Building your blog from the ground-up can be a long and difficult process. For teachers it can also mean building a life long tool used by years of students and families. The idea of social media is not going to leave the classroom but it can overwhelm a teacher‘s purpose. Thus, using blogs a literacy tool is both a proper approach and a long term commitment.
This Friday, March 11, will mark my third anniversary of my first blog post. I remember writing that piece in my classroom and thinking that I should say something not too provocative but very interesting and actually conveys my interest in the idea of standardized testing. Little did I know then that I would push outwards and develop in a short time my own voice and yearning to be a teacher/blogger. I love to write and to share my writing. As a result I have just a few friends who read my blog, even fewer comment on Facebook and even fewer email me about what I write. Since then I have helped over 50 teachers and at least 130 students begin developing a blog of their own. Now I don’t say this to brag but to simply say, I should be doing more.
Therefore, I am going to lay down the how-to on building a maintaining a student blogging classroom.
- Branding: One picture or drawing that you use for all of your classroom based digital media sites.
- Connectivity: It took me a long time to begin connecting twitter, Facebook, and blogg persona together. Now they are self promoting ans semi-seamless. Use software like Zemanta, Scribefire, or Hootsuite to lower the headaches of cut-copy-paste when posting new blogs
- Facebook: It is your friend and enemy. Be sure to create a personal page, lock it down from students, and maintain it monthly. I’ve read about too many horror stories of teachers getting blindsided by fake fb pages that students and/or parents made. The other side of this coin, if you want to connect with student on fb create a fan page for your classroom and let students use that space to contact you. They wont see your personal stuff but still feel in some ways special.
- Blogs Visually: It should be simple and serve its purpose. If you are just posting notes, syllabus, and worksheets, then be sure to make a blog post for the unit and include hyper links to find the materials. The average person only goes two clicks deep into a website.
- Blogs Legally: Remember you teach students who are more-than-likely minors. You may not post pictures of them in their nifty little extra credit outfits without parental consent. Additionally, if you have parental consent, keep it on file and email parents when you post the pictures so that they know.
- Self-promotoion: This may sound trite but if you follow a blogger tell them why in their comment feed. Post trackbacks to their work and use it as examples in your classroom. This will get traffic from outside your classroom to your site.
- Student blogs: Reminder Minors at work. If you use an open network blogging service, anything that your district doesn’t provide or monitor, you better have a good reason and lots of AUP and Permission forms. Also subscribe to a RSS Feed service like Google Reader and use that to read the student posts. It takes time to set up but makes for easy access later on.
- Long-term: follow-up on student writing it is one thing to read a student blog for grading, it is anther to find a student’s blog published as a local op-ed piece. Comments and positive feedback are a huge catalyst for student to continue writing .
- Personal vs. Professional: As a teacher, I have two blogs that I maintain. One is my personal blog that contains content feeds of commentaries, personal writings, interests, political views, and personal events. The other is my classroom blog were I write about two things only: class and current events. I try to be unbiased and leave all student information out of the classroom blog. If I ever write about a student, it is about achievement only and is usually public knowledge at the time of the posting.