Blogging in the Classroom- Rationale and Step-by-Step


The What:
Students create a public or private blog on a topic of their choice. They will be responsible for regularly creating a website that hosts an introduction page, two resource pages, a posting page, an annotated webliography page, and a PLN (Personal Learning Network) page. While working to fulfill the website requirements, they will be responsible for regularly posting to their blog. In addition to working on their own blogs, students will be responsible for visiting classmates’ sites and commenting on work.

The Why:
Students will take the research, writing, and publishing process much more seriously when they have an audience other than the teacher. They will publish their works knowing that their own friends and strangers will be reading their words- IT BECOMES AUTHENTIC. When students put intrinsic weight on the end, the process suddenly becomes much more interesting. Teachers will find students actually want to revise their essays.
Troy Cockrum suggested another way an independent blogging site can be useful, especially to 11th and 12th grade: it gives students a way to begin understanding how to create their own PLNs for college-type situations. While Joel McHale et al on The Community had many fun and interesting adventures, the premise of the show, a regular study group and study session is what most college students should seek out and try to find. Inevitably, a blog will force the blogger to communicate and discuss ideas with other bloggers. Students will learn how to create their own communities when they need them later on.

The Who and The Where:
This blogging assignment will work in any discipline for any age. My assignment below is designed for 12th grade English. Foreign language, history, science, math- a teacher can create a blog as a formative or summative assessment in his/her subject area.
I use a public blog for my 12th graders, however there are several educational sites that allow teachers to assign private blog sites to students that have restrictions on who sees the content.
For public blogs, I would suggest Blogger or Weebly. They are free sites with simple drag and type boxes that students can fill in. The sample blog below has been created with Weebly. Blogger has an app that allows a blogger to directly post from his/her phone.
If you are looking for a private blog site for education try edublogs- it is highly recommended by users on Edmodo.

The When:
All year. But after you teach the basics of Internet etiquette (see below).

The How:
There are a few lessons to be taught before students can be let loose on the Internet. This is a subjective list- your circumstances and students may require more or less prior knowledge before embarking on their journeys.
  • Fair Use/Creative Commons/Copyright- know what these things are and what they can legally post on the Internet.
  • Internet Etiquette: how to comment, receive comments, broach topics and people
  • Research Skills: Use RSS feeds to research the topic and an Evernote account to cull and organize the collected information
  • Legal Issues: Ask your AP of Discipline to be your devil’s advocate. He/she can think of scenarios that you never would have thought of. Find out what the perimeters are for posts students can make and teach those perimeters to the students and the parents.

How to Assess:

Follow the blogs using an RSS Feed. I like Feedly. Assess based on each piece of writing or as the project as a whole.


Interested?

See my Lesson Write-Up.

See my Internet Agreement

See my Sample Site for Students

Step-By-Step

Before the Unit:

  1. Decide what blogging platform students will use.  I had planned to let my students use whichever they wanted and then bring their individual feeds in on a RSS feed to moderate.  However, I was given the opportunity to pilot Hapara Teacher Dashboard that very same semester and made the decision to require that my students use Blogger through our district's GAFE account.
  2. Create a "Blogging Usage Agreement" for your students and their parents to sign.  You can see a copy of mine here but you will need to approve it with your own EdTech to use.
Before the Students Are Given Access to Their Blogging Accounts:
  1. Give students some time to think about the topic they'll be blogging about.  Allow them to do some internet research on what they might post about and what they might put on their informational/static pages (I require 4 additional pages in addition to the post page).
  2. Introduce students to Google Reader and show them how to pull feeds into it by searching within Google Reader or bringing it in by URL.  I then ask my students to pull in at least 5 websites plus CopyBlogger to a RSS feed reader (we like Pulse) on their devices.
  3. Introduce students to Evernote.  Show them the ability to separate their notes into folders (just like a binder!).  Show them how to access their Evernote email.
  4. Require students be able to know how to find a good article on their blog topic, email the article to their Evernote account to automatically drop in a folder they've designated for their topic.   (See how to do this here.)
  5. Have students research: "How to create a good blog" and discuss their findings.
  6. Share this simple worksheet that will help them plan their blogs and require that students spend some time to plan it out, thoughtfully.
  7. Have students research: "What makes good blog content" and discuss their findings.
  8. Have a dry-run post/blog day.  Ask students to pull interesting articles to Evernote and handwrite a sample blog post for the week.  Are they happy with the content?  Do they think the topic they chose will sustain them throughout the grading period?  You can use this worksheet for students to take notes and plan each post.  Printed back to front, you'll only need to print them out every four posts.

Help students see how the tools they'll be using contribute to create their end product.  I use this to show my students that this is what they'll most likely begin using to do any sort of future research.
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