Helpful Tips for Setting up a Classroom Blog

I’m sure there are many ways to set up a classroom blog for art students. For clarity of thought, to share with others, and to enter the Edublogger’s Birthday Celebration Competition, I thought I’d write and offer some advice for setting up a classroom blog. Although student use of the site hasn’t started, I’m surprised at the amount of preparation that’s already been done. I feel like I’ve been building the blog for awhile now, one block at a time…

Here are some helpful tips to set up a classroom blog. It’s my classroom blog ’to-do’ list so far:

1. Read Will Richardson‘s book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.  It’s an excellent resource and a great place to start.

2. Start blogging – part one. Find and read some blogs you enjoy or feel you can learn from. Subscribe to the blogs you want to read all the time. Gather up the courage to leave a comment. I found that once I started commenting last summer (was that only last summer?!), the dialogue with other educators started and I was hooked!

3. Start blogging – part two. Create your own blog. It’s the only way to figure everything out on your own without the added pressure of having students using the blog while you learn how to use it too. That’s the real reason for this blog, I wanted to test drive Edublogs before committing to the space with/for my students.

4. Find good examples of classroom blogs. I’ve learned a great deal from reading Remote Access, Huzzah, Technology in our classroom, Tidertechie, and Teaching English using web 2.0. The nominated and winning blogs from the Edublog Awards is a great place to locate examples of excellence in blogging.

5. Decide on a purpose. Why are you creating the blog? What do you want your students to learn using the blog? How are you transforming the learning in the room with technology? A clear, concise purpose is very important to help get you started and keep you on track. Because my purpose is connected to critiquing, I’ve taught lessons on critiquing to the students so they are familiar with the process.

6. Create the blog. The easiest step! I checked out Blogger and Edublogs. I signed up for my first blog on Edublogs in less than five minutes. This was, of course, after agonizing over a name for a couple of weeks!

That’s where I’m at as of today. My next steps include:

  • collecting student email addresses to ease with set up
  • playing with design (adding pages for the sketchbook assignment, changing the banner photo, etc.)
  • sending a letter home to parents telling about the blog
  • booking lab time to show students some examples, introduce the project and create their own blogs
  • finding extra support for the 1-2 students that will need one-on-one assistance to be successful

Imagery – Colourful bricks by ntr23 on Flickr.com

15 Comments

  1. Sue Waters says:

    Great post Erin. Thanks for entering the Edubloggers First Birthday competition. With the student emails can I suggest you try doing a test with one of the emails to make sure you receive all notification emails. Some emails systems are blocking a lot of emails.

    You shouldn’t have problems with gmail, yahoo or hotmail email accounts.

  2. egregory says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. Our school district prefers gmail accounts, so I’m glad to see it on your list!

  3. Heidi says:

    Saw Sue Waters tweet about your post. I agree that teachers should try blogging before setting one up with students.

    I’ve been reading and studying about digital identity, digital footprints and digital citizenship. I recommend you discuss with students the character qualities they value and how they will be that individual online. Traits such as honesty, responsibility, open-mindedness, kindness and genuineness should be practiced in their online writing as well as their lives.

  4. You’re in for a lot of fun. Seriously. I started a class blog for my grade 11/12 students 1 1/2 years ago and they absolutely love contributing to it. I’ll have to be honest when I say the first few times was a bit hectic but after that it was fine.

    When I first started my blog I had my students just leave comments, but now I have them as contributors. Right now, they’re working toward embedding their Slideshare presentations about their goals into their blog. It’s amazing what they come up with and how they collaborate.

    Enjoy!

  5. egregory says:

    Sue tweeted about the post? Thanks Sue!

    @Heidi – Thanks for your comment! It made me realize that the students will be taking some very real steps towards being more global/digital citizens and I will definitely talk with them about those topics you mentioned. Good advice, and much appreciated!

    @Elona – Thanks Elona! I’m very excited because I can see the potential for some amazing learning to occur. I hope that the fun will soon outweigh the chaos of start up!

  6. Sue Waters says:

    Yes I tweeted your post as you have done a good job and I also wanted others to share their thoughts with you.

  7. Mrs Shori says:

    @egregory: I think this is a great post. Congratulations for being one of the winners in Edublogs Birthday Competition. I mentioned your post on my blog http://edutechlatest.blogspot.com/ where I attempt to club some great Web 2.0 strategies for teachers. My Edublog (http://corlissdesigns.edublogs.org/) motivates me and my students very much. I’m sure you’ll have a great experience too. Good Luck.

  8. Thank you for mentioning my blog. It is so much fun working with the students and using blogs. This is something I will be doing with all my classes. It is fun to see how well they like to write on their blogs and many times they write a lot more than I ask them to. And also it has been a lot of fun working with students from Louisiana, and to read their responses. I will continue to write on my blog to exchange teaching methods with other teachers. Mrs Michaelsen.

  9. Miss W. says:

    Congrats Errin, on winning one of the Edublogger prizes. Also thanks for mentioning my class blog in the post. My students and I are loving blogging and making friends around the world. I just wish I had 1:1 computers in my room. Two lessons a week is not enough to really get it going well.

  10. mberner says:

    Very helpful list especially as I am going through this process myself and am now trying to get teachers involved in blogging. Will definitely refer them to your post.

  11. jeanettem says:

    Hi Errin…wow you won an Edublogger prize – excellent! Would you be interested in becoming a guest blogger for newbies (teachers) to IT http://the27thingsadventure.wikispaces.com. Let me know:)

  12. This is most definitely a good start. The real test comes when the students start to use it; are you restricting the entries so that the students can only view their own post (or can everyone see everything), are you commenting on the entries (some, not all of them), is there a timeframe or deadline for entries, are they required to make a certain number of entries in a timeframe (i.e. 2 a week), etc.

    A follow-up to this would be good; how did the students take to the idea of the blog, and did they get out of the activity what you wanted them to?

  13. egregory says:

    Isn’t it amazing what a winning post can do for blog traffic?! Incredible!
    @ Ann and Miss W – You’re welcome! I have found your use of blogging inspirational and very helpful for my learning.
    @ Jeanettem – I’d love to! I’ll contact you!
    @ David – Yes, I’m more than a little nervous to see what happens once the students start this week! You asked some great questions in your comment. I am not restricting the entries, I want the entire class to be able to see everything. I will comment on entries and I’m creating blogging groups. The groups will consist of 4-5 students each and they’ll be responsible for commenting on each others posts. They can also choose to go beyond their group and comment on others. I do plan on having deadlines for entries, but I’ll certainly consider late entries as it is an art class and sometimes a project will take a little longer. I’d rather a student put in the extra time to create what they see in their mind instead of rushing to meet my imposed deadline.

    Keep reading for the follow-up! That’s part of my purpose for this space – to clarify my thoughts on the art class blog and learn from reflections during the project!

  14. uslyear6b says:

    Hi Erin,

    I really like your post. I am a teacher from the UK and have just started blogging with my class. So thanks for the tips and hints @spbedford.

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