Wednesday, November 24

Blogging with Kids - Wish I Started Sooner!

At back to school night this year, I explained to the parents that the fourth graders would be blogging this year.  It took me until this week to get it off the ground and boy, is it soaring.  My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.  Lesson learned: make the time for technology.

One of my goals this year was to integrate technology more into my teaching.  I often heard myself state that I love technology, but was I using it as much as I could?  I spent time this summer researching an abundance of tools, signed up for what feels like a million different sites, but was I actually using the technology I claimed to embrace?

To be fair, I work at a small school whose teachers don’t use a lot of technology.  I’m pretty much an enigma and the go-to-girl when people have problems with their computers.  Trust me, I don’t know what I’m doing the majority of the time.  I just read help menus really well.  I’m the only one who has their own class website.  When I try to explain my passion for Twitter, well, let’s just say the crickets chirp pretty loudly.  It is amazing how much a person can communicate with a blank stare.  (I do have my mentee signed up and tweeting, though – hooray!)

I had so many goals this year and I was determined to start blogging with the students. My first step was I switched my class website over to iWeb, which made my love of photos/video so much easier and a massive time saver!  I taught the students about podcasts and some kids are actually using them for studying on their iPods. Our weekly Wallwisher is a favorite, too.  What was the hold-up with blogging?

I wasn’t sure where to begin.  I kept seeing so many different sites that other people were using and I had trouble choosing.  I saw that many teachers were using kidblog.org, but I wanted more pizzazz and color for the themes.  I signed up for both wordpress.com and blogger, and created individual blogs for the students.  (Luckily, I have a small class.)  On the other hand, I didn’t want to get involved with email addresses with the kids.  I wanted to control the posting of blogs and the comments.   I admit I have control tendencies, but I also wanted make sure I wasn’t borrowing trouble.

I went back to where I was the most comfortable: iWeb.  I created a new page on our class website and wrote a blog about blogging. I took what they had written in class, typed it and created new “entries” for each of them.  I also put a photo next to each student’s entry.  Technically, they do not have their own blog – they have entries on a page on our class website. However, the look and feel of it shouts “blog.” 

Next, I wrote a comment on each of their blogs. When the students came to school the next day, I showed them what I had done.  It was like Christmas morning.  They were practically pushing me out of the way to start reading and commenting. 

Aside: For some unknown reason to me, if you use Safari as your internet browser, you can’t always leave a comment.  Firexfox and Internet Explorer seemed to be working.  I tweeted this problem on Twitter and no one seems to know why.  I have found if you refresh the browser, the comment will appear.  

When the students went home, they were filled with excitement and actually got their parents to look at our site.  One mom wrote a comment on every student’s blog.  The computer teacher at our school did the same.  Then, @rcantrell, a principal in San Antonio, Texas, left a very detailed and amazing comment on one student’s blog.  The excitement level rose another notch.  All of the students were awe-struck that someone so far away, and a principal, too, took the time to write a comment on a student’s blog.  Wow!  I was impressed, too.  I sent Mr. Cantrell a message thanking him for his time and the gift that he gave to this student. 

To keep the momentum going, I told the students that they could blog anytime, anywhere they wanted.  All they had to do was send me an email and I would put what they wrote on our site.  Well, they all went home and started writing.  Some emailed, some came in with blogs on paper. During our Reading Workshop time, I allowed students to rotate to our class computers to read,  type or comment.  This worked so smoothly that every student now has a second blog ready to go.

Is this the best way to blog with students?  I have no idea.  All I do know is when students are excited about writing; I must be doing something right.  The parents are involved and checking the class website, which is another goal reached. 

I would love to know how other teachers found their way to blogging with students.  Do you have technology support people at your school that can help you?  Have I missed a step along the way?  Is there a gaping hole in my approach that I don’t see?  I’m so willing to learn more.

My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. 




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