We’ve all heard that kids today have no fear when it comes to technology. I have found that to be true for some children. However, many of my students seem to fear failure—open-ended tasks freak them out, especially my top students. A task like post a blog about your reading is met with questions, concerns, and more.
We began the foray into blogging this year in two separate venues—Kidblog for individual blogs and Weebly for our classroom blog. You might wonder why I would go from having no class blogs last year to managing two sites in one year. I’m not going to lie—it was a big jump. The decision to create two blogs was made after examining my goals for blogging:
- Give my students an online place to publish their work.
- Open up their world to an online community.
- Teach students about digital literacy.
- Strengthen our classroom community.
- Have authentic reading and writing assignments.
When creating classroom blogs, I knew I wanted a space for each child to host his or her own writing. There are several options out there, but I settled on Kidblog for this purpose. I have three separate reading classes, and each class has its own site on Kidblog. Because my students are only 11 years old, I have our Kidblog accounts set as private. Students in each class can comment on other students’ blogs from all three classes, but the blogs are not open to the public. I also have the comments set to be moderated by me.
So far this year we’ve used Kidblog as a place to post about what we are reading. Students post book reviews and short summaries on the site. Other kids get book recommendations from classmates. I like the format because I feel that it is an authentic reading response, similar to one on my own blog. I like the private feel to our blogs on Kidblog because I think my students are using the comments as an opportunity to post to each other and strengthen the bonds of our classroom relationships.
Our classroom blog on Weebly is not private (although that is an option). Although I did want our blogs to strengthen our classroom community, I also wanted to give my students the chance to see the power of the Internet. With some trial and error, we have figured out the best way to use Weebly among our three classes.
One student in my homeroom is our “blog scheduler” for the week. Any student among the three classes who would like to post can contact the scheduler. He or she writes their name on our giant wall calendar on an open day. The topic of their blog is completely up to them. They are welcome to write collaboratively with other students or on their own. The only requirements are that they create their post in Google Docs and share the post with me before their assigned day. I then copy and paste their posts into the blog.
I like Weebly as a spot to host our classroom blog because the students have been able to get comments from people across the country. They cheer when complete strangers comment on their posts. They look forward to checking out the comments and new posts from their classmates. I love that this blog has given them a spot to write on any topic of interest to them.
We all know that we are raising children in a digital age. One job I have taken on as a teacher is educating them on what we should share online and what we shouldn’t. We have ongoing conversations not only about cyber-bullying, but also about using the Internet for good. This week I shared the following video with my students:
The effect was powerful. Although my students are too young to have Twitter accounts, I saw an increase in comments on blogs. Students were trying to post as many “sincere compliments” as possible. I hope to see this trend continue as we work to make our online community as well as our school community a more positive place.
Even with all of our class discussions and lessons on “how to” post and comment, I still had many students nervous about taking the leap into online blogging. It was that worry of failing, of not getting it right rearing its ugly head. When it was almost Halloween, I decided a little bit of bribery was in order.
For one week I suspended our weekly required response (which can be online or in a notebook) and instead offered two incentives to get my students online. If they posted on Kidblog, they would receive extra credit for their post. The second bribe? If they put a constructive comment on someone else’s blog, they would earn one piece of Halloween candy. My thought was this: Maybe a little bribery would entice them to try blogging. Did it work? You bet.
In our first three weeks of blogging, roughly 20-30 percent of the students participated. Those most consistently online amounted to roughly 16-24 of my 80 students. Two months later that number is closer to 75 percent, with 60 of the 80 trying it out. Many of the kids who didn’t choose to post a blog left comments, bringing the percentage of those who were online near 90 percent. I still have a few who are nervous, but it is a much smaller group. My plan is to meet with the kids who haven’t ventured online in small groups on Monday in each class and walk them through the steps as a group with a guided lesson. With added support, I believe we will all be comfortable in our online space.
Jumping into blogging this year has been a worthwhile venture. Although time consuming and, at times, difficult to manage, the overall payoff is huge. My students have become part of something larger than our classroom. They are learning the skills needed to navigate our online world. And they are coming together as a learning community. Classroom blogging has opened up new avenues for my students to publish their work, practice digital literacy, and make connections. Want to try it out? Feel free to stop by our blog and leave a comment or ask a question. We would be glad to connect.