How Blogging Transformed my Classes

This semester I incorporated¬†blogging into my classes. I decided to use Edublogs and encourage each student to set up their own blog. All the individual blogs link back to mine, and students can see one another’s work on their “Dashboard” when logged in. This is nice because instead of clicking on the link to each student’s page and then searching for the posts, recent published posts show up on the dashboard for easy reading. Students can then create lists or subscribe to peer’s blogs for easy reading. Edublog allowed me to monitor and have editing rights to the students posts in an educational setting. Edublog was easy to learn and my students picked up the basics so quickly. I did pay a small price for a year long subscription to a Pro Account, but I believe it was well worth the nominal fee. Edublog has tons of resources to help you format and make your blog as complicated or as simple as you would like. I do not have experience using other blogging platforms, but I would highly suggest Edublogs to anyone looking to get into blogging for the first time. I know nothing about coding or website building and I think my blog is pretty impressive. Even if you think you can’t blog, you can! Now, on to why you’re really here- How blogging has transformed my teaching!

I was apprehensive about how blogging would impact my classes at first. I wanted to make sure that blogging was meaningful and not just replacing typical essays we would write in class. I was worried I would not be able to find the balance between students writing for academic purposes and students writing for self expression. Looking back, I had nothing to worry about. I was able to easily balance the blogging assignments so my students were able to show their personality as well as practice fine tuning their writing skills (specifically research and citation skills).

Obviously I worked with my students on the writing concepts I wanted them to display in their blogs, but the real magic happened when students were reading one another’s posts and interacting in the comments. I hoped this would happen, but I wasn’t sure how much I would have to coach them to make meaningful connections with their peers work. At first, I instructed students to comment on a certain number of posts, and I even gave them guidelines about what to include in their comments. Once students had a baseline understanding of my expectations, they took off. Most students read every single one of their peers’ posts. Many students commented tons of posts. All students talked about posts and suggested posts to their friends to read. Seeing my students engaged in one another’s writing and beliefs and opinions was powerful. Can you imagine if every student printed out their persuasive essay and we passed them around class to read and comment on? WOOF! I’m even bored thinking about grading all those assignments that way. Blogging made the writing fresh and fun. Blogging made my students interested in what their peers had to say and opened up so many meaningful classroom conversations that would have never happened in a traditional classroom.

I also noticed my students working harder to produce quality work. Most students knew that their friends and peers would read their posts, so they wanted to make sure they were bringing their A game. Students were naturally revising. Through my teaching career, I have struggled to get students to actually go back into their writings and revise and edit. With blogging, my students were publishing their post, viewing it on their page, going back and changing formatting, editing grammar and spelling mistakes, revising and changing because they wanted their work to be the best it could be. Their writing went from being a teacher-student communication to a public communication. They were intrinsically motivated to make their work better because they knew more people would see it. This is not to say all posts are perfect. If you look through my students’ pages, you will find plenty of mistakes. My students are still just sophomores in high school and they make plenty of mistakes. That’s how they grow. I saw every single student grow and develop as we were blogging.

The student blogs allowed each student to show their personality in a safe manner. Today’s student is different than even my friends and I were in high school. We were starting the online movement with chat rooms and AIM. But our students now are often more comfortable behind the¬†anonymous¬†nature of a computer screen and screen name. Students could show their personality by choosing a theme they liked or customizing their blog with images and fonts that showed off who they are. We spent a few days in class experimenting with the looks and layouts of the blogs. Their first assignment as to delete the sample pages, create a tag line, and publish an “about me” page. It was really awesome to see kids figuring out how to do something and then teaching one another what they learned. Students were looking at their peers’ pages for inspiration and giving praise when someone figured out how to do something cool. Blogging allowed my students to break out of their shells and form relationships with students they never would have worked with or even spoken to. When a self proclaimed “redneck” read a post by a transgender student about the struggles LGBT people face, I saw one of the most powerful conversations I have ever witnessed. These two students probably would have avoided working together at all cost, but were able to form an understanding because of their blogs.

When I decided to start blogging, I wanted to make sure my kids would learn the same skills as the other 10th graders who were writing one long persuasive essay (for the whole semester) with a fresh and new spin on writing. I wasn’t sure that I would be up to the challenge of many smaller argumentative essays, or that my students would even like blogging. My fears were totally unfounded. My students embraced blogging (and dare I say LOVED it) like I hoped they would. Although initially blogging was intended to really replace what we were doing traditionally, it opened so many more opportunities and dialogs that traditional writing has never allowed in my classes. Writing was redefined by student blogs and I will never go back to the old ways. Blogging transformed my teaching and my students’ learning in just a few short weeks. I am so excited to start next year with blogging. I cannot imagine the impact an entire year of blogging will have on my students, but I have some really great ideas about how our student blogs can really change the culture of a school.

 

Stay tuned, because I know you’re going to like what’s to come!

15 thoughts on “How Blogging Transformed my Classes

  1. Hi Stacey,
    Thanks for your thoughts on blogging. I’ve thinking of setting up blogs for my students but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worth it but from what you have said I think I’ll persist!
    Cheers
    Jo

    1. It’s so worth it, Jo! Just think, even if your students just blogged once a week they would be writing more and growing.

  2. Hi Mrs. McNally,

    How exciting to see how quickly the students took to blogging. I’m inspired to get our high school and college interns blogging, since they will be at our office several days each week. Within the WriteGirl mentoring program, however, our teen girls have limited access to both computers and the internet. I would love to have our whole membership (300+ teen girls) blogging, but the digital divide is real, and many of our girls could not participate. I’ll continue to muse on that. I know that change is coming.

    We do have a blog on our website, where our girls contribute articles, but it is a group blog, not their individual blogs. (On writegirl (dot) org)

    Thanks so much for your article. Loved it.

    1. We have a digital divide in our school as well. I have plenty of students with no internet access or computers at home. I have an open door policy in my classroom where students can come in any time to work. It was tough at the beginning of the year to stick hard to my limits and teach the students that where there is a will there is a way. If you want to get your work done, you will find a way to get someplace with internet and a device and make it happen. Edublogs is very compatible with mobile devices, so that helped my students too! Good Luck! It’s worth the fight to get them all online!

  3. Mrs. McNally,

    I was inspired by your post!! It has given my the “kick in the pants” I need to continue working on my Edublog(: Thank you for sharing!!!!

    1. Thank you, Mrs. Gertha! You can do this! My best advice is to dive in. I created my blog toward the end of the summer and I waited until April to actually jump into blogging with my students and I greatly regret not starting the year with blogs. I will be starting this fall with student blogs and I am so excited to see how they grow through and entire year.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. You’ve inspired me! It gives me the confidence to do the same. With such positive results, and the desire to work with technology more so as to stay not only relevant, but to have a much more interesting methodology has been one of my main goals.

    1. You can do it, Kate! Edublog is such an easy platform to work with. I have never blogged before and I have certainly never set up a website. It was really fun for me to experiment and figure out how to get started. My kids had a blast setting up their themes and pages too. I started experimenting over the summer with setting up my blog. It took me quite a while to make the jump into actually blogging with my students. Don’t wait as long as me! You will love how much you see their growth.

  5. How do you persuade the students to take an interest? I started blogs on cookery, law reports and books but I have had zero response, so feel disinclined to continue. Any ideas?

    1. My students take an interest because I make it relevant for them. I worked really hard to pitch blogging to them so they were excited. A few weeks before we started I told them I had a really cool idea in the works but I wasn’t ready to tell them about it. I kept dropping hints about what was to come without spilling the beans. Then we just jumped right in. The kids became interested when they saw how easy it was to design their blog. Once we were writing, I tried to pick topics which were relevant to them. I kept a running list in my planner of topics I had heard them talking about throughout the year. Dress codes were one subject they all had opinions on, so we started with that. I let them have a lot of freedom when writing so they didn’t feel like I was going to tear their writing apart. Each post I focused on one “thing” to grade and then they needed to continue to use that properly as the blogs went on.

      As far as my personal blog posts go, I’m not really writing for other people. If other people read what I write, great. But my blog posts are mostly reflection for me. I know my mom always reads my posts, but I’m pretty sure she’s my only regular reader. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on this post because it was highlighted on the Edublogger post. I always post the link to my newest blog on twitter so my teaching networks can see it. That’s a good place to start. Other than that, I would say you need to write for you and if other people connect, it’s a bonus.

  6. Does the outside world have access to your kids’pages? Can they?

    Also, how do you grade the work (if you do)? Is it simple completion? Or “levels” of quality of completion? Do you comment on each blog post?

    Thanks for your response.

    1. Hi David!

      Yes, the outside world does have access to my students’ blogs because I have them set to public. You can set your student blogs to private though.
      I typically tell students what I’m looking for in their blog. Sometimes it’s just a completion grade. Sometimes I’m looking for the proper use of a skill we have been practicing. It’s really up to you. I do try to remember that these are a source of creative outlet for my students. It can be hard, but you do have to give them room to do their own thing and blossom on their own.
      I do comment on most posts. If I do not make a comment on the actual post, I talk to the student face to face about what I liked in their post or what they could improve. I do a lot of moving around the room as my students are working, so they often get my feedback as they work. The real magic happens when you get students commenting on other students’ work.

  7. Hey there,

    How do you monitor/control “mean” comments? Either by peers or by “the public”? The thing that holds me back is worrying about cyber bullying.

    Thanks,

    Dawn

    1. Hi, Dawn. I do a lot of work before blogging with my students to teach good citizenship. I also tell them that if their comments are mean I will delete them and they will receive a zero on their own assignment. My students did a really great job with this and I didn’t have any problems.

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