There’s Blogging and There’s Blogging…

Blogging is becoming increasingly common in schools, but are all blogging programs helping to improve student learning outcomes?

This is an issue I was discussing with a member of my professional learning network recently.

There seems to be two main schools of thought on educational blogging programs:

  • The unrestricted program: this may involve all students being given a blog and the aim is for them to express themselves in any way they like. This program may be largely student centred from the start.
  • The structured program: blogging is integrated into a literacy program, momentum is built and high standards are set. This program may be teacher centred before becoming increasingly student centred.

When it comes to classroom blogging, I am an advocate of a program that:

  • begins with a class blog before allowing students to work on their own blogs
  • is integrated into a literacy program on a regular basis (while incorporating other curriculum areas)
  • sets high standards for writing, design, netiquette etc.
  • is regularly maintained and is an evolving space
  • allows students to express themselves while improving their educational outcomes
  • provides feedback and explicit teaching to students
  • begins with a high level of teacher guidance, before increasingly offering students more responsibility.
Through this sort of a program I have seen students achieve the many educational benefits of blogging.

If students practise a poor standard of writing over and over, unhelpful habits are formed and the scope for improvement is limited.

I believe blogging can help students become exceptional writers when the following parameters are put into place.

When I first began blogging in 2008, my program was haphazard and I didn’t set high standards. Needless to say, my students didn’t get all that much out of our program.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was lack of momentum. Because blogging wasn’t integrated into my work program, I had to find time in a busy curriculum to work on the blog. This led to low student interest and lack of opportunities for explicit teaching.

When it came to posts and comments, I accepted almost anything and didn’t take the time to scaffold the students’ writing on the blog.

In reflection, my original blogging program was also too student centred from the beginning. I have since learnt that beginning with a more teacher centred program before giving students more responsibilities has provided my class with the most rewarding outcomes.

Through learning from and with exceptional educators, such as Linda Yollis, my blogging program has continued to evolve and improve.

Even now, I have to regularly stop and take stock of my own classroom blogging program to:

There can be a natural ebb and flow to a quality blogging program.

I encourage educators to think about these things when establishing or evolving their blogging programs.

I’ve heard many people comment that they have “done” blogging or they “do” blogging, but what is it that is really being done?

How has your blogging program evolved?

What other advice do you have about quality blogging programs?

Benefits of Blogging by Linda Yollis and Class

My good friend in Los Angeles, Linda Yollis, recently created this excellent video with her second and third grade class about the benefits of blogging.

This video may give you more of an insight into what you could get out of blogging with your students, or you might like to share it with your staff.

It has been my pleasure to discover the benefits of blogging alongside Linda since we both began our class blogs in 2008.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of educational blogging, check out the post I wrote last month.

To learn more about educational blogging, including how to set up class and student blogs, check out the educational blogging page on my site.

The Benefits of Educational Blogging

This in an update of older posts about the benefits of educational blogging.

2013 is the sixth year that I have maintained a classroom blog. When I first began I didn’t know much about blogging at all and I didn’t realise there could be educational benefits to running a blogging program.

I thought having a class blog would be a bit of fun and a good way to connect with parents.

As time has gone on I’ve come to realise that blogging brings many educational benefits. Years later I am still discovering new advantages for my students.

The diagram below summarises the most powerful benefits I’ve found from blogging (so far):

  • Social Skills and Confidence: While some people may be quick to say that blogging and online social media can inhibit social skills, I see blogging as a terrific starting point. It can help certain individuals to practise their skills and transfer them into the “offline world”. I have previously written about how students with ASD and confidence issues can improve their skills here.
  • Internet Safety: Everyone will agree that teaching students to be safe online is an important issue. You can’t just do one off lessons on cyber safety. Cyber safety is not a separate subject. Through being heavily involved in blogging, my class has opportunities almost daily to discuss cyber safety issues and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting. Blogging is an excellent way to learn about being a responsible member of an online community.
  • Literacy: I wrote about the improvement in my students’ literacy skills in this post. Not only were skills improved, but engagement levels increased. Reluctant writers wanted to write for a purpose and students were using blogs to purposefully communicate and converse with others. Blogging is part of my literacy curriculum so I use blogging to explicitly teach English conventions.
  • Maths: While using blogging as an avenue for teaching and learning literacy may be more obvious, blogs can also be used for maths. Just two examples are our daily use of Clustrmaps and the Our World, Our Numbers blogging project we’re currently involved in.
  • Home– School Connection: Many parents and families have told me that they love using the class blog as a “window into our classroom”. Through commenting, families can be a part of what is happening in our classroom and have real time access to their child’s education. Encouraging parent participation in your blog is something I have written about recently
  • ICT Skills: Blogging assists students to become more ICT literate which is a crucial 21st century skill. Through blogging, we’re able to incidentally discuss many ICT skills such as keyboard shortcuts, Creative Commons, researching online and troubleshooting.
  • Classroom Community: Creating a class blog requires teamwork and collaboration. Students and teachers learn and share together. A real sense of classroom community can be developed through blogging and establishing a class identity. A class blog mascot can be a fun way to represent your classroom community. 
  • Authentic Audience: In the traditional classroom, the only audience of student work was the teacher and sometimes classmates and parents. Blogs provide a much larger audience for student work and an avenue for feedback and self-improvement through commenting. I have found that students really take pride in the work that goes on the blog and want to do their best for their impending audience.
  • Global Connections: I have found this to be one of the most exciting benefits of blogging. Blogging can help flatten the classroom walls and over the years we have got to know many classes across the world who we call our “blogging buddies”. The benefits of these connections are priceless. A sense of understanding and tolerance develops and students can learn a lot about the world in which they live. I’ve listed some tips for global collaboration in an earlier post.

Student Perspectives

I’ve created a couple of videos with my students in the past to allow them to highlight some of the advantages of having a class blog.

I made this fifteen minute video with my grade two students in 2011.

Last year I presented at ISTE in San Diego with my Los Angeles blogging buddy, Linda Yollis. Our classes have been collaborating through blogging for many years. We put this short video together with snapshots of our students talking about what they get out of blogging.

In the ten years that I’ve been teaching I haven’t come across a program that provides as many benefits to students as a well-run classroom blogging program.

Blogging is a fantastic starting point for introducing technology and collaboration into your classroom.

Additionally, there are so many wonderful online tools out there which have more value when you can embed them in a blog. Blogging can provide a really diverse learning platform and while it takes a lot of work, the benefits to students definitely outweigh the costs!

Have you witnessed any of these benefits in your classroom?

What other benefits can students and teachers get out of blogging? 

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?

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?

All You Need to Know about Educational Blogging

Readers of this blog will know that educational blogging is one of my passions.

I receive many questions from teachers each week about blogging via email, this blog, Twitter or in person. While I love helping other educators, sometimes the best way to answer a question is to point them to a post I have written on the topic.

Over the past couple of years I have written many posts about educational blogging. I have a page on this blog with an archive of all of these posts sorted into categories. Feel free to browse it at your leisure and pass the link on to other teachers.

Educational Blogging Page

What questions about blogging would you like to see answered in an upcoming post?