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!