Gaining Cultural Acceptance and Approval


How do your school culture and parent communities view blogging? Once you assess this, you will know how to begin. This may be your biggest hurdle, or you may find surprising acceptance. So it's importance to have conversations with your administration and department chair, other faculty, and parents of your future student bloggers. You may need to educate these groups about how the blogging will be used in your classroom, why you think it is important, and how you will attend to issues of safety and good digital citizenship. Tackle these groups one at a time. Be sure that you can argue why and how it relates to your curriculum.

Emphasize that blogging is a means to an end -- inspiring a generation of thoughtfully engaged writers online. Many adults still see writing as fluff, something that is not to be taken seriously. Ask your potential supporters about blogs they read -- and if they don't read blogs, suggest some that would deepen their understanding of their interests.

Help your parent supporters understand that blogging is writing, first and foremost. You may even find yourself using these words simultaneously. While this may seem redundant, it can reinforce the connection for those who don't yet see how blogging is relevant for our students or appropriate for learning in an academic environment.

Have in-person conversations, craft careful and informed proposals, make arguments via email or letters to parents, and share your reasons for blogging via email. Building this connection first will help you enormously later on.

If you still run into serious objections, let them stand. If teachers need more time to be convinced, let them wait. If parents don't want their children to blog, give those students a way to opt out. They will soon feel the buzz from blogging and want to join in.

You may find these resources helpful:

Susan Davis, "Raising Student Bloggers: An Open Letter to Parents"


Greg Nadeau: Blogs and Badges, The Future of Learning

Choosing a Blogging Venue


Think about how your students' blogs will be integrated into your course and how it will fit within the culture of your school. This will help you determine which blogging venue to use.

Blogger.com

If you are a Google school, you may want to use Blogger. This is a good choice if you want all of your students to contribute to a class blog that is housed in a single space. Students will post to one account that the teacher sets up. Blogger is also a good choice if you want your students to import their blogs into Google Sites as part of a digital portfolio. Individual student accounts can be linked on a single webpage for access.

Edublogs.com

Edublogs uses Wordpress environment to aggregate students' blogs into an online classroom. It integrates widgets easily and is extremely customizable. Edublogs also has a blogging curriculum that you can use to learn about blogging. Its many features are worth exploring if you are ready for a more complex blogging space that also allows a teacher to set up a classroom dashboard. Upgrading to a paid account allows you to give more privileges for customizing the blogging space to your students.

Kidblog.com

Kidblog is similar to Edublog, but is simpler and easier to use. After trying all three of these blogging venues, I have settled on Kidblog for those very reasons. Setting up and monitoring your class are simple tasks. You can control the settings and gradually release more publishing privileges to students. Students can invite parents or other guests to view and comment. As with Edublog, you can upgrade to a paid account to allow your students to choose a "theme" in order to personalize their blogging space. This creates more buy-in as students feel greater ownership of their blogs.

Preparation


Set up your blogging space. We recommend making your settings “tight” to begin (ie., teacher reviews all posts and comments at first) -- students gain mastery and work towards more public sharing. It's always a good idea to set up a "dummy" student account so you can see for yourself how things work from a student perspective.

Send home a letter explaining how you will use blogging to teach writing and include a permission form to parents (always advisable, but especially needed for children under 13).

Write an “about me” post for your teacher blog (note: this is a great place to put blogging assignments, share resources, or highlight “featured” blogs.

Introduce your students to blogging. Explore with your students what blogging is and how it is different from other ways of writing, how it is the same. Look at sample blogs, particularly blogs by students. Talk about what it means to be engaged in public discourse and to have a public presence -- essentially, what it means to be a digital citizen. Remind your students that your blogging space is part of your classroom and they should act accordingly.

Give your students time to set up their blogs in class. Usually, there are two ways to have students join: you can provide them with a username and password you have created (recommended; they can change the password once they are in) OR students can log in with a “class code.”

Give your students their first blogging assignment, usually an introduction or "about me" post.