So, I’ve been thinking about student blogs.
I won a free upgrade to Edublogs-Pro as a prize at the Reform Symposium over the summer. (I love prizes.) The upgrade would allow be to upgrade up to 50 student blogs as well. That way, video and audio can get embedded on the blog and there are no ads. Great! So, student blogging was on my list of things to try this year. (see my post about new year ideas here.)
I’ve had a class blog for the past 2 years. We use it mainly for language arts-related activities and a lot of the comments are required work. It has been a great experiment. I am asking students to write more creatively. Students are enjoying the options, giving each other feedback, and getting a lot of thinking and writing practice in the process. We are learning how to be a digital community of learners as well as a face-to-face community. Towards spring last year, I had students take over facilitating discussions on the blog. It was their idea, and they took it very seriously. It was really great to see.
So, this year, we have our class blog up and running and prize-in-hand, I was ready to start student blogging. We’ve talked, multiple times, about appropriate use. I’ve sent a letter to parents describing the plan and the safety aspects. Parents have returned the letter, with signatures. We’ve made charts of potential ideas for posts based on interests (partly stemming from our “5E Day” event-read about it here.).We were ready to go.
The only problem was I had all kinds of trouble with Edublogs. Links don’t work to activate accounts, etc, etc. My class blog is on wordpress and I’m pretty good at all the “back-office” stuff. But, after a number of hours setting up accounts, or not, I had to walk away from the computer. So, I checked out kidblogs and set up an entire class with blogs and passwords in about 15 minutes. The thing is, it’s not at all attractive, and I am a visual person. Just looking at that plain old list of names and posts makes me sad. I discussed the situation with some folks at school and got a number of different responses. Finally, I showed my students the choices, trying really hard not to sway them one way or the other. And the vast majority (by this I mean all but 1 or 2) wanted an edublog. And, because they’re my kids (just not my personal kids) I went back for another round with Edublogs. This time I was victorious.
So, today we started writing on the blogs. Most had written or at least had begun a post last week. We toured the dashboard, wrote, changed themes. There was a lot going on, even considering I had only half the class at a time.
I set up all the student blogs under my account and then added the students as contributors. This allows them to write posts, but means I must approve them before they are published. I, wrongly as far as I can tell so far, guessed that I could get to everything that was awaiting my approval easily or at least know it was there. Nope. I have to go to each dashboard, click “posts” and then I can tell if one is waiting. I will have to check the settings and see if there is some way to at least get a notification, like I do with for waiting comments.
On the very bright side, the kids are really excited. I heard, “I love my blog!” more than once this afternoon. And, by the time I got back to them this evening to approve posts, etc. there was even a comment on one. I’m going to think positively and figure I will get faster at working with Edublogs. I’m enjoying reading a number of the blogs already!
Next up, a “Blogger’s Cafe” in the classroom.