::SGASD Blogging Workshop::
July 9, 2009


This workshop will focus on blogging. We'll cover the underlying philosophy of blogging as well as the practical applications to your classroom.

We'll spend some serious time immersing ourselves in the world of blogging to better understand what it is, what's the point of using this medium, and perhaps more importantly, what it isn't, including why we may not want to use the medium of blogging.

  1. What is blogging???
    • Connective Writing
    • Blogging / Not Blogging
    • Becoming a connective reader
      • The world of RSS
  2. About comments
    • How to comment like a King or Queen...
  3. Choosing the Blog that's right for you....
    • Uses of classroom blogs
    • Free services
      • Blogger
      • Edublogs
      • 21 Classrooms
      • Wordpress
    • Themes and widgets and feeds oh my!!!
  4. The world of microblogging
    • Tweeting with Twitter
    • Embedding

Part I: The Theory Stuff

Alright, I know what you're thinking already: "This is an educator workshop! It should be practical. If I want theory, I'll go take a grad class."

What is Blogging??

The Basics

Okay, so maybe you are actually wondering, "What the heck is a blog??"

Apart from basic appearance, what separates a blog from a personal web page, a wiki, or social networking site?

Connective Writing:

What separates a real blog from something that is not a blog at all...
True blogging is connective writing, a style and genre of its own. What is connective writing? Perhaps the best way to unwrap this topic is to do some connective reading. Check out these resources:

According to Will Richardson, the man who coined the term, connective writing is:
  1. Writing that is inspired by reading and is therefore a response to an idea or a set of ideas or conversations.
  2. Writing that synthesizes those ideas and remixes them in some way to make them our own and is published to potentially wide audiences.
  3. Writing that then becomes a part of a larger negotiation of a truth or knowledge that is evolving in the larger network.
  4. Writing that is written with the expectation that it too will be taken and remixed by others into their own truths by this continuous process of reading, thinking, writing (and linking), publishing and reading some more.

Of course, this all brings us to the continuum between what is true blogging (connective writing) and what is just writing the same old stuff in a different format.

Blogging vs. Not Blogging

  • Posting assignments. (Not blogging)
  • Journaling, i.e. “This is what I did today.” (Not blogging)
  • Posting links (Not blogging)
  • Links with descriptive annotation, i.e. “This site is about…” (Not really blogging either, but getting close depending on the depth of the description.)
  • Links with analysis that gets into the meaning of the content being linked. (A simple form of blogging.)
  • Reflective, meta-cognitive writing on practice without links. (Complex writing, but simple blogging, I think. Commenting would probably fall in here somewhere.)
  • Links with analysis and synthesis that articulates a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience response in mind. (Real blogging)
  • Extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links and comments. (Complex blogging)

Found at Will Richardson's Wiki (http://weblogged.wikispaces.com/Connective+Writing)

Becoming a Connective Reader

Want to be a good blogger? Don't want to be considered a Noob? Want to avoid making common mistakes? Read good bloggers practicing good blogging. Oh yeah, don't just read the posts, read the comments too.

A bit about RSS

If you find a blog you like, You may consider subscribing using an RSS feed reader, like Google Reader. This is how others can subscribe to your blog if they wish.

Popular RSS Readers:

About Comments

Probably one of the most crucial and important aspects that sets blogging apart is the ability of the reader to connect with the writer through comments and ultimately participate in that writer's evolving meaning-making process, often while inviting said writer into the reader's own meaning-making process. If you are looking for a protected environment for your students to publish work without outside influences or interactions on a world-wide stage, then you might be better off creating a zine that a blog.

Required Reading:
(or it should be)

Part II: Getting started with our own Blogging Adventure

Choosing the Blog that's right for you....

Okay, so there are a lot of uses for blogs and a lot of different free services from which you can get a blog. Let's look at some blog types and then check out how our choices in that area might inform our choice of service.

How will I use this thing???

  • Professional Reflection and Development

    • This the type of blog I have at http://mrwalters.edublogs.org. You would use this type of blog to reflect on your practice as an educator, professional development, successful class activities, unsuccessful class activities, provide tips, post tutorials, interact with fellow professionals about your teaching niche, and explore important and emerging issues in your field.
    • Example
  • Class Blog / Classroom Portal

    • This is essentially a glorified class web site with a more interactive feel. It can act as a parent communication tool, a place to post assignments, a bulletin board of class news and events, a gallery of examples of class work, etc. The primary difference between this, and say a class website on Edline, would be the ability of your readers to post comments and subscribe to your feed.
  • Student Blog Portal

    • This is a spring board from which you can link to students' blogs. You can blog here about best blogging practice or general topics and encourage students, through comments or their own blogs to share their ideas and opinions about things discussed in class, their reactions to thought-provoking questions, or their own digital portfolios of projects and writing. In this case, ideally students would practice the blogging form in their own blogs, commenting on each others' blog(s) and developing a broader learning community. Often, people will use an alternate service, such as Pageflakes, for this task. Student Blogs could then fit into several categories:
      • Online Filing Cabinet - The dog can't eat the homework here...
      • E-Portfolio - Beyond the filing cabinet. (Interesting article about this)
      • True Blog - Collaborative connective writing space for knowledge articulation.
    • Example
  • Shared Class Blog

    • This has been done successfully, but it ca be awfully cumbersome as a blog. Essentially, this would be a space to complete group projects or online structured research activities. Typically, though, Wikis or Course Management Systems, such as Moodle, work better for such tasks. One could conceivably accomplish the same goals as with a student blog portal, but have each student able to post his or her own entries on a single blog, buch like a magazine with multiple journalists and you're the editor. This seems like a litigious nightmare to me.
    • Example

Popular Blog Services for Educators

Okay, let's look at the blog platforms I've been asked to cover. I'll try to share a little bit about each.

  • Kidblog
    • This is an edu-safe blog service that is free but probably won't be for long.
    • Teachers have administrative control over all student blogs and student accounts.
    • Your students' blogs are private by default - viewable only by classmates and the teacher. (lame.. why have a blog?)
    • For "semi-public" blogs, set up guest (e.g. parent) accounts that require a password to view students' posts/comments. (lame.. why have a blog?)
  • Weebly
    • Not really a blogging platform originally... more for making static web sites
    • Does have blogging capabilities.
    • Great for student portfolios.
    • Nice themes...
  • Blogger
    • Probably the most popular blog service right now. Why? Well, it's provided by Google so it's connected to Docs, Picasa, Sites, Reader, Gmail and all the other Google services.
    • Google somehow manages to provide this service like their others without a bunch of banner adds and embedded advertising links.
    • This has been my blog service of choice for students until the final marking period of 09-10. Google now requires account verification via sms.
  • Edublogs
    • Bottom Line: It used to be awesome, but now it's not worth your time. Now it's just Wordpress with some annoying restrictions. This is whare my blog is, and I'm burning angry over all the new advertising practices. If you can afford to pay to get all of the annoying embedded ads off of your page and to get access to all the widgets that used to be available, I highly recommend Edublogs.
  • Wordpress
    • The blogging standard. Wordpress developed the blogging CMS used by almost all other blogging sites. Edublogs, for example, uses the Wordpress platform.

How are people actually Blogging with their Class?

I’m still stuck on how the students would use this in the classroom. How do I set it up so that it’s more than a bloody reader-response journal with clip art???
(Jared Reck)
Check out some examples (from Teachers First Blog page):
Kindergarten blog with videos and quotes from kids
1st grade classroom shares what they do, including video and pictures
6 to 7 year-old class blog, including video and voicethread for AUDIO comments!
3rd grade class with a blog and some podcasts of stories and more
4th grade classroom writes on curriculum topics
Fictional history blog on Harriet Tubman by elementary students
7th grade blog as a class organizer and daily “scribe” space for students
8th grade U.S. History class blog and link to class podcasts
8th grade math blog, including whiteboard slides
9th grade English blog
Geometry Class with “Posting for Points” options
IB English 1A (HS) students write and comment on literature
HS biology blog -interesting prompts on bio related issues
a school’s central blog - students reflect on Humanities posts
college physics student blogs from a summer research project
Student Newspaper - Grove Gazette