Colette Cassinelli's visionary use of information literacy and educational technology

Reflections on student blogging

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.
  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.

Photo credit: Motivational poster made by Gloria http://vcs.21classes.com/12-Gloria



6 thoughts on “Reflections on student blogging”

  • Great to hear your reflections, very practical I reckon and something I’m definitely bookmarking.

    We’re introducing some new class features at http://edublogs.org soon too (you can already easily create student blogs) so we’d love it if you could give us a try sometime and share your reflections on that 🙂

  • I believe you have written a well documented case study of your experience with blogging in your classroom. Using the Ghandi quote was an excellent idea.

    Thanks so much for including your lesson parameters, expectations, and reflections. The caveats were appreciated also. It is always good to know what pitfalls a teacher might look out for when they try to duplicate such an ambitious project.

    In my opinion, you should be very proud of this student learning experience using the online venue of blogging. I am sure the time and effort were well worth it. Thanks for sharing your expertise and experience.

  • I’ve linked your student blogs to our professional development wiki so they can see a great example of how blogs were done with students. Thank you for sharing your reflections on how to set the project up and what concern came about because of the way the project was structured. This is an excellent example of how participatory technology can add richness to the experiences of the students. Great post!

  • Thank you James, Sheyl and Nadine. The blogging experience has been great with my students. Each day they come to class and check their comments and are engaged in the daily posting. I have incorporated so many skills into this unit (digital citizenship, photo editing, reading, writing, Web 2.0, html code, critical thinking, etc.) that are useful and valuable for all.

  • How were you able to embed a Voki in the sidebar of the blog. I have been trying for a while without any luck, I’m just new to 21 classes. Did you change the CSS code? If so, how?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge