Thursday, February 12, 2009

Blogging with Students - Where do you start?

I have an elementary teacher who is interested in having her students blog. She's new to blogging herself, but is enthusiastic about getting her kids (5th graders) started and will be using Edublogs are her platform. Although I am extremely excited that she wants to do this, and I plan on doing whatever I can to assist her, I do not have any first-hand experience with student blogging. I can (and have) provided her with a few links related to student blogging, but I have a few questions about how she should progress.

1) For elementary students, what is a good "permission" form to send home? Does anyone have a sample?

2) How should she begin? Should she start with one blog where her students can be "authors" or should she set up a blog for each student?

3) If she sets up a blog for each student, does she have moderation control over approving new posts first?

These were just a few questions that popped into my head, but I'm sure there will be others. I want this to be as smooth of an experience for her as possible, so I'm asking for helpful advice from those of you who have been there. How should she begin? What hiccups might she expect? What problems have you run into and how were they handled? Thank you in advance for your help and I will compile the advice given in a new blog post.

Photo credit: DavidGilmour on Flickr
Photo credit : BJMCCRAY on Flicker


Jim Gates said...

My first bit of advice - talk to administration first. Find out what their concerns are. They may, for example, insist that you use a platform that allows moderation. Or they may insist on certain naming conventions for the students. You DON'T want to surprise the administration with anything.

Second, talk to parents BEFORE you start. Let them know what a blog is, why you're going to use it, and how you're going to protect the identity of the kids. This is another group that you don't want to surprise.

Third, don't feel that you must grade their blogs. That's not what it's for. It's for them to feel free enough to speak about your topics without worry about a grade.

There you go. My opinion, FWIW.

Caroline OBannon said...

Thank you Jim! I did tell her that she needs to get parental permission, but bringing the administration into the "loop" wasn't something I told her. In our district, we don't have a student blogging policy or any other kind of guidelines. I'm not even sure our school administrators would know the options for moderation and naming. We are using naming conventions for our student wiki accounts though, and I think we could go with that.

Anonymous said...

One of the problems I had with blogging students, is that I had to take an active role in visiting their blogs & other students had to do the same. But most of them weren't familiar with RSS. When I used a VLE instead (for blogging), we all could see 'new actions' on blogs and respond to them. Made it much easier & it was a closed environment.

KMulford said...

Blogging is the final 50% of the content in my computer class for middle school students called, "Under Construction: The Digital Me."

We are a small district with a very conservative community and board, so we spent a good deal of time educating both about the importance of guiding students' decisions through a variety of practical experiences.

Students demonstrate their understanding of responsibility online through a variety of activities prior to blogging, and ultimately "earn" their blog space by commenting respectfully and thoughtfully on other classes' blogs for a couple of weeks.

This year, I chose ePals because of the seamless e-mail and blogspace feature, and because the security levels included many features I liked -- such as every post and every comment gets approved by me. However, they have grown faster than their service can handle, so we may be abandoning them for another service next year.

I don't assign topics, because I think the purpose of a blog is to write abut self-selected topics, and I'd have a hard time assessing students' abilities to make good decisions about what to post and what not to if I assigned topics.

I do require students to keep a "Top Ten List" of self-selected topics available to write about, and I do have an approximate quantity and quality standard which all posts must meet before I approve them, This is made clear to students through modeling and talking through the process.

I have few problems getting the quantity and quality I expect. I don't grade posts per se, but in order to get an "A" in the class, students must have five quality posts approved by me and published in the final five weeks, and must support their fellow bloggers by commenting regularly on others' posts.

Mike Summers said...

Good luck with this. I'd certainly like to know how this all turns out. Although I work for an IT company, I am absolutely convinced that successful technology integration really has very little (if anything) with the tools themselves than with how the tools are used. It's about process not products. So please let me know, should time permit, what tool the teacher ended up using, how s/he informed and engaged stakeholders, but most importantly how she tied the use of blogs to an educational goal or standard. I have a blog and I'm on plurk so hopefully we'll stay in touch. Good luck!!

Grace Kat said...

Last year, I just jumped in to blogging with my class of year 3 students.

I didn't have to create a parental permission form as our school issues one re publishing to the internet for the year.

After starting the class blog, I read blog posts by teachers who were sharing their student-blogging experiences. I agree with KMulford that learning how to comment on other student blogs is important for students to learn.

I only gave eight of my students their own blogs on which they could choose the topic. I had post moderation and comment-moderation rights. This year I won't give my students individual blogs, but have them add their username to the "category" section of each of their posts.

Here are my diigo links for beginning classroom blogging, which include a couple of examples of parental permission forms.

J Allen said...

When I was a 5th grade teacher, I used Gaggle with my students, giving me control over everything they were doing. I'm guessing it's too late to change, but I really do like Gaggle.

I think just like regular bloggers, kids need to realize that blogging is a conversation. Maybe the teacher should go through the 30 Days to better blogging (

Good luck! I'll be interested to hear how it goes.

Caroline OBannon said...

Thank you everyone for your comments and advice!

Mr. Boyer said...

With my elementary students, the only blogging that they do is add comments to blog posts that I have created. I know that this takes some true blogging away, but it is easy to monitor and the students enjoy reading what each other write. This lets the kids also know that they are going to be held responsible for what they post on the internet.
If she wants to take blogging slowly, she may just want to get students used to commenting to a blog post.
Our classroom example is:

I too have used Gaggle and even better, Kids really liked but I felt I could do the same things with resources I was already using.