Saturday, 21 February 2015

Making Class Blogs Authentic- a cry for help!

Today's post is a cry for help of sorts. I am hoping that all you blogging gurus will read this and weigh in.

We've had a class blog for two years now. Starting 8C Happenings in 2013 was so exciting. Our learners were completely and utterly on board and practically fought each other to get blogposts up. We formed many connections and spent lots of time reading other blogs and writing comments. We took part in International and Aotearoa Quadblogging and other projects including the Global Read Aloud. In 2014, we did a Unit of Inquiry around digital citizenship and sharing in online spaces. The unit was called "Straight to the Blog" a title which was kind of a sad in- joke between those of us old enough to remember the "straight to the poolroom" quote from that classic piece of Australian cinema, The Castle. We got all classes in our team blogging and making global connections. We even started a New Zealand-wide kids' book chat on twitter via our blog. I had endless enthusiasm for blogging as a class.

This year, I've got to be honest, I don't seem to be able to rekindle that fire! I am not sure why this is but I think its because our blog has really become a sequence of recounts. There seems to be an absence of the higher level thinking that my girls are so great at. We are documenting the events that punctuate life in our classroom but I have this question in my head that I just can't shake. 

So what?

I need to think back to my original learning intentions when we started our blog. I had three goals for 8C Happenings. 

a) Document life in the classroom for our whanau

b) Flatten the classroom walls so we could connect with and learn alongside others

c) Develop our skills in writing in online spaces and maintaining an engaging blog

We are certainly working on Purpose A but I'm not sure parents and family members are reading it. When I surveyed parents via google form last year, I got a lot of mixed responses. Most loved it and checked that they would hate to see us abandon the blog but many confessed that rarely read it, even when I emailed out links. do I address this? How do you encourage parents to engage with your class blog? Any suggestions? 

Purpose B is the one that I believe provides the greatest rewards and I always feel the greatest enthusiasm for blogging when we are right in the thick of connecting and forming relationships with classes around New Zealand and the world. I am deeply committed to giving constructive comments with wild abandon as a class; giving others feedback and helping others learn if we can. Our greatest challenge is time. I am wondering if the best way to give real impetus to commenting is to incorporate blog reading into our reading programme. I wonder if there is some way to bring blogs into the 40 Book Challenge? How do you make time for reading and commenting on blogs in your classroom? Is it timetabled? A Must-Do? Homework? 

Purpose C brings in those ideas around blog management. My learners are good writers and can create posts with visual elements with independence. The challenge for me is to hand some of the initiative needed for blogging over to them. I don't want Liz (my co-teacher) and I to be the ones who initiate every post. The girls will blog at the drop of a hat if we ask them to but we need a better system for getting them to take charge. Do we need a job list around this? A daily reporter? A photographer? A videographer?  A tweeter? Should a small team be blogging every day or just when there is a special event? (I am pretty sure I know your answer to this!) How do we get our posts out there for others to read? And how do we create posts that make others want to comment? 

As you can see, I have highlighted my questions. I am really hoping to hear about the systems you have around blogging in your classroom. Our goal is that our blog will be more authentic and chronicle our thinking and learning, not just the "big ticket" events.  I'm really hoping that this blog and your feedback will help recapture my blogging mojo! 

Thanks in advance! 




  1. I'm conscious that we all moan about not getting comments, I started to post a comment & realised I had far more to say. Here's the link to my post - I hope you don't mind this shameless self-promotion.

    1. That is awesome! Thank you so much! I'll comment on your blog!

  2. What about the 100 Word challenge? That way they take control of their own writing but you always get comments from at least one person from around the world. I did this last year when my class started to blog. My parents weren't keen to leave comments and this was one way they could showcase their writing and enjoy the fact that someone lest a comment.

    I think it can be so hard and takes a while to get parents on board. We are trialing a team blog this year and the first concern parents had was that it would be seen by all. I would love to give you an answer for this one but I am not sure our parents are that keen on leaving comments as well. I guess you have to get the 'right' parents. I always comment on my sons school one but I tend to be the only one who does!

    B- I used to add blogging/touch typing into their routine. When I was taking reading groups and they were working on their own independent timetable that was one of the tasks. I find they really enjoyed the time to reflect and write their own thoughts without being told what to write.

    1. I will take a look at that Ruth. Sounds great. Also I like the idea of incorporating it into their timetable/ weekly to do list eg leave three quality comments. The question is do i just trust that they've done it? Or perhaps I could get them to submit the 3 links into a google form or something- just to keep tabs on the quality of their commenting. Did you check their comments or let them go for gold?

    2. I created another tab in our blog and they posted there rather than individual children names. But you can also do that. I started with them all having to do one and linked it to a writing session. Then they had the freedom to do it when they liked but they had to do at least 3 at term. I found this worked as but the time we finished at the end of the year I had more contributing as it wasn't forced on them.

      I got them to either are sorry into book which I typed up, they tied it up and emailed it to me. Mine were younger so I did the links to the 100 word challenge post.
      I modelled how to write good comments to other blogs. We were also doing kids chat so they learnt a lot about writing comments.

      I trusted them that if they left comments on another blog it was sensible. They need a little independence or it becomes a teacher directed activity which turns them off.

      Let me know if you need more answers to your questions. Happy to help

  3. Hi Bridget, I will tag you with Julia @TheHeadsOffice. The 100 word Challenge.

    1. Thank you, Sonya! I appreciate it. Just tweeted her.

  4. HI Bridget,
    Unfortunately, getting parents on board and willing to comment is a struggle in many schools I think. I'm lucky because my parents are pretty good. I have Yr 1&2's and when they have something on the blog they wear a 'Blogger of the day' badge home and this is the prompt my parents need to go and leave a comment. (A little easier with parents of younger kids I think)
    With regard to 'B' - have you thought about running a collaborative inquiry with another school? If you worked on a similar inquiry topic then you could share your learning with the other class and vice versa. You will have a genuine audience who will be reading your blog in order to learn and your class will have another blog that they have a real purpose for reading.
    Steph Kitto

    1. Thanks Steph. What a cool idea!
      I must admit that when I really think about it, with my Y8s getting parents writing comments is probably a lower priority than making authentic connections with learners around the world. My parents are hugely supportive and I see lots of them so taking into account that my learners are that bit older I think I should focus on enhancing the learning. I know I would feel differently with younger kids.
      Great idea to run a collaborative inquiry. I'll look into this. Our next inquiry is about girls/women around their world and equitable access to things such as education, jobs etc. So I'm going to think of a way to connect with others for that. Thank you!

  5. Hi Bridget
    Máire from Ireland here. With your name I'm wondering if you have Irish connections?
    I'm @okeeffefiddle and @msokeeffesclass on twitter. Julia mentioned you in a tweet from @TheHeadsOffice - I'm passionate about the value of the 100 word challenge and I believe it ticks so many boxes for blogging with students. The writing is creative and even though they all get the same prompt they all write incredibly different 100 word challenges. It is global so they are getting comments from around the world from team 100wc and from other students. The students are writing what they want to and so in that sense it gives them more ownership of their work than any other class assignment. In my class we have two time slots a week in our laptop room which has access to 33 laptops. We are using kidblog which I love as it gives each student their own blog but I have it completely tied down so that everything has to go through me.
    We usually do 100 word challenge on a Monday so that we have time to get them up on the as well as time to edit. We go to the laptop room with a to do list and one of the items on the list is we pick a class on our blog roll and I designate a name from that class to each child in my class and they just comment on that child's post as well as one or two others. At the end of their comment they leave the URL to their blog and say come and visit my blog - this has worked really well for me this year. I learned this trick during quad blogging last year with a group of teachers from around the world that I skype with once a month - we have wiki of the different projects we have done and are doing Do join us! We have just finished one round of quad blogging and will do another before the end of the year.

    With regard to do you need to have a blog for each student to enter the 100 word challenge - I'm part of team 100wc and in my commenting I see lots of blogs where the children don't have to have their own blog but then you really have to be careful when linking the blog post to the 100 word challenge site just to make sure the correct post gets linked and not the full blog.
    If you have any further queries please don't hesitate to ask. I'm teaching 5th class which is students from about 10 -12 years old. Feel free to have your class visit us and leave a comment and their URL
    Hope this helps