Last month I went fishing for elementary school teachers willing to try blogging in their classrooms. Second year teacher Ryan Burk shut his eyes and grabbed the bait- his class is glad he did!
Blogging is a great way to get kids thinking and writing. There is something about knowing you’ll be published that increases the care students take in writing. They are make a point to know facts, write in a grammatically correct structure, and to sound as if they know what they are talking about.
We started the blog with a field trip to the Maine State Museum. The goal was to capture moments of interest from the museum tour so students could look back and remember what they saw and learned. We used EasyBlogger Jr, an app that allows students to take videos or photos and easily narrate over top. One tap of a button publishes their post to the classroom blog.
The setup was easy. I had the app on my phone but could just as easily have used an iPad. Ryan identified photographers and videographers ahead of time and we met with the class to go over guidelines:
- The purpose of this project was to record learning, not to take selfies
- Students had the choice of what they chose to blog about, but they needed to know facts about the items they showcased. They also needed to speak about them in their own words- no reading off the exhibit placards.
- Fluency is important- students were encouraged to practice before posting.
- Real people would be reading and listening to their work.
After a reminder in the museum lobby I gave them the phone and then we let go.
The kids roamed the museum in chaperoned groups. Our bloggers collaborated with their peers to determine what should be covered. They learned about the items they were looking at, took photos and videos, and became roving reporters. They posted their reports on the fly. Once back in the classroom they were eager to review what was published.
Ryan followed up in the classroom with a session on expanding the blog. What else, he asked, should they be reporting? His students chose eight categories that fit their needs with the understanding that these could be increased as needed.
As an aside, we set the blog up a little differently than the app intends. Normally students each have an account identified with their name and photo within the app. For compliance with our digital citizenship curriculum we decided to create “content accounts” based on the categories the students chose.
Students choose the category that best fits their post and stay within our internet safety rules by remaining anonymous.
The result? Students are excited about writing. They WANT to write and post to the blog. They plan their posts carefully for content and grammatical correctness. They look for feedback in the form of comments and use these comments to improve their work. Most importantly they are viewing content through a newer, worldwide lens. Families can follow the blog and get a birds-eye view of what’s going on in the classroom. Take a look at Mr. Burk’s Classroom Blog and send some feedback their way.