Give Your Students a Voice

October 09, 2014


By Jeff Bales 

With the huge shift to implementing Common Core in my classroom, I found myself not giving students enough opportunities to write and express themselves thoughtfully. That’s when I came across the idea of using blogging with my fourth grade students.

On the very first week of school, I explained that their writing was going to be public to the world. No more writing in isolation – it would be inclusive and collaborative. Lesson by lesson, I modeled very clearly how to blog and made sure the students knew the exact expectations. I made certain to explain that each post could accomplish many objectives:

  • Provide a place to showcase and present student work
  • Address several reading and writing Common Core standards
  • Be structured thoughtfully to eliminate confusion
  • Give students the opportunity to write for a variety of purposes
  • Hold students accountable while diminishing their anxiety

 

How to Start Off the Year Using Classroom Blogging

For the first several blogs, I have students post about the books that they are currently reading. In an attempt to expose them to a variety of literature, I assign them a different genre each month. The book that they choose must be a novel that is at least 100 pages and falls into the specified genre. Then, students write a short summary of the book, along with a review of exactly what they think of the book and why. Once posted, they are required to read each other’s blogs and make constructive comments.

Since I have started combining reading and Kidblog in this way, students are extremely motivated to read and respond to their reading in ways I have never seen before. Not only are they getting the opportunity to see great writing, they are also receiving instant reviews of books that they may want to then read. When a student writes about how much they liked a book and why, other students are more willing to take that recommendation than if it came from me.

 

Benefits of Classroom Blogging

First and foremost, blogging has transformed the writing in my classroom. My students’ writing abilities have dramatically improved, and they are able to produce high quality work that is engaging and insightful. As a teacher who has taught for many years, student writing often used to make me want to pull my hair out. I found students were careless with their work with too many errors to count. Knowing that they have a huge audience and are being held accountable, their posts are generally free of common mistakes and grammar issues. Since they are fourth graders, not every post is going to be perfect. The great benefit of blogging is that the students will help each other find errors and address them in a comment. Often, it only takes only that one comment and the errors are cleaned up.

I truly feel that Kidblog can be adapted and used in a variety of ways. In future posts, I will share other ways that you can incorporate blogging into your daily routine. Encouraging students to blog can certainly help them make connections between academics and the real world.

Try blogging today; see how your students will light up.

 

Photo Credit: Brad Flickinger via flickr cc


An important motivator for getting your students blogging with Kidblog is the chance for their publishing to draw the attention of an international audience. Routinely, Kidbloggers are fielding comments from different corners of the world like Taiwan, Europe, South America, and New Zealand. Students might be too young to appreciate just how remarkable that is, but it’s still a valuable lesson in the “flattening” of our world.

The lesson becomes even more valuable when the classes can work together on a shared project. Luckily, a few teachers have already thought of ways to bring classes together in meaningful ways.

Global Read Aloud

The first is the Global Read Aloud, the brainchild of a past guest blogger here at Kidblog, Pernille Ripp, a fifth grade teacher from Middleton, Wisconsin. The premise is simple. A book is chosen and read by all the classes signed up to the site. The classes then connect through various technologies, including Kidblog, to share their opinions on the book and perhaps plan future collaborations together.

 

Quadblogging

QuadBlogging is a little more free-form. Classes sign up at the site and are organized into “Quads” with three other classes. In a four-week cycle, each class is the “focus class” and the other three make it a point to visit their blog and comment as much as possible. There is no prearranged topic or task, but one can be determined with the other members of your Quad. With the site itself based in the UK, a quick scan of the current list also shows classes from the US, Eastern Europe, Asia, and more.

Skype

Beverly Ladd’s class just had a Skype chat through #MysterySkype with a partner class in the UK. One of her students, Elisa, blogged about it on Kidblog. By her account, they had a little trouble locating the class on their map.

Twitter

An international community has been building up for over five years at Twitter. A search for “Kidblog” finds a rapidly updating timeline of teachers sharing projects or seeking new international partners for their Kidblog classes. Perhaps a more efficient way of finding partners for your class is to use the hashtag #comments4kids, where teachers solicit other classes to come check out their Kidblog and leave some comments.

Connecting with others deepens relationships and broadens understanding – academically and culturally. We hope Kidblog helps you extend the reach of your classroom.

-Scott Sterling


We love it when classroom teachers publish articles about their own experiences implementing Kidblog in the classroom. Here’s a list of recent posts that can help you find success with student blogging.

 

Mrs. Klipfel’s Top Teaching Tips

Mrs. Klipfel is a curriculum integration specialist in Massachusetts whose students started using Kidblog late last year. The beauty about her post is not just how beneficial blogging can be for students, but she actually includes the contract she has students fill out before they start blogging. This is a great way to get the kids to take their work online seriously and with full respect for themselves and others. The contact covers her expectations in online safety as well as how students can best accomplish her learning goals.

 

Assessment the Web 2.0 Way

The folks over at Assessment the Web 2.0 Way have created an authoritative Wikispace about how to use Kidblog for all of your assessment needs. Not only is an overview of the system given, but also learning objectives, assessment examples, and sample rubrics are listed for most subject areas. This is a great place to start if you’re having trouble figuring out where Kidblog might fit into your assessment strategy.

 

MiddleWeb: Get Your Students Blogging!

Last year, Pernille Ripp wrote a guest post for MiddleWeb that might be looked at as a manifesto for classroom blogging, as well as a short explanation for why she chose Kidblog for the task. In 10 + 1 steps, she goes over how to start your kids blogging from the ground level. There are also some key links about setting permissions correctly, instructing kids on safety, and how to connect their blog with others around the world. Blogging in the classroom might seem like a big undertaking, but this post can help relieve any intimidation you might feel.

 

The Colorful Apple: Have You Tried Kidblog?

Sara over at The Colorful Apple describes how she’s using Kidblog as a repository for book talks with her students. Like many teachers, she was having students log the books they read outside of class on paper. Many kids responded by saying they love to read, but filling out the logs was cumbersome. By using Kidblog, kids have become more engaged in the book logging process, which has led to the opportunity for the students to think more deeply about what they’re reading. Every week, she posts a focus question, then students take it from there. They even comment on each other’s work, something that wasn’t possible with the paper book logs.

 

If you know of other great Kidblog resources that would benefit teachers and students in their daily work, don’t hesitate to let us know. Happy blogging!

-The Kidblog Team

 


I can still remember the carrels of Apple IIgs computers in my middle school library. Friends and I would play “Oregon Trail” during lunch or during free class periods. Later, those computers somehow brought me my first taste of the Internet. Those computers had been there for at least five years before I arrived, and I know that they were there five years after I left.

Obviously, things have changed, with implications for long-term hardware adoption strategies.

Through no fault of their own, schools are now stuck in the same adoption loop as the rest of consumers around the world: every year, the replacement to the product they just bought comes out. Every 3-4 years, their devices are obsolete,  and no longer supported by the manufacturer.

What does this mean for tech funding?

Even though iPads might be less expensive overall than those old Apple II’s, the lifespan for a new device is three times shorter.

School technology funding might not reflect this business model. Schools used to make large technology purchases every five years or so. Districts would stagger the funding around the county or city. That timetable now has to be sped up, requiring coordination with all funding sources—local, state, and federal.

One solution might be leasing devices, as many schools have done successfully with Chromebooks. This model shows promise as a way to prevent schools’ need to deal directly with outdated hardware.

Where do the replaced devices go?

We’re very early in the tablet era for schools. Some are just now making their first bulk purchases of iPads or Android tablets. In large districts, that could mean 10,000 devices or more.

Fast-forward to five years from now; what happens to these devices? They will probably not support new OS updates, meaning they can’t be upgraded. Eventually app developers will phase out support of their OS version. Apple’s latest SSL vulnerability is an example of a critical OS component that isn’t available to older devices. This is a dealbreaker for security-conscious administrators.

One way to combat this trend is to embrace the mobile web, questioning the assumption that a “native app” must be installed on the device. That was how the original iPhone worked, so it’s definitely a valid approach. For schools and districts, mobile-friendly web apps are a great way to go.

When the time comes, schools would have two options for offloading old devices. They could sell them at the same auction where they sell old office furniture and broken down school buses for pennies on the dollar. Or these devices can end up in the recycling center/landfill, which doesn’t seem like a suitable end.

There are no easy solutions

These technology tools have the potential to be transformative to the educational experience, leading to better student outcomes. We can’t ignore them. But schools and districts need some help from manufacturers to make this model sustainable for them.  Schools need the ability to keep their devices in working order for longer periods.

-Scott Sterling

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