I am no longer, as of October 2008 working as a class teacher at Sandaig, so have moved this blog to another server. If you want to comment on this post, pleas search for it there.

27 05 07 Starting Blogging in the Classroom

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Last week at elive I was talking about blogging in the classroom as an extension of normal classroom practice and showing examples of things we have done with blogging over the last few years. A few questions there and an email asking for blogging advice today has started me thinking about how to get started with blogging in the classroom. There seems to be plenty of technical howtos available (I've written a couple myself) and plenty of the 'this is what we do' sort of stuff I was talking about at eLive but there is a wee bit in the middle that is lacking. At eLive I briefly covered some of the classroom organisation I've found successful and there are many more ideas over at the classroom blogging wiki's Classroom organisation pages. The thing I think is missing is some sort of progression and timetable.

The lack of guidance (as far as I know) might be why there are so many blogs that are started and then fade away. People get false expectations, run into technical problems or do not get the results they expect from children.

So here is a step by step approach to blogging that might be of use to teachers:

  1. Start Reading some blogs.
    Often people are introduced to blogging on an inservice, are helped to set up a blog and go off back to the classroom. They might not really have come across blogs before are filled with enthusiasm but do not really know much about the subject.
    Seb 208If you are in Scotland I'd start by looking at ScotEdublogs.org.uk, reading the front page every couple of days to see what is going on. Follow up interesting posts by visiting the blogs they are posted on and reading other posts there.
    Try to read a mixture of pupil and professional/teacher blogs.
    Post some comments to articles you have something to say about or as encouragement/distance marking on pupil blogs.
  2. Test out some blogging software.
    Different blog setups work differently, depending on what you want to do different ones may work better for your needs.
    You can set up blogs at no expense at blogger, wordpress.com, learnerblogs.org and many other sites, Scran Scribble should be of interest to Scots and eduBuzz to teachers in East Lothian.
    Look at the blogs you like from step one and see what they are using. If you have a website already you maybe able to add a blog to the site which means you can have the same domain. a lot of blogging software (eg wordpress.org ) are opensource and don't cost any money.
    So set up a blog or two and play around with the features (nobody need know;-)). This will take a bit of time, but it will be time saved in the long run. Badpoet 200 you might want to set up a blog about a subject dear to your heart or one for your cpd (that might be close to your heart;-)).
    Learn how to upload images and add them to posts.
    Play with whatever image editing software your children may have in school and make sure you can resize photos without thinking about it. If you have an interest try to upload audio and video to your blogs.
    If you are stuck on how to do something google it, someone somewhere will be using the same blog and have written a guide! Or go back to the blogs you were reading on ScotEdublogs.org.uk and ask someone there.
  3. Set up a blog for your class
    Using your favourite blog software set up a blog for your class.
  4. Whiteboard 200Start whole class blogging
    Work with a projector and the whole class using the blog as a place for shared writing, thus will be familiar to yourself and the class coming to an agreement about the text. It also means you can resize and edit any photos, first before the class are there later with the children. The children will learn the technology, but much more importantly will allow you and the children to set the tone for the blog. I've seen a few posts on children's blogs where they understand the technology but do not realise they are in a public arena, these posts are often poorly thought out, in 'chat speak', teachers will have their own ways of suggesting tone, I go for the 'blog as school excursion' approach; 'you are representing your school' and explaining the consequences of a world wide audience. Hopefully this audience will become apparent after a few posts.
  5. John @ Sandaig PrimaryNetworking
    At this point you might want to start networking and publicising the blog.
    Again as a whole class activity view other blogs, compose comments and remember to use your blogs url. Add your blog to ScotEdublogs.org.uk, you could even drop an email to other Educational bloggers (I've not tried that but I've often been mailed which is nice).
  6. Set Rules
    I've never done this, relaying on the last bit and taking things slowly ensuring that the children know the limits, but some folk like to have a set of blogging rules. Google will throw up quite a few sets to think about: classroom blogging rules - Google Search.
    You probably want to talk about what makes a good comment too. The more time spent on whole class discussion the better. I've noticed that I really need to talk about this stuff again when new children join a class.
  7. Bva computer pairStart pairs or individuals posting to the blog
    Ask a pair of children to report on something, maybe while the class are all writing about an event or trip. Get the children to take the photos that go with the post. You could start a rota of bloggers, a pair being responsible for finding something to blog about and doing so.
  8. Repeat Setps 4- 7
    You should be beginning to get an idea of both what you want to use blogs for and what you can use blogs for, watching other blogs will give you good ideas, seeing something on another blog, say a poetry lesson or science experiment, commenting, carrying it out in your own class and blogging that can be pretty nice.
  9. Set up other blogs
    Try a short term blog where a group of children have responsibility to record and report on a project. A blog for particular activities, book reports or poetry. A trip blog for parents.
    You might like to set up individual blogs for your class, I am just trying that for the first time this year: Primary Six SJ - Sandaig Primary School, it has a different set of challenges and rewards from a class blog.
  10. Keep going
    That is the hard part, finding the time and organisation the children and kit.
    By this time you will know if blogging is going to be useful in your classroom, if so you will begin to see lots of possibilities opening up, podcasting, video, games, art and animation.

This is quite a time consuming process, the more time spent in the early stages the easier the later ones will become.

Caveat: this information is based on the path I've taken over the last four years with some mistakes removed. I didn't have a plan and I am in no way finished.

I make no guarantees and holds no responsibility for any addition to the internet or loss of leisure time that may result following these instructions.
!BLOG AT YOUR OWN RISK!

So take these instruction with a pinch of salt, I've seldom been quoted but this is my favourite, thanks to Peter Ford from Communicate06.

I hope to be able to direct people t othis post when they ask me how to start blogging as part of the answer. Please augment, criticise and improve in the comments.

Picture Credit: pair with laptop from Be Very Afraid - Be Very Afraid 3 - Photo Gallery 5 used with permission.

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John this is some excellent and simple advice for people about to start out in the world of classroom blogging.
OllieBray (Email) (URL) - 27 05 07 - 16:36

Hi John

Excellent post, borne purely of experience. I’m doing a wee bit on ‘blogging as reflection’ at the Chartered Teacher conference in Edinburgh next week, and I’ll direct attendees to this post if they want a quick-and-easy ‘punty-up’ (at del.iciou.us/dafc1885/CT07).
David Noble (Email) (URL) - 27 05 07 - 20:39

Yes I would have welcomed this when I first started. I still feel that I am trying things out and the blog is still morphing into something that I want it to be. Not quite sure what that is yet! However, if nothing else, it is a great record of some of the things that we have done as a class this year! Next session I might come back to your post and plan a wee bit more carefully.
Shirley (Email) (URL) - 29 05 07 - 22:21

Thanks for this John. I get so much help through Scotedublogs for setting up the blog on our site. One young person I’m working with is particularly keen on blogging, and also on having explicit rules about what is and isn’t allowed (he often finds that other people have a problem with what he likes and wants to talk about). I’ve done general rules, but am also, at his request, working on more detail about words that can and can’t be used. This is hard!

I leave it open to the young people to decide what to blog about. This has its benefits, but also means the blog may feel a bit ‘directionless’ at times. Feel I’m at the start of a long and interesting journey…
Katy MacDougall (Email) (URL) - 01 06 07 - 12:36

Hi John,

Thanks for this post – I’ve certainly learned loads from reading ‘a mixture of pupil and professional/teacher blogs’. I had a comment on our class blog recently from someone in Australia who is studying a masters degree. She posed some interesting questions about educational blogging – some for a teacher, some for pupils. We tried our best to answer them (I’ve added to my original comment to cater for a more ‘local’ audience – the pupils’ response are original).

The link is below

http://carronshore.edublogs.org/2007/05/..
margaret vass (Email) (URL) - 01 06 07 - 19:55

Hi John
I’m a fourth year B Ed student at Jordanhill, about to embark on a major project concerning the influence blogging and podcasting can have in enhancing language. This info will be extremely valuable to me in my research and implementation of my project. We all love the Sandaig blog in my Computers for Education elective class!
Thanks again!
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I am no longer, as of October 2008 working as a class teacher at Sandaig, so have moved this blog to another server. If you want to comment on this post, pleas search for it at: http://www.johnjohnston.info/blog.