Why Let Students Blog?

The ringing in of 2009 also marked my students true endeavor into the world of blogging. Though their first official post, Welcome, wasn’t until late in the month of January, we began our blogging adventure several weeks prior.  To say that this adventure has been “everything I imagined” would be an understatement.  Instead this blogging adventure has become more than I could have ever imagined.
Why let students blog?  The list is infinite:  ownership of writing, connection to the world, motivation, authentic audience (not just teacher), multiple learning styles, prepare students for digital citizenship, gallery of class projects, students as teachers, parent connection,….
If you would like a true list of reasons for students to blog, it wouldn’t take more that an afternoon of reading blogs to run across everything from the top 20 reasonsto winning a T-shirt🙂 You can even hear about blogging straight from the mouth of students.  Why did my students start blogging?  I wanted them to be part of social technology outside of myspace.  I wanted them to actually see “outside of the box” outside of their town, their state, and their nation. I wanted them to take ownership in their education.  And I wanted my student from a town of less than 15,000 to see that they truly are part of this world and this world is open to them.  Any classroom can have a great journal with provoking higher order thinking questions, but that journal can’t interact with the students, it can’t ask questions, and it can’t expand students view and knowledge.
Over the last few months, my students have connected with other teachers and students around our nation and around the world.  After earning their blog, they were first introduced to Ann Michaelsen’s blog as well as her students. This helped us to start small and “straighten out the kinks” such as internet filters.  This collaboration has earned a post of it’s own on a later date, but basically we started with both of our classes posting about their hometown.  The students visited each other’s blogs and commented including many questions.  Ms Michelsen’s class was learning about American government so my students’ next posts were on our government including more detail about levels and branches of government. It has been GREAT! Both of our classes are now participating in Challenge 09, in which we complete various challenges each week.There are over 1000 students from all over the world participating in this challenge.

This post actually is leading up to the week 5 challenge to teachers.Ms. Wyatt is presenting at a conference in July, Blogging Safely in the Big Wide World”.  She asked teacher’s involved in the challenge to answer the following questions.  I have been wanting to post on blogging for quite some time, and felt it perfect timing to incorporate these questions and responses:
  • Why did you choose the blogging platform you are using? I choose Edublogs for our class blogging platform for several reasons.  First would definitely be the fact that everyone on Edublogs seems to be focused on education is some fashion.  I wasn’t able to find any blogs on topics that were inappropriate for my students.  Another great safety feature is that there are different levels of blogging.  This gave my students the freedom to create their blogs yet I receive copies of all comments and posts. I also like the gmail shortcut in which I could use my own email address and add a “+#” to the end.  That way none of my student’s email addresses were attached to their blog. Our technology coordinator also approved of the site and unblocked it for our freedom of use during school hours.  Last but certainly not least, would be the fact that Edublogs has a tremendously helpful group of people:  James, Dr. Mike, and Sue Waters.  James and Dr. Mike answer all you technical issues and keep everything running smooth.  Oh and fix thing that you mess up;)  Sue is the Edublog educator geru! Her blog is filled with tips, tutorials, and tons of ideas!  No matter which platform you choose, you will find Sue’s blog helpful.
  • What have you found most easy or difficult in blogging with students? The two hardest things for me would be internet filtering and letting go of perfection.  When we paired up with Ann’s class it took alittle over a week to get her blog unblocked.  Then each one of the student blogs had to be individually unblocked (another week).  We thought we were “good to go” until a student tried to post a comment and we found that all the comment pages for each student had to be unblocked:) The other difficulty for me was letting go of perfection.  It was hard to have students post without me correcting their writing.  But I wanted the post to be their writing NOT mine.  So we stuck to the original plan:  They write a post and have a peer check.  If at anytime they have a question or want an opinion, they can ask me.  Otherwise I just hold mini writing workshops at the beginning of “blogging time.”  Their writing has improved tremendously over the last few months!  Especially their attention to editing.
  • What have you done to make sure your students are blogging safely? We have had several mini workshops on digital citizenship. Students have posted and commented on social and ethical technology issues. One great resource is iSafe. Students post first name last initial only. All accounts were created using teacher email.  Copies of all posts and comments are sent to teacher.
  • What do you think students get out of blogging? confidence, digital citizenship, global connection, writing ownership, education ownership, collaboration, …..
  • How do you find ways for students to get their global audience? There are thousands of ways to get a global audience.  I choose to stay more within an area I already knew, Sue Water’s Blog. She posted a list of classes wishing to connect.  Another thing I feel helped grow our audience was getting involved with twitter.  Several of my “twitter friends” have taken the time to stop by student blogs and comment. Check out our class ClusterMap of global visitors!
  • What recommendations would you give to new teachers to blogging? 1)  Get involved in blogging yourself.  2)  Look at numerous teacher and student blogs for ideas. 3)  Have a detailed plan.  Here’s my class about blogging info. Ill be adding a page on this during the summer. 4)  Get involved building your own PLN through twitter, nings, etc. 5) Start small
It’s hard to put into words the benefits of blogging in my classroom.  The writing element itself is enough to win over an educator.  Just take a look at any student blog and compare their first post to one of their more recent posts.  The same is true about the comments they leave on other blogs.  It has been so easy incorporating other subject matter into my class through the incorporation of blogging.  The students connection to the world would be one of the greatest advantages!
Why did you choose for your students to blog?  What benefits have you seen in your class?

Techie Tuesday: 31 Day Challenge Days 20 – 23

Anyone up to a challenge?  How about two?

I’ve been slowly working my way through the original 31 Day Challenge by Darren Rowse. It is hard to believe there are only 7 more challenges remaining.  As you read in my last post, my class and I joined another challenge – 2009 Blogging Challenge.  This post is actually a reflection on my 31 Day Challenge, but if you are looking for some blogging fun or maybe you would like to just improve your skills, there is still time to join both challenges. 

My last post actually summarizes and reflects on my reader survey for day 20. Throughout this challenge Ive been discussion various things with my PLN. Some of those are readers. The 31 day challenge has been a great kick start to getting readers:) For day 20,  I revisited a survey I conducted awhile back on web 2.0 and wrote a post on the results last week. I will definitely come back to this at a later date and run more surveys. I used poll daddy and it was very quick and easy.  Day 21’s challenge asked us to make someone famous, like I have that ability 🙂 lol.  I did include @ccroad in my last post and asked readers to add her to their twitter.  

I really enjoyed day 22’s challenge to make readers aware of my blog basics.  There were several topic to choose from and I basically choose to cover the creation of my blog and it’s purpose.  This is a great reflection to do regularly!  I am actually still working on day 23 in which we were suppose to go on a dead links hunt. I used the one Sue suggested, W3C link checker. I am still checking links. It did find categories that I had made when creating the blog, but didn’t actually use.  This is a great resource.  After I finish the blog, I will be checking out our school website for deadlinks!

So are you ready for a challenge?  If so, here are two for you to consider:

1)  31 Day Challenge  

wiki:  http://31daychallenge.wikispaces.com
contact:  Mrs. D  tidertechie@gmail.com

2)  2009 Challenge

blog:   http://wyatt67.edublogs.org/2009-all-the-challenges-in-one-spot/
contact: Miss Wyatt  tasteach56@gmail.com