Sunday, June 28, 2009

Setting up a classroom blog site - putting theory into practice

Last week I set up a classroom blog for a Year 7 & 8 class at Villa Maria. This was an incredibly valuable process in terms of gaining a better understanding of the practicalities involved in the process. It is one thing to create a person blog that you update and manage in your own time. A blog that you have complete control and responsibility over. It is a very different thing to create a classroom blog. A blog that will be used by students, and potentially viewed by parents.

So how did I go about this process and what did I learn along the way that would be valuable lessons to share?

- It was important to ensure that the creation of a blog was a collective process between me and the students. If students are involved in the creation stage, then they ultimately take a greater degree of ownership for it and are more likely to maintain it in a responsible manner. I guess the pride they feel in having created it means that they have a vested interest in ensuring that it continues to be used (and not abused) by people.

- When setting up the blog I worked with a small group of students who were selected by the teacher. I had two year 7s and two year 8s. I don’t think I would set up the blog with any more than 4 students as it would get too complicated in terms of each person sharing their opinions on layout/design etc. The other good thing about blogger is that you can always go back and change the design/layout at a later stage if you want to.

- Once the students had set up the blog I needed to send out an e-mail to each student inviting them to join the blog. This was more problematic than I had envisaged as some e-mails got ‘lost’ in cyberspace and it took a while to add in each student’s e-mail address. It also got me thinking how you would do this in a classroom where students didn’t have their own e-mail accounts. I spoke with a friend who uses blogs in her classroom and she explained that there is a way that you can ‘add’ people to your g-mail account giving them a separate log-in but keeping a single e-mail address. This is something I will have to explore further to see how teachers navigate this obstacle.

- After morning tea the whole class came to the computer room so that I could teach a lesson on blogging. I decided that before I got them on their blog I wanted to cover some important aspects of blogging with them (see attached powerpoint). These included:
• What do we know about blogs?
• How do we want to use our blog?
• Internet Safety and Responsible Behaviour Guidelines
• Writing a blog post
• Commenting on a blog post

- Approaching the setting up of a blog in this way allowed a number of discussions to take place about what kind of blog they wanted, the kinds of things they wanted on it, and issues of security and accessibility. It was decided that this blog will initially be visible only to the students and teacher in the class. They decided that they will use the blog for a few weeks and assess how things are going. Is it being used? Is it being used appropriately? Is it easy to update (or are we spending a lot of class time doing it)? It is adding value to our learning (inside and outside of the class). At the end of this time they will then ask themselves some new questions:
• Would we like to allow our families/friends access to this blog?
• Would we like to add our blog to the school intranet so that other classes can view it?
• Is a blog site something that the other intermediate classes could benefit from too? Would we like to help them set up blog sites for their classes?

- Part of the intro to blogging involved students exploring other blog sites (especially ones created by school students).

- It was important to establish ground rules in terms of the blog. The most important ground rule related to ‘appropriateness’ of posts. To emphasise this point I modelled examples of different things that could be included on the blog and we discussed whether we thought these things were appropriate. Ultimately we made the distinction between the things we would share on a social networking site like Facebook and those that we wanted on this blog which was set up to share the work of students in the class (and achievements and interests outside of class - that are linked to learning)

- Language: We made the decision that this is a formal blog site and therefore students need to use correct spelling and grammar when posting.

- Labels: Over the next week students are going to develop a list of labels to use in their blog postings. This will help with the categorizing of posts on the site and for searching.

1 comment:

  1. It is great to see that they have started consolidating their labels on the class website - this will make the site much easier for people to navigate and for posts to be archived.