Part 2 of this blog can be found here.
Let me begin by saying that doing this is time consuming. It will require about 10 hours of your own time. However, you will quickly see that it save so much more time than that once implemented.
Over the past few weeks I have been working on getting all of my students (98 in all) blogging. There have been inquiries into student access to computers; and there have been hours devoted to figuring out how I would manage all of these blogs; but most importantly, there have been sleepless nights pondering the safety of my students. I started by having parents sign a form giving permission for their student to create a blog. Then I created a blog of my own. Then I walked them through both making their own and adding my blog to their reading list. You can read more about these steps below.
First, I created my form:
This form (as you can see when you click on it) explains how to set a blog up in the first place. I did that so that my students who know their way around the keyboard would go ahead and create theirs. Then, they become my helpers in the classroom. And, as you have probably found, it doesn’t really matter how computer savvy the teacher is. Once you show them something, they take it and make it ten times better.
I gave them a week to bring the signed permission slips back to me. Then we spent the week with the computers. However, each day I had a literature-relevant prompt to get them writing.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOUR SUBMERGE YOUR STUDENTS IN THE BLOGGING PROCESS AT THE BEGINNING.
Here is why:
1.) They are more likely to remember their passwords later if they are submerged in it.
2.) They become attached to it because they get time to personalize it.
3.) They immediately begin getting feedback from their peers.
4.) Then they immediately realized that they are writing for an audience that expects quality writing.
5.) All the kinks will get worked out in the submersion period (I will list a few I discovered below).
IT IS IMPORTANT TO LET THEM HAVE THEIR OWN VOICE
Give them content relevant prompts, but also allow them to express themselves about other topics. (You can see a list of prompts for younger students and another set for older students in the links embedded in this sentence.)
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT THEY EMAIL YOU THEIR USERNAME AND BLOG URL
Be sure to do this. When you have all of their emails, it save a lot of time. I went through and “followed” my students’ blogs once they followed mine. However, because they couldn’t use their real names, I didn’t always know who each blog belonged to until they each emailed me their URL and username. Then, I went to the dashboard of my google reader (which comes with the blogs made at blogger.com) and searched for each students’ blog address. Once I found it, I quickly changed their username as it appeared in my google reader to their real name. That helps when you are trying to give a grade for blog posts.
IT IS IMPORTANT THEY ARE ENCOURAGED (FORCED) TO INTERACT
Forcing them to comment on other students’ blogs will open the dialogue they need to 1.) feel like they are writers, 2.) know that they have an audience, and 3.) open dialogue that forces them to use academic language in “regular” conversation. They would not use this type of language with friends on facebook, but they would use it in the typical college classroom or English class.
ESTABLISH RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Make sure you have a discussion about appropriate conversations via the internet. I know I have had a number of near altercations from students who were quick to whip out unacceptable commentary in emails to me. Expect that they will do that to their peers as well because it will happen if you don’t talk about it from the start.
MAKE THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR POSTS
*BE SURE to have them mark the setting for comments that force the owner of the blog to screen the comments. Then it is the owner’s fault if something inappropriate gets posted. That will make each blogger your front line of defense.
*If you don’t have an iphone or blackberry, and you don’t want to grade while walking the halls, then you can have your students print out their posts (with their comments) to turn in to you.
*Tell them that they must post by a certain date and time for it to count. Most students will be able to post from their cell phones, so they can do it on the bus or math class (no offense, math teachers).
To create an account via blogger (or blogspot), students need their own email address. If they already have an gmail account, they are good to go. If they have their own email address (that is not a gmail account) they CAN just use that.If they need an email account, but you worry about them having their own, check out this post written a while back by Kevin (the post is also referenced in the comments below). However, you may find that guerillamail.com may not work with some blogging sites.