This past month my middle and high school students began blogging at http://vcs.21classes.com. Each student based their blog topic on this quote by Gandhi, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”. Students chose topics such as recycling, Darfur, donating blood, AIDs, pollution, animal abuse, genocide, teen stress, depression …

This is the first exposure to blogging so I directed their beginning posts. Here are the suggestions:

1. Write two paragraphs explaining why you chose your topic. Tell about your topic and why you chose it. You might explain what you hope to accomplish by writing in this blog.
2. Find three resources that you think will be helpful (examples, advice, facts, PSA, news articles, etc). Give the URL. Write a 1-2 sentence explaining the resource and how it will be helpful.
3. Create a motivational poster at http://www.bighugelabs.com/flickr/motivator.php. Cite where you got your information or explain why you made your poster the way you did.
4. List very specific things that people can do to support your topic or change the world somehow. There needs to be 2-3 (or more) suggestions for all three categories: Personal level - what can people do personally about your topic; Local level - what can people do about your topic in your community; Global level - what can people do about your topic on a global scale.
5. Educate your classmates about your topic in a fun and creative way. Choose one of the following sites to create a cartoon, slideshow, or creative project and educate us about one aspect of your topic. Pick something that we probably don’t already know about your topic. Make it fun and educational at the same time!
6. Participate in the comment challenge. Visit a new blog every day and write comments, ask questions or give more information for each entry. (Btw, we welcome your student's comments!).
7. Embed a survey or online quiz on your blog. Report your results in a week.
8. Post additional entries of your choice: personal reactions, news story, research, YouTube video, Discussion from comment, graphs, interesting books/videos/podcasts on topic … your choice.

Some other helpful hints when blogging with students:

~Group the students into “learning circles”. the 4-5 members of that group read and comment on each other’s blogs before the rest of the class. This ensures everyone receives comments - not just the popular students.
~Give the students time to play around and personalize their blogs. 21classes.com allows students to change background colors, themes, etc.
~Make reading and writing blogs a priority. I decided to include blogging for a shorter period of time with more intensity than spreading it out over the course of the school year (this will be reevaluated when semester is over).
~Give specific ideas on what to post but allow extra postings and creativity.
~Teach the students how to comment. See Gina Trapani’s Guide to Blog Comments.
~Teach digital citizenship: only first names, don’t identify school, use avatar or creative filters in photoshop for image, be kind when commenting, take blog seriously, and write for intended audience.
~Moderate all comments.
~Have parents approve topics and give consent. Students should agree to abide by blog rules and etiquette.

I’ve only had a few issues with student blogging. I’ve had to remind students to write properly (no IM speak) and edit some posts for content. I had to remind the students to know your audience and keep information age appropriate - especially when dealing with sensitive issues like AIDs, Darfur, depression, etc. Even though it takes time, I moderate all comments I am not afraid to reject comments if they are silly, inappropriate or poorly written.

The students especially enjoyed being able to embed comics, Voki, images and surveys in their blogs. This added a creative aspect beside writing and also created interaction between the students. Students supported members in their learning circles with lots of positive comments and praise.

Blogging is a new addition to my computer curriculum and is here to stay.

Cross posted at http://edtechvision.org/?p=169

Tags: blogging

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Interesting idea to start with a theme and then let students develop their blogs around the theme.
I teach in a program for elementary gifted students, we started blogging Nov 2006. I love the whole idea. I thought initially I would have to post a "discussion" and students would respond but that was never necessary---the kids came up with their own ideas and some are avid bloggers. My big frustration, and may be the reason I shut down the student blog, is how to get kids to "want" to do it. I have a group of "often" bloggers and a group of "several times" bloggers but as long as the blogging is optional it's hard to gain a "crowd". You can see what we've done so far here.
Hi Colette,
Ironically I was just blogging about this new service from flicker on my blog,
http://windsofweb2point0.blogspot.com/
yesterday. I really like the way you are using this service. The idea of creating an inspirational poster meaningful to the student is exactly what is needed to hook our kids. Then as they reflect before, during and after the project they are thinking critically. This lesson is perfect for raising the bar and making the students take a critical stance on some issue. Thanks for sharing this with us. I am going to cross post your idea on my blog if that's ok. Wisteria
You have some great ideas for starting a blog with students, thanks for sharing. We are just beginning to blog with students at an elementary level, trying to introduce it to teachers at a higher lever, these tips will help that a lot!
What a great post. I am currently enrolled at UFL and am learning different web2.0 applications. I am really interested in using blogs in my classroom next year and your post gave me great direction.
Thanks!
Jessica
Thank you so much for your advice! What do you think about 21 Classes? Is it relatively easy for students to learn?
21 classes is really easy for the students to learn - especially if they already have any experience with customizing social networking sites like MySpace.

My only frustration is some of the teacher management sections. You can't batch add or delete students - but the teacher moderation of comments is easy to use.
Thanks for this post. I've been learning about blogging and was wondering how to do so with my classes without it becoming a massive job signing up for e-mail accounts, etc. if the class used blogger for example. I hadn't heard of 21classes so I'll have to look around some more and see how it all works. If you have any additional tips on using the site, please let me know. I like your idea of grouping students into learning circles. Sometimes it's easy for a student to be overlooked in a class of 20+ even in my own experience as a student. I often try to be the one who looks for people who have no comments and then comment on them.
Brilliant! (And adoptable, I hope you don't mind.)
Thanks for sharing this, Colette. I like the idea of framing the blogs with a generative quote, which happens to be one of my favorites. Do you know about Taking It Global? It's an online community with a similar theme on a global scale.

It looks like you provided a good balance of guidance and choice, with room for student ownership. I like your efforts to ensure that everyone received comments, and the tips on commenting you shared seem very useful. What did you think of the quality of students' comments? Did you find that dialogue helped students push each other's thinking?

I'd be interested in your thoughts about what you learned and how you might modify the project next year.
this is very useful information. thanks for sharing. i am doing project with my class grade 7. they are doing survey on social and geographical changes of thier city, collecting data by interveiwing seniour citizens of the city and by visiting places themselves, now i want them to make podcasts on the topic. this is ist time i m doing this and this is my assignment too. i would really be grateful if any of the best teachers here could guide me in these lines. looking desperately for guide. asma
great! as a part of e-learning 2.0, blogging could be the interactive method to catch up. and the sudents propably will like this way to exchange ideas with learning. but maybe if there's too may blog posts from students, it's not easy to manage all well. right?

william peterson
http://www.sameshow.com/blog/

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