Students today are inundated with a variety of portals in which assignments are created and managed. As a 15-year veteran middle school teacher, I understand the many organizational issues teachers encounter with their students. I was searching for an option for my students so they could post, organize, and access files easily. Five years ago, I began using Kidblog.
Although in full swing for over a decade in colleges and universities, Learning Management Systems (LMSs) such as Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace, Edmodo, WebCT, Moodle, Google Classroom, and Schoology were just beginning to surface at the elementary and middle school levels. I had used WebCT as a graduate student in 2002 and was impressed with the intuitive nature of the LMS. As a 2015 graduate of University of Phoenix’s doctoral program, online learning became second nature to me. Ninety-five percent of my learning occurred online as I was immersed in the astutely self-designed and managed LMS offered by my university. Being an online student allowed me to explore the positives and negatives of a variety of LMSs.
One element missing from most elementary LMSs was the ability to manage users and written posts. Kidblog has been the answer to my wish! Students tend to be more careful and write more responsibly on a blog when they know a teacher will be approving all posts and comments and their content will be read by an audience much bigger than their teacher. Although I use Schoology and have used Google Classroom in my computer lab over the past two years, Kidblog’s added features and post sophistication has made it a natural supplement to the LMS environment. The students go bonkers over the ability to personalize their posts with backgrounds, fonts, and colors as well as gain an online identity with the avatars and headers. My students do not even realize I am teaching them how to be safe, responsible digital citizens using a type of social network.
Comments from my students regarding Kidblog have been positive. My middle school students enjoy the environment as a welcome change to the paper and pencil rigor of academia. The students are more creative when posting in Kidblog and enjoy interacting with their peers. I see a level of insight from the students not evident when they are speaking. It gives the quiet students a voice and allows them to express themselves in a comfortable way. I enjoy hearing students articulate, “I did not know you played for that team!”, “How long have you taken lessons at that studio?”, “When did you travel there, I used to live there!”, “I am an only child, too!” New relationships and unexpected connections have been cultivated in my classroom and THAT is worth mentioning!
Blogging on sites such as Kidblog allows students to explore a new portal where creativity is cultivated and writing is celebrated in a positive learning environment. Students also gain a better understanding of posting appropriate, positive comments. I use student initials instead of names to encourage use of pseudonyms when interacting online. Hopefully, the learned behavior of netiquette (Net Etiquette) will carry over into their personal social networking. Kidblog is a safe, well-monitored environment for my students and well worth the $44 annual cost I spend for my students as a supplement to our LMS. Blog on!