blogging

Keeping Up with All Your Students’ Blogs

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Blogging is about reading and about writing in digital spaces. We want students to make their learning and thinking visible. We are developing a platform and pedagogy for students to document, reflect, organize, manage their online learning records and using student work on blogs as a source for formative assessment.

Timely feedback from their teachers, peers and a global audience is critical to the process. 

Once the “Blogging Kraken” has been released and the process is on its way, keeping up with all the students’ posts can quickly turn into a logistical nightmare for a teacher if they are not prepared and organized.

Since Google Reader was discontinued, I have been using Feedly as my RSS Reader. I keep two separate Feedly accounts, one for my own professional readings and one specifically for student blogs.

The initial set-up is tedious (if you have a lot of students to follow), but well worthwhile the effort. Each individual student’s blog URL needs to be added manually to Feedly.

feedly-add-content

It is a good idea to create separate folders/categories to house the blog feeds of individual classes, blocks or entire grade levels. Once a URL is added, Feedly will give you a choice to add it to an already existing category or to create a new one on the spot.

feedly-add-category

Once the categories are created and blog feeds are added it becomes much simpler to:

  • have an overview of students’ work
  • have one-stop access to their posts (no need to visit each student blog URL individually)
  • keep up with when students are posting or if they have posted
  • keep track of the posts you have already read and still need to read
  • search ALL blog posts in ALL your feeds (not just within one particular blog)
  • see any overall trend (How often students post- timely, quantity? Use of keywords and “quality” blog titles)

feedly-grade-level

Feedly allows you with the use of categories/groups to take a look at a list of latest blog post by looking at the entire category or by choosing individual student blogs.

feedly-students

 

Feedly also supports the teacher’s workflow to:

  • save specific posts to be responded to later or saved to other platforms (Ex. Evernote, Pocket, Instapaper, etc.)
  • disseminate via email and several social network platforms (ex. Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Linked in, etc.)

feedly-save-disseminate

An important feature of Feedly is to be able to export and import all the categories and the feeds you added. Once you have created a school or grade level wide Feedly account, you can:

  • export all by creating an OMPL file of your account (make sure you are logged into the account to export before you click on the link) or click on your account name in the bottom left sidebar, then scroll down to the “Save as OPML” button to export your feeds and categories.

feedly-export

The file that you are downloading, can now be shared with a colleague with the same students or an administrator.

  1. Go to your Feedly account (again be logged in)
  2. Click on your name in the bottom left sidebar
  3. Then click on the Import OPML botton
  4. Browse for the OPML file that was previously shared
  5. Import the feeds

feedly-import

feedly-import2

 How are you organizing you workflow of keeping up with student blogs?

How to Cite Images on Your Blog

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copyrighted

When using Copyrighted work with written permission from owner…

citation-arrowUsed with permission from “name” , URL link to original source and or owner online presence.

Ex. Used with permission from Silvia Tolisano http://langwitches.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/google-glass-recording-225×225.jpg

creative-commons

When using images licensed under Creative Commons…

citation-arrowImage licensed under Creative Commons by “name or username “. Link to original source.

Ex. Image licensed under Creative Commons by langwitches- http://langwitches.org/blog/2014/02/13/google-glass-recording-at-schools/

public_domain

When using an image falling under Public Domain, you are not required to cite the creator/owner of the work. A teacher or student wanting to model awareness for Public Domain might want to choose to include.

citation-arrowImage from Public Domain by “name”. Link to original source.

 

fair_use

When using images claiming Fair Use, you have to give full credit to original creator , with name as well as link to original source (ex. Book or website)

citation-arrowImage used, claiming Fair Use. “Full Name”- and source of original work.

 

Blogs and Labels are about Information Literacy

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My Middle School is using blogger (part of Google) as a platform for our students’ blogfolios. The blogfolio (term coined by Andrea Hernandez) is part blog and part digital portfolio. Students not only showcase their best work, but document their learning journey. A blogfolio shows student work at a particular moment in time (due to its chronological nature) with a reflective component to show evidence of growth and learning over time.

Using a blog as a platform amplifies the opportunities for:

  • social learning
  • for writing with a global audience in mind
  • for receiving feedback, new perspectives and becoming a link in the chain of learning of oneself and others
  • archiving information over time: organizing, linking, connecting, categorizing

One component of the blogging platform, that supports a strategic and pedagogical redefinition and transformation of learning are labels (as used in Blogger) or categories and tags (as in WordPress).

Blogs and labels are also about INFORMATION LITERACY. We are in the age of information overload. Our students will amass more and more digital information at a faster and faster rate. We have to prepare them to not only create it, but also to organize that information.

Labels/categories function as a tool:

  • for searching
  • for filtering
  • for curating
  • for organization
  • of assessment over time.

Our students use the blogging platform as their hub for documenting and reflecting on their learning. It means that they do NOT have a separate blog for Math, another one for Humanities or P.E. All there work is on one blog. With time that means hundreds of blog posts in one school year and potentially thousands of posts over several years. When not organized well, this can become… well… a mess…

Students won’t be able to find a particular post or another , when selecting blog posts for their Student Led Conference. It will make it impossible to search for specific posts, when not choosing blog post titles containing specific, related keywords.

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Teachers will spend more and more time having to look through hundreds of student blogs to find a post, created for their subject area. Instead they could have been subscribed (via RSS feed) to their subject specific category or tag, filtering like this other student blog posts irrelevant to their feedback or assessment.

2

Labeling becomes indispensable for bloggers. Being able to organize your work, tag it, categorize, group them and later on find them again IS PART OF INFORMATION LITERACY!

 

3

As our school (K-12) is slowly spreading blogfolios across all grade levels, we have to look a labeling as part of the “big picture”. How will we use the blog for growth over time? How do we facilitate connections and the learning process for specific skills?A reader of a blog, should be able to tell, by simply looking at the list of labels/categories what types of blog posts the author likes to write about.

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When labeling, keep the following in mind:

Universal: It is important to keep labels/categories broad. When choosing a label/category, ask yourself if you will be blogging about this type of content again?… frequently?…. Think of your readers. Would a potential reader be interested in finding more blog posts like the one you just labeled with that category?

Less is more: The broader your labels, the less labels you will need in the future. The less labels, the easier for your reader to find items of interests.

Pre-set Labels: As a school community, we have pre-set labels, that we ask every students to choose from for EVERY blog post they publish. Grade Level and subject area labels are a must and the label “SLC” will be used, if a student chooses to highlight a particular post to present during their Student Led Conference. We are also asking students to label blog posts with the identified core values by the school.

Personalized Labels: Learning does not only happen in school during the pre-set hours of the school schedule. We are encouraging our students to document and reflect on the learning and the growth outside of the curriculum areas. Students will create (universal) labels for their out of school interests and learning that they choose to share on their blogs.

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When left to their own devices, some label/category lists on student blogs have gone a little out of control. Hundreds of labels, when there are only 10 blog posts to date, do not help but hinder the information flow. I am recommending to be extra careful to not create the following labels/categories:

  • Two versions of the same label. Ex. reflective and reflection. Try to stay consistent.
  • Specific technology tools. Unless you are a pro at a specific tool and you envision to be writing regular posts about the mechanics, examples and tutorials about Photoshop, for example, do not label your posts with the tool you happened to use to create an image inserted into your post.
  • No need to label your post with your name…. this is your blog… supposedly all posts are by you…unless you invite a guest blogger
  • A specific book title. Although you might write two or three posts about a specific book, most likely you will move on to other books and never use the same book title label again. Better to use a label called “books” or “reading” in order to tie and connect with other posts about books you have read.
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Examples of current label lists of our student blogfolios

I am looking to learn with all of you. How can we support our student blogs with a labeling system that guides students in learning to work, organize and curate their own digital information? The digital information created by our studnets (inside and outside of school) will jut keep growing exponentially! How are you teaching students to label their work on their individual blogs? Have you created a system for your class or your entire school to facilitate multi-year blogging? How are your librarians and media specialists getting involved?

Further resources about labeling

Student Led Conferences: Sick and Tired of Blogs and Reflections?

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SLC

Our students just finished a second round of Student Led Conferences
(SLC) this school year (one in Semester 1 and another in Semester 2).

SLCs are a formal opportunity for students to present to their
parents about the state of their learning. The students’ advisor (a
teacher responsible for a specific group of students during the school
year) serves as a facilitator to prompt and guide the students if
needed, but is a silent presence as the students share their learning
with their parents. SLCs are not a time to talk about grades, student
behavior, but about learning habits, process, improvements and goals.

Although there was emphasis placed
on an ongoing documentation of each subject area as learning and reflection happened throughout the school year, a significant amount of
time was dedicated to prepare for the SLCs.



Preparation for Student Led Conferences

 

Each subject area had to be represented with at least one blog post. Each SLC blog post was to contain a title, an artifact, a reflection and be properly labeled.

slc-post-components

Min Kyung’s Blog

SLC-example

SLC-example2

Karin’s Blog

SLC-example3

Juan Carlos’Blog

SLC-example4

SLC-example5

Ji Won’s Blog

SLC-example6

Using the documentation posted to their blogfolios (process and
showcase items), they selected posts and artifacts that best demonstrated
improvement or mastery of a learning target. Students connected their
learning to specific school identified Core Values.

The slides below were shared with students to guide them through the process of preparing for the SLC. (Thank you Claire Arcenas for written directions as well as Visible Thinking Routines) 

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5

6

7

8

Student Led Conference

Students and parents gathered with the advisor for up to 30 minutes
in a classroom setting. The student’s blog site was projected to the
screen and students used the artifacts as a trigger to talk about their
learning. They spoke about their challenges, successes and areas of
growth in relationship to the Core Values. Parents were encouraged to
ask clarifying questions at any time. To wrap the SLC up, students spoke
about the learning that occurred by going though the process of
preparing for the conference and their learning goals for the last
quarter.

Notes and Reflections

There was a loud rumbling noise among students in the days that lead up to the SLC.

Comments such as the ones below were expressed by many:

  • “We are tired of writing reflections”
  • “I am sick of having to write a blog post in EVERY SINGLE CLASS!”
  •  ”Why do I have to do this?”
  • “I am writing what my teachers want to hear, but not really what I think.”

I seriously started to doubt the approach to support Blogging Beyond One Classroom. Was
it inevitable, if students were expected to “learn, reflect, share”for
all their classes  (from Math, Humanities, Science to Orchestra to
Physical Education), that they were going to burn out? Could the
“exponential explosion” of reflective blog posts  clumped together in
the immediate days before the SLC be blamed for it?

reflective school culture

Was “too much of a good thing”…. well simply too much?

  • Did we need to be more selective with WHAT types of reflections we
    asked students to make their learning visible? (Not every assignment,
    project or activity needs to be documented and reflected on?)
  • Did we need to adjust our language to not bunch everything under an umbrella of “Please write a reflection on your blog”.
  • I am reminded that “It’s one thing for us as teachers to articulate
    the kinds of thinking we are seeking to promote; it is another for
    students to develop a greater awareness of the significant role that
    thinking plays in cultivating their own understanding.” ( Making Thinking Visible
    by Ron Ritchhard, Mark Curch and Karen Morrison). Do we need to double
    our efforts in helping students develop that awareness and continue to
    give them the why behind maintaining a blog (learning, reflecting and
    sharing as part of an overall process)?
  • Did we need to change/alter/modify the routine of adding the
    reflection as a separate piece, tagged on the end of a assignment,
    project or activity?

Despite the fact that students openly did not seem to “enjoy” the
process  of  blogging and reflecting as it was happening in the days
before the SLC (among my advisory students), it was unanimous (again
informal survey from among my advisory students) that the process of
reflecting, thinking about one’s learning and going back to
re-read/watch/look at previous posts and artifacts  to identify areas of
growth HAS helped and they are glad to have gone through the process.
Students also recognized and articulated in their SLC specific learning
opportunities and teaching methods from many of their classes that
inspired and supported them in their learning process.

SLCs are an opportunity for:

  • Authentic opportunity to showcase skills in information literacy (organizing, categorizing and archiving of information created and published)
  • Building blocks of a positive digital footprint (How
    do we support and guide our students to positive online publishing?
    What does it mean to be “googlable?” How do we not only build, but also
    maintain a positive digital footprint?) 
  • Digital citizen issues come to surface (What is shared? Why should we share? Observance of copyright. How do we keep ourselves safe? )
  • Evidence of using technology to demonstrate learning (Technology
    is not only about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or video games.
    “Digital natives” might be wizards in using technology in other domains,
    but need guidance for using it for learning)
  • Resource or non-academic subjects are given time in conference and equally contribute to the students’ learning profile
  • Advisors have a chance to step outside of their own classrooms and learn about their colleagues’ work 

As compared to first semester’s SLC:

  • Overall blog quality has improved (communication through a
    variety of media forms, logistics of inserting & embedding different
    media, beginning of hyperlinked writing, advantages of writing  in digital spaces became evident
    )
  • As blogfolios are continued being  maintained, it is possible to track learning over time
  • The connections to the Core Values seemed much more natural and not an add-on
  • Student (oral and visual) presentation skills were practiced  in a supportive environment
  • Students and parents focused less on academic grades and more on learning habits and process
  • SLC served and supported parent education in terms of modern skills, literacies and learning pedagogies

Juan Carlos‘ Blog:

“I used to think my learning was accomplished by simple
things such as paying attention , doing my work and taking it seriously
but now I know that learning has more than those things , you need to be
reflective , critical thinker and also a communicator. You need to
apply all the core values to able to learn in an effective way.”

Kari’s Blog

“In which of the core values did you show the most progress or growth?  What makes you say that? 

I am getting better at communication.  I am learning more Portuguese and
improving with my blog and other technologies.  This is very important
in terms of communication.  Balanced says that you can communicate in
multiple languages.  Improving in Portuguese means that I can
communicate more to people who do not speak English.  Also, I am getting
better at using my blog which is another form of communication.  People
can come on and see my work and how I use my Blog.”

“I used to think my learning was mostly about critical thinking, but
now I think my learning is more about being reflective.  Sometimes you
cannot really grasp what you have learned unless you reflect on what you
have done.  This is an important part of learning and changing your
learning habits and becoming better at something.  If you just do
something once and then never again, you don’t really learn anything .
Reflection makes you rethink again and understand better. “

Now what?

Where do we go from here? My hope is to continue:

You Have 1 Minute to Hook Your Reader

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If you are blogging with your students, you have been exposed to them. You have been exposed to hundreds of unimaginative, cloned, generic and uninspiring BLOG TITLES.

When opening your RSS reader that contains the latest blog posts of your students, you are confronted with a list, similar to the one below.

blogging-titles

How do we help students write better blog post titles?

1. Make them AWARE of the importance of a title

We live in a hyperlinked world. No matter if you are trying to drive traffic to your blog via email and include a link, an RSS feed, where you compete with hundreds of other subscriptions or entice someone to follow your link on Twitter. You have 1 second or less to hook potential readers and make them want to click on your title to read your content.

Although the content of your blog is the most important component of your blog, if the title isn’t up to par, you will not get the audience the content deserves.

It is the title’s job to make a potential reader a reader.

title-content

2. Take a look at a variety of good and bad.

After making students aware of their unimaginative blog titles, titles seemed to improve for our sixth graders below.

blogging-titles3

blogging-titles4

blogging-titles5

blogging-titles6
The Hub Spot Blog Topic Generator, might come in handy to discuss with your students the algorithm behind the generator and what are considered common features of a “good topic/title”.

blog-title-generator

Notice the features that are included in the following titles, after I entered: global, experiences, poetry into the generator:

  • questions
  • appealing to reader’s curiosity
  • numbers
  • lists
  • vocabulary such as “ultimate”, “everyone”, “should be”
  • attention grabbing
  • controversial ( cheat sheet)

blog-title-generator2

 

3. Practice, model, practice, model, practice writing good titles

Visible Thinking Routines
One of the Visible Thinking Routines from Project Zero is actually called Headlines. Embed this VTR into your daily routine with students to model and to practice “summarizing and capturing the essence of an event, idea, concept, topic, etc.”
Twitter
Writing tweets (in analog form, classroom Twitter account or individual student accounts for older students) are a wonderful example of headlines (they have to stand on their own and can entice the reader to click on a link or react to a statement to join a conversation) and help practice “summarizing and capturing the essence” of learning moments as you are connecting to an authentic audience.
Visual Titles
A great exercise for your students, could be to make their title visual. Have your students go through the exercise of creating a visual title by using Quozio or Haiku Deck for example. Students enter their title and then they can customize the title (background, font, etc.) to be downloaded as an image. Why not present students’ images to the class and put them up for a vote among them “Which one would you click on?”

Quozio
You-have-1-Second-to

Created with Quozio

blog-title-hook

created with Haiku Deck

Tips & Advice:

Pamela Vaughan suggests in 6 Characteristics of Exceptional Blog Titles

  • Actionable
  • Brief
  • Keyword-Conscious
  • Clear
  • Definitive
  • Intriguing

On the SkyWord Blog, 6 Best Practices for How to Get that Click are suggested:

  1. Teasers
  2. Instructions
  3. “Threats”
  4. Lists
  5. Engagement
  6. Secrets

While students might not have a choice always of what they are writing about (ex. if the assignment can be written as a list) , these recommendations could be tweaked.

Kevan Lee, author of the blog Buffer suggested some headline tips (supported by data from seven key commonalities)

  1. Make the most of current events: Tie your headline to news and newsmakers
  2. Break some “rules” of headline writing, like length
  3. Seek to pique the reader’s curiosity
  4. Never underestimate the emotional factor of a headline
  5. Call the reader to action with direct action words
  6. Make bold claims
  7. Sound like a human, not a robot
How are you helping students write better blog post titles? How do you incorporate the idea of connecting and “hooking” an authentic audiences? Please share your experiences and resources with us.