The school year began in Victoria, Australia last week. Many teachers have been thinking about the benefits of having a class blog and are keen to start their own class blog.
I’ve been getting lots of questions about the process of starting a blog so I thought I would write a post to help get new bloggers started (note, the views below are all my own).
1. Choose Your Platform
If you are working in a Victorian Government School, I recommend you head straight to Global2. This is the new platform for 2011 and replaces Global Teacher and Global Student. Global2 is an Edublogs Campus Site. That means you get all the best features that Edublogs offers for free! Support for Edublogs Campus subscribers is extensive.
If you are not in a Victorian Government School, you will need to choose another platform. There are many blogging platforms out there but my personal favourites are Blogger and Edublogs.
I have found pros and cons for both.
Edublogs has a free version but to access an ad-free blog with better features and support you will need to pay for a subscription. Click here to find out about costs.
Blogger is Google’s blogging platform (also known as Blogspot) and is totally free. Blogger has a good range of theme templates and sidebar gadgets available however I have found the overall features to be more simplistic than Edublogs (not necessarily a bad thing for some teachers and students). Specific support is also much more limited than Edublogs although because of its large worldwide usage, there are a lot of Blogger forums, help sites and videos on the web.
One important point to note with Blogger is there is a navigation bar at the top of each blog that allows you to “go to the next blog” among other things. This could potentially cause safety issues for your students if the “next blog” is inappropriate.
Click here to find the instructions on how to remove the navigation bar (I haven’t tried these instructions yet so please leave a comment if you’ve tried them!)
Still not sure what platform to use? Check out these blogs to see the difference
Mrs Yollis’ Classroom Blog
Ugandan Global Project
Open the Door to B4
2KM and 2KJ @ Leopold Primary School
Mr Salsich’s Class Blog
Mr Avery’s Classroom Blog
2. Find Support
Whatever platform you choose there are avenues for support. Make the most of these to help you learn about blogging.
- Twitter (I am @kathleen_morris there are many other fabulous helpful bloggers on Twitter).
- Read other class blogs for ideas (check out the list on the Edublogger site). *Note: do not directly copy other people’s work. That is a breach of copyright, etiquette and a form of plagiarism.
- Are there any other teachers interested in blogging at your school? Buddy up with them and learn together.
- Sign up for the Blogging Teacher Challenge or Student Blogging Challenge, both are free professional development to help you and your students to become better bloggers.
- Read the Edublogger Blog by Sue Waters – a mine of information!
- Visit the Edublogs support page for a extensive range of videos and written tutorials.
- Follow Edublogs on Twitter (@Edublogs)
- Visit the Blogger support page for getting started guides and tutorials.
- Follow Blogger on Twitter (@blogger)
3. Set Your Guidelines
Before you start blogging with your students you need to think about what sort of guidelines you want to have in place. There is no right or wrong answer here. Decide what will work best for you, your students, your parents and your school.
Questions to consider:
• Will you include photos of the students’ faces?
• Will you select the option (in Edublogs) to include you blog in public searches like Google?
• Will you ask parents to not use their surname when they comment so they don’t identify their child?
• Will you select the option to have all comments sent to your email for approval before appearing on the blog?
• Will you set up protocols with your class so they know not to reveal too much about themselves on the blog and use courteous language online?
• Will you read all students’ blog posts before they are published?
Click here to find the 2KM and 2KJ blog guidelines.
*Reminder: it is okay to look at other class blog guidelines but it is not okay to copy them without permission and acknowledgment.
4. Introduce Your Blog to Parents
Parent permission is crucial. Our school has a simple permission form which I accompany with an explanation letter about the blog and blogging.
Blog permission form
2KM and 2KJ Blog Information Note 2011
I also create a handout to help parents navigate the class blog.
10 Steps to Navigating the 2KM and 2KJ Blog 2011
I include a “Learn About Blogging” set of pages on our class blog.
On the parent information night early in the school year, I talk to the parents about blogging, commenting and answer any of their questions.
Ongoing support for parents is provided via email newsletters throughout the year.
5. Introduce Your Blog to Students
I start the school year by introducing the students to the concept of blogging and familiarising them with the terminology.
Introducing my students to their blogging community is done from Day One. We have established many “blogging buddies” over the three years I have had a class blog and each year my students and I continue these relationships.
It is so important to teach students to write quality comments if you want to improve their literacy skills and help them to engage in meaningful conversations on the blog. Last year I wrote a post about how I teach commenting skills. Find it here.
In my class, students have the opportunity to earn their own blog throughout the year and I make them aware of this early in the school year. Find out more about how I set up student blogs here.
Throughout the year, this is the process I use to introduce students to blogging (note some stages are longer than others ie. commenting is a huge focus where as only a small amount of time may be spent of whole class/individual writing of blog posts).
What advice would you give to new bloggers?