For the past two weeks, I have been helping my second grade teachers create classroom blogs for their students to use in class. Kidblog is a great place to create blogs for younger students as they can use it with parental consent and it also allows options for privacy settings, including having the teacher moderate all posts and comments.
We started out in computer class by just talking about what blogs are and then looking at one. As a class, we wrote a comment on one of the posts we read. Then, I showed the students how to log in and respond to their teacher's blog post (which was a question they had to answer). To help the teachers continue using blogs on their own, I sent them the following ideas:
If you work on your blog once a week, I think that is great! Right now, your students are commenting in response to a question you have posed to them - which is excellent practice learning how to use the blog. What I would suggest is to now write a longer post of your own, and have them comment on the content of your post. This will require some explanation as to what our goal in commenting is. (Evaluative, agreeing/disagreeing with the topic, questions for the author) This will need reinforcing, so you could pick a blog from anywhere in the world and comment on it together as an example.
After that, you could have them write a post of their own based on a question/topic you write on the board. That would be their title, and their response would be their post. You could have their posts come to you for approval first if you are concerned about spelling. This would be a great opportunity to have a parent help them go over it for editing. Once you have done a couple of posts, then you might feel comfortable letting them comment on each others' posts. It is nice to comment relatively soon after blogging for timely feedback, but I know how time goes. So, you could alternate weeks - one week blog, the next comment. They can always re-read their post. I think they would be excited to read the comments on their posts!
Then, I would suggest having them read posts from another class and leave individual comments - a great center idea using a parent to check spelling etc. If you are ever comfortable with the idea, you can share your blog with your parents, and the world through Twitter and/or blog sharing lists .
At some point, it would be great to see them posts projects on their blogs - scanned pictures, videos etc. The evaluative comments are really a great teaching tool and seeing everyone's projects reinforces mastery of the curriculum content.
Where does this fit in with 21st Century learning? We are writing/producing for a larger audience than just our teacher/class, possibly even globally. There is the thought process that goes into writing a post about a topic (your topic/questions should be higher level in nature) and the evaluative process of leaving comments, again higher level thinking skills. Both of these require critial thinking. As their skills in blogging improve, their topic choice can be more student driven. Blogs are a real world application/skill. As we heard today, businesses are using blogs; also learning the digital citizenship aspect of commenting on others work is much needed. We have all seen so many negative, explicit filled comments on the internet these days. Your topics/posts can be curriculum based finding another, hopefully engaging, method of instilling mastery of subject matter.
Some great resources exist on the internet. This teacher has her second grade students set up their own blogs and explains how she does it. This Live Binder is full of ways to use blogs in the classroom. Starting small is necessary. As you and your students become more comfortable with the process, the possibilities are endless!