As we start this school year, one of my goals is to invite parents and families to participate virtually with our class activities through social media tools. Last year I realized that while parents were very willing to provide their support, they may not have been aware of how best to do so. I have been thinking through how I use different tools with my class as I prepare a presentation to invite them to be ‘digital volunteers’ in September.
Our Student Blogs
In addition to posting work on our class blog, students also have individual blogs for their work. These blogs provide a space for reflection and a snapshot of their learning on any given day.
The experience of working with our class blog and their blog means that students appreciate the world wide audience they have for their work. Having that authentic audience and knowing that their voice can be heard worldwide can be a transformational experience. Every year, I see the remarkable motivation blogging gives them to not only write, but take the time to carefully craft their pieces to ensure they are most powerful. Once started, kids write – all the time. They continue to write on weekends, while travelling on family holidays, and even into the summer.
I am always thrilled to see how excited students are about their writing. We say “The more you write, the better you get and the better you get the more you write!” The opportunity blogging provides to reflect on their learning helps them clarify essential understandings as well as what they would like to explore further.
To me, the transformational piece that elevates blogging from traditional classroom writing is commenting. Having others respond to their writing tells students that their voice is heard and that they matter. They are so excited to have their peers comment on their posts, and even more so when other students and adults from all over the world do so. It is so incredibly powerful, as seen in this example from my class where author Peter Reynolds commented on Maddisyn’s work.
Once students have familiarized themselves with the process of posting and commenting, we practice these skills using a quadblogging community. Our class is grouped with 3 others from anywhere in the world. We spend a little time learning about each other’s classes, then each class has a turn being the focus group and having the others take turns commenting on their posts. It’s wonderful to see how this process creates a community of learners and assists students in creating their own learning networks.
As the year goes on, we use student blogs to create a digital portfolio for each child. The wide variety of tech tools we use means that students might record video presentations they completed for class, or sound recordings of songs they wrote, reflections on their artwork or important moments from their lives and much more. As Holly Clark says, when kids make their learning visible to the world, they take ownership and pride in what they’ve done.
Student blogs provide many entry points for discussions of citizenship in a digital age.
We discuss and develop criteria for the use of images that includes
- Students are not identifiable by name on personal or class blogs
- Any images must be free of copyright
- Personal images must be used with permission
All posts and comments are moderated by me, which means that I see everything before it is published. Students are encouraged to think carefully about their digital identity, and to be responsible to leave feedback that is positively phrased. Prior to students getting their blogs, we practice the blogging process using paper blogs and post it comments. We develop criteria for comments with a positive focus.
Responsibility to Share
We know that these blogs are part of our students’ digital legacy. This means that it is important that they think carefully about their digital footprint and legacy. We are continually inspired in our learning by the work we find online. I feel that we also have an important responsibility to share our learning. It is always a defining moment to see the pride when students realized that their work has inspired others.
How can Families and Friends Help?
All our students love getting comments on their blog posts. They each have a “subscribe by email” widget which makes it easy for anyone to receive notification of new posts. Please subscribe, then encourage family and friends to as well.
Please take a moment to comment on our student blogs, as it has a significant impact on their writing experience. Feel free to share with your family and friends, as more comments mean more writing. We know that the more you write, the better you get – and the better you get, the more you write! Consider adding feedback to other students work as well as your own child’s.
At times, I will invite the world to comment on certain student posts through the use of the #comments4kids group. Anyone is welcome to do so, and more information is available at their website. A few moments of your time on a child’s writing can have a tremendous impact, so please consider adding your time to #comments4kids!
Finally, remember to follow the criteria for comments as set out on our class blog. Your child will be happy to give you guidance!