Setting up class blogs

My friend Marie sought advice from one of my mailing lists on setting up a class blog. Her request is ” I have been approached to facilitate a blog for distance education students (juniors). This is an exciting opportunity to enable distance ed students to connect and I am just wondering the best way to go about this. My issues are”…as follows. My responses have been added to this post as there may be others who read this blog who might be interested or wish to comment on or add to my advice. John Pearce also wrote a wonderfully detailed response and I learnt from it as well. So make sure you read his post.


1.  I am wonderng whether it would be better to have one blog that the
students can contribute to rather than a blog each.

Response:- Initially I would have one blog that students contribute to. This would mean they save their files on a drive and allow you as teacher to grab them either by email attachments and upload them onto the blog post. More work for you, but when confidence with the system grows, revert to individual blogs if all goes well. Or, they could all be added as users rather than administrators. What is role of tutor parents? I would encourage parents to comment back on posts as much as possible.


2. Wondering whether to start off with a ‘closed’ network so that students
can freely post images of themselves, family etc?

Response:- Except in exceptional circumstances, I would never advise closed blogs as this destroys the very nature and potential powerful learning outcomes that can arise. One reason our student blogs are so successful, is that they are ‘out there’, students love them online, comments come in from global students and teachers and this encourages them to continue writing more effectively. The connectedness with other global citizens is something that needs to be experienced to understand the amazing increased learning outcomes. Sharing, connectedness and social networking is what kids love and thrive on. If parental permission is provided, wallow photos of students, groups etc as long as they do not name who is in the photo. You can use software like www.befunky.com to disguise quite well the actual individual photos. After 10 months there have been no cyber safety issues at all.

3.  What subject strand to follow?

Response:- I would start with just general topics and themes, for everyone to get comfortable, confident etc eg Set five goals for the remainder of the year. Describe why the area you live in is unique. Prompts are great and students may be responsible for providing some of the prompts each week. A general literacy or English area would be the easiest or civics and citizenship. Geography might be a good one due to the nature of the blog.

4. Cyber safety issues:

Response:- A page linked added to the home blog with some valuable links. I like some of those linked on the global teacher page.

5.  Understanding copyright issues. 

Response:- This is a big issue. Students and even some staff feel that anything on the internet is free for all and it needs to be constantly ‘drummed in’. There are some great little videos on youtube and teachertube. Be prepared to keep commenting back when issues arise. It is another learning activity.
6. Anyone who is running a class blog envisage what I may need to prepare/have missed?
 Start simple, then add to it as it evolves. Students themselves will drive the direction and indicate other things that can be added. An about me page is essential. Links to other global class blogs will encourage students to read other’s work, and see the potential of blogging. Encourage them to add comments on other student work. Other keen global students will then return to the blog, comment and the connections start. I have started getting students from other areas and countries coming to my blog and commenting on post prompts, so my class is increasing in size all the time and this makes it so exciting for teachers. Add the clustr map as that is a great motivator.  If students have individual blogs, get them to add a photo a week with a brief description (one they have taken of course) Encourage the addition of multimedia to cope with multiliteracies. A voicethread for students to introduce themselves would be great on one page (avoiding any personal details.) Photo manipulation and resizing needs to be taught as well.

Footnote: Initially, the biggest issue will be teaching them how to use and drive their blog. This will take some coordination and tutuorial type activities. Being distance education students, I assume that they are savvy with emails and other technological equipment, which means they are comfortable and confident with technology.

Wishing you all the best as this a great activity for connectedness that would be much needed by distance ed students.!

6 responses to “Setting up class blogs

  1. personally, I think that each student should have one blog. That way they can embed or share everything from every domain that they do, and have it be more of a portfolio. If, at the end of the year, they’d like to create or highlight certain things that they did, they can create a slideshow (try http://show.zoho.com) or a smaller portfolio showing off specific writings or assessments. The point is to make their work visible for comment by other student, so that they can receive feedback. The final portfolio should reflect on what they’ve accomplished.

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  2. Exactly what I would have mentioned, Murcha. I know, though, one thing I didn’t teach my students, and that was about categories and tags. I still need to do that. But start slowly with a class blog, and as students show you they are participating in an internet savvy way, gradually hand out individual blogs. My students had to write comments on other blogs around the world and/or write posts for the class blog first.

  3. Pingback: Oz -Teachers’ Advice For Newbie Marie « My Other Blog

  4. Hi Anne,

    Thanks for the nudge, I took your sage advice and have posted my response to Marie at http://johnp.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/oz-teachers-advice-for-newbie-marie/. I suggest that readers read your response too🙂.

  5. Hi Anne,

    Indeed your advice was invaluable. I have decided that starting with a class blog and having students post comments to the first few topics ie, links and videos related to cybersafety and then copyright. Then to get them to try posting via the class blog and categorising their posts.

    I think once they are comfortable with this I will move to individual blogs.

    Thank you again for your wonderful support.

  6. Pingback: Bookmarks about Resizing

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