Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

Red Tape Blogging

6 Comments

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This year, one of my main goals is to work through the process of getting all my 5th graders blogging. I refuse to fail at this. Period. End of story.  (Please, let this be the end of the story!!!)

Last year, I naively thought the hardest part of student blogging would be teaching them how to actually use the WordPress software.  Wrong! (insert buzzer sound of choice here)  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Although I am surrounded by some pretty forward thinking people at the district level, I quickly exhausted myself checking into issues like permissions, privacy, hosting, blah, blah, blah.  Too much red tape and ambiguity!  Not sure I was meant to be a trail blazer given my lack of fortitude, but I can at least say I’m resilient.  Bounce back like one of  those inflatable Scooby-Doo punching bags!  I was down, but not for the count.

So, I’ll be piloting individual blogs at the elementary level in our district.  (To the best of my knowledge…. and if someone else is already doing it, we certainly need to talk!)  I know how I’m going to progress through instruction. I have started a list of blog entry assignments.  However, there are still lingering questions that will need to be answered before this process gets rolling in the next week or two.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Should I host student blogs at our local building level (via WordPress) or at the district level (also via WordPress)? (Each has it’s pros and cons, but a large part of the concern with using the district ‘umbrella’ is the lack of any way to monitor those student blogs closely.)
  • How do we name student blogs for elementary children?  First name, last initial? Their district email address? (Which isn’t turned ‘on’ until 6th grade, but would have their first initial, middle initial, last name, and grad year…. so much for not being identifiable?)
  • How do I educate parents about the benefits and perils of blogging without shutting down the process?
  • How do I/we monitor these blogs regularly? (I’m thinking RSS feed bundles.)
  • What happens when their 5th grade year is over?  (I’m thinking exporting their blog to disk, and then allowing them to ask for a new ‘big people’ blog with the district where they can import their elementary content.)
  • Is there going to be a have’s/have not’s kind of mentality among those whose parents allow them to blog and those who don’t?  (Those who aren’t publishing a blog will still be ‘blogging’ within a word processing program.)
  • If I start them with the district, what happens this summer when school is out? How will 6th grade teachers know their kids have blogs?  Will I ever quit reading their blogs? 😉
  • Will parents actually monitor their own child’s blog? What are the ramifications if they don’t?

Ideas? Thoughts? Personal experience? Words of wisdom?

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6 thoughts on “Red Tape Blogging

  1. Hi Julie,

    I am a year 3 teacher in Sydney, Australia. You have raised so many of the exact same questions I have been dealing with this year with my blogging adventures.

    I eventually opted to use Edublogs (WordPress) for my student blogs. I had two main reasons for this. Firstly, our class blog used wordpress so the students (and parents) were already familiar with what this looked like. The customizable permission levels also allowed me to retain control over what students posted, which was appealing to my principal. Secondly, the WordPress App allowed me to monitor all of my students’ blogs quickly and easily from my phone.

    Using wordpress also means that although students need an email address, it is not displayed publicly anywhere and is only visible to you as their teacher and the students themselves. I was able to use our Department student email addresses that contain first and last names due to them being invisible to all others. As for the naming of the blog, I generally went with studentnameclassname convention, eg a student called Fred in class 3S would have the blog fred3s.edublogs.org. There were a few exceptions to this when the name was already taken, but generally I followed the pattern fredsblog3s.edublogs.org when this was the case.

    I find a lot, but not all parents have followed their students blogs. Most enjoy the added ‘window’ into the classroom.

    I don’t know what I’m going to do with them all at the end of our school year (December). There are some students who will be keen to continue on their own, but many I know won’t. Unfortunately I doubt they will continue in any organised fashion in to the following school year.

    Hope this helps. Let me know when you get up and running, I’d love to so how your kids go.

    Mitch

    • Mitch- thanks for taking the time to share so extensively! Your blog site is an incredible example of what I’d like to see happening in our school. I am currently hosting our school site using WPMU with the express purpose of hosting the student blogs. Since I teach in the Computer Lab, I have all grade levels (K-5)…. which means I get to see them year after year. Quite a bonus when it comes to blogging! 🙂 I’ll send a link soon to our blog portal.

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  3. I’m using Kid Blog (http://kidblog.org) this year with my 6th, 7th, and 7th grade students. It’s free and fully teacher controllable.

    I set up three separate classes using the name of my class and their high school graduation year (I’ll have the same students for 3 years).

    I set up an account for student using just their first name and their student id number for a password.

    Students log into our specific classroom web address. They can see everything that is published. But this is where I love it. I can choose to let certain students publish directly or I can approve posts. I have the same control with comments.

    On three posts, I was able to leave a private comment for the student and send the post back for more work.

    I’m not sure what I’ll do at the end of the the year to have them take it with them. I’ll leave the classroom site up and running.

    I tell my students that the blog is just like a notebook. It’s simply replacing the paper but we can so much more to the content than they would in a notebook. I haven’t talked about this with parents at all. Not sure I need to as it is mostly private.

    I guess I’ll put it in my syllabus and make sure that families are aware.

    Have fun blogging. Good luck with the red tape. I think Kid Blog might cut some of the red tape for you.

    You can check out and even comment on our class blogs at:

    8th Grade: http://tinyurl.com/avid-8th
    7th Grade: http://tinyurl.com/avid-7th

  4. This may be of help to you (see the Elementary Classrooms/Teachers sections):

    http://movingforward.wikispaces.com/Blogs

  5. Are those your only two options for hosting? Could you use something like Kid Blogs or Think.com? Think.com worked really well for me at the elementary level. It gave the students a safe place to blog (closed so that only other students/teachers/parents at school could view and comment) This made privacy easier and parent permission was never a problem. As for continuing the blog after 5th grade, my students always copy/pasted what they wanted to keep into a word processing program and then saved it to a disc. It isn’t ideal but worked well for my students. I had a few students who started their own blog outside of my class and transferred what they had written onto it. Most didn’t really mind if it was still a ‘blog’ as long as they got to keep the content that was on the blog.

    If you must do hosted at district, I think your idea of keeping up with the blogs via a Google Bundle is a great idea. The best way to get parents on board is to let them read their kids blogs. I have also hosted a parent university where I taught the parents how to blog. It gave me a great chance to talk to them about the benefits of blogging.