ICT for Learning & Teaching in Falkirk Schools

Digital technology to support learning & teaching

Class Blogging as a Classroom Window to the World

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So you want to look at creating a class blog?

Do you have an idea about what to do with a blog, but perhaps not sure where to start? Or perhaps you want to start a blog but are not sure how to make it sustainable with your class? Or perhaps you’ve heard others talking about their class blog and want to see whether it’s for you and your class?

Why blog?

If you are looking at why you might consider class blogging you might find it helpful to see what others have said. Here are some links to helpful resources which provide guidance about the benefits of creating a class blog.

John Johnston of North Lanarkshire Council has created a blog post which sets out advice to consider when starting a class blog: Starting Blogging in the Classroom.

David Mitchell has produced a blogging policy for use in a primary school, which can be adapted to the needs of your own school situation. This sets out what it is hoped pupils will gain from blogging, what safeguards to put in place, and the roles of pupils and teacher.

Margaret Vass at Carronshore Primary School in Falkirk Council has made available her Masters Dissertation: Children’s Online Voices – A Case Study “Can Weblogs, Wikis and other associated emerging social software tools be used to create an effective on-line learning community?” This provides thorough information on why classroom blogging is effective, and the benefits to doing so.

Brainpop has created a blog post with videos where schools explain why to start a class blog, and where you can hear pupils explain what it’s meant for them to have a class blog, in terms of their levels of engagement with their own learning.

Edublogs Curriculum Corner has a host of information about why to blog, ideas about where  and how it will help learning in and out of the classroom, as well as general information about the whole vocabulary of blogging!

Teacher Challenges from Edublogs, a title which may sound daunting, is actually a very helpful step-by-step guide to the whys and hows to setting up a class blog – the delivery method  being to present the steps as a series of easy to digest chunks. And it also encourages teachers to comment on their progress on this site, and add a link to their class blog as it starts and develops so that this provides an incentive and support to progress. A very helpful site to guide you through reflecting on why you want to create a class blog, and providing guidance and peer support to achieving your objective.

5 Ways to Provide Parents a Window Into Your Classroom – a post by teacher Catlin Tucker providing ideas for sharing the learning which goes on in the classroom with parents and carers – including using a blog to collate pupil blogs, and the rationale for doing so.

6 Reasons to Blog with your Class – a post by Katelyn Fraser which describes the benefits for  learners, their families and the wider community when a class blogs.

Before You Start Blogging

So what might you do with your own class blog? Before starting your own class blog just take some time to look at other class blogs. There are many options to how you might use a class blog, and finding one which looks similar in purpose to your own thinking is a good place to start, and from which to take ideas about what purpose and direction you might see your own class blog developing. Here are some examples of class blogs and directories of classblogs around the world:

Class blogs

While there are many class blogs which could be individually highlighted here, Carronshore Primary School in Falkirk Council, under the direction of Margaret Vass, is one to mention here on this blog since it served to inspire many teachers both in Falkirk schools and further afield. It is an excellent example of a class blog which combines a class blog (updated and commented upon by pupils), along with links to individual pupil blogs and eportfolios. There are also examples of the guidelines shared with pupils and parents on the blogs.

Glow Blogs – Scottish Glow Blogs – Glow Blogs provide the option for private or public facing blogs – this link lets you browse through a directory of all of the public Glow Blogs in Scottish schools.

ScotEduBlogs – this provides an aggregation of posts from Scottish education blogs, whether by teachers or class blogs or by pupils. You can browse through an alphabetical list, or filter the list to find blogs in a specific geographical area of Scotland, or to find only teacher blogs or class blogs.

EduBlogs is an international directory of education blogs which can be filtered to find just primary class blogs, or by different areas, or indeed to browse through.

Which Blogging Tool to Use?

Well, there are many options to getting started. And many different blogging platforms or tools to consider. Any and all have been used somewhere in the world by schools for class blogs!  However, the following can be recommended specifically for use in schools because that is their focus – they all have the concerns of school users uppermost in their feautures. The support of like-minded education-based people is an important consideration when looking to start or to develop a blog – as well as feaures specific to school users such as filters, measures to stop links to inappropriate sites, and much, much more – including the knowledge that there is a wide knowledge base of teachers using the same tools. And whichever tool you do end up using it is still very worthwhile looking at the other tools below simply because of the cross-fertilisation of ideas, and the examples created using one blogging platform can apply to whichever one you use.

Glow Blogs for Scottish Schools

Scottish schools have free access to creating Glow Blogs, and a Glow Blog is highly recommended as the tool to use if you are in Scottish education. Support for staff setting up and using Glow Blogs can be found within Scottish schools and Local Authorities, as it is a common platform which all can access (click here for a start-up guide to creating a Glow Blog. Glow Blogs use WordPress MU (which is a platform used by many other blog providers, which means you have an even wider pool of people worldwide from whom to draw support and advice) but the big advantage to Glow users is that it is the same one username and password which lets Glow users also access all of the tools and resources in Glow itself, while at the same time being used to create and maintain a Glow Blog. And a Glow Blog can have different access rights set by the teacher – so that a single member of staff, or a group of staff, can have full administrator rights to looking after the blog (including choosing whether to moderate posts and comments before being seen by everyone else), and can also choose to have different access rights for pupils so they could add posts. A teacher can also choose to have a Glow Blog kept private only to the class (which some teachers like in their first steps into starting a blog while they are still developing their own skills), or  to be public to the world (which is where the class gains from the huge benefits of having feedback from a wider audience of parents, the local community and around the world).

Glow Blogs provide the flexibility to provide the framework to suit the skill and comfort levels of different teachers. Click here for resources for starting blogging with Glow Blogs

Primary Blogger

Primary Blogger is a free Blogging platform for UK Primary School teachers, pupils and classes. The site has a guide for teachers, lesson plans, lesson ideas, and a community of other teachers throughout the UK sharing tips, and answering questions. In addition, Primary Blogger has a wide range of add-ons which teachers and pupils can add to their blogs to enhance their experience of using a blog – and they are specifically geared up for schools. They also provide the option for secondary schools to choose “SecondaryBlogger” or “AcademyBlogger” blog addresses instead of “PrimaryBlogger.”

Edublogs

Edublogs is the world’s largest education-specific blogging platform, focused on teachers and pupils with educational support and features. Edublogs are geared up to schools, have a wide range of tools specifically for schools, have features built into the system to suit the requirements of schools, and offer a wide range of support materials for schools to help them get the most out of using a blog in a school.

ClassBlogs.Us

Classblogs.us is a US blogging tool aimed specifically at schools. It is free to use though has premium features if these are required. It is designed to allow a teacher to have a private blog just for the pupils in their class or classes, or for individual pupil eportfolios, or for public blogs – all aimed at education.

What to do with your Class Blog

Sometimes it helps to draw inspiration from how others have used their class blogs to engage their pupils:

How to start with a blog by Jacqui Sharp is an extensive collection of tips, ideas, resources and helpful guides to starting a blog in a classroom.

Interesting Ideas for Class Blogs provides ideas, tips and suggestions from many teachers from around the world for different ways you can use a class blog. It is an evolving document as new ideas are added by different teachers. And one idea might be just the spark of inspiration which will start your blog, or rejuvenate the involvement of pupils in an established class blog looking for a fresh angle.

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano has shared a very visual graphic-novel comic-poster style guide to class blogging “It’s Not About the Tools, It’s About the Skills” – this sets out helpful information about class blogging with pupils in a way which would be useful for a class wall display.

Of the many things pupils want to add to their blogs, they really like to add images to their blogs to represent themselves (known as avatars), rather than having their own photograph. John McLear has created a very nice site of links to various school-friendly avatar-creators. This also includes a helpful video guide to using the tools and adding them to a blog. Another similar wiki which describes various avatar creator for school use, along with helpful guidance for creating them, can be found here.

Top Tips for Blogging with Pupils – this is a blog post by Kathleen Morris with advice about getting started, ideas to keep going, and useful links to further resources. Kathleen has also created a helpful guide to blogging specifically with the youngest school pupils in Primary 1 and 2.

Pupils Blogging Challenge from Edublogs is a very helpful tool for teachers to use at the start of their class blogging. It is aimed at the pupils themselves and presents the development of a class blog as a series of challenges throughout the school year – each challenge sets the task and then provides the guidance, links and resources to then complete each task. So this provides a useful framework, support and inspiration to developing a class blog together with a class.

Well Done Blog is clever use of a free mobile phone app to quickly take a picture of a pupil’s piece of work and upload it in just a few seconds to a blog.

Margaret Vass has produced a Prezi presentation which she used with her pupils of P6V at Carronshore Primary School to present to parent groups about both how online tools can be used to enhance the learning going on in their class, as well as all of the steps they took to protect their safety online.

Linking with other classes in schools elsewhere, whether nearby or geographically remote, can reap huge benefits for the pupils (and the teachers!) involved. Sites such as Primary Blogger, Edublogs, Flat Classrooms, ePals and Quadblogging are just some of the ways to easily make these first connections, opening each classroom up to be a window to a wider world.

Blogging for Teaching and Learning is a presentation by Maggie Verster, designed as a self-study guide for teachers to learn about blogging in education. This includes some of the different purposes for which blogs cna be used and some practical tips about getting started and being inspired to develop existing blogs.

Looking for more about class blogging?

Blogging resources from WebTools4u2Use include many examples of how blogging can be used for schools, rubrics for pupils to evaluate blogs, posts and commenting, and a host of examples of blogging tools for different contexts used by schools.

Ultimate Guide to Use of Blogs in Teaching by Med Kharbach takes you through what a blog, is, how to use in class, how to set up, what steps to take, where else to look for examples and much more.

How do you fit blogging into classroom routine?

Teacher Ideas on Fitting Blogging into Classroom Practice – ideas shared with Edna Sackson (@whatedsaid) by many educators on how they integrate class blogging in their classrooms.

And if you are looking for ideas about how to manage classroom blogging in the daily and weekly routine of a classroom, perhaps with access to only one PC, or a timetabled schedule of access to multiple devices, then click here for a post by Kathleen Morris on how she integrated blogging in the routine of the classroom.

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Class Blogging as a Classroom Window to the World « ICT for ... | Improving Engagement Through ICT | Scoop.it

  2. What a great summary and valuable collection of resources for anyone interested in classroom blogging.
    In particular, I was interested in the research article (yet to read in full). We love blogging at our school in Australia, but still wonder if there is evidence of improved student outcomes from blogging. As teachers, we see many advantages for connecting and collaborating and even just affirming our practice but this sort of research is very interesting

    Tnanks

  3. Thank you for that kind comment – I’m glad you found the post helpful

  4. Hi Malcolm,
    Thanks for this great post. Realise it’s older now, but none the less, still with some great insight. The link to ‘Children’s Online Voices – A Case Study “Can Weblogs, Wikis and other associated emerging social software tools be used to create an effective on-line learning community?”’ is dead, do you have a current one or contact for Margaret Vass, I’m really interested to read her dissertation.
    Thanks,
    Ross.

  5. Thank you for the comment Ross – and apologies for the delay in replying. The dissertation link is now updated and can be found here: http://en.calameo.com/books/0000098176e01cbd9c1ae

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