Techie Tuesday: Feeling Bloggy?

blogA Blog, web log, has a variety of purposes in education. Why don’t all educators blog? Probably one of three reasons:  they don’t feel “tech savy” enough, aren’t aware of the various uses, or think it will be time consuming.

Blogs are one of the easiest ways for an educator to interact with students, parents, and the community.  You are able to post information, keep an online journal, disperse information, and share.

Are you still asking yourself, “What is a blog”?  Visit this video, Blogs in Plain English,  before proceeding further.

So, what about the need for technology skills?  If you are able to send an email, you are able to blog.  Free sites such as edublogs and blogger have made it easy!  For either, you basically create an account, activate the account via email, and sign in.  For those with technology phobias, edublogs has you covered with a quick post option right when you log in.  Simply type and publish.

Are you not sure of how to use a blog?  Here are some ideas to get you started:

Share materials and resources
Create a class website
Hold online discussions
Start a book club
Invite guest student posters
Set-up student blogs
Establish a newsletter via blog posts
Create an administrator blog for your thoughts and invite guest posters
Personal webpage on your favorite topics

Check out other blogs for ideas.  Do you need even more ideas? Check these out.

Now, how about time consumption?  If you focus on your thoughts and not the coolest theme or pictures to add to posts, then it only takes as long as it would to send a detailed email.  Some of the best blogs are the simplest in form.

Are you feeling bloggy?

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?

Reflecting About Tidertechie

My students and I are working through the 2009 Blogging Challenge.  Last week’s challenge was to work on our “about page.”  I’m sure this gives a few of my readers chuckles as I am also working through the 31 Day Challenge with several of my PLN friends and have already completed this task once.  Isn’t it funny that you can be given the same task in a short amount of time and still find needed improvements? The experience was especially fun with all the students’ inputs.  Actually as I write this I keep thinking of a couple “about page” changes I haven’t yet completed.


Last week’s class challenge along with day 22 in the 31 day challenge has me reflecting on my overall blog. I started this blog as an extension of my classroom website to bring in more interactive elements.  The process seemed grueling at first not because of the blog itself, but instead the red tape to get the site unblocked for use at school.  I can honestly say I had an entirely different outlook trying to add this element back in November versus in years past.  In the past after one (or maybe two) attempts to get something unblocked I would move on to another avenue that would be “good enough”.  This time was different.  If they wouldn’t unblock it, I would just give my students a weekly blog assignment.            


Yes, I realize that many students don’t have computers at home, but this would give them 7 days in which to complete the relatively short weekly assignment.  We are in a small town with a community center and library within walking distance of many homes.  I also talked my husband into my “much needed” iphone. Thus if a student couldn’t use the resources, they could just use my phone internet to read and post comments.  During January and February, the phone actually came in handy with our connection to Ms. Michaelson’s Norway class.  It took over a month to get the class as well as the individual student’s blogs unblocked.  Then I had to request the comment page for each student:)


Why a new attitude?  First was my “get out of the box” moment when I decided to  get involved with web 2.0 elements even if I couldn’t incorporate them into my class because of internet filter limits.  Next, as I became more involved in web 2.0 elements such as twitter and meet up sessions with people from around the globe, I truly understood that my student’s were being left behind.  


When I first started to design the blog, I had trouble deciding what to include.  I wanted the blog to be just that, a blog.  So I started by revamping our class website.  I striped it down to the basics.  Then I started on the blog.  I decided to record the process through “creating a class blog” posts. Ok, this posting thing is pretty cool, so I quickly decided I would not only use posting for my student information but also for various personal interest in education.  My personal posts (as well as many others) have become great post examples for my students.  Though I don’t post as often as I would like, I know this will change during the summer!  


 The students started by learning about blogs We used the blog daily for assignments.  Then, they each had the opportunity to earn their own blog. The addition of student blogs was definately a highlight to our class blog. We actually change to a Web Design course this week, so I hope we will even have more time for the blogs in the upcoming two weeks.


If you would like to follow our blogging adventure, click the apple rss feed icon on the top right of the page.  To learn more about rss feeds, including setting up your own igoogle page, see Sue Water’s post.

B3: Be Better Blogger

A new year’s resolution I can keep, B³ :  Be a Better Blogger 🙂

While catching up on some of my rss reads, I happened across a post, Life is One Big Top Ten, on Sue Water’s TAFE site .  In it she mentioned Steve Dembo’s 30 Days to Be a Better Blogger. Ok I must admit I am a total geek, but it runs in my genes.  How many people have a 88 year old grandfather that blogs? I have been totally ecstatic that our parish finally opened up a blog site!  I have been waiting for years to have an interactive site for my students.

Since the unblocking (November ’08) of Edublogs, I have been focused on the integration aspect of blogging:

  • Organization of blog pages
  • Steps for students to earn blogs
  • Trial runs with students
  • Finding great widgets
  • Daily Journal dilemma (keep old, use edublogs, revamp)
  • and so on..

I hadn’t really focused on how my blog looks to the rest of the world.  My students love it, so it has to be great, right? LOL  Ok, maybe not:)

I am officially making a New Year’s Resolution to complete Steve Dembo‘s 30 Days to Be a Better Blogger.  Wow!  a resolution I can actually keep:)  I didn’t even take a sneak peak at what was going to happen over the next 30 days of this journey. I have already completed day one which involved revamping my about page.

UPDATE:  Great suggestion @suewaters, I am going to also work through the original challenge,  31 day challenge.  From what I can tell, it won’t be too time consuming to complete both.  It is also broken into two categories, so challenges are different for beginners vs. intermediate.  Pretty cool!

Chuckle, Chuckle, …thought of the day

I have a piece of advice that I “oh so” recently learned. It isn’t a good idea to delete the title of your blog. Im sure someone is thinking, “But why would I ever do that?”. Well, I was helping a student see different ways you can change up a layout with banners and such. We decided to see what it would look like to put the title of the page on a horizontal banner with links under it, instead of at the very top of the page. you can imagine the rest:)

But thanks to Edublogs and of course James:) Everything is back up and running!