Muddling through the blogosphere

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.


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