Questioning Blogging For Students

Paul Hamilton left this comment on my last post:

This week, I did a workshop for classroom teachers on using blogging in the classroom as one UDL approach for ALL learners. There were questions about the quality of posted student writing. So, here are my questions to you. Do you approve and/or edit every student post? How much editing do you do? How time consuming is the process? (I notice that you were working at it on a Friday evening!) Do you have any related tips for teachers who are holding back out of concerns in this area?

Paul – great questions – my responses:

Do you approve and/or edit every student post? How much editing do you do?

Yes I do. I use Class Blogmeister as my student blogging tool and it automatically sends every student post to an email account and an administrator tool and you have to give permission for the post to show on the blog. The same is true of comments others leave – they don’t appear on a student post unless I say it is OK (BTW – I have never had someone leave an inappropriate comment). I can edit student posts as well, however I don’t do it that way. I just don’t approve the post and have students go over it with me and they make the changes themselves and re-post. There is a way to leave comments for a student about their work, I haven’t tried that yet.

How time consuming is the process? (I notice that you were working at it on a Friday evening!)

The approval process (the way I do it described above) is a snap. I read a post or comment and either approve it or not and move on. Students note the next day if their post didn’t show up and then know they had too many errors and get to work editing. I took 40 minutes that night because students had left about 50 comments and 5 posts that day, which is unusual, and I was reading some to my wife as I went. If you spent time editing it would take longer, however some teachers I have talked to don’t have every student post at once -I can because my 5th graders all have wireless laptops.

Do you have any related tips for teachers who are holding back out of concerns in this area?

1) Class Blogmeister is safe to use because of the built-in safety measures. 2) Posts tend to be shorter writing pieces to deal with (at least so far) so are easier to deal with. 3) Students are motivated to do their best work because it becomes public, hence they are more focused and serious about their work. 4) My students’ writing has improved markedly in a short time.

OK so I’m tagging the following bloggers and any other teachers that have their students’ blogging to add their experience to Paul’s inquiry. No pressure here, just if you would like to share how you handle blogging in your classroom – it seems that your comments should be a valuable resource for all of us.

Doug Noon, Mark Ahlness, Clarence Fisher, Bud Hunt, Vicki Davis,

Lisa Parisi

LisaBlogged with Flock

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25 Responses to Questioning Blogging For Students

  1. Brian,

    that’s a great, simple approach you are using.

    I also am ethically opposed to “editing” student posts myself. 1. They learn more by editing their posts or comments themselves. 2. I think it isn’t ethical to change someone’s words and post them with their name.

    I’m with you on agreeing that we have also had the experience on our blogs of not having an unacceptable comment posted, though any of our teachers using blogs do moderate them as you do.

    Thanks for the positive explanation! Carolyn

  2. I started student blogs with my 4th graders last January and will do so again with this year’s class. The class blog is http://blogs.dalton.org/edinger/ and there is a link above to a page with links to all the student blogs of last year. (I also have a series of posts about this at my blog medinger.wordpress.com called “Teaching with Blogs.”) On the Links page are a number of links to class blogs from last year — not yours though. We will need to add it this year!

    I have all sorts of writing going on in my classroom one of which is doing blog posts. They have to write their posts first in MSWord and then check in with me before posting. We kept the blogs private last year for a while until they felt confident that they could write well enough for the world to see (and safely). Right now I’d love to do more with the class blog (say a weekly question they’d have to respond to in the comments), but time is limited for me right now.

    I would only recommend this sort of thing for teachers who already spend a lot of time commenting and working with their kids on their writing. It IS time consuming, no doubt about it. But for teachers (like me) who already are doing a lot of this sort of thing, I don’t think it takes that much more time. (And sometimes it is less — last year instead of publishing a paper anthology of the kids’ Cinderella stories they published them on their blogs.)

  3. Mark Ahlness says:

    Brian and Paul,
    In terms of expectations for student writing, teachers correcting, and so on… This discussion is really no different than the “How good does it have to be before we can put it up in front of the school?” discussion teachers have had with themselves, their colleagues, and their students for a long time. But now of course the stakes are higher, with the worldwide audience.

    As a third grade teacher (for a long time), I’ve found myself getting clearer and clearer in my expectations with my kids on their writing, to the point that they are even stated publicly on our blog. See the new “Teacher Assignments” area on our classblogmeister blog at http://roomtwelve.com If kids submit something that doesn’t measure up, they get behind the scenes specific feedback from me the next time they log in. (just for old times’ sake, they see it in red – grin)

    There’s a helpful and very active classblogmeister group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/classblogmeister/ I think anybody considering using classblogmeister will find it useful.

    Lastly, the critical concern appears to be TIME, right? That’s the bottom line that many don’t consider when giving advice to classroom teachers. Sure, maintaining a classroom blog for your students takes time. So does teaching writing. We teachers have to be willing (and allowed) to change the way we do things – the way we teach, the way we plan, the way we evaluate, the way we archive work…. Jeff Utecht lays it out pretty clearly, I think, in a recent post: http://www.thethinkingstick.com/?p=583

    “It’s really no secret. You have to change the way your class runs, you can not add blogs to what you do, they have to become what you do!”

  4. Mrs. Teamann says:

    I’ve blogged the past two years with students and it has been INCREDIBLE. So much so that my principal now blogs with our staff as a means of communication! I have students who come in early to blog, who blog over weekends and holidays…it’s been a great tool for my 4th graders. I teach math and science, NOT writing, but have had their ELA teacher thank me SO many times for the improved quality in their writing.
    I’ve also presented on blogging numerous times in my Texas area, if you’re interested in any of the resources or materials I’ve used, go to our blog, http://nlcommunities.com/communities/teamann/default.aspx and leave me a message and I’ll get them to you, :)
    Thanks for supporting this powerful tool!

  5. A. Mercer says:

    Brian, I’m in a different situation because:

    1. I use edublogs and I have students post comments on one central grade-level blog.
    2. I teach computer lab so I have more students for shorter periods (~30 in 6 classes that I see 2 times a week for 45 minutes).

    BUT, I don’t edit, and there is not a lot of time for them to edit their posts. I will request some students do a rewrite if it’s especially bad. I keep my requests short (3 sentences) so it’s doable in the period I have them (less is more sometimes). I model back corrections, and warn them if there is more than one misspelling.

    The approval process is on a central panel and is pretty fast. I make it a practice to leave notes back to the students in their comments, and that take more time.

    Even though I have much larger numbers to deal with I manage that by trying to do some moderation as they work. They can then observe me doing work on the digital projector keeping up the transparency. When I had only one class of my own, it was manageable because mostly, you eliminate a lot of useless busy work (like correcting spelling worksheets ;-) and spend more on the meat of writing and correcting that.

    Hope it helps!

    http://oakridgefourthgrade.edublogs.org
    http://oakridgefifthgrade.edublogs.org
    http://oakridgesixthgrade.edublogs.org

  6. jim says:

    A great question and one that I too have wrestled with. The very first thing my kids to Monday and Tuesday morning is walk into our computer lab, fire up the computer, read the blog entry I have entered and start working. Among other things, on Monday they always tell me about how their weekend went and on Tuesday they have a creative writing question to answer.

    I haven’t edited their work. Sometimes, if its really bad, I will call them up and talk to them about it and then ask if they want me to post their comment or should I delete it and they try it again. They usually want to repost it.

    I also talk about the cluster map thats attached to our site and remind them that real people, in the real world are reading what they write. so they need to be doing their best.

    And sometimes, if they have gotten lazy, I will print up the days comments, make up a transparency and go over them with the class. I share the comments not the author. We edit together and talk about what we did right and what we need to do better.

    Jim

  7. Christina Palmieri says:

    Hello. I came across your website and found some of your blogs very interesting. I am a third grade teacher and am looking for more ways to integrate technology into my classroom. I am currently enrolled in a masters program in Instructional Technology.

    I really found it helpful to hear read about how to effectively use blogs in the classroom. I imagine it to be taking a long time to teach the children how to use and navigate through blogs. However, after researching and learning more about blogs I feel it may be a time consuming process at first, but after the students know how to use blogs they would be able to do it indepently. I thought it was great how another person commented on using a tool called, “Blogmeister” because it has built in safety tools. Additionally, I think its a great idea that students check their own blogs to see if they are approved by their teacher. Also, it would make it quick and simple for the students to realize if they had to many mistakes in their blog because the teacher would not post it for the public to see. I really like all of the ideas you have shared. Thanks for your thoughts! I hope I can take some of them and use them in my class!

  8. Wow! Brian, you went above and beyond in terms of responding to my questions. Many thanks for your helpful responses. The comments from the rest of you have also been terrific. What a wonderful example of teachers supporting teachers–by blogging! Powerful indeed. I expect that there will be even more, so I’ll stay tuned. Thanks again!!! –Paul

  9. Jo McLeay says:

    Interesting set of responses to a great question. I don’t edit, although I do suggest that students take care and sometimes tell the story of a student who wasn’t getting many comments and said so plaintively and at great length in a very poorly spelt and edited post. A student from another country wrote a comment (at last) saying that if she checked her spelling and punctuation she might get more comments. This was better than anything I could have said and the event and the story have lived long and effectively.

  10. Jo McLeay says:

    JUst also wanted to add that students do have their own blogs and all are linked to the main class blog. There 5 year 9 classes blogging at http://jomcleay.com/year9 and a year 7 class at http://mrsmac2022.learnerblogs.org. I like edublogs as it is wordpress and very powerful, as well as free

  11. levi says:

    i think that it is crap that you edit students blogs, coming from a students perspective.

  12. Brian says:

    Levi – Actually if you read the entire post I never said I edit student blogs – I approve them – and there is a difference. Editing would mean I cut things or changed things the student has written, which I do not do. However, I do have the student edit their work for errors in grammar and usage before I allow it to post. Sometimes they cut parts and add parts until their post really says what they mean it to say – but the work is all theirs, not mine.

  13. Jonathan says:

    i think this is a great use of blogging… In my hgh school government class we blog on on different issues in the news such as first amendment rights and problems with privacy! but this looks great too.

  14. jim says:

    I was mulling over some of the comments yesterday and someone mention the fact that it was evening and you were still working on your blog. I got the impression they thought that was a reason not to do a blog.

    I check up on my blog every night. Not because I have to but because I want to. I love going there in the evening and reading all the comments the kids send after school. Sometimes they ask questions that need to be answer or inspire new blogs.

    Someone once told me that writers write. I get more writing out of my kids now than I ever did before because they seem to have taking to blogging in a big way.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Jim

  15. Brian says:

    Thanks everyone that has commented so far – this was just the kind of conversation I was hoping Paul’s questions would evoke.
    As an aside I just today had a student that was in my class last year ask to have their blogging rights reinstated so they could continue to blog here. I added the student’s name back to the blogroll right away. We are having parent conferences this week and I have had several families tell me that they have let relatives know about their kid’s blog and they have all read it – and others have asked if they can blog from home – which received an enthusiastic “YES!”
    Brian

  16. James Mangum says:

    Hi Brian. Off topic a little here. In regards to all of this technology stuff, you might find this read quite interesting. Here’s the link:
    http://www.mayyoubehappy.com/stofwopt1.html
    Enjoy the read….quite fascinating.

  17. Pingback: Bud the Teacher

  18. Brian says:

    Check out Bud’s post (see above) – http://budtheteacher.typepad.com/bud_the_teacher/2007/11/a-belated-answe.html

    Thanks Bud for taking the time to post about this.
    Brian

  19. Pingback: » Classroom Blogging in Practice In Practice

  20. Tracy Rosen says:

    I have a central class blog that I post on and students comment to and my students have their own individual blogs where they post and I and their peers comment.

    I do not moderate. Since the beginning of the year we have had many conversations on respect and appropriate blogging behaviour. During the first commenting activity, when I asked students to write relevant comments on each other’s blogs, there was one student who wrote an inappropriate comment on every blog – something along the lines of I hate your blog because it is not mine. We focused on dissecting what the positive, constructive comments looked like and quietly deleted his. He ended up being embarrassed and hasn’t done it since.

    Since they have begun commenting on each other’s blogs they are more aware of a larger audience and routinely write their posts in word or use an online spell-checker before publishing. The students who need assistance with content receive the support as they are writing, just as they would with pen and paper writing.

    I find that these exercises – discussing relevant and appropriate blog posts and comments – have helped to establish respectful behaviour in community, both off and online.

  21. Tracy Rosen says:

    In case you are interested…
    http://missrosen.edublogs.org
    Student blogs are in the blogroll. Some students have responded to the ‘Why Blog?’ tab – you can get a pretty good idea of the range of level in my group!

  22. Pingback: Taste of Tech » Student Blogging

  23. Pingback: THING 6: The Google Reader | Blog Blog Blog

  24. Pingback: Why Teachers Blog | ericagreer

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