog is even something students could create themselves.

Information on the blog

I have created a “learn about blogging” set of pages on our class blog. This explains to readers (including parents) what a blog is, why we blog and how to comment. For parents who prefer a more visual description, I have created a video explaining how to comment.

Other ideas

Here are some other ideas we’ve used to educate and encourage parents to become part of our blogging community.

  • Parent Information Evening: When we have held these in the past, blogging is one of the areas we have covered.
  • Family Blogging Afternoon: We have held a couple of these events where family members are invited into the classroom to learn about blogging. Find our 2012 example on our class blog here
  • Family Blogging Month: This is an idea that Linda Yollis created for her class. We have borrowed her idea many times as a way to encourage family participation in blogging. Family Blogging Month is basically a competition where students try to get as many family members as possible to comment on the class blog. See our 2012 example which resulted in around 800 comments for the month of May here
  • Email Subscription: It’s important to have an email subscription on your blog and make sure your students/parents know how to sign up. That way they will be notified when new posts are published.
  • Fortnightly Parent Emails: We send fortnightly newsletters to all our parents. This is a great way to offer blogging news or tips (amongst other classroom news and reminders). You can also thank the parents who have been commenting and invite parents to comment on particular posts.
  • Posts for Parents: Sometimes we write posts with questions for parents. Here is one post we published last year that was specifically designed for parents. This idea was originally inspired by Henrietta Miller.
  • Virtual Volunteers: Linda Yollis has come up with the idea of calling on parents to be virtual volunteers on a roster basis. Rather than helping students in the classroom, they can assist online by replying to students and engaging in conversations.

Final advice

I always try to reply to comments or have students reply. Of course this is not always possible but we do it as much as we can.

It is good blogging etiquette to reply and provides an example to students that comments are not just one-way; they are used to generate conversation and discussion. A great deal of learning can occur when conversations are developed.

Parents may not be encouraged to keep commenting if they don’t feel their comments are being valued or acknowledged.

Using my work

Want to use these ideas or modify my notes and handouts for your classroom use? Go ahead, I have included a CC-BY-NC license for the PDF files. Simply credit me as the original author and link back.

What other ideas do you have for involving your parents in your class blog?

10 Tips for Introducing Blogging into Your Classroom

With the new school year beginning in Australia, many teachers will be introducing blogging into their classrooms.

Some teachers will be continuing an established blogging program with a new cohort of students, while others will be introducing blogging for the first time.

If you’re totally new to blogging you may like to check out Five Steps to Starting Your Class Blog If you’re in a Victorian DEECD or CEO school, check out Getting Started with Global2.

Here are some tips based on my own experience of how to successfully integrate blogging into your classroom:

  1. Start small: don’t expect to know everything at once and avoid comparing your blog to more established classroom blogs. Begin with simple posts that include text and images. As you build your skills and confidence, you might begin embedding web 2.0 tools.
  2. Integrate: don’t make blogging an add-on. Integrate mathematics, literacy and other subjects into blog posts and comments. Make blogging part of your literacy block or homework schedule. Find more advice on integrating blogging into your classroom curriculum here.
  3. Be regular: a haphazard blogging program isn’t going to provide as many benefits as a predictably regular one. Set yourself goals (such as publishing one new post every week) and routines (like spending the first 10 minutes of each day reading the students’ blog comments).
  4. Start local before global: I recommend building teacher and student skills through a class blog before you begin to collaborate globally with other blogging classes. The students will get more out of global collaboration if they have established the basic skills around commenting, internet safety, etiquette etc.
  5. Begin with a class blog: If you plan to use student blogs in your class, whether students will be earning blogs or simply assigned a blog, I strongly recommend starting with a class blog. This allows the children to build those essential blogging skills that they can transfer to their own blog.
  6. Teach quality commenting: I always start the year by teaching the students about quality commenting. Initially, I write all the posts and the students’ role is to comment. I have found explicit teaching + high expectations + regular feedback + authentic motivation = high quality writing. In my class, our blogging program has a strong literacy focus.
  7. Integrate internet safety: Once you have established your blogging guidelines and made sure all parents and students are aware of them, use blogging as an authentic way to teach about internet safety. Blogging is an excellent way for students to learn about being responsible members of an online community.
  8. Collaborate: find a buddy to learn with, either someone at your school or another educator online. Don’t be afraid to learn with your students; you don’t have to be the expert. You might even set up a joint blog with your whole grade level, or with another class. Sharing the workload can make blogging easier and more enjoyable.
  9. Get parents involved: Parent involvement cannot be left to chance. At the start of the year, focus on educating the parents about blogging via a parent night, family blogging afternoon, handouts, emails etc. Continue to educate and encourage parents to become part of your classroom blogging community throughout the year. 
  10. Keep going: it is easy to set up a blog but maintaining it requires work. Keep focussing on your goals and persevere. You will soon see your students enjoying many benefits from your blogging program!

What other tips could you offer?

Image attribtion: ‘Caution: Blog Ahead‘  

Getting Started with Global2

Yesterday I ran a professional development day for teachers called Technify Your Teaching in 2013.

While my colleagues Matt Limb and Simon Collier ran sessions on iDevices, Google Apps, Evernote and web 2.0 tools, I presented workshops on blogging with my team teaching partner, Kelly Jordan. One of our sessions was on setting up your class blog for 2013.

I created a step-by-step handout for the event called “Getting Started with Global2″. This is based around the guide that John Pearce created a few years ago (thank you, John).

If you are wanting to set up an educational blog and you’re working in a DEECD or CEO school, I strongly recommend you head straight to Global2. Global2 is a DEECD sponsored Edublogs Campus Site. That means you get all the best features that Edublogs offers for free! Support for Edublogs Campus subscribers is extensive.

2013 will be the sixth year that I have used Global2 and I have found it to be an excellent platform for my class, student and teacher blogs.

The following guide takes you through six initial goals when setting up a Global2 blog

  • signing up
  • writing a post
  • changing your theme
  • adding widgets
  • writing a post
  • adjusting general settings

I hope you or your colleagues find it useful.

Getting Started With Global2 by Kathleen Morris

If you are having trouble accessing the Scribd document, you can download the PDF version here Getting Started with Global2

If you are looking for more advice about setting up a class blog, check out Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog which I published last year.

What are your blogging plans for 2013?

A New Blog Design for a New Year

As 2012 comes to an end it is timely to reflect on what a fabulous year it has been.

I’m also launching a new theme to mark the start of a new year. Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom is now called Primary Tech. The URL has not changed.

Some of my 2012 highlights include:

  • Blogging – educational blogging has continued to be a large part of my classroom in 2012. It has been encouraging to see my grade four students improve in so many ways through blogging and global collaboration. 99 posts were published on the 4KM and 4KJ blog during 2012. Over 4000 comments were received and we recorded 33,000 visits on our Clustrmap during the year. A blogging highlight was coming third for the Best Class Blog category in the worldwide Edublog Awards in December.
  • Having a wonderful PLN - my professional learning network is wide and diverse. Each person in my PLN helps me to become a better teacher. Every day I am reflecting, brainstorming, questioning and chatting with a really inspirational bunch of educators via Twitter, email, Skype or blogs. I couldn’t teach without you!

In 2013 I am looking forward to:

  • Going 1:1 – we are introducing a Grade Four Netbook Program into our school in 2013. Eventually, this will be a program for grades four to six. I’m excited by the possibilities of going 1:1 and look forward to again working with a dynamic team of teachers. If you have any suggestions to make about 1:1 curriculum, I would appreciate you commenting on this post.
  • Technify Your Teaching in 2013 PD – I have been writing Tech Tools for Teachers for three years. Each fortnight Simon Collier, Matt Limb and I produce a how-to guide for an online tool. For the third time, we are running a full day of hands-on professional learning at my school in Geelong. There are just a small number of spots still available. If you are interested in attending you can find out more here.
  • Exploring new technologies and pedagogies – with the introduction of the 1:1 program, I’m looking forward to using the technologies that are already common place in my classroom even more, while exploring new technologies with my students. I’m always getting new ideas from my PLN and love trying new things!

My blog and I are taking a break and I look forward to posting again after the new school year begins in late January.

Thank you for all your support this year!

What were your highlights of 2012?

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Going 1:1 – Any Advice?

While the school year is quickly coming to an end, I’m looking forward to teaching grade four again in 2013. Next year my school is introducing a 1:1 netbook program for grade four students.

Early this term we held a parent information night and we are now delighted to have around 90% of families signed up for the 1:1 program.

Parents are purchasing an Acer Travelmate B113 which the students will use throughout grades four, five and six. 

Some people have asked why we’re not doing iPads/Macs/BYOD/BYOB/a different computer. A range of factors and research was considered when our school decided on the Acer Travelmate but this is not what this post is about.

We are now planning our 2013 curriculum and while we already have many ideas, I’m calling on my PLN for some different viewpoints.

Do you have any curriculum documents, links, advice or resources about successful 1:1 programs? I’d love you to comment!

We already have all the logistics of the program finely tuned but I’d love to hear any pedagogical ideas or advice.

Please comment!

On another note, thank you to all my readers who voted for this blog and my class blog in the recent Edublog Awards. We were thrilled with the outcome!

Edublog Awards – Please Vote!

The Edublog Awards have been running since 2004 and showcase some of the most popular blogs in education around the world.

The purpose of the Edublog Awards is to promote and demonstrate the educational values of blogging. This is something I really believe in!

Voting is now open for the 2012 awards and my students and I need your support.

Voting closes on Monday 10th December at 4pm and the Awards Ceremony will be held at 11am on Thursday 14th December (Melbourne time).

Voting is now open for the worldwide 2011 Edublog Awards. Mrs Morris, Miss Jordan, 2KM and 2KJ need your support to help Leopold shine!
Voting closes on Wednesday 14th December and the Awards Ceremony will be held at 11am on Thursday 15th December.
To vote, go to www.edublogawards.com and look for the drop down menu on the left hand side of the page

To vote, go to:

http://edublogawards.com/vote-here/

You will simply need to use the drop down menu to pick your category and your choice. Then press vote.

Only one vote per category per day will be counted per IP address/location.

How you can vote for me and my students:

Best individual blog

Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom – Kathleen Morris
Best class blog

4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School

Best student blog

BB’s Awesome Blog  OR

Bronte’s Barn  OR

Georgia’s Gorgeous Blog OR

Skye’s Super Blog OR

Jarrod’s Awesome Blog

Best ed tech blog

Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom – Kathleen Morris

Best teacher blog

Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom – Kathleen Morris

Thank you for your nominations!

What do you think about the Edublog Awards?

Developing Blogging Skills: Simple Rubric

I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a blogging scope and sequence for a while. However, something about that idea makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like the thought of limiting blogging skills to certain age levels.

For example, a number of my grade two students were sourcing and attributing Creative Commons materials for blog posts, and using HTML in comments. These sorts of skills would probably not appear in the grade two section of any blogging scope and sequence.

I find blogging to be a fantastic avenue for students to work at their own pace, while developing their skills as far as their capabilities and interests allow.

A number of teachers who are introducing blogging into their classrooms have asked me what they should teach their students next. I decided a simple rubric might help blogging teachers and students to gain ideas on how skills can be developed. It could also be used to assess student or class blogs, however that is not the intention.

I have borrowed a couple of ideas from Kim Cofino’s Blogging Scope and Sequence (with permission), while incorporating many of the ideas I have developed through blogging with my students.

Educational Blogging Rubric

If you are having trouble viewing/downloading the rubric, you can access the PDF here K Morris Blogging Rubric November 2012

What would you add to the rubric?

How could you use this document?

Technify Your Teaching in 2013: PD Opportunity

As well as this blog and my class blog, I write Tech Tools for Teachers. This is a collaborative effort with my colleagues, Matt Limb and Simon Collier. Each fortnight we review an online tool and provide step-by-step instructions on its use.

In January of this year we ran a professional development day called Technify Your Teaching in 2012. 

We are now organising Technify Your Teaching in 2013. This one day PD will be held on Thursday 24th January at Leopold Primary School near Geelong in Victoria.

Kelly Jordan and I will be running sessions on educational blogging, while Matt and Simon will be conducting workshops on Google tools, YouTube, Evernote, iDevices and web 2.0 tools.

If you are interested in signing up for the PD or finding out more, visit the TeachinGeneratioNow blog.

 There are limited places so get in quickly if you’d like to attend!

Internet Safety Posters

I recently wrote three posts around the issues of internet use and cyber safety.

10 Internet Safety Tips for Students

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents

I have transferred the information in these posts into a set of posters which might make a useful display or handout. Feel free to download or print them for your own educational use.

10 Internet SafetyTips for Students Poster November 2012

 

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers Poster November 2012

 

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents Poster November 2012

If you’re having trouble downloading the Scribd documents, you can find the PDF versions below.

10 Internet SafetyTips for Students Poster November 2012

10 Internet Use Tips for Teachers Poster November 2012

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents Poster November 2012

Good luck!

10 Internet Safety Tips for Parents

I recently published posts with 10 Internet Safety Tips for Students and 10 Internet Safety Tips for Teachers.

If parents, teachers and children can all work together to build a culture of safe and positive internet use, problems can be minimised.

Internet safety is a topic that should be regularly and authentically discussed in classrooms, staffrooms and homes.

Here are some key messages around internet safety that could help parents help their children.

In addition to following these tips, parents might want to install filters on their home computers.

1. Don’t let potential problems stop you from letting your child use technology for their education and personal interests.

2. Put computers in a communal area of the house and don’t allow portable internet devices (laptops, phones, tablets etc) in the bedroom.

3. Find out what your child is doing online. Talk to them regularly about what websites they visit and take the time sit with them as they use the internet. Make sure you’re familiar with how the sites that they visit work.

4. Encourage your child to tell you if they ever have a problem on the internet or if they’re ever unsure about anything. Reassure them that you won’t take away their connection to the internet if issues occur.

5. Remind your child to keep personal information private. YAPPY is a useful acronym to remind children of the personal information they should not share on public online spaces (blogs, forums etc.) – Your full name, address, phone number, passwords, your plans.

6. Remind your child that not everything on the internet is true and not all internet users tell the truth.

7. Don’t support your child to sign up for sites that are 13+ if they are under age (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc). Make sure your child sets their online accounts to private to limit access to people they know well (when they are old enough to sign up).

8. Encourage your child to balance their leisure time so they’re not spending all of their time online.

9. Create your own internet rules for your household and have your child agree to adhere to them.

10. Explore government resources for parents so you can educate yourself and protect your children on the Cybersmart website.

How to offer internet safety tips to parents is another question worth thinking about.

I am thinking of adding a page on my class blog with tips for families. Regularly publishing tips in the school newsletter could also be beneficial.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/44102337@N03/7882614208 Attribution: CC BY-NC 2.0

I am also considering inviting parents for a cyber safety afternoon early in the new school year. The event could involve children and parents learning about and discussing safe internet use together. Hopefully the lines of communication would then continue into the home environment.

What other internet safety tips for parents would you add? I’d love parents to share what advice they think is important.

How can schools pass on internet safety tips to parents?