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Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

I work in the Technology Services Department for a large public school district. I love my job (technology integration specialist) and truly appreciate my department’s support of programs that promote digital literacy and the potential for students – and teachers – to advance from digital citizens to global citizens.

With this week’s start of the new school year, I’m getting lots of requests from teachers to setup Edublogs Pro classroom blogs, something I am happy to do … but not until we’ve had a conversation about their vision for their blogs. Because my department pays for our Edublog Campus accounts (worth every penny), I like to know how far up the SAMR ladder they – and their students – might travel via their classroom blog. If they simply want an online location to post homework and announcements, I suggest a free Google Site. If they need a little background on the SAMR model, I might send them a short video, such as John Spensor’s introduction, which makes the connection to the potential power of blogging:

Last week, in response to my blogging vision questions, a teacher sent me a link to the awesome Jeff Bradbury’s TeacherCast session: The Great EdTech Debate: Google Sites vs Google Classroom vs Blogger. I emailed back that Jeff was simply reviewing the suite of Google options; he was not commenting on the power and possibilities of  classroom blogging. (And I agree with Jeff that Blogger is not the best choice for a classroom blog.)

This morning, I came across Silvia Tolisano’s post Blogging Through the Lens of SAMR, I decided it was time to gather resources and rationale on moving a classroom blog from “substitution” (the “S” of SAMR) to “redefinition.” Silvia’s post, with its wonderful infographics, is a great starting point. I’m also including and highly recommending:

As a former classroom teacher, I witnessed many times the bump in literacy skills that happens when students know their work really matters, a change that generally requires an authentic audience. Blogging can provide a 24/7 microphone for students to join in virtual conversations with students and classrooms across the nation and world – and, in the process, cross the line from consumer of information to creator of information – and from digital citizen to global citizen.

I’m ending this post with two things: a blogger’s poem and an invitation.

#1) An if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie-style poem from Edublogger Ronnie Burt’s blog post A Rhyme? Why Not! Please note that “website” = “blog”:

If you give a student a website, at first, he isn’t going to be sure what to do.

He will start by wanting to decorate it and personalize it too.

He’ll no doubt choose some interesting colors and flashing widgets – making sure he has the most.

Once you go over expectations, you will assign the student to write his first post.

The student will ask, ‘is this for a grade?’, and he will probably groan.

But once he publishes to his new website, he’ll immediately want to pull out his phone.

He’ll post a link to twitter and facebook, out across the interwebs his post will be sent.

He’ll hit refresh in his browser, over and over, just hoping that a visitor has left a comment.

Before long he’ll see the comment notifications show up in his queue.

And an ongoing dialogue between his family, friends, and classmates will certainly continue.

So the next time he learns something new in your class, there won’t be much of a fight.

Before you even get the chance to finish, the student will ask if he can write another post on his website.


#2 ) An invitation to share classroom and student blogs I could showcase in my next post on blogging best practices. Please leave a comment with links!

Best wishes to everyone for the 2017-2018 school year.

PS Thank you Pixabay for cc licensed blogging image!


Time to Register for the March Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge

Time to Register for the March Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge

In the eight years that I’ve been offering blogging workshops, I love watching teachers leave excited to start blogging with their students and with a vision of how blogging might transform teaching and learning. A great way to keep the excitement going is to connect them, directly or indirectly, with other classrooms – beyond their school sites and communities. The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge is exactly that kind of opportunity – and it’s free!

Twice a  school year (October and March), Edublogs sponsors the Student Blogging Challenge. The Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for students to practice and improve their digital writing skills – and for teachers to promote  and support learning beyond the school day.

The March 2014 Challenge runs for 10 weeks, with weekly tasks designed to scaffold students’ online communication skills. The tasks range from digital citizenship to making global and local connections. Participating classrooms can complete all or as many tasks as they wish, and in any order.

Besides registering your own classroom(s) for the Challenge, you are warmly invited to sign up to mentor individual student bloggers.

Thank you, Sue Wyatt, Sue Waters, and Ronnie Burt, for continuing to support and host the Student Blogging Challenge. A huge time commitment on your part – but such a worthwhile project!

Merit Saturday Session – Inspiration & Resources

Merit Saturday Session – Inspiration & Resources

Getting to spend Saturday with Rushton Hurley and the Merit 2011 team was worth getting up at 4:00 a.m. to make the 3 1/2 hour trip from Placerville down to Foothill College in Los Altos, knowing I would leave inspired and with a few new resources in my teacher’s toolkit.


Miguel Guhlin was our opening speaker, joining us virtually from San Antonio, TX. Miguel is one of the first bloggers I added way back to my Bloglines reader. Then and now, he continues to amaze me at the quantity and quality of his Around the Corner blog posts. His presentation answered the question Why blog? Of the tips Miguel shared, my favorite is

Tip 1 – Write or Speak – If you’re not a writer, be a podcaster or videocaster – you’re always a work in progress. You can checkout Miguel’s favorite blogging tools on his Blog Your World site.”



Nicole Dalesio led the afternoon Creativity with Image Editing session. Between her Photoshop tutorial on Scratch Art (which gave me a whole new understanding of the power of “layers” in a photo editing program) and her invitation to explore her awesome Free Online Tools to Spark Creativity wiki (which included Ransom Note Generator, the tool I used to create my Inspiration and Resources graphics), I think we all finished the day re-energized, inspired, and ready to “go out and do good things for students.”

I’m already looking forward to our November 5 session, which will include an exploration of best practices for using (IWBs) interactive whiteboards.

7 Reasons Why Students and Teachers Should Know How to Blog

7 Reasons Why Students and Teachers Should Know How to Blog

In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world. ” Tina Barseghian, Mindshift


Reasons 1-6 are from Jenny Luca, Australian teacher/librarian – and one of my favorite Tweeters: Six Reasons Why Kids Should Know How to Blog. Here’s an abbreviated list, but please read Jenny’s post for the rationale behind each reason:

  1. Create positive digital footprints
  2. Communicate with digital tools
  3. Transparency
  4. New ways of thinking about digital tools
  5. Effective digital citizenship
  6. Pride in work


Reason 7 also comes indirectly from Australia, via Ronnie Burt (Edublogger Sue Water’s US counterpart): Improving Parent Communication in 3 Short Steps – Ronnie has summarized a post from Edutopia that reviewed the results of a recent parent survey from the National School Public Relations Association. Despite the efforts of  many school sites and districts to improve school-to-home communication through Facebook and Twitter links, those two social media networks did not make the top of the list at all. They actually ranked below television and attending school board meetings! The results show that:

Luckily for those with blogs, 4 out of the top 5 methods most requested can be taken care of in a flash. In short, parents like information to be on a website (which is really what a blog is) and they like email notification*.”

*Providing email notification is as easy as dragging and dropping a widget/gadget into your sidebar.

Love it when the research supports practices I have seen first-hand making engaging students in reading and writing –  and at the same time bringing parents (and grandparents) on board:-)

Beyond the Post: Adding more layers to student commenting

Beyond the Post: Adding more layers to student commenting

How can blogging help extend elementary students’ summary writing skills? If you’d been with me Friday afternoon at David Reese Elementary School, where I had the privilege of joining 5th grade teacher Rudy Alfonso for his lesson on summary writing, I’m pretty sure you, too, would be inspired by the integral role his class blog plays in the writing process.

Rudy opened the lesson with an interactive review of the parts of a summary, which he’s made available on Slideshare:

Summary Writing (created by Rudy Alfonso)

Next the students read a piece from Time for Kids, She’s a Fashionista. Using a graphic organizer, the students unpacked the the story. From their graphic organizer, they moved on to writing their own summaries.
But wait…there’s more.  And this is when and where blogs and commenting take a paper-and-pencil assignment and extend the audience beyond Rudy. With both papers in hand, the students then head over to the scanner and upload the graphic organizer. Next, they open the corresponding blog post,  Summary Writing: She’s a Fashionista blog post, click on Comment, upload their graphic organizer, and enter their summary paragraph.
But wait…there’s more. The last step is to grab a voice recorder  (Rudy uses an Olympus voice recorder) and record a reading of their paragraph (which Rudy uploads to their comment).
And the impact/outcome? I asked a number of Rudy’s students about the benefits of taking their writing and their voices out into the blogosphere.  Jasmine shared “I’m becoming more confident about my writing and my reading skills.”  Nicole added that “Being able to write in more ways than just paper and pencil is preparing me for the future.”
Rudy summed up the paper-to-blog process as significant because in the course of a month, he – and his students – can already hear their progress (great way to document reading fluency gains!) and classmates, family, friends, and the world can follow and comment on their progress.
Good things are happening in our public schools. And new technologies, such as blogging, under the guidance of caring, innovative teachers, are helping to level the playing field beyond the confines of the classroom, school site, and surrounding community.
Why Blog?

Why Blog?

One of the basic tenets of the Writing Project is that to teach writing well, teachers must write. In our Web 2.0 world, that tenet should be extended a bit: to teach writing with technology well, teachers must also blog, tweet, and podcast—exploring writing in online environments—to understand the possibilities of the medium.”    ~ Grant Faulkner

My blog turned four this month:-).  So March was the perfect month to reflect a bit on why I blog. Thanks to an invitation from Grant Faulkner, I set aside some time to join my NWP colleagues Andrea Zellner and Joel Malley in writing a short piece about blogging and the edublogosphere.

Four years later, it’s hard to imagine teaching and learning without my blogging community.

Happy Birthday, Blogwalker!

Five Tips for Teachers New to Blogging

Five Tips for Teachers New to Blogging

Some of the most talented, caring, effective teachers I know, for a variety of reasons (with lack of site support or computer access issues at the top of the list), have shied away from all things technology-related.  So when a great teacher starts to dabble with a class blog and requests help so that his/her students can participate in the Student Bloggers Challenge, how would you suggest they begin this shared journey?

Based on my work this month with several teachers who very much want to join the blogosphere, but are a bit overwhelmed by the learning curve, here are five tips for teachers just beginning to weave blogging into their classroom toolkit:

Tip #1:  Start the process of reading, writing, and responding to blog posts as a whole class activity. Begin the day or  class period by sharing a blog post or comment that you will respond to as a class. With you doing the typing, this activity will probably not take more than five minutes and is great way to introduce your students to the genre of interactive reading and writing, while modeling the safe and ethical use of social networking.

Tip #2:  If you are using a program that has a plugin (a software program that allows additional capabilities) for threaded comment, download the plugin!  Be sure to explain to your students the difference between responding to the post and replying to a specific comment.

Tip #3:  Add other class blogs to your blogroll. You might need to add the Links widget to your sidebar first.  Adding links to other blogs in your blogroll allows your students to quickly access what’s likely to become a  growing community of classroom blogs.

If you have access to a laptop cart or a computer lab, I recommend rotating your students between reading blogs and posting comments, particularly if you’re requiring that they all respond to the same post, maybe something you just posted.  If too many comments are submitted to the same blog post in a short amount of time (which sets off a spamming alert), your student bloggers are likely to get the message “Slow down, you’re going too fast.”  Much of their blogging time will then be lost to clicking on the back button and submitting their comments again – and again, and again.

Besides the practical aspects, dividing student time between reading and writing is also a good way to model that blogging is actually more about reading than it is about writing.

Tip #4:  Remind your student commenters to add your classroom URL in the website box. This extra step will turn their names into a hyperlink back to your blog.  A great way to invite more readers and potential commenters to your site!


Tip #5:  Add a ClustrMaps widget.  If your class is participating in the Bloggers Challenge, you definitely want to add a ClustrMap to your sidebar using a Text widget. If you are a Supporter Level Edublogger, you can add your map by using the ClustrMaps widget.  Either way, you will soon have students scurrying to find a world map or atlas to accurately identify each state and country. Not only is the ClustrMaps widget a built-in geography lesson, but more important, it makes visible to students  the reality that the whole world has become their audience.

In the above tips I’ve included links for Edublogs users.  If you are a Blogger (which unfortunately many school district block), click here to learn how to set up a sidebar or how to insert a gadget (widget), including a ClustrMap.

Again, many thanks to Sue Wyatt for sponsoring the Student Blogger Competition and to Sue Waters for all her backup support.  I already know this event will expand learning opportunities for both students and their teachers!

Note: This post has been written on “5 most important tips for educators starting out blogging with students” as part of The Edublogger’s Competition!

Five Borrowed Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers

Five Borrowed Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers

With the Student Bloggers Challenge starting this week, I’ve been looking to others for more tips to help maximize our students’ blogging experiences. Here are my first five:

#1 Transition younger students (maybe older too) gradually from commenting to posting – From Kim Cofino –   I love Kim’s middle step of upping students’ posting permissions within the class blog before creating their own individual blogs.

Once students are comfortable with the process of leaving meaningful comments, and have returned their parental permission slip, we introduce them to the actual process of writing blog posts. The basics of logging in, creating a new post, putting your post in the category for your name, and submitting for review. Usually we have the first post be a short introduction to the student.

I love the fact that having a category for each student makes it appear as if each student has their own blog (by listing the name categories in the sidebar) and that no posts will be published until the teacher can approve them after moderation. Such an easy and safe way to begin blogging!”

#2 Take advantage of tools for embedding audio into posts – From  Troy Hicks & Dawn Reed – I had the good fortune to be in the same NCTE 2007 session as Dawn, where she shared her students’ This I Believe podcasts, so I was delighted to find that my recently arrived copy of Teaching the New Writing included a chapter from Troy ( NWP colleague from way back) and Dawn: From the Front of the Classroom to the Ears of the World: Multimodal Composing in Speech Class. In setting up a class blog where she could post her high school students’ podcasts, Dawn discovered that:

…since students often limit their comments to one another’s work with simple replies such as ‘good speech,’ and others – teachers, parents, community members, and students from other classes or schools – could not be a part of our speech class, podcasting would allow for feedback from those who may offer a different perception of the ideas presented….

…the largest implication of this entire project is the value that students found in producing content for a larger and authentic audience.  In so doing, they joined a conversation as members of a global society, moving their voices from the front of the classroom to the ears of the world.”

Note that Dawn (like Kim) brought her students into the classroom blog via promoting their access levels and creating a category (which appears in the sidebar) for each student.

As I am writing this post, I also have another tab open to a reprint of an article by Jason Ohler –  Media Literacy: Eight Guidelines for Teachers. I’d like to share Jason’s thoughts on the importance of oracy:

Currently, many media collages are based on the four components of “the DAOW of literacy”: Digital, Art, Oral, and Written. Being able to understand and blend the best of the old, recent, and emerging literacies will become a hallmark of the truly literate person.

Of the four components of the DAOW, oracy—the ancient literacy of speaking and listening—deserves much more focus than it currently receives. It is central to many of the media collage forms currently in wide use, including storytelling, narrated documentaries, movies, PowerPoint presentations, and even games and virtual realities. And it is central to leadership as well. After all, we often look for evidence of leadership in the way that people speak to others.

#3 Provide students with choices and starting points – From Paul Allison – I found the  Self-Assessment Matrix in Paul’s chapter from Teaching the New Writing: Be a Blogger: Social Networking in the Classroom.  Through my involvement with the ever-evolving Youth Voices project, I know Paul’s genuine commitment to “keeping it real” and to helping his high school students “find something to be passionate about, and to connect with others who share this passion.”  Students are given the matrix on Monday and choose wherever they wish as a starting point, and, ideally, by the end of the week, they will have crossed out every box in the matrix. Paul’s goal is to help students make the shift from blogging as a teacher-centered activity to a student-centered activity. When the turning point happens…

No longer am I working to motivate students to do work for me.  Instead, I am working to help each student to accomplish his or her own goals as readers and writers in a school-based network….

…Being a blogger is about what young people do when they sit down to work at their computers.  It is about creating a space in their lives to safely extend and explore their online voices with a group of peers, both at school, in another part of town, in another state, and around the world.”

#4  Build in meta-cognition through ‘tagging’ – From Paul Allison – To get students reflecting both specifically and broadly about their writing, Paul asks them to come up with tags (key words) to describe a post.  “Asking them to tag their writing with five key words is to ask them to reread and think about what they are writing. Later, when students add these words to the bottom to their blog posts, they see how key words give them the power to find others who have also published about this theme, which then allows them to respond to the bloggers…establishing a web of relationships...”

#5  Use your PLN to bump up readership for your student bloggers – From Jeff Utecht – OK, maybe not all of us have the 4,000+ followers in Twitter that Jeff mentions in his recent post A blog post, a tweet, and a connection, but I”m willing to bet that if you’re reading this post, you already have a growing network of colleagues in your Personal Learning Network, in addition to friends or even relatives, you could call on to help broaden the audience for your bloggers. Over the past eight years, I’ve been involved in a variety of student blogging projects, and over and over have seen the common thread of the positive – and substantial –  impact on literacy skills an authentic audience provides!

A huge thank you to Sue Wyatt for organizing and hosting the the 2009 Bloggers’ Competition – and to Sue Waters for supporting and promoting the efforts of teachers to bring their students into the blogosphere!

Note: This post is a gathering of blogging tips written by other bloggers, whose insights into teaching and learning in a digital age continue to influence and inspire me. Although there is not a category for borrowed tips in  The Edublogger’s Competition, I wanted to acknowledge and thank everyone mentioned above for all that they have so generously shared.

Five Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers

Five Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers

It’s about to start – Sue Wyatt‘s annual Student Blogging Competition! This year I’m really looking forward to bringing some 4th and 5th grade students into the competition – and watching them grow as readers and writers in the process.

But how do we transition new bloggers from the “That’s cool!” or “Me too!” kinds of fluff responses to meatier responses that are likely to foster extended conversations, invite dynamic classroom connections, and push literacy skills to the next level? I have a few tips to share on that topic, five to be exact:

#1.  Provide students with examples. Chances are blogging has not yet been presented to them as its own genre.   In order for them to become thoughtful, effective bloggers,  they’ll need to see samples from other student bloggers. For elementary age bloggers, I recommend they spend some time reading student work posted to Brian Crosby’s class blog and Mark Ahlness’s class blog. Be sure to checkout Mark’s strategy of having blog reading as part of his SSR program.

#2.  Include reflection  and self-evaluation as part of the blogging process.  I really like the templates for reflecting on posts and reflecting on comments posted by the Rotorua East Lakes Learning Community.  While I think students should certainly be allotted a number of “me too” or “that’s cool” comments, they should also be held accountable for a minimum number of self-selected “best” posts or comments.

#3.  Teach students how to hyperlink. Here’s where blogging beats the heck out of paper-pencil writing. When students understand how easy it is and how important it is to support their opinions, for instance, by including links to their resources – including other bloggers – they then start to make those inter-textual connections that lead to literacy bumps. I agree with Wes Fryer that  “Hyperlinked writing is the most powerful form of writing because it permits authors and readers to connect words to a variety of other ideas and multimedia files on the Internet.

Students may wonder how to include hyperlinks when posting a comment, since most comment boxes do not include a formatting toolbar.  The one piece of html coding I would, therefore, teach them is how to turn text into a link by setting if off with anchor tags. By placing <a href=”url of the site“> in front of the text and </a> at the end of the text, they can easily include links in their comments.  To turn Blogwalker into a link, the coding would look like this:

<a href=””>Blogwalker</a>.

#4.  Invite students to share their strategies for bringing others into their conversations. Students need to know that far more bloggers will read their posts than will actually respond to them. They also need  encouragement to respond to ideas, not individuals.  Connecting  students to classrooms in other regions, states, or countries will help them make that distinction.  When students don’t know who the “cool” kids are, typically, it is the thoughtfully-composed posts and comments that receive the most response.

#5.  Begin an on-going conversation on digital citizenship.   Blogging is a great way to teach students how to use the Internet safely, effectively, and ethically.  Sending a letter home, such as Bud Hunt’s sample, is an excellent way to bring parents into the  conversation. Besides understanding – and agreeing to –  guidelines on posting personal information  (i.e, no last names, phone numbers, or home addresses), students will also likely need some help with handling diverse perspectives. It’s a good idea to provide a bank of sentence starters, such as “That’s an interesting point. I’m wondering if you’ve considered …” or “I understand what your trying to say, but …”  Knowing how to respectfully disagree is a skill that requires much practice – but can be essential to maintaining a positive digital footprint.

    A huge thank you to Sue Wyatt for organizing and hosting the the 2009 Bloggers’ Competition – and to Sue Waters for supporting and promoting the efforts of teachers to bring their students into the blogosphere!

    Note: This post has been written on “5 most important tips for educators starting out blogging with students” as part of The Edublogger’s Competition!

    Shift Happens

    Shift Happens

    It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Edublogger community. As as veteran Edublogger (my first EB post was in March 2006), I’ve have been through a few upgrades and therefore know that when EB returns, it’s even better than before. I’m thinking back to June of 2007, when there was a two-weekwindow of down time during upgrades. I was attending a NECC Conference in Atlanta where a number of “big names,” such as Will Richardson, were attempting to introduce EB as part of the their blogging workshops. Because they’re used to working through technology issues, not having access to EB was not that big a deal.

    But here’s what’s changed for me … Over the past two weeks, I’ve received many emails from teachers who’ve been in my EB workshops wondering what was going on. OK, this is a huge shift. Since most of my district, county, and A3WP workshops are free, I’m never really sure if my attendees truly want to learn about blogging, or if they are just looking for free units to apply to their salary schedule.

    So about those emails….bring ‘um on !What the flood of questions means to me is that I now have a growing bank of teachers who are incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into their teachers’ toolkit. What felt like just a ripple a year ago is starting for feel a tsunami. Welcome back EB!

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