Connecting Students Through Blogging – 10 Tips

Connecting Students Through Blogging – 10 Tips

Connecting Students Through Blogging

Part of the series: Teaching In A Connected Classroom (cross-posted for Eduro Learning)

A great way to start connecting your students to each other and to others outside the classroom at the start of a new year is to begin blogging. Not only can blogging give students a voice, but it also has the potential to change the way they write.

Over the years I’ve discovered through my own trials and those of teachers I’ve been fortunate to work closely with, ten tips that may help get blogging starting in your classroom and keep it sustainable throughout the year. Most apply to individual blogs with your students and/or blogging together with students on a Class Blog.

#1  Decide on your why (the purpose)

It’s important to know why you want a class blog or why you want students to have their own blogs.  When we know the why (to anything), it’s so much easier to make decisions about what and what not to do, and it will be much easier to get students excited about blogging with the goal of sustainability.  Don’t move onto the how, until you know the why! (It comes in handy for #3)


				

#2  Pick your platform

This one might end up being entirely up to you or you may not have much of a choice.  I’ve been fortunate enough to work at schools that hosted WordPress on their own servers.  When I first started out with a class blog, however, I used EduBlogs (free version), and then WordPress (free version) when my students began blogging individually.  There are other alternatives out there such as Kidblog or Weebly which many teachers use with great success.


				

#3  Obtain permissions

In order to receive support from all stakeholders, you need to check in with those around you. Principals, Tech Coach/Co-ordinators, and of course your parents.  It’s important to be ready to explain what you are doing and why (refer #1).  I shared a blogging/podcasting contract with my parents and also held a parents meeting so that any questions/concerns could be asked and answered.  To date, I’ve not had any parents say No to their child blogging and I’m sure it’s because of #1, knowing the why and because of the transparency of what we were trying to achieve with blogging.


				

#4  Teach Quality Blogging

This will always be one of my many favourite sessions with student bloggers and they go hand-in-hand with our Digital Literacy Unit for the start of the year. Our Guiding Question:   What makes a quality post? springboards us into blogging and helps students think about the similarities and differences between blogging and writing. We revisit this topic many times during the year and aim to deepen the quality of blog posts through a “writing reflectively” lens.


				

#5  Discuss Citizenship – all.the.time

Before we even begin blogging, we look at and discuss safety online and citizenship – what does it mean to be responsible and appropriate? This is part of a bigger discussion that covers not only online behaviour but offline behaviour.  It just so happens that it’s not just those that are specific to blogging – and it’s like quality blogging & commenting – an all-the-time discussion.

#6  Teach commenting

Teaching your students to properly comment is just as important, if not more important as teaching your students about writing quality blog posts.

As Pernille Ripp, from Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension, mentions …

In order for blogging to be effective, comments are needed, but if students don’t know how to properly comment they will lose out on part of the experience. We discuss how to thank people, how to answer their questions, and most importantly, how to ask questions back. This is all part of common conversational knowledge that all kids should be taught any way.

#7  Start small

Everybody starts somewhere right? Whether you start out with a class blog first, or dive head first into students having their own blog.  Be realistic about how much you want to be posting.  We always started with an introduction post of some sort like this one or this one (which was fun and really encouraged comments).  At first, we posted to our blogs once a week.  It was regular and it was consistent – both of these things are important when you’re building an audience. (See #8)

#8  Connect with others

There is no doubt that the global connections made with students from all over the world are what inspired and encouraged my students to keep blogging.  Reach out to a colleague at another school and ask if their students can read and comment on your blogs – maybe they are blogging too and you can help motivate them too! Have a go at QuadBlogging or use twitter to help you and your students connect to others.  Keep a flag counter in your sidebar to help keep visitors to your blog (and your students’ blogs) visible and motivating!

#9  Allow personalisation (making it their own)

All students love to explore their blogs, playing with themes, colour and font!  This makes for a really great lesson on Design when they teach each other how to do anything fancy and also let each other know when font or colour choices were poor. It’s a perfect opportunity for students to start thinking about creating their online identity too. (Don’t forget to teach your students about Creative Commons and giving attribution for images they use in their blog posts! – see #5)

#10  Give it time

Rome wasn’t built in a day – neither will your blog content or your blog audience!  It’s an on-going process that can at times seem more trouble than it’s worth, but at the same time be so beneficial for students – especially those students who’s voices can be hard to hear above others.  Stick with it, even when the going gets tough and time pressures seem overwhelming against you.  It’s worth the effort, honest!

Helpful Resources

Already blogging with your students?

What tips and/or recommendations do you have?  Please share in the comments below!

Video Release for 10th Anniversary Tribute to “The Dot”

Thank you so much to the teachers and students who participated in the special 10th Anniversary “Dots Around the World” project.  The Dot by Peter Reynolds is such an inspirational story (as are many of his stories!)but The Dot is one of my all time favourites.

I’m only sorry that this video didn’t get published on the official 10th anniversary of the dot. The best laid plans can often go awry in technology and everything that could go wrong, went wrong! Perseverance, patience and faith in some very clever technicians has, at last, paid off.
Thank you all for being so very, very patient with the unforeseen technical difficulties that arose trying to complete this final video. The completed video is finally embedded below.

The Dot – Special 10th Anniversary Collaborative Project Tribute!

Update:  Thank you to the teachers and students who participated in the special 10th Anniversary “Dots Around the World” project.  Please be patient – some unforeseen technical difficulties have arisen – your dots have been received and the video is ready to upload – I just didn’t imagine that I would move and be without enough internet access to upload the video to YouTube. I’m working on it – and hopefully the video will be accessible very, very shortly!

Remember this last year?

Collaborating and creating dots with teachers and students around the world was a blast last year and I want to do it again – but with a twist!

This year is the 10th Anniversary of Peter Reynold’s book “The Dot” and I’d like to incorporate that into this year’s Dots Around the World Collaborative Project! There is an official dot day – September 15th – so I’d like to release the completed video on this date. That means that there has to be a submission deadline: Friday, September 13th.

Important Difference (from last year)
This year’s video will have a theme:  Ten
Please, please make sure that your dots have something to do with 10 – otherwise I can’t include them in this special tribute to Peter Reynold’s 10th Anniversary of “The Dot”
Possible ideas (and any others that you can think of!!) include:

  • Create the number 10 in dots (could be a whole class/group effort or individual)
  • Create a picture only using 10 dots
  • Spell out the word “ten” in dots
  • Select your ten best dots from the class

 

What do you need?
An iPad (or more if you have them) and time (time for your students to create their dot pictures using any ipad app you wish – I’m thinking the more different apps we use the more versatile we can show the iPads art capabilities).  I was also thinking that iTouches or even the teacher’s iPhone would be ok to use as well if you don’t have iPads.

Possible iPad apps to Use (but you are certainly not limited to these ones!)
Doodle Buddy (free)  Inkflow (free)  Drawing Box (free) Draw (free)
Procreate (4.99)  MyBrushes (1.99) Drawing Pad (1.99)

Tech Spectacular Extra – I’d really love more of these this year! (It’s easier than it sounds)
Educreations,(free) ShowMe,(free) ScreenChomp, (free) Explain Everything (2.99). These iPad apps would be cool to use if you are willing to choose ten students to record the actual drawing of their dots – I’d speed it up for the final Video)  Please let me know directly if you would like to do this piece as well. Last year we used DoodleCast Pro (it costs, but it’s brilliant and definitely worth it and I used it all the time for our Grade 3 Student ePortfolios!)
MyBrushes (1.99) also records as you are drawing and saves to your camera roll – then you can email it to me.

Very Important:
Please include student name (first name only) and the app used to create the dot on the image.  See link below for an example : http://www.flickr.com/photos/teachingsagittarian/7920592790/in/pool-2114863@N22

How do we get the Dot drawings to you?
There are several different ways to get your dots to me before the 13 September deadline:

Dropbox / Box net
If you’re a dropbox/box net user – simply let me know in the table below and I will share you in on a special folder for dropping your images in.  This really is the BEST way to get your video/image files to me.

Flickr
I’ve set up a flickr group called 10th Anniversary “The Dot” Collaboration Project 2013.  If you join our project simply upload your photos to this group if you are a flickr member already. (it’s a public group – no need to join, just add your photos).  Short videos can also be posted here as well.

Email
Or you can just email your dots to me (or better still have your kids email their finished dot straight from the iPad if you have it set up)

TimeFrame
Ah, the all important time frame!  All dots to be included in the video need to be in dropbox, box net, flickr or sent via email by Friday 13 September – so that the video can be ready for release on Sunday 15th September.
This deadline will be strictly adhered to!

Can anyone think of anything I’ve forgotten?

Still interested?
Please click this link to the 10th Anniversary: Dots Around the World Spreadsheet to help me keep track of who’s taking part and how you’re going to get your images to me!

Please feel free to invite anyone you think might like to join in!
Can’t wait to see what happens this year.  Get creating!!

Dots Around the World

The response to an idea I had while watching this movie, was amazing. When I pitched the idea to my 3rd Grade students, they were more than willing to help spread the idea and get some other classrooms to collaborate in our Dots Around the World global collaborative project.  You can check out how we did that in our post Dotting Ourselves Around the World.

And it worked! We managed to dot ourselves around the world – literally! 17 countries, over 30 classes ranging from PreK to Year 11. Each and every dot made us smile – I hope it makes you smile too! Happy International Dot Day everyone!

Many, many thanks to the teachers who signed up, took part with their iPads and their students and got their dots in! You can see everyone who was involved in the credits at the end of the final video.

If you are interested in how the whole global project was put together, you can read our Dots Around the World Collaborative Project post.

Dots Around the World! (Updated: Version 3)

sample of Dots Around the World from Room 207

Dots Around the World Collaborative Project

My students and I would like to organise a collaborative project – and use our iPads in class at the same time.  We have 3 iPads in our class right now – all provided by me, not the school.  If you have access to at least one iPad for your class (or an iTouch) and you’d like to take part in a collaborative video – please read on …

Inspiration

The inspiration for this collaborative project came from this video (Mr. Colosi’s First Grade Class) posted by Lucy Gray on Google+ last week. Their inspiration came from Peter Reynold’s book “The Dot”

There is an official dot day – September 15th.  I’d like to extend this video idea to Dots Around the World and release the video on September 15th.

What Do You Need?

An iPad (or more if you have them) and time (time for your students to create their dot pictures using any ipad app you wish – I’m thinking the more different apps we use the more versatile we can show the iPads art capabilities).  I was also thinking that iTouches would be ok to use as well if you don’t have iPads.

Possible Apps to Use

You are certainly not limited to just these ones – but here’s a few suggestions!
Doodle Buddy (free)  Inkflow (free)  Drawing Box (free) Draw (free)
Procreate (4.99)  MyBrushes (1.99) Drawing Pad (1.99)

Optional Extra

These iPad apps shared below are awesome to use if you are willing to choose one or two students to record the actual drawing of their dots (I’ll speed these special recordings up for the final Video). 

EducreationsShowMe, ScreenChomp (sorry, no longer supported), Doodlecast Pro, or Explain Everything  

Please let me know directly (via email) if you would like to do this optional extra part as well.

Very Important

Please include student name and the app used to create the dot on the image.  Click this link to see an example.

How Do We Get The Dot Drawings To You?

There are several different ways to get your dots to me before the 12 September deadline:

Dropbox / Box net
If you’re a dropbox/box net user – simply let me know in the table below and I will share you in on a special folder for dropping your images in

Flickr
I’ve set up a flickr group called Dots Around the World.  If you join our project simply upload your photos to this group if you are a flickr member already. (Request membership & it will be approved).  Short videos can also be posted here as well.

Email
Or you can just email your dots to me (or better still have your kids email their finished dot straight from the iPad if you have it set up)


				

Timeframe

To help meet the release date of September 15th, there is an important timeframe to stick to please!

All dots to be included in the video need to be in dropbox, box net, flickr or sent via email by Wednesday 12 September – so that the video can be ready for release on Saturday 15th September. This date will be strictly adhered to so if your video has not been received by the due date, we won’t be able to include it in the September 15th release!

Can anyone think of anything I’ve forgotten?


				

Still Interested?

Please click this link to the Dots Around the World Spreadsheet to help me keep track of who’s taking part and how you’re going to get your images to me!

Please feel free to invite anyone you think might like to join in!

Update: Link to Finished Project Video


				

Learning2.012 – Full

I was just checking the Learning2.012 website for the registration information for this year’s  conference at the Western Academy of Beijing (Thursday 11 October – Saturday 13 October)  – and discovered that it’s full! Fantastic news! There is, however, a waiting list – click here if you would like to go on the waiting list.

The Learning 2.0 conference is a transformative, challenging experience for all participants; it is the conference that leads the change in education. As a participant, at Learning 2.012, you will attend a variety of sessions including extended workshops from recognized leaders in the region and worldwide, workshops, unconference sessions, and meetings with your cohort group. We want to ensure that the learning continues beyond the conference by facilitating network-building opportunities through conversations which are then extended, sustained and supported online.

The breakdown of sessions looks like this for each participant:
* Two Extended Sessions led by our Learning 2 Leaders (3 – 3.5 hours)
* One Learning 2 Leaders presentation: the big idea in a nutshell
* Two additional workshops or presentations
* Two ‘unconference’ sessions
* Three ‘cohort’ sessions in curriculum/common interest groupings
* Three sets of Learning 2 Talk sessions

 

I’m very excited about this conference! I love the new format and I haven’t been able to attend Learning2.0 for the past two years.  This year I’m one of the Learning 2 Leaders for the strand 1:1 in the Elementary Classroom.  Being in the classroom really is my passion and after two years as the Technology & Learning Coach at ISB, I’m pleased to say I’m returning to the classroom to teach Grade 3. I’ve missed being in the classroom very much and can’t wait to get right back into it!

Of course, I’m thrilled to be leading learning alongside old friends and technology greats such as Keri-Lee Beasley, Clint Hamada, Julie Lindsay, Jess McCulloch, Jabiz Raisdana, Dana Watts and Jeff Utecht. It will be fantastic to see them all face to face again – it’s been a while – and I’m looking forward to learning, growing, sharing and laughing with them all again.  Whilst Kim Cofino, Simon May and Madeline Brooks aren’t leading any sessions this year – they have been furiously working behind the scenes with organisation – making this conference the best yet!  I can’t wait to catch up with them too!

I’m especially excited about FINALLY meeting Chris Betcher face to face – we’ve been like ships passing in the night for several years now, enjoying a PLN friendship for a few years but never actually meeting face to face. Can’t wait!! I’m looking forward to meeting and learning from Dean Shareski and Lucy Gray too – both have featured in my PLN for several years now too.

If you’re registered and going to Learning2.012 in October – see you there!  Please come up and say hi – I’d love to talk to you!  If you’re interested, get yourself on that waiting list – you just never know!