Last week I asked for assistance regarding blogging with students for the first time. Since I'm not a classroom teacher, I don't feel qualified to offer guidelines for the teacher in my district who is interested in blogging with her 5th grade students. However, there are members of my PLN who are experienced, and this is a summary of the advice they offered.
- Talk to administration first - This isn't something that I had thought of myself, so I was very grateful that Jim Gates brought up this suggestion. Without the administration on board, the whole project could fall flat. Their support and understanding is essential when embarking on a new project such as this.
- Talk to parents BEFORE you start- I had already planned on recommending this, but I didn't think about this aspect of it: "Let them know what a blog is." (Jim Gates) We certainly cannot assume that every parent automatically knows what a blog is, what it's for and the value of its use in the classroom.
- Commenting on others' blogs is important - Grace Kat echoed Kymberli Mulford's sentiment that commenting is an important element of student blogging and not necessarily a skill that comes naturally. Commenting both appropriately and meaningfully has to be modeled and learned.
Steve Kirkpatrick (MrKp on Twitter) encouraged commenting on others' blogs (not in the classroom). "Get a conversation going." J Allen reminded that "just like regular bloggers, kids need to realize that blogging is a conversation." Amen to both pieces of advice.
- Don't feel that you must grade the blogs - Again, I never would have thought to offer this piece of advice, which I did receive from several people. Jim Gates made the point that the blog is there for the kids to feel free enough to speak without worrying about being graded. I can definitely see that if the students attempt to blog knowing that their every word will be critiqued how that could inhibit their writing process.
Coming from another angle regarding grading, Kimberli Mulford (aka @kmulford on Plurk) offered her perspective. She doesn't post grades on individual blog posts, but due to the nature of her class, she does have to grade the students. Instead of assessing posts, she provides students with a standard "bar" to meet in order to get an "A", which for her students is to have five quality approved posts in the final five weeks, and they must support their fellow bloggers by commenting regularly on others' posts.
Kimberli went on to explain that she does have a quantity and quality standard which all posts must meet before she approves them, which is made clear to students through modeling and talking through the process.
- Maintain moderation rights on posts and comments - I happen to agree with this completely and had already offered this advice. As much as we'd love to give our students free reign, it's important to moderate both posts and comments to ensure quality, substantive content, as well as appropriateness.
- Blogging Platforms - I received a mixed bag of comments regarding various platforms available for student blogging. Edublogs, which I had mentioned in my post that the teacher was considering, has advertisements unless you pay. Of those who offered advice, here are the platforms they are currently using: Wordpress, VLE, ePals, and Edublogs. Which she will end up using is up in the air as of right now. I, personally, have mixed feelings regarding advertisements. Regardless that they are "suitable" for the content of the blog, I'm not a fan of them. I had considered ePals, but Kymberli indicated that they have grown faster than their service can support. We do not have an internal option to offer, so I'm wondering what might be the best path to take for a first-time blogging teacher?
Added information 2-27-09
I thought I would add a couple of lists of blogging resources that I have compiled in Diigo.
Blogging Examples: Student and Classroom
Permission Letters - Forms for blogging/wiki use
Advice Photo: Wurzle on Flickr
A grade Photo: Futureofmath on Flickr