Well, the reason I decided to put together some information and tips about edublogging here, on my blog is the “Class Blogging” system that we are implementing at my school. Actually we started it last year and I’m sure our class blogs will be more successful this year. We have eight schools in Istanbul and there will be three class blogs and one department blog from each school. After introductory workshops at schools, I thought providing a ‘beginner’s guide’ would be helpful. I decided to publish it on my blog so that more teachers can use the ideas and links that I share.
As I mentioned in my ‘10 Steps To Be A Blogging School‘ post, we use Edublogs Campus in our school. I think it is a very good blogging platform for schools. Actually, I don’t know another blogging platform which offers a service like Edublogs.
Structure of a Blog
Before getting started, you need to understand the structure of a blog. All blogs are similar since they all have most of the same components and elements which typify a blog: Header (the area at the top of the blog which includes the blog title), Footer (the area at the bottom or foot of the blog and usually contains copywright information), Content Page (where all the posts are displayed in reverse chronological order), Comments (A comment area is often also displayed after the end of the post or page or, there can be a link you must click on to display the comments area.), Sidebars (A column located down the left or right side of the blog and the main content area, which contains more information.), Pages (where you can publish information about your blog, blog rules, etc.; check out this post where you can read the differences between ‘Posts’ and ‘Pages’), Widgets (Sidebar widgets are the boxes of different information shown in a sidebar. On this blog the following widgets have been used: vCard, Doppler traveller, Links, Calendar, Archive; Categories, Tag Cloud, Recent Comments, Live Traffic Feed, Networked Blogs, Clustrmaps, Sitemeter) Reference: http://freeblogtraining.com/
What Makes Blogs Different From the Traditional Websites?
The features that make blogs different from traditional websites are also the reasons why blogs have become very important tools for educators. From a technical standpoint blogging is easy because you don’t need any html knowledge or an html editor to publish your content. The blogging platform does all the hard work for its users. From an education standpoint, blogs democratized content publishing and this is something that might have great contributions to the language teaching & learning process.
Steps for setting up your class blog (A Very Useful Series From Edublogs)
Sue Waters who is the editor of The Edublogger designed a series of nine steps to help teachers with class blogging. If you read the series and check out the links she recommends, there is no doubt that you are going to make a good start to blogging.
- Step 1 – Set up your class blog
- Step 2 – Set Up Your Blogging Rules and Guidelines
- Step 3 – Teaching Commenting Skills and Etiquette
- Step 4 – Help Parents Connect With Your Class Blog
- Step 5 – Add Students To Your Class Blog So They Can Write Posts
- Step 6 – Add A Visitor Tracking Widget To Your Blog Sidebar
- Step 7 – Setting Up Student blogs
- Step 8 – Add your student blogs to your blogroll
- Step 9 – Add Your Student Blogs To A Folder In Google Reader
My school’s teachers will be sent their usernames and passwords and get started in a week. I created Gmail accounts for them considering that they might want a separate email address for blogging and teachers of a particular grade level might take turns in moderating student comments. Therefore the best solution seems to be giving them email accounts where two or three teachers can access.
In order to make a more confident start and get creative ideas, I suggest you to check out this post that gives links to different class blogs from all around the world:
Changing the Theme of Your Blog
Edublogs offers more than a hundred themes and as Campus Users we have access to all the themes. However I have activated some of them because I prefer our class blog themes to have the ‘commenting feature’ in pages as well and not all the themes have this feature. This works well when you let your students leave comments on their class page and interact with each other and the teacher. Also, you can create a page called ‘For Parents’ and encourage parents to leave comments, give you feedback.
Using Pictures In Your Blog Posts
I suggest you to use images with your blog posts to make your posts look more colorful and interesting. But how are you going to find good images for your blog posts? You can find wonderful images on Google Images but this does not mean that you can add those pictures to your blog posts freely. (To find a free image in Google, you should go to the “advanced image search” page and filter your search query by restricting search term to Labeled for commercial reuse or Labeled for commercial reuse with modification under the Usage Rights section.)
I, personally, prefer to buy photos from iStockPhoto to use in my presentations or blog posts. But this is something that you can do for personal use. For your class blog, you can either take pictures yourself or get images from copyright-friendly image libraries. Here are some useful links: Pics4Learning, Digital Saskatchewan, Free Stock Photos, MorgueFile, Stock.xchng, FreeFoto
There is also a collaborative project called #eltpics by @VictoriaB52,@vickyloras and @cgoodey. Teachers are invited to contribute to #eltpics with pictures they take. You need to tweet your picture with #eltpics hashtag and then your picture is uploaded to Flickr. There are about 1000 photos in the archive which you can use in your lessons. I think this project is another sign of how powerful the PLN (Personal Learning Network) is.
Embedding Videos from Video Sharing Sites
Embedding videos to your blog posts is good for making the content more interesting for students and also helping them develop their listening skills. Some of the video sharing sites that I can recommend (apart from YouTube): Vimeo , 5min (instructional, knowledge and lifestyle videos), Blip TV
And here are the instructions of how to embed videos from video sharing sites:
Widgets & Tools
Last year, I wrote a blog post called ‘Top 10 Widgets For Your class Blog” to share my favorite widgets. Now, I want to add two very good tools that you (and your students) will love using.
Glogster is a very creative online tool that allows students to create interactive, collage style posters. The posters that the users create are called ‘Glogs’. A Glog can include videos, audio clips, images, links to websites, and text.
Useful Glogster links:
VoiceThread is a great tool for the language classroom. A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in 5 different ways – using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) – and share them with anyone they wish. A VoiceThread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world. It can be used for collaborative digital storytelling at ALL levels of the school.
Useful VoiceThread links:
OTHER USEFUL LINKS:
Adding A Voki Speaking Avatar To Your Blog Sidebar (Figuring out how to add widgets to the sidebar was not easy for me when I first started blogging. If you read this post and follow the steps carefully, you will also have learned how to add the other widgets-weather forecast, etc. to your blog sidebar.)
Adding Tags and Categories to a Post (Adding tags and categories to your blog posts will make your life easier after some time of blogging. Tags and categories will help you and your students find the previous posts easily.)
It is amazing how edublogging has developed and the number of resources has increased since I started blogging.
I’d like to thank Edublogs and Sue Waters for providing us with very useful resources and wonderful educators from all around the world who share their blogging experiences, resources and ideas.