Unlocking Twitter’s Classroom Potential

If teachers want to truly prepare students for the future, we must accept that social media is not going anywhere.  Read on for tips on getting started in Twitter as an educator!


Isn’t Twitter just another mundane way to micro-share everything in your life?”  “Twitter just seemed too complicated with all the symbols and rules.”  “Even if there are educational resources on Twitter, I just don’t have the time to join another social media website.

Do any of these thoughts sound like you?  If so, you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve been there, too!  This article is designed to help you understand its benefits as an educator, as well as to provide basic steps and ideas to get started–all from the perspective of a fellow educator!

5 Reasons You Should Join Twitter As an Educator

#1: Professional Development:

We very purposefully place this reason first!  Resources like Twitter are the reason professional development is increasingly becoming a personalized experience at schools.  Once you establish yourself with few educational hashtags combined with tools such as TweetDeck (see Simple Steps below), you will instantly have a wealth of current topics and resources to explore. For example, check out the screenshot that I randomly took of my own Twitter feed below:

Tweetdeck screenshot

Just glancing at the feeds, you can see resources and conversations ranging from math fact apps, to tips for using QR codes, to ideas for supporting inquiry!  Many professional development days at schools currently involve the entire staff listening (often halfheartedly, especially if it doesn’t apply to them individually) to a couple of admin-selected trainers.  Envision PD instead becoming days when the staff breaks into groups to spend the day truly exploring their areas of professional interest/needs–reading/discussing articles and contacting experts online with questions.  Twitter has the potential to revolutionize each teacher’s development as professionals not only on a school-wide basis, but on a personal basis as well!

“The Twitter shift puts each educator in control of her own professional development with self-direction and personalization of content at any time…during planning periods or outside of the school day…If I want, I can get a daily dose of professional learning to go with my early morning cup of Joe. Through the Twitter platform, I discover best practice, research, solutions and ideas delivered to me in 140 characters or fewer, for just in time learning.” ~Meg Ormiston [source]

#2: Relevance

The relevance with regards to using Twitter goes beyond just relating to our more tech-savvy students (although that can be quite significant as well)!  It goes back to what we described in professional development above.  Twitter is an incredible vehicle for teachers and other educational experts to quickly and effectively share their most innovative and valuable ideas.  If we continue to “go it alone,” despite the ready availability of such a goldmine, we will quickly lose touch with the growing possibilities within our own field.

“Social Media is here to stay. Its form may change, and certainly the applications we use will not remain the same, but the idea of openly exchanging information in whatever forms it is produced is not going away. As educators we can use it or lose it. If we don’t start to understand and use this technology soon, we will lose the opportunity to harness it, because we will be irrelevant. We don’t need social media to teach, as much as we need it to learn.” ~Tom Whitby [source]

#3: Help Students Recognize Global Society

As long as our discussions regarding current events and issues throughout the world remain within the confines of our own classroom, such ideas will continue to seem remote to students.  Once we use Twitter to communicate with individuals actually involved in those issues and/or living in those places, students will begin to see themselves as real participants in a global community.

“Educators who participate in Twitter networks are well placed to support students in the use of relevant digital technologies because the Twitter community shares knowledge, resources and expert advice.” ~Tania Sheko [source]

#4: Transparency

Resources like Twitter provide educators with heretofore unheard of levels of genuine, global collaboration.  We are perfectly poised now to share what works and what doesn’t, to seek and receive feedback when we’re stuck, and to showcase examples of great student learning.  This last ability in particular can create increased community connectedness as parents truly witness and participate in their children’s learning.  Classroom learning today looks drastically different than it did a generation ago–it calls for increased focus on process over product, on problem solving skills over memorized facts, and on student ownership over teacher control (see more ways learning has changed).  Parents, administrators, and fellow teachers need to see the benefits of such changes in order to cultivate understanding and support; in other words, we need transparency across the board to further improve teaching and learning practices!

“…they started with the why, and then created a vision for sharing beyond the walls of the classroom. Their purpose was to share with the community the great things happening in classrooms in the three-building prek-8 school district.” ~Meg Ormiston [source]

#5: Professional Development

Wait, did we say that already?  Yep.  It’s that important.

“Imagine if every teacher shared just one of their best sources with other educators, who in turn could tweet them out to the tune of 700,000 tweets in a half hour. Everyone would benefit. The idea here is to get educators familiar with the concept of connectedness and its possibilities…” ~Tom Whitby [source]

Simple Steps to Get Started

Twitter is less simplistic than other social media platforms when it comes to maximizing its use, especially in a professional capacity.  However, it is well worth the time invested in establishing your own Professional Learning Network (PLN–check out our article on building PLN’s here).  We have included some simple steps below to help you get started!  Also, be sure to check out the 13-page Handbook from plpnetwork.com, which breaks down definitions and steps in easy-to-follow detail.

  1. Twitter handbook--plpnetworkSet-up a username using the @ symbol (called your Twitter handle)
  2. Upload a picture and short bio to help potential followers know who you are!
  3. Find hashtags that interest you!  Some of our favorites include #edtech, #edchat, and #comments4kids.  Click here for a fantastic list of other educational hashtags recommended by PLP network!
  4. Download TweetDeck!  In our view, this is an essential tool to manage your time on Twitter, because it allows you to easily scan through happenings in your favorite hashtags, as well as your own notifications and news feed.  Just add columns by hitting the + icon, or by searching for individual hashtags/people and clicking “Add Column.”
  5. Start following individuals and leaving comments to grow your network.
  6. When you start creating Tweets, if you want to share a link, be sure to use URL shorteners such as Bitly or Owly to conserve your precious 140 characters!
  7. Start participating in educational Tweetchats, which are scheduled at live times for people to have discussions.  Many hashtags schedule regular Tweetchat times for their followers to have live discussions (ie, #pypchat schedules every other Thursday at 7pm Eastern Time), and keep an eye out on educational blogs you follow for their scheduled chats!
  8. Check out the Infographic to the right for additional information and details, as well as the PLP Handbook!

Practical K-12 Uses

If you teach at a BYOD school (Bring Your Own Device) or in another circumstance in which mobile devices are 1:1, the ways for students to use Twitter in the classroom are broader.  Below are some specific ideas.

  • Debates: Your students can engage in a voices-off debate in which they must articulately craft their responses into 140 characters.
  • Research: The possibilities are endless in collecting both secondary and primary resources on Twitter–particularly since experts on virtually every topic are available to give short responses to tweets.
  • Build their OWN PLN:  Students can begin networking with other individuals and experts who share their interests, well beyond just a pen-pal capacity.

On the other hand, if your students are very young, if your school does not use BYOD, or if, for any other reason, you are the only person with access to Twitter in the classroom, there are still incredible and practical ways for you to use it!

  • Microblogging: Download the Twitter app to quickly snap photos, upload videos, and post Tweets on amazing classroom happenings with your mobile device! Add your own classroom hashtag to each post to keep them organized in one place!  (Read our article on when and how to blog vs. microblog!)
  • Parent Involvement: Not only can you boost parent involvement through microblogging, but you can also host your own regular Tweetchats using your classroom hashtag!  Simply share with parents the above steps to get started on Twitter, and then give them the date and time for your chat!  You can either set the topic in advance to generate interest and ideas, or you can have an open forum for questions on homework, school events, projects, etc.
  • Facilitate Student Research: You don’t have to let students’ inability to personally tweet hold them back when it comes to their research!  When students generate their own questions and consider who would be knowledgeable on the topic, you can act as their Twitter research facilitator by sending tweets to experts on their behalf!
  • Seeking feedback for student work: This is similar to the above idea, but with the additional idea of sharing all student work! Using hashtags such as #comments4kids–designed specifically for sharing student work with other classrooms–you can share their essays, questions, blogs, and more, with the added benefit of receiving feedback from other classes around the globe!

Happy Tweeting!  We’d love to hear your success stories in the comments!

Featured Image: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Sources:

10 Tips for BYOD Classrooms

BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” is becoming more commonplace in workplaces and conferences, but what about in the classroom?


Important Logistics

Since many students possess one kind of device or another (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.), implementing a BYOD approach at school has the potential to address the financial concerns of funding and maintaining school-wide technology.  However, according to an article¹ by Sharo Dickerson, several essential considerations must be made before implementing such an approach:

  • Network security & systems (Make sure the school can handle the additional bandwidth!)
  • Established policies for teacher & student safety (see some examples & this fantastic Edutopia mini-handbook!)
  • Financial support for students who don’t own a mobile device
  • Apps or other software that the school will make available for all BYOD devices at the school to enable effective classroom use

Same Old Learning with Shiny New Gear?

Even when all the above procedural concerns are managed, introducing BYOD could quickly go the way of 1:1 laptop programs without care.  According to a recent study¹, “Computers in K-12 classrooms are mostly used to support the same textbooks, curriculum, and teaching practices that continue to represent traditional classroom settings” (Norris & Soloway, 2011).  Many administrators and teachers, such as Jennie Magiera², experience the pitfalls of assuming that just the presence of technology in the classroom will motivate and inspire learning to higher levels.  During one of my student teaching experiences, I witnessed first-hand a classroom that was packed with all the latest technology, including 1:1 student desktop computers, an interactive whiteboard, and Activotes–yet it still felt the same as most traditional 20th Century classrooms.  Even the high-tech interactive whiteboard was used like a regular whiteboard or, at best, a projector, with ordinary lists of math problems on the board to be solved, or Basal passages for students to read together.

So what do we do to help BYOD avoid the smoke and mirrors of other failed techno-integration attempts?  According to the Dickerson article, it’s essential to include an “adaptation of constructivism in redesigning curriculum and content delivery.”  In other words:

Bill Ferriter
Bill Ferriter
  • The creator of the above picture, Bill Ferriter³, explains that kids aren’t motivated by the technology itself, but by its potential for further opportunities to expand their learning horizons.
  • Jennie Magiera, explains in her article² her realization that she would need to “break down to rebuild” in order to foster real growth.
  • As Wolf Creek Public Schools have introduced BYOD, they are focusing on the “pedagogy before technology,” with the mentality that “It’s not a tech goal; it’s a learning goal.”
  • Edna Sackson, author of popular learning blog, WhatEdSaid⁴, describes 10 “Big Ideas” for deeper learning, including ownership, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, curiosity, diversity, flexibility, relevance, connection, and change.

The common denominator in all these examples of higher level learning with technology?  Technology has the potential to dramatically revolutionize 21st century learning; we can’t expect that to happen with same-old 20th century teaching strategies and mentalities!

Ideas for Authentic 21st Century Learning

As you implement a BYOD or any technology approach in your classroom, you will need to consider the unique needs of your students.  However, we hope this list will give you some ideas to help students authentically use devices to enhance and customize their own learning:

1. Twitter (Click here for our article on Twitter for Teachers!)

Make a unique hashtag for your class that will enable you to post questions, comments, links, or even just regular announcements.  Students could also upload thoughts on their learning using this hashtag, both in and out of the classroom!  You can even use the hashtag to organize TweetChats during class for students to experience a dynamic debate that eliminates the need to “take turns talking.” (Tweetdeck is a great resource to easily view all Tweets within a hashtag). In addition, you could use existing hashtags such as #comments4kids to publish student work and ask questions to engage with a real audience!  (See this free Twitter handbook for teachers for more ideas for classroom use, as well as information to get you started if you’re a Twitter newcomer!)

2. Skype

In the classroom, Skype is a close relative to Twitter in that both have the potential to truly take learning beyond your 4 walls!  Check out our article that goes over how Skype Virtual Field trips work for some specific ideas!

3. App Selection

To help students really utilize technology as a learning tool, choose apps that are “Creation-based over Content-based!”  My article on Practical Student Blogging also lists several resources that include creation-based apps, with Educreations being one of my favorites! Also see apps sorted by topic in my Edutopia post, “Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design.”

4. Differentiated Learning

Do you have students who have an IEP accommodation to have a scribe during writing?  Help them discover and use speech-to-text apps such as Dragon Dictation or Evernote, or Google Apps add-ons like Text to Speech with Google Drive!  Do you have students who struggle with remembering assignments or time management?  Help them learn to manage their time with apps like Due or again, Evernote.  Meeting every student’s diverse needs can go from being an elusive ideal to a truly attainable undertaking when we “use technology creatively” (WhatEdSaid article) in the classroom!

5.  Student Blogging

Have students keep digital portfolios of their work and progress throughout the year using blogs!  Check out our post on student blogging for specific ideas to get you started. 2016 edit: Also be sure to check out Seesaw & our privacy-friendly alternatives to blogging.

6. Google Collaboration

Turn writing assignments and other projects into more effective collaboration as students work together in real time in Google Drive!  With their work already online in highly shareable files, they can seek for feedback not just from their classmates, but other peers around the school or even the globe!  We feel strongly that this kind of technology use will empower kids with authentic problem-solving skills as they learn how and from where to seek real feedback (ie, not just their teacher)!

7. Presentations

Thanks to technology, the mediums for presentations have stretched well beyond dioramas, posters, and essays.  Perhaps students will want to make a Toontastic puppet show on their iPad. Others may want to create a Youtube video instead.  Still others may opt for a Prezi (see our post on replacing Powerpoint with 3 highly collaborative, interactive resources).  Whatever the case, with so many options at their fingertips, be sure to give students more autonomy in constructing and displaying their thinking with their BYOD devices!

8. Enrich the scientific process

From digital microscope apps to the simple camera features of devices, students can take scientific learning to a new level.  For example, you can have students take daily photos of an experiment’s progress to create time lapse videos (idea from this WhatEdSaid article), which would help them analyze their data in new ways!  Additionally, students can use Twitter and Skype to ask for feedback from experts or other classes around the world on their findings, or simply to communicate their results!.

9. QR codes

Turning any device into a barcode reader/creator is easy with QR codes!  As you consider the many suggestions available online for their classroom use, remember to hunt for ideas that give students opportunities for ownership and connection–in other words, be picky!  One idea we found that could help fit this purpose include printing and posting some codes around the classroom that take students to various photos or videos to provoke their thinking at the beginning of a unit.  Another idea involves students making QR codes for their research findings that they then post together in the classroom or virtually on the class blog!  Be sure to ask for student input for their use in class as well!

10. Revolutionize Exit Tickets

Rather than sort through exit tickets or assignments after students have gone home with misconceptions, check their progress during learning activities and projects using the program, Exit ticket!  Because you can see their understanding right away, you can adjust your approach to better address their needs.  The program is available on virtually any device with access to a network, thanks to compatibility with Android, iOS, and desktops.

Photo Credit:

Jeremy Keith

Sources:

1 Sharo Dickerson Article

2 Jennie Magiera Article

3 Bill Ferriter Article

4 Various WhatEdSaid articles

3 Tech-Savvy Powerpoint Alternatives

We’ve all snored through text or slide-heavy Powerpoints before.  The next time you have to create a presentation, consider some of these more engaging alternatives!


These 3 resources each explore the what (how the resource works), the when (uses in the classroom), and the how (how they can replace Powerpoint)!

Thinglink

What

Take any image and turn it into an interactive dream as you link in videos, pictures, articles, and comments!  They work particularly well if you have a classroom blog or other website your students can access.  The Thinglink above contains more links with details on introducing you to this fantastic resource.

When
  • Introduce yourself to your students in a fun new way!
  • Instead of assigning your 30+ students to all make Powerpoint reports (taking endless hours afterwards presenting in class), assign them to make Thinglinks, publishing them to a class account or on the class blog!
  • Rather than taking class time to go through a Powerpoint, give them a homework assignment to explore a new Thinglink that gets them thinking!  You can just put up an image with questions for them to start wondering and thinking (see example below), or include multimedia to really familiarize them with the subject before doing further study in class!

How

Say you want to present to your students information on documents and systems that helped influence the United States Constitution: the Magna Carta, the Iroquois Confederacy, the Mayflower Compact, and the Articles of Confederation. With a powerpoint, this would be a very linear discussion, covering each topic consecutively, perhaps with videos sprinkled throughout.  With a Thinglink, however, you can link all the videos, media, and thinking questions into one image, and then publish it to a classroom blog or another platform your students can access.  Students can then explore all the links in a manner that best suits their learning–re-watching videos that were confusing for them, or reading articles at their pace that give them even more information!  Check out an example of how we put this together below.

Prezi

What

A Prezi is a zoomable presentation that engages viewers as it flows from idea to idea in unexpected, animated ways.  The video above chronicles the development and benefits of using Prezi as it goes through an actual Prezi!

When
  • You can embed a Prezi into your classroom website any time you want your students to be able to explore a concept at their convenience.
  • Great when you want to help your students really “be there” with regards to your big idea in presenting.  The Prezi below does a beautiful job of this!

  • Especially amazing when you want to teach about anything connected to timelines.  Check out the Prezi below for an example of what we mean!

How

A Prezi can be used exactly as you currently use Powerpoints–in fact, it even has a feature for you to upload existing Powerpoint slides into a Prezi template!  Only, then, you get to play with the 3D templates and zoomable features to help bring it to life!

Skype Virtual Field Trips

What

The definition of what makes a Skype virtual field trip is confined only by your own imagination!  Watch this video on Skype’s education page for a wonderful introduction!  Connecting through Skype, you can interview activists, have docents show your students around museums, or even take students on virtual road trips (see that field trip described in more detail here, along with 4 other amazing examples)!  An article from Scholastic explains how it provides “customized curriculum” and “global connections.” You can either pick existing lessons from Skype’s page on classroom use that you can schedule right away, or connect with other teachers around the world with similar project goals using your Skype account and profile!

When
  • Meet classes with whom your class is quadblogging
  • Give students an opportunity for authentic learning experiences when budgets for actual field trips are tight!
  • Explore other cultures as you connect with people and places outside your own country!
How

Forget making a Powerpoint with the who, what, when, where, and why of wolves in North America: Schedule a Skype interview with an actual wolf expert for students to interview and learn from after they have prepared some questions!  Not only does this dynamically bring learning “off the page,” but it hones students’ communication skills as well!

Photo Credits: Photographer (featured image)

SourcesWays to Use Thinglink in the Classroom

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation: 17 Practical Application Ideas

http://honorsgradu.com/intrinsic-vs-extrinsic-motivation-17-practical-application-ideas/

As teachers, we have heard the dialogue on intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, and the importance of instilling authentic passion for learning.  But in a day of real-life frustrations and desperation for student cooperation, where is the realistic balance as we apply this important classroom management principle?

Continue reading “Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation: 17 Practical Application Ideas”

Common Core Standards: Parent & Teacher Resources

With its recent implementation in 45 states, the Common Core has garnered praise and criticism alike.  This article offers a few resources to help dispel some of those worries for both parents and teachers.


 

Resources for Parents

In our experience, worries from parents about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are often due to misinformation from the media.  For example, when my own students’ parents would come to me with CCSS concerns, they were consistently shocked when I told them that the CCSS currently only covers math and English Language Arts.  This is because many articles had led them to believe that the CCSS were requiring sex education (for Kindergarten, no less!) or sweeping Social Studies alterations.  If you, too, have concerned parents at your school, here are some resources to which you can direct them to help clear things up! (Update: Be sure to also check out our newest article, “My Common Core Story, & Why You Should Share Yours, Too“).

→ “CONVERSATION: A THREE-MINUTE VIDEO ON COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS

 

CCSS logo→ MYTHS & FACT SHEET ABOUT THE CCSS

 

talking-to-teacher-467x267[1]→ ARTICLE: “TALKING TO PARENTS ABOUT THE COMMON CORE
→ FACT VS. FICTION BY STATE:

Of the states that are using the Common Core Standards, about half adopted them verbatim; most of the rest adopted them with modifications.  Click on the infographic below for a clickable map of state fact sheets.

Resources for Teachers

The concerns for teachers tend to be more related to implementation.  Experienced teachers are familiar with the constant ebb and flow of new programs and curricula, and the expectation to repeatedly scratch old material and start over.  While it can certainly be frustrating to tackle yet another new curriculum, there’s great news when it comes to the CCSS: for the first time, teachers across the country are in the same boat!  As such, we can now share resources with one another in heretofore unheard-of quantity and quality.  We believe that this is one of many ways in which the CCSS will increase the quality of national teaching practices.  Check out some of these resources below that are designed for this purpose!

LEARNZILLION:


Teacher Boaz Munro described his experiences as a new teacher in this article, sharing his realization that “All of the lessons I planned started with…a modeling of the skill I was trying to teach—and yet I was not watching enough people model the skills I was trying to learn.”  LearnZillion is a resource that allows you to watch how experienced teachers model and explain CCSS-aligned concepts.  Some features include marking your favorite videos to help you keep track, and a sharing code so that you can easily assign students to watch the videos!

KHAN ACADEMY:


Khan Academy is similar to LearnZillion in that you can set up a class account to invite students, as well as lesson videos in both English Language Arts & Math!  However, it also includes a setup that allows students to practice the skills after watching the videos within the lesson set, complete with hints that model the skills again!  This in turn allows you to monitor student progress!  This resource is filled with visual data!

BETTERLESSON:

BetterLesson is unique in that you actually choose lessons from real master teachers.  These are lessons designed more for you as the teacher than for students, and can be very informative as you work to develop lesson plans in math and language arts.

Related Reading:

10 Tips for 21st Century Teachers

Photo Credit: InThePotter’sHands (featured image)

 

Chemical vs. Physical Changes: Let’s Get it Straight!

Breathing, cooking, exercising, and more: we are surrounded by changes every day! But how do we keep straight which are physical and which are chemical?


Physical Changes

Physical changes involve chemicals getting rearranged in a new way, but without getting destroyed or irreversibly combined. The molecular structure of the original substance(s) is the the same after the change, which means it is still the same substance. A common example is of water freezing; the liquid water becomes a solid, but it is still water. Ripping paper is another example because while it may be in pieces, it’s still paper. Signs of a physical change include:

  • Expected color change
  • Change in size or shape
  • Change in state of matter
  • Reversible
  • No new substance formed!

Chemical Changes

Chemical changes, or reactions, involve chemicals getting rearranged in irreversible ways. We bring in the term “reaction” when dealing with chemical changes because the chemicals involved actually react with one another to form a new substance (that’s why we call the parts in a chemical reaction the reactants). The ways chemicals can react are many: two substances can combine to create a totally new one (Direct Combination), a substance can permanently break apart, separating into different substances (Decomposition), or maybe a substance combusts as it reacts to oxygen (Combustion) (see more types of reactions here). Whatever the reaction, it’s important to recognize that one or more new substances are formed! Burning wood is a common example of a chemical reaction because as the wood reacts with oxygen after it has been ignited, it creates smoke and ashes. Signs of a chemical reaction include:

  • Unexpected color change
  • Change in temperature as energy is released or absorbed
  • Gas created
  • Irreversible
  • New substance formed!

Confusing Cases

In many cases, it may seem a simple task to distinguish between the two, but it gets more complex when we’re dealing with changes that seem irreversible when they’re not. For example, we may look at a glass of Kool-Aid and think to ourselves, “I made Kool-Aid. It was water and a packet, but now it’s dissolved together to make new drink, so it’s a new substance.” However, if you think back to the list of signs of a physical change, you’ll realize that not only was there an expected color change (the water didn’t turn purple when you added red Kool-Aid!), but that it is reversible–the water could evaporate in the form of gas, leaving red Kool-Aid residue behind! The water is still water, and the Kool-Aid is still Kool-Aid, and since no new substances were formed, it is a physical change!

Another example of confusion is in cooking eggs–after all, isn’t it still an egg before and after tossing it in pan? However, on a molecular level, the egg has changed completely as the proteins have bonded in new ways, making it a new substance. Additionally, because of the change, it is not possible for the egg to ever become raw again, and since a new substance was formed, it is a chemical change!

For some practice using the different lists of signs for each type of change, and to view several other examples in action, check out this Prezi below!

Photo credit: Faris Algosaibi

Other Sources:

1

2

Practical Student Blogging

If you’re like most teachers, you have 47 other tabs open besides this one: your grade-book, email, lesson plan resources, and a couple articles on stress management.  So how can you implement student blogging without tipping the scale?


Blogging Benefits

The countless benefits of student blogging are likely what led you to this article today!  Some that we at the Honors Grad U family have witnessed through experience include:

  • Authentic audience: Parents, teachers, peers, and even fellow students across the globe can view, comment, and contribute to the learning!

  • Developing practical tech skills: Besides the obvious benefit of typing practice, blogging is a perfect tool for introducing and practicing skills from copying and pasting to simple HTML editing to maintaining various digital accounts.

    6989301951_9dd536b706

  • Multimedia Literacy:  Growing up, we all made dioramas from shoe boxes, wrote 5-paragraph essays, and crafted posters.  However, 21st century students can and need to also become fluent in an ever-expanding pool of digital resources.  Blogging gives them practice in creating and sharing pictures, Youtube videos, Educreations, Thinglinks, Infographics, Prezi’s, and much more!

  • Engaging Assignments/Projects Through Student Choice & Variety: It can be difficult to keep the passion burning when you introduce a persuasive writing unit.  However, when you also introduce the idea of also including persuasive imagery, as well as actually sharing their work with their intended audience, suddenly things get much more intriguing and personal for each student!

  • Simpler Teacher/Student Collaboration: You’ve experienced the dredge of writing comments on dozens to hundreds of assignments–and that’s only after deciphering questionable handwriting!  Once students have posted various artifacts to their blogs, you can easily type feedback–and depending on your platform, that can even be made private!

  • Easily Accessible Digital Learning Portfolio: Say goodbye to clunky binders with half-ripped-out pages from September by the time you get to March!  If you just consider the use of a few tags, you can already imagine how much easier it would be to navigate the archives of a digital portfolio.

Simple Steps for Success

  1. Pick a Platform:  Spend time exploring your options, privacy needs, and budget.  Most platforms are free on a basic level, but if you want more storage, you’ll want to consider budgeting for your account.  You can even try talking to your administration for some budgetary help, especially if they want to purchase a group package for your school!  Kidblog, WordPress, and Edublogs are all common options that allow you to add users with you as the administrator and moderator!

  2. Permission: Make sure you discuss your school’s privacy policies with your administration before you get started, especially if you’re the first teacher at your school to start student blogging!  You may just need to make a permission slip from parents for each student, or you may find that media permission slips have already been submitted to the school!

  3. Carve out class blogging time: This is probably the hardest step of all!  However, if you are an elementary school teacher, just a weekly 30-45 minute time slot should be enough to get them started!  For secondary levels, you may be able to do more at-home blogging assignments, but you’ll still want to establish at least a little class time for modeling how to use the resources (see below).

  4. Internet Safety & Respect:  Before students enter their blogs for the first time, make sure they are all familiar with basic safety rules, including sharing their personal information (this website is full of teaching ideas).  Also, practice proper etiquette in commenting on paper (see lesson ideas here), before launching into the real deal!  Creating and signing a class blogging contract for future reference is always a plus, too!

  5. Establish clear expectations:  Decide what’s most important to you for their blogs.  If you expect capitalized titles, tags for every post, and a reflection, make sure it’s clear from the beginning.  Let students know you won’t publish any posts missing basic expectations (but make sure they are reasonable for your students’ level as well)!

  6. Choose a few resources: While you’ll definitely want to introduce them one at a time (see below), spend some time beforehand identifying and familiarizing yourself with the main resources you want to teach your students to use.  We recommend choosing one resource for each subject you want your students to be able to exhibit.

    1. Math: Educreations is fantastic resource that allows students to explain their thinking as they draw while also recording their voice!

    2. Reading: You can use Audioboo to have students record their reading skills throughout the year!  Particularly for younger students, it would be powerful for them to literally listen to their progress from September to May.  For a free option (Audioboo maxes out after 3 minutes), you could also use Youtube, even covering up the camera so it just records their voices.

    3. Writing: Obviously, the simple text of a blog post is a great way to share student writing throughout the year. However, you can easily liven things up by introducing a word cloud maker like Wordle.  Not only would it add some beauty to their published piece, but it can also help students visualize their most common word usage in essays!

    4. Art: Older students will likely already be familiar with Photobooth to simply take pictures of their art pieces, but you may need to spend time teaching younger students how to take and upload photos to their blogs.

    5. Science/Social Studies: Thinglink allows students to collect several online articles, videos, and photos into one beautiful interactive presentation!

  7. Introduce one at a time:  Even if it takes several months, it is worth teaching and  practicing just one resource at a time!  Before moving to the next resource, thoroughly familiarize them by allowing them to explore several examples, create a few of their own on their blogs, and collaborate with one another’s work through commenting.  We’ve also found it effective to print and display a board of step-by-step guides for each resource for students to reference in the future.

  8. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL!!  Every chance you get, model how you would like them to use each resource.  Using your own blog account, create multiple examples of each resource for them to reference.  Remember to also model quality comments on their own blogs throughout the year!

  9. Make sure it’s accessible to parents: One of the most rewarding aspects of student blogging is to watch parents connect authentically with their child’s work!  Make sure links to student blogs are available on your classroom blog, and/or email reminders to parents after students have finished blogging projects!

Additional Ideas

Once you get into a groove with blogging, here are a few other ideas to consider to keep things exciting for your class:

  • Student Blogging Challenges: Websites like this one offer wonderful challenges for students to tackle in their blogs!  You can always get creative and craft a few of your own!  For high schoolers, this can even be in the form of working on scholarships, such as our very own Honors Grad U Scholarship, as students share their progress on their blogs!

  • Quadblogging:  This is one of the best ways to connect globally with classrooms just like yours!  Four classrooms form a quad, with each class taking turns being the  highlight classroom, while the other three visit their blogs and leave comments!  One member of our Honors Grad U family has experienced connecting with classes from the U.K. & China!

  • Consider social media: Another way to break down your four classroom walls is social media, including Twitter (Click here for our post on Twitter for teachers)!  Educational hashtags can allow your students to quickly find feedback from around the world.  For example, #comments4kids is specifically intended to post links to student work for others to leave comments!

  • Badges: www.classbadges.com is a fun way to motivate students to work to visually earn various achievements!  You could also use them in conjunction with your student blogging challenges!

Hopefully, these steps allow you to tackle student blogging in a manageable, practical way!  Leave a comment if you have any questions or additional ideas as you get started!


photo credits: DeathToTheStockPhoto (featured image)