A classroom blog is a great way to build a professional learning portfolio. However, many well meaning teachers abandon a class blog after a few months because they feel their efforts are unappreciated and all their musings have fallen on deaf ears.
Grinding out posts with a variety of media to document learning that is happening in the classroom is often a thankless task. In the early stages, don’t expect your site visitor widget to be going off the charts. However, having had a classroom blog for three years now, I’ve learned a number of ways to get others involved with your blog and make it more of a product of a networked community rather than just one dedicated teacher.
1. Advertise It
Parent teacher conferences, back to school night, any and all forums are an opportunity to have a tab open to your blog to share what you and your students are doing. You may find out that many of your parents are not even familiar with the concept of a blog and may need some assistance in subscribing to feeds either by RSS or email.
2. Turn Commenting Into a Classroom Activity
If you write posts about major activities, consider having your students write reflective comments on the activity the following day. They will have time to reflect on the experience and you can use it as an opportunity for a a variety of writing strategies such as summarizing, sentence fluency and other forms of figurative language like similes, metaphors and hyperbole. Teaching thoughtful commenting is a 21st century skill and some posts may have elements of debate that you can use as a forum to engender good digital citizenship.
3. Invite Parents to Comment
Ask your students to share an activity that they did with their parents. If you have time, consider making a parent mailing list and send them emails every once in a while appraising them of learning activities and major projects. I’ve gotten many thank you letters from parents explaining how grateful they are to see what their children are doing in math and science. When students get to middle and high school, they tend to talk about school less and less so a blog is a great way to de-privatize what is happening in school.
4. Add a Translator Widget
As an international school teacher, I don’t have many English speaking parents. Being able to translate what I’m writing about is essential to get non-English speaking parents coming back to my blog. Google Translate has a great widget although there are many on the net. Walk non-English speaking parents through the process of using this tool at back to school night or conferences.
5. Add a Flickr Flash Photo Stream
This is cooler than cool. What it does is takes your photos under flickr and turns them into a badge which is a collage of pictures. I take pictures throughout the year of student activities and add them to my flickr account which are then added to the flickr widget which is embedded in my blog’s sidebar. I delete all my images at the end of the year.
6. Embed Your Hashtag Chat
Speaking of widgets, many people embed their tweets onto their blog or webpage. However, if you’re using Twitter with your students and having discussions under a hashtag chat, it’s possible to embed that hashtag filter onto your blog. What’s cool is that parents and students can see their ever changing discussions and it breaks up dormancy between posts.
7. Add Posts From Student Blogs to your Classroom Blog
This is easier for elementary teachers who are teaching all major content areas, but you can easily put links to “people you follow” or “links” into a sidebar widget so there is a continual addition of posts as students blog about their learning experiences. As a math and science teacher, I found it is a little trickier. I want to show only posts post only related to my class, but it’s an easy fix. You can make a dynamic tag (such as your name) or a category that will filter posts in your subject area to a sidebar widget of your blog. Talk to your technology resource facilitator to help set this up through RSS.
8. Send Posts to Professionals
Once you have posts, send URLs to professionals whose work you may be following and ask them to contribute or comment. As so many people are on Twitter these days, it’s so easy to share your pedagogy with trade professionals and make connections for you and your students. Some may even be willing to set up a Skype chat date.
Managing a classroom blog should be fourth on your list of priorities after teaching a viable curriculum, good teaching pedagogy, and various assessment methods. But, it can be a great portfolio of your learning activities that you use to document the growth of your class and your growth as as teacher. By networking and encouraging others to contribute, it becomes an amalgamation of you, your students, your students parents and professionals in the field.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, garryknight.