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.
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.!