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‘  

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?

Tips and Topics for Student Bloggers

Recently, I wrote two posts about quality student blogs. You can find them here and here. I have also written a guide to setting up student blogs here.

A new group of students in my class are almost ready to earn their own blogs. I wanted to compile the tips I offer my students in one document for my new bloggers.

Below is a poster with tips for student bloggers. Feel free to download it if it will be helpful in your own classroom (Tip – click on the Scribd button to download or print).

I have also made a document with 20 ideas for blog post topics. I’ve found after a few posts, many students get “bloggers block” and need new inspiration. Hopefully this document will help my students and yours.

Do you have any tips to add to the poster?

What other ideas for student blog post topics could you offer?

Are You On Twitter Yet?

Earlier this year, Kelly Jordan and I gave a few presentations on using Twitter for educators at various events.

If you’re not yet on Twitter, read this post to find out some reasons why you should be.

Confused about the Twitter language? Hopefully this brief explanation will help.

Need more tips? Check out my post of 10 Twitter Tips.

Twitter has certainly had an impact on my grade two students. Discover one example of how Twitter has impacted a student, here.

Finally, click here if you want to learn more about hashtags, which seem to be popping up more and more in a wide range of media.

twitterfollow

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?

Doing Things the Long Way

In many ways, technology can be time saving. Especially if you know the best way to use it!

Yesterday I attended and presented at the 2011 VITTA (Victorian Information Technology Teachers Association) Conference.

One of the sessions I attended was run by Andrew and Beverly from Mitcham Primary School. They gave a terrific presentation about using iPads in the junior primary classroom.

I learnt so much, but one of the simplest tips I took away was that you can sync more than one iPod/iPad at a time. The number of iDevices you can sync is simply limited to the number of USB ports you have.

This is the fourth year I have been using iPod Touches in the classroom and I can’t begin to imagine how many hours I have wasted by syncing the iPods one by one. At one stage I was in charge of updating eight iPod Touches which I did one at a time. I never thought to try to plug more than one in!

idea

Today I was thinking about how people can go on for a very long time doing things the long way with technology. It’s not until you either try to find an easier way or someone tells you that you realise how easy something could be!

I recently informed another teacher that they didn’t have to type in a URL every time they wanted to visit a site, they could simply save it to favourites/bookmarks. This simple tip which is obvious to most of us made this teacher’s day!

I think it is important that we create a culture of sharing not only with our staff but with our students. I like to explicitly teach my students ICT skills, but I also encourage them to share their tips and discoveries with their peers.

If we have a culture of sharing, perhaps we’ll save too many people from “doing things the long way”!

What is something that you used to do the long way until you realised there was a simpler way?

Image attribution: ‘Who Else Has A Bright Idea?’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/27954776@N04/3168683736

15 Blogging Tips for Students and Teachers

This post was originally published last year as 10 Blogging Tips for Students and Teachers.

As I regularly help students and other teachers set up their blogs, I find myself giving lots of little tips that I have picked up on my own blogging journey.

My list of tips keeps expanding and I thought it was timely to republish an updated version of this post.

Many of these ideas have originally come from some of my blogging “mentors” such as Linda Yollis and Sue Waters.

Here are 10 15 Blogging Tips for Students and Teachers

1. Post frequency: Find a balance. Don’t post too often (ie. daily) otherwise you will not be able to generate much conversation through commenting and readers won’t be able to keep up. Post too infrequently (ie. monthly) and your readers might start to forget about you.

I advise my students to post no more than once or twice a week, while three times a week works well for my class blog. Decide what works for you.

2. Reply to comments: I am often disappointed by student and adult bloggers who do not reply to their comments on their own blog. I feel that it is basic blogging etiquette to reply. Acknowledge your readers’ comments, interact with them and they will be encouraged to comment again.

3. Have an “About” page: The first thing I do when I visit a new blog is look at the About page. I am always disappointed when there isn’t one! Don’t keep your readers in the dark about who you are and what you’re blogging about.

4. Theme changes: Students love playing around with different themes when they first start blogging. I encourage them to explore for a week or so but then advice them to find a good theme and stick with it. Readers may be able to identify less with your blog if it looks different every time they visit it.

5. Fun widgets: Young bloggers love widgets! In my opinion, it is advisable to limit “fun” or “novelty” widgets. Too many widgets take away from the actual content of the blog posts and can slow down loading time! I suggest my students have no more than three “fun widgets” such as virtual pets, Christmas countdowns, jokes, tips, music clips etc.

6. Add a search box: Early on in the year, I teach my students how to use the search box on blogs to find content. I find it frustrating when blogs don’t have the search box. This simple tool allows readers to find what they’re looking for and means when your posts are no longer on the front page, they won’t be lost.

7. Subscribe via email: While I also use Google Reader and Twitter to keep track of blogs I like, I love having the ability to subscribe via email to my favourite blogs. Adding this feature could bring more regular visitors to your blog.

8. Add links to blog posts and comments: Links help your visitors gain a deeper understanding of what they’re reading. Links in blog posts can also be used to acknowledge or compliment others’ work. Links in blog comments can add extra information to a conversation. If you don’t know how to add a link to a blog comment, check out Linda Yollis’ excellent blog post and quick video.

9. Visit other blogs: You can’t expect many people to read and comment on your blog if you don’t read and comment on others’ blogs. You have to be part of the blogging community to get the most out of blogging.

10. End with a question: On my class blog and this blog I like to end with a question to stimulate and direct conversation in the comment section. My Grade Two bloggers are learning how to ask “broader” questions that will appeal to more readers (eg. if a child writes a post about a holiday to Noosa, instead of simply asking “have you ever been to Noosa?” they could ask readers to leave a comment and describe a holiday they have been on etc).

11. Don’t lose your comment: All my students now know how to select all (Control A) and copy (Control C) their comment before they hit “submit”. This allows them to paste (Control V) the comment if something goes wrong when they hit the “submit” button. This happens fairly frequently with young students due to the wrong spam word being entered etc. Read My grade two student Millie’s post about this tip here.

12. Left align your writing: I used to be guilty of centering all of my text until I realised this is not easy on the eye and not what professional writers do (always good to look to the professionals for guidance when in doubt). Style guides usually suggest that centered text is best for invitations, posters, headings etc.

13. Use paragraphs and sub-headings: As a writer, you need to do as much as you can to make your post easy to read. I am likely to stop reading something that doesn’t have any paragraph breaks. The more your writing is spaced out the better. Having key words or sub heading in bold/colour can also make your post easier on the eye.

14. Don’t copy and paste from MS Word: If you’ve been blogging for a while you may have experienced the dreaded consequence of copying and pasting text from Microsoft Word into a blog post. It is a big no no! Doing this can give you bad code which can ruin the layout of your blog.

If you do want to copy and paste from Word you either need to paste the text into the HTML section of your editor or paste the text into Notepad (or the Mac equivalent) and then copy and paste that text into your post editor. If you want to read more about this, check out Sue Waters’ post here.

15. Stick with it: One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is to give up too easily. Stick with it and reap the rewards!

Are any of these tips new ideas for you?

What other blogging tips can you think of? There must be lots more!

Windows 7 Features I Love

I’ve been using Windows 7 for eighteen months now. I felt a bit silly when I finally decided to learn how to use one of Windows 7 most advertised features the other day- the “Snap” feature to display two windows side by side. It looks great!

This discovery made me think about the large number of Windows 7 users I know who aren’t using some of the great features Windows 7 has to offer.

I’m the type of person who is often looking for a better way to do things so I am sometimes perplexed to see many computer users happy taking the long route. I continually find myself frustrated using the computer in my classroom that is hooked up to the interactive whiteboard and is running Windows XP. I miss some of my timesaving features!

I thought I’d share some of the Windows 7 features that I love. Please comment with any other features you enjoy!

Snap

This feature makes comparing two windows side-by-side and multitasking a breeze. A few days ago, someone asked me if I knew how it works. I admitted that I didn’t after trying to figure it out when I first got Windows 7 and giving up too soon!

To use this feature, simply make sure the two windows you want to put side by side are restored (the “square” option in the top right hand side of your screen).

1. Drag the title bar of a window to the left side of the screen until the mouse is on the edge of the screen and an outline of the expanded window appears. Alternatively, press ‌Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +Left Arrow.

2. Release the mouse to expand the window then repeat to arrange the other window on the right hand side.

snap

Don’t get it? There is a video demonstrating the feature here.

Sticky Note

This is an incredibly simple feature which I understand is enhanced from the Windows Vista feature. I use the sticky note for my to-do list. I have experimented with all different sorts of ways to maintain a to-do list in the past from an actual paper sticky note, Outlook task list, Word document and Firefox add ons. The sticky note is simple, can be colour coded and goes everywhere with me (and my PC).

sticky note

Find out more about sticky notes here.

Search in the Start Menu

If you’re like me, your PC is a maze of documents, videos, music, pictures and other applications. When I’m looking for something, I simply open the Start Menu and type in the name of the file I’m looking for. Voila! Search results appear in seconds. No more wading through libraries and racking your brain to remember where you filed things!

start menu

Improved Taskbar

The taskbar is the tray with icons at the bottom of your screen. Pinning and jump lists means you can have the files and applications you use most right at your fingertips. Windows 7 lets you organise your taskbar with the programs you use most with bright clear icons, much like a Mac.

Hover your mouse over icons with open windows to preview them. Another way that multitasking is made easier!

taskbar

Find out more about customising your taskbar here.

Show Desktop

The show desktop button is incredibly handy if you have lots of windows open and you want to access your desktop without closing everything.  Simply hover your mouse over the rectangle on the bottom right hand side of your screen to view the taskbar and click the rectangle to access your desktop. Unclick to go back to your windows. What did we do before it?

show desktop

Snipping Tool

This is such a quick and easy way to make a screen shot to annotate, save or email. Screen shots are really handy when you’re capturing images of your desktop for blog posts (see below!). I’ve also used screen shots to email someone a computer error, capture an important Tweet and create instructions for handouts among other things! Simply type “Snipping Tool” into your Start Menu to find this feature and don’t forget to pin it to your Taskbar, you will probably be using it a lot!

snipping tool

Learn more about Snipping Tool here.

What are your favourite Windows 7 features?

Are there any features you’d like to see in the next version of Windows?

Top 10 Email Tips

Email is something many people have been using for 10-15 years now. I remember first getting an email address in 1999 although the way I use email has changed dramatically since then.

I would never have thought of checking my emails over breakfast in 1999 yet now my breakfast email session is ingrained into my daily routine.

When I started teaching in 2004, I would never have thought about emailing parents. Now a day rarely goes by where I don’t have some sort of email correspondence with parents and I send out an e-newsletter fortnightly (I wrote more a post about emailing parents here).

It’s safe to say, email is a big part of my professional and everyday life.

While the first email was apparently sent in 1971, it didn’t start to become more widespread until the late 1990s. The popular webmail provider, Hotmail, was launched in 1996, while Yahoo Mail was released a year later in 1997. Interestingly, Gmail wasn’t launched until 2004 and didn’t come out of beta (trial) until 2007!

Even though email is far from new and is a form of technology most people are now “using”, I often wonder how well it is being used.

People not checking or replying to their emails is an absolute pet peeve of mine. I am quite amazed that email has been around for so long now yet in many businesses and organisations, it seems to be optional whether it is used or not. I wonder, for the first 10 to 15 years that phones were around, did people sometimes decide not to answer them?

Many people complain about getting “so many emails” and they just seem to throw their hands in the air and not know what to do about it.

I kept track of how many emails I was receiving for a few days and was extremely surprised to find I am receiving well over 100 emails each day! I knew it was a lot but because I have clear organisational strategies, email isn’t a frustration to me as it is to many.

It seems to me that there is very little information given in workplaces or schools about how to use email efficiently. I wonder if many students who are provided with an email address are given any management advice. The tips below may help fuel a discussion with your class or make your life easier.

Image: 'autoroute à emails...' http://www.flickr.com/photos/29647247@N00/60963915
Image: ‘autoroute à emails…’ http://www.flickr.com/photos/29647247@N00/60963915

Here are my top ten tips for making email a seamless and useful part of your life rather than a constant hassle

1. Three choices – delete, file, respond: If you deal with each email once, you will save a lot of time. When you read a email, delete it if it is not useful or the correspondances if over, file it in a folder if you need to keep the email for reference or respond straight away if the email needs a response that will take only a few minutes. The only time I leave emails in my inbox is if they need a response that will take more investigation or longer than five minutes to compose.

2. Create folders: In order to complete the first step well, you need to have folders. I use Outlook which also allows you to create sub folders. Eg. I have a folder called “school” and sub-folders such as “parents”, “excursions” and “PD”. I prefer this sub-folder method so I don’t have scores of folders to wade through.

3. Check daily: Many experts say it is best to choose set times during the day to check emails in batches (eg. at lunchtime and at 4pm). This is a good idea if you find you are being distracted by email, however I prefer to have Outlook open all the time and I just check it whenever I have a few minutes. Regardless, it is a good idea to come up with a routine to make sure your emails are being attended to regularly.

4. Use a subject line and paragraphs: Make your emails easy to read. A subject line lets the reader know what the email is about and paragraph breaks make emails so much easier to read.

5. Keep your mailbox size down: Some web-based email programs like Gmail have a very large storage limit, however many work emails. like Edumail, have a set storage limit (although Edumail was recently increased). This means you need to empty your sent folder and deleted folder regularly. If you don’t, your inbox will become full and you won’t be able to receive any more emails. Even if you’ve put emails in folders, they still count towards your storage limit. When emails come with attachments like photos or documents,  I usually save the attachment and delete the email immediately.

6. Think before sending: This probably doesn’t need too much explaining. When you send out an email, it is permanent. You need to make sure you’re not writing something that could be taken the wrong way or be considered controversial. If you’re not sure, leave the email to reread later or ask a friend to read over it for you. Err on the side of caution!

7. Get to know your email program and save time: While some email programs have more features than others, it is a good idea to take the time to play around and learn how to use the features available to you. A little time spent learning can save you a lot of time in the future. Some example of time-saving features include distribution lists which let you create a group of people you email regularly all at once (eg. a school team or parent group). Email filtering is a feature that lets you automatically process emails into certain folders or into a certain priority order. Some programs, like Outlook, also let you drag and drop emails into your calendar.

8. Don’t open suspicious attachments: Everyone should know not to open email attachments from people you don’t know as they could contain viruses or other unwanted programs.

9. Use a signature: Create an email signature with functional links to help people get to know you and your digital footprints. My signature links to my blogs, Diigo and Twitter accounts.

10. Unsubscribe from emails you don’t need: I used to be guilty of getting too many email from newsletters, “deals of the day”, blog feeds etc that were wasting a lot of my time and not proving to be overly useful. Last year, I did a cull of these sorts of emails and now enjoy a less cluttered inbox. You will find an “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of most automatically generated emails.

What are your email tips?