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!
September 26, 2009 at 5:48 pm
Blooging really is a great way to connect teachers, students and parents. It’s a great way for teachers to get advice, support and ideas from each other. Blogs can also be used to keep parents up to date on what’s happening in their child’s classroom, so they feel more involved in the learning process. I advise all teachers to look through some of the thousands of blogs out there to learn what your peers are up to, and then be adventurous and create your own!
Thanks for providing these tips to help teachers enter the blogging world.
September 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm
Thanks for the comment, Nicole. For teachers just entering the digital age, I think they need all the support – and powerful examples – we can provide!
Are you involved in the Bloggers Challenge?
September 26, 2009 at 7:35 pm
Awesome post! I wish I would have run across it about a year ago!!
I will certainly pass this link along–
September 26, 2009 at 7:46 pm
Thanks, Amy. I really enjoyed touring your blog!
September 28, 2009 at 9:50 pm
Once again Gail amazing tips. I love the recommendation for alternating comments and posts — what a great idea. Had so many emails lately about the old ‘you are commenting too quickly’. Also love the reminder to include your class URL.
Also thanks for creating the PDF for adding links. It is on the list to create so this will definitely save time. There has been so much ‘how to’ and I’m not finished yet.
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April 26, 2011 at 7:07 am
Thank you thank you, finally managed to insert ClustrMaps Widget. It was just a simple task which I couldn’t achieve!! Given that currently I’m twinned up with a class in New York, I really wanted to add this little touch to my blog.
Thank you once again
April 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm
You’re very welcome, Gabriella. I think teachers, as much as students, love the Clustrmap. I know I still get excited to see a new dot on my map:-)