4 Key Challenges and Solutions to Class Blogging

 

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In my last posts I talked about the benefits of class blogging and shared my personal class blogging experience. Today I’ll be focusing on the next step: the challenges you need to take into consideration and the steps I recommend taking.

Choosing a Blogging platform

I would first recommend setting the criteria against which to evaluate a blog service. Among excellent blogging options available,blogger was considered ideal to my teaching situation for the following reasons:

  • It is free of charge and easy to set up.
  • It is not blocked by my school filtering software.
  • There are security options available e.g. comments pending approval from the administrator to ensure that only appropriate comments are posted on the blog.
  • Videos and pictures can be easily embedded.
  • Students don’t need to have email accounts to leave comments.

Although I’ve been very satisfied with the service, I noticed a serious disadvantage; it may be blocked by parental control filters making it difficult for some students to work from home. So, I took the decision to move our class blog to edublogs, a platform which is never blocked by protective filters as it is especially designed for education. The only drawback is that in order to embed videos and use a number of widgets you need to upgrade to a paid edublogs subscription, but the price is fairly low. Other options include kidblog, WordPress and Posterous. They all offer a plethora of features and come with both free and paid plans. So, my advice would be: set the criteria first, devote some time researching and finally choose the platform that best suits your needs :-)

Ensuring students’ security online

Issues such as Internet safety, cyber-bullying and lack of netiquette lead institutions to block social networks depriving students of the positive aspects achieved when collaborating as part of a global community. Therefore, raising awareness of online safety and of the digital footprint students leave behind is of paramount importance (Ward, 2004:7).

While there is not a consensus decision on what should be shared online (pictures, names, private versus public blogs), it is suggested that educators have clear guidelines so that students and parents are aware of what is appropriate (Burt, 2010). Actively involving students in creating these guidelines would be even more effective and would encourage greater ownership and motivation.

A student is adding his group contributions to our blog guidelines

While students should be given freedom over their posts and the ideas they express, they should also be aware that you are the administrator of the blog and thus posts and comments should be first approved by you. This is to ensure that only appropriate content is posted on the blog and that nobody’s feelings are hurt. And as your blog will be probably public (an informed decision you also need to make), you should know that practically anyone on the web can visit and leave a comment. Would you like your students to read comments made by mean or impolite people? To my experience, this rarely happens (we have never received such comments) but I strongly believe moderation is of vital importance to protect your students from the potential risk.

Tagging

Our list

Blog posting can become confusing as a blog expands making it difficult for readers to find their way to earlier contributions. Training learners to organize their work under relevant tags is therefore essential. Tags let writers classify their posts according to keywords by producing a link under each post. Clicking any of those takes visitors to an archive page containing only posts categorized under this label. To make scanning even easier, a list of all the blog tags can be displayed in the sidebar of your blog, sorted alphabetically or by frequency of use.

Commenting

Promoting and teaching commenting skills is necessary if we are to transform our blog from a static space to an interactive community and help learners develop their literacy skills. According to Morris (2011) quality comments are:

  • proofread for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  • relevant to the post.
  • complementing the writer, asking a question or adding further information to the post.
  • do not reveal any personal information.

Devote one or two sessions to teach quality comments and as a follow-up, ask students to comment on each other’s posts. You can also ask students to create guidelines for quality comments and then post them on a blog page for reference.

The list can go on but I’d really love to hear from you first. Have you heard of or experienced any additional challenges regarding class blogging? Can you add other solutions to the challenges above? I would appreciate your thoughts :-)

References
Ward, J. (2004). Blog assisted language learning (BALL): Push button publishing for the pupils. TEFL Web Journal, 3(1): 1-15

 

 

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10 thoughts on “4 Key Challenges and Solutions to Class Blogging

  1. George Karras says:

    Great insights on using blogs in the classroom, Sophia. Thanks for sharing. I have a question concerning comments. You say that one of the guidelines you give for quality comments is correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. This means that you don’t publish comments that are not grammatically correct or contain spelling errors?

  2. Sophia Mavridi says:

    Hi George,

    Thank you very much for your comment and glad you found my post useful. In answer to your question, I do publish comments that contain grammar and spelling mistakes unless these are very serious. This was a decision I made together with my class so students are ok with it. We all agreed that comments that are difficult to understand- because of the errors they contain- won’t be published. I’ve noticed that this encourages students to be more conscious of what they write and proofread it as well- skills we need to teach anyway when we teach writing. I never leave a comment permanently unpublished though. In my next class, I contact the student, we take a look at the comment together and encourage them to correct their mistakes themselves. I think dealing with mistakes this way works very well. At least it’s worked for my students. If you want to share other ways, please do. I’d be very interested to know :-)

    Best,

    Sophia

  3. George Karras says:

    Dear Sophia,

    Thank you very much for your answer. I think the approach you describe can possibly work with students of all ages, not only young learners and teenagers (I’m thinking of adopting a similar approach with my adults).In the beginning, I thought it would be disheartening for students to have their comments “rejected” just because they were inaccurate; but encouraging students to reflect, correct their mistakes themselves and finally have their comment published is, I think, the best way to deal with it. Thanks again.

    George

  4. Maria Petrides says:

    Great tips, Sophia. Thanks for sharing. I think your last tip (teaching commenting skills) is great. I started a class blog last year. It works really well but students don’t seem very enthusiastic about writing comments. Teaching them “how” to do it might do the trick, don’t you think so?

    • Sophia Mavridi says:

      That’s the idea, Maria. Before they are encouraged to leave comments they should know how and why to do so. They should also know that their ideas are appreciated and that disagreement- when expressed politely- can be really productive. Some students are more communicative than others and tend to enjoy commenting more but I’ve noticed that even the shy ones get really excited when they receive comments and are eager to answer.

      Thanks for visiting my blog, Maria and good luck with your blog :-)

      Sophia

  5. Sonia Pappas says:

    Hello Sophia,

    Thank you for the tips. I’m also interested in moving my blog to edublogs mainly for the security reasons you mentioned. How will you do that? Will you also import your previous blog posts/comments to your new blog?

    Thanks

    Sonia

  6. Sophia Mavridi says:

    Hi Sonia,

    Thanks for dropping by. Importing your blog to another platform is possible but you’d better ask edublogs for help. I’m sure they will give you detailed instructions if you decide to do so. I will personally leave my previous blog as it is and start a new one from scratch. The reason behind my decision is that the 6th graders with whom I created and ran that blog have already left primary school so I’m going to have new students this year. I want to introduce them to blogging and involve them as much as I can in the decision making (design, layout, pages, content etc). I feel that starting something afresh will increase ownership and motivation and give us the chance to go through all the initial stages involved. However, I’ll link my previous blog to my new one and keep it for reference. Hope this helps.

    Please, let me know how it all goes and if you need anything else. We could also consider the possibility of getting our students exchange comments! It would be great!

    Best,

    Sophia

  7. williamalake says:

    Hi! Over the years, I’ve looked at many different blog platforms. I’ve decided on WordPress. After signing up to edublogs to leave this comment, Edublogs actually uses the wordpress platform! I see that you’ve chosen it because it isn’t picked up by school filters, but it is essentially the same as wordpress but charges a fee to use all the services that wordpress allows. Is wordpress blocked by some school filters?

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