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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I found your blog on blogging very useful!! We are doing a blogging assignment in one of my classes and I have been kind of lost on what to do and your blog was very helpful in understanding blogging a little more!
I think this assignment is great not only in what the students will be learning about an important issue in today's society but also learning how to use technology and applying it to their own blog. I never thought of having students create a whole blog around one assignment. Awesome!
This post has many great ideas! I especially love the idea of incorporating learning groups into the blogging process. I am thinking about introducing blogging to my students. It would help them make connections with a variety of subjects and give them different audiences for their writing pieces. I hope to motivate my students to interact with each other in a whole new way. I am new to blogging and just recently started my own blog for a graduate course I am taking... http://sarajean28.wordpress.com/

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