Dear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.
Here’s a great question I got from Charlie:
Jacqui, I’m curious about one aspect of blogging with students as a computer lab teacher. That aspect is efficiently managing so many students blogs. I teach grades 2 and 3 which adds up to over 600 students in 25 classes. When you only see each class once per week, blogging could easily be the basis of the entire year’s curriculum. We are a GAFE district but Blogger is blocked. For that reason and ease of management I decided upon Kidblog. So, I am curious how you manage the different classes and numbers of students as a lab teacher. Do you for example have the “all posts must be approved before going live” turned on? What is your username/password convention? Do you use the invitation method of registering student accounts or bulk upload? BTW, do you have a reference that you utilize/like in terms of the teaching progression for teaching blogging?
Truth, I don’t break my students into classes. I want them to be a community, to interact with all students. I ask students to organize posts by tags so they can quickly find other posts on a like topic.
But, I understand with 600 students, that probably won’t work as nicely as my 150 students do (4th/5th graders who I also see once a week). Kidblog allows you to set up multiple classes under your teacher log-in, then add students to each. That would break them into a tighter community for you.
I do approve all posts before publishing, as well as comments. It doesn’t take as long as it sounds like it should (though, again, I have less students blogging than you). I added all grade-level teachers as Admins on the blog and collaborated with them to review-approve posts/comments relevant to their inquiry. This worked well as teachers started using the blog posts/comments as formative assessments, assigning topics that dealt with their inquiry.
UN/PW–I keep those simple, especially important with youngers. Since I’m approving posts/comments, there isn’t a high risk that a student will hack a classmate’s account. If they do, I’ll know who did it. Yes, there are clever ways around that, but most 2/3 graders aren’t that savvy. Once the student successfully logs on, they can change their password. I allow that, but let them know it’s their responsibility to remember. They track the myriad PWs in binders. If they forget their PW (which they will), Admin members can reset, which would be you or any of the teachers you added to the list.
I do the bulk upload to get students started. No special reason, though. I am always looking for opportunities to put tech in front of students, so the invitation would work for that also. My 5th graders are on wikis and I often invite them to join (especially when they can’t find that pesky ‘join’ button!).
I use blogging as an educational tech tool, not so much a skill. I show (demonstrate rather than teach) students the log-in, layout, how to add text, media, but let them do a lot of independent discovery on the richness of the platform. I post articles on my blog that, say, include YouTube videos and hope that inspires them to ask, How did you do that?. I use blogging for many Common Core standards–publishing, sharing, collaborating, understand the perspective of others, visual learning, demonstrate independence, respond to the varying demands of audience/task/purpose/discipline, comprehend as well as critique (via comments). It truly is one of those tools that fits throughout the curriculum.
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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.