Dave Coverly. Speed Bump. 2005.
Two years ago, as part of PAGES at the Wexner Center, my students and I experienced Forbidden Voices: How to Start a Revolution with a Laptop. We were amazed at these female cyber rebels who used their blogs to speak out against their countries’ dictatorial regimes in China, Cuba and Iran; we were even more amazed that their blogs and their world-wide audience saved their lives many times. When we returned to school, the students and I needed to blog. How could we not? We have the privilege of living in a country where we are free to share our ideas; it would be disrespectful to the women in the film not to use our voices.
Since then, I have used student blogs as an important classroom tool- for discourse, collaboration, and thinking. It took trial and error and I would like to share what has worked for us.
Edublogs is our preferred forum (it’s free, easy to navigate and allowed by our district). When I introduce students to blogging, we start by looking at a few blogs from the previous year. I had last year’s students write letters to future students. Not only are the new students able to receive some valuable advice, but they are able to check out the personal styles of the bloggers. You can view the 2015/2016 class blogs here: FHHS Blog Squad. As you can see, instead of shelling out extra money for a “premium” class blog, I simply hyperlinked the blogsites of my students onto one page.
Next, I have my students sign up for a blog site. The username is important- it cannot be changed and it is how we can identify who is commenting on our posts. With that in mind, I instruct the students to use their first name, last initial, and maybe some favorite numbers if that username is taken (no “malloryonfleek” or anything like that).
The students then have to write a blog title. They don’t need to spend a lot of time on this since it can be changed later. After registering, they will be taken to their “dashboard.” Have them choose a theme; this is a place where they can play and be creative. There are many free themes on Edublogs; they just need to hover over the style to see which are free or not. We spend a period playing with the layout and getting used to the dashboard. Some of them customize their backgrounds in ways I could never imagine! They know more than we do, and if you give them time to play and help each other, they can really make the appearance of their blog sites unique.
The next steps include creating an About Me page, commenting on each other’s, writing their first blog post and choosing a class blog site title (right now “Freshmen for Harambe” is in the lead). Students can add a page or post by clicking a tab on the left side of their dashboard or on the top. I have found Edublogs has an informative “help” search and I have also found that a student can usually figure something out and then teach us!
I would encourage you to participate in the Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge. It was a great way to hone our blogging skills and meet student and teacher bloggers from around the world. I have found that the students take their writing more seriously when they know people other than their classmates or their teacher will be reading it. The fall signup has passed, but they will start up again in the spring. In the meantime, you could always reach out to some of the teachers and students who have blog sites listed there. I tried that and formed a partnership with a class in Texas.
I would also like to form a partnership with any of you, so if you have a class blog site, please share in my comments! Here is this year’s blog site:Accelerated English I
Hope this helps. Happy blogging!