Student Blogs: Digital Portfolios

As we have introduced a 1:1 netbook program in grade four this year, I have changed my approach to student blogs. Rather than having a system where students can earn their personal blog, all students in my class now have a blog as a digital portfolio.

As always, we began the year focussing solely on our class blog.

I believe it is important to establish a class blog before beginning student blogs for a number of reasons.

  • Students can build their blogging “skill set”. I like to teach students about quality commenting, blogging etiquette (eg. responding to comments), online safety (eg. what information should be published online) and blogging terminology (eg. page, post, widget, comment etc.) amongst other things.
  • A sense of classroom community is developed. Students, teachers and parents can learn and share together at the start of the year. A sense of identity for the class is developed and the blog becomes an online meeting place and showcase for the all the wonderful things that are happening in the classroom.
  • Parents can learn about blogging. Educating parents about blogging is very important. Parents won’t be willing or able to get involved in your class or student blogs if they don’t have the knowledge and skills required. I’ve written a guide to getting your parents involved in your class blog here.

In the past, I have allowed a group of students in my class to earn their own blog throughout the year. To find out exactly how I did this you can read my post from early 2012.

The system of students earning their own blog used to work well for me as I could:

  • Monitor student blogs closely and comment somewhat regularly.
  • Ensure parent support was available to help with blogging at home.
  • Ensure the students had the skills and motivation necessary to maintain a blog. As I have mostly blogged with grade two students in the past (7 and 8 years old), this was especially important.
  • Provide small group tuition and support throughout the year.
  • Ensure all students could access a computer to blog on. Until this year, I’ve generally had a computer ratio in my classroom of between 1:5 and 1:3.

Now working with older students who have 1:1 computer access, I decided the time was right this year to change my approach to student blogs.

In the past, my students have blogged about a combination of their own interests and school activities. This year the blogs are essentially a digital portfolio. Each week during class time, the students publish a piece of work on their blog, along with a reflection of their learning and future learning directions. Families and other students are encouraged to comment on the posts with feedback, questions or support.

Enthusiastic bloggers are also welcome to create posts about their own interests out of class time, although I do stress that a parent or adult needs to check the post.

To get the students started with their digital portfolios, I went through the following steps:

        1. At the start of the year, I gain parent permission. This year my permission note covered the class blog and student blogs. You can find the permission notes in this post.
        2. I sent home an information note to let parents know about our student blogs when we were getting started. Student blogs parent note – K Morris 2013
        3. I set up each blog through the dashboard of our Global2 class blog, making both myself and the student the administrator. You can find the step-by-step instructions on how to do this using Edublogs Campus sites (like Global2) here.
        4. Setting up a spreadsheet with student blog details such as URLs and usernames has helped me keep track of all the details.
        5. During our first lesson, I had the students find the activation email in their school email inbox, log in to their dashboard, change their password and record their blog URL/username in their diaries.
        6. I used Edublogs’ “My Class” option which allows you to manage student blogs in bulk. This page explains more about “My Class” and how to use it. Early on in the setting up process, I had each student join our “Class”. I could then display a widget on our class blog to show all of the links to the student blogs.
        7. I added each student blog to my Feedly RSS reader to keep track of their posts. Although it would be impracticable to comment on all posts, my Feedly subscription helps me to keep up to date with each student blog.
        8. While students are loving teaching each other the skills they’re learning, each week I have been explicitly teaching the class a range of skills such as:

– writing a post
– writing a page
– finding a good theme
– using links in posts and pages
– managing and moderating comments
– inserting media into posts and pages
– sourcing and attributing Creative Commons images
– embedding HTML
– managing widgets
– using tags and categories

While we only started the student blogs a few weeks ago, enthusiasm is high and the amount of learning that the blogs facilitate is impressive! I look forward to continuing to work with my students on this evolving classroom program.

How do you use student blogs in your classroom?

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?

Page Updated: Web 2.0 Tools to Embed on Your Blog

I have just updated my page about web 2.0 tools to embed on your blog.

Here you will find:

  • Tips for using and embedding web 2.0 tools.
  • A list of tried and tested tools from slideshows to videos and polls.
  • An embedded example of each tool so you can see what it looks like.

Please visit the page and leave a comment if you have any feedback or suggestions.

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

I have revised the posts I have written in the past to create a nine page, five step guide to beginning a class blog. Feel free to view, print or download the document to help you get started on your blogging journey.

Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

If you’re having trouble with the Scribd document, you can access the PDF here Five Steps to Starting a Class Blog

Good luck!

Our New Class Blog

After spending the last three years in grade two, I have moved to grade four this year.

The first two weeks of the school year has already presented many new challenges and rewards.

I’m looking forward to extending my students further with technology this year. I am continuing to team teach with Kelly Jordan. This is a fabulous way to teach but is much more challenging logistically in two portables. See our new classrooms here.

Many readers of this blog may have followed http://2kmand2kj.global2.vic.edu.au during 2011.

We’re asking all 2KM and 2KJ followers to update their links to the 4KM and 4KJ blog.

http://4kmand4kj.global2.vic.edu.au

What has changed for you this year?

New Teacher Blog: Guiding Digital Nomads

I first met Aine Murphy (@ainetmurphy) when she was completing teaching rounds at my school in 2010. We bonded over a common interest in technologies, blogging and global collaboration.

Aine taught in Ireland for ten years before moving to Australia and retraining at Deakin University. She is now teaching Grade Three/Four at Point Lonsdale Primary School having previously taught Spanish.

Last year, Aine and I taught post-grad education students at Deakin University and together we injected some new ideas and tools into the curriculum.

Aine has recently started a new blog called Guiding Digital Nomads: The Wanderings of a Teacher in the 21st Century

http://digitalnomads.global2.vic.edu.au

I recommend subscribing to Aine’s blog as I’m sure her posts will be full of new ideas and excellent reflections.

Aine also recently started a new blog for her Grade Three and Four students and is looking for other blogging classes to collaborate with. Contact her via either blog or Twitter if you’re keen!

Why not head over to Guiding Digital Nomads now and introduce yourself?

Attracting Blog Comments

There is no denying that students get a lot more out of blogging when they receive comments. Comments provide feedback, encouragement, advice, positive reinforcement, learning, conversation and new ways of thinking among other things.

Kathleen Morris

2012 is the fifth year I have been blogging with my class and I have learnt that there are some tips for attracting comments to your blog.

For the first year or two of blogging we received very few comments. When I look back, I can hardly believe that I was motivated to keep going when so many posts were not commented on. Now every post on our class blog receives anywhere between 30 and 80 comments. I am glad I kept going!

Jakob Nielson wrote an interesting article about participation in online communities. While the article is now five years old, I think the key message holds truth today. To summarise, “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.”

While I have found this to be true, I would suggest that the education community (students, parents and teachers) can be influenced a little more than the general online community. We have a vested interest in supporting children!

12 tips for attracting more comments on your class or student blogs

  • Be part of the blogging community: To put it simply, you can’t expect people to comment on your blog if you don’t ever comment on theirs. There is an active community in the educational blogosphere and you will reap the rewards if you get involved in it.
  • Finish your post with questions: Take some of the guesswork out of commenting and give readers some suggestions on what they could comment on. This is something that I have found works very well with my class blog. Make sure you include open-ended questions that appeal to a wide audience.
  • Don’t write all the answers: I may be a little guilty of this with this post but if you write an open-ended/incomplete post then people feel like they have something to contribute and will be more likely to comment. I find that if everything has already been said in a post and I feel like I don’t really have much to add, I would be less likely to comment.
  • Educate readers on how to comment: Don’t assume that all teachers/parents/students know how to leave a comment. I provide parent handouts and a video on how to comment. You might choose to have a “how to comment” page on your class blog like I have.
  • Reply to comments: I believe that it is basic blogging etiquette to reply to all/most comments. Acknowledge your readers’ comments, interact with them and they will be encouraged to comment again.
  • Be original and diverse: I encourage my students to post about not only what appeals to them but what they think might appeal to their audience. I think this is important in the development of their writing skills and of course is a good way to attract comments. Including a diverse range of posts allows you to offer something to suit everyone.
  • Publish in a timely manner: People won’t be very interested in commenting on an event that happened three weeks ago. We try to publish a post as soon as possible after a class event on the 4KM and 4KJ blog. Students and families are more likely to comment when their enthusiasm about an event is high.
  • Publicly read and praise comments: We start each school day with 20 minutes of whole-class blogging. This provides a chance for students to read out the comments they have left at home and school in the past 24 hours. We have found that there was a big increase in comments when we started doing this. Students respond well to praise and are eager to get their five minutes of fame.
  • Hold a commenting event: We have held a few special class events to stir up some new enthusiasm for commenting with great success. Some of these events included the Family Blogging Afternoon and Family Blogging Month competition.
  • Invite people to comment: Every fortnight I send out an e-newsletter to parents. I often ask them to comment on a particular post. When people are directly asked, they are sometimes more likely to commit to doing something.
  • Inform people of new posts: You need to make it easy for people to know when you have a new post. If they don’t know about your posts, they’re not going to comment. Set up an email subscription and RSS feed, and consider using Twitter to publicise posts.
  • Have a pattern to publishing: Readers get to know whether you have a blog that is updated a few times a week, a few times a month or less regularly. Personally, I’m more likely to comment on blogs with a regular pattern of posting – even if it is only updated semi-frequently. Blogs that are updated very rarely or sporadically are easy to forget about.

Remember, it takes work and ongoing effort to attract comments on your blog, however once you build up the momentum the effort decreases and the rewards increase!

What has been your experience with blog comments?

What other tips do you have for attracting blog comments?

The Power of Twitter

In the last few weeks Kelly Jordan and I have been speaking to teachers and school leaders at the VITTA conference, ICON conference and our own school about the power of Twitter.

In our presentation we shared how we use Twitter every day as a form of ongoing, personalised and invaluable professional development. We stressed that Twitter not only makes us better teachers but impacts on our students.

We concluded our presentation with an example of the power of Twitter; sharing how it helped to connect one of my seven year old students to the world.

Jarrod is a student in my grade two class who earnt his own blog in June of this year.

When my students write posts on their blogs, I often promote their post with a tweet using the hashtag #comments4kids. You can read more about that wonderful hashtag here.

One Friday night in July, Jarrod wrote a new blog post asking his readers to vote on his poll to help choose his next blog post. Jarrod had only been blogging for a few weeks and had a very small readership.

Jarrod's blog poll

I sent out a tweet to my PLN and the #comments4kids followers encouraging them to support Jarrod.

Jarrod tweet

The response was amazing! My single tweet was retweeted 17 times.

Jarrod retweet Two

27 people took the time to leave a comment on Jarrod’s blog post.

42 conversations Jarrod

Jarrod’s Clustrmap showed 113 visits in 24 hours.

Jarrod Clustrmap 113 visits

The poll Jarrod put in his blog post showed 117 votes.

Jarrod poll

The next morning, Jarrod’s mum emailed me: “You should have seen Jarrod’s face when he saw his post this morning, he was so excited!”

Without Twitter, Jarrod would not have had an authentic audience for his work. He would not have received validation and encouragement from a wide range of teachers, education professionals and students. Jarrod would not have received the positive reinforcement that showed him his voice counts.

Jarrod is seven years old and is now connected to the world. Many of the people who visited Jarrod’s blog on this one night in July have returned to offer Jarrod more encouragement, support and conversation.

All this from one tweet…

How have you experienced the power of Twitter?

My Blogging Journey

Many people have asked me how I got started with blogging. With my recent Edublog Award nominations, it has been an opportune time to reflect.

In 2008, as part of my Teacher Professional Leave project I visited the DEECD Central Office to get some ideas on how technology was being used in schools.

There I met Kerry who introduced me to blogging. She helped me sign up for my first blog, Leopold TPL, and as soon as I got home I started playing….and didn’t stop!

Not long after, I started a class blog and introduced my Grade Three students to blogging. Here is my first attempt at a class blog.

At the start of 2009, I moved to teaching Grade Two and started the 2KM blog.

I also started this blog, Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom, with the initial goal of sharing ideas and resources. The purpose of this blog is slowly changing from resource sharing to reflection, advice and discussion of issues surrounding technology integration.

Starting this blog involved taking a leap of faith. When I began, I had a handful of readers which has grown exponentially. Many people have mentioned to me that they would like to start a blog but they don’t think anyone would read it. I advise them to take that risk.

I love this quote I read on Twitter today.

The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. -Erica Jong

For me, blogging has been an ongoing journey. When preparing for my Tech Talk Tuesdays Elluminate Session last month, I was able to reflect further on this journey.

The following demonstrates how far I’ve come with my class blog in the last three years.

blogging journey

It’s important to realise that, like everything, you can’t know everything straight away.

If you’re just starting on your blogging journey, don’t be overwhelmed by what others are doing and all the possibilities that are out there. Start small and take it one step at a time. Persevere!

Even though I have come so far in the last three years, I am still learning every day. And I love it!

Leave a comment.

Share your thoughts on your own blogging journey.

What advice would you give to bloggers who are just starting?

Editing Students’ Blog Comments

Recently, a teacher asked my opinion about editing students’ writing on blogs

She said

“We are having a debate in our primary school at the moment – to what extent should we correct spelling/grammar in posts or comments by students? Our principal sees the posts as a finished product which reflect on our school, while the teachers prefer to see them as a work in progress, encouraging children to write. What do you think?”


This is a question I have pondered myself a lot in regards to blog comments. I can’t help having high standards for my grade two students and I want them to always strive to produce their best work. I also want their writing to be legible. Therefore, I have put a system in place to help students achieve a high quality comment.

The students need to realise that when you’re writing for a world-wide audience, you need to make your writing as good as it can be so that what you’re communicating is clear and effective. Often the fact that the students are writing for a global audience provides the incentive they need to achieve their best work.

While I don’t insist that my students’ comments are flawless, I do insist on an editing process.

This is a run down of the system I have put in place in my classroom:

  1. The students write their blog comment using Firefox as their internet browser. Unlike Internet Explorer, Firefox automatically puts a red line under misspelt words which makes the editing process easier for young students (and older students/adults!). Explicit instruction on what to do when you see the red line is something we cover incidentally on the IWB.
  2. The students read over their writing, checking for spacing, spelling, grammar and all the other things mentioned on our commenting checklist which is displayed in the computer area. Click here to view our poster
  3. The student has a friend read over their comment and point out anything that needs to be edited.
  4. They press Control C (copy) before hitting the submit button. This means if anything goes wrong (eg. wrong anti-spam word has been entered or internet connection is lost), they won’t have lost their comment.
  5. I moderate all comments. If a child has written a comment with some small mistakes, I leave it. If a comment has so many errors that it may be considered illegible (this doesn’t happen too often due to the above editing processes), I call the child over to my computer at an appropriate time and together we edit the comment to make it legible. Teaching at the point of need is quite powerful and I usually leave the child with one goal to work on in future blog posts (eg. it might be “don’t forget to press the space bar after each word”).

These are just my opinions and I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer but I do find, when you set the bar high, you can be amazed at what your students can achieve!

Take this quick poll to share your opinion.


What are your opinions on editing students’ blog comments?