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In this new series, author and educator Aaron Quigley shows you how to stay up to date with the latest educational technology and classroom management techniques. Each week, he'll introduce you to a new tip you can use to be more efficient, and increase student achievement. Aaron covers concepts like the flipped classroom, Common Core Standards, and the role of social media in education. The series also covers a variety of productivity apps, learning management systems, and other technologies, using a project-based approach that simulates the real K–12 or university classroom environment. Check back often for new tutorials, every Monday with Teacher Tips.
This week we'll be looking at educational blogs and whether or not we as educators should be using blogging inside the classroom. Millions of educators across the world have used blogging to benefit their students, and we're going to go ahead and understand the ways they've used it so that we can make a decision whether or not we would like to use blogging in our own classrooms. When it comes to blogging in the classroom, there's two major focuses we can have. The first focus can be a teacher focus blog. These blogs are going to be classroom best practices and resources for other educators to read and use. They're other teacher focused blogs, these blogs are going to contain classroom best practices and resources.
They're going to be based on your own experience and your posts are really designed for other educators to read. We also have student focused blogs. These particular blogs are designed for students to access your online information outside of class time. These posts are designed to be read by the students and the students alone. There's a third kind of blog that I haven't mentioned here and that's student created blogs, we'll come back to that at the end of this video. For the context of today, we'll be talking about student-focused blogs. While I believe it's important for professionals to share their ideas so that we can all become better, and I really do encourage you to start a teacher-centered blog at some point in your career, today's focus is how we can use blogs to help student achievement In our student focused blogs here are some things that we can share online.
We can share content, we can start Flipping our classrooms. If you're not familiar with the flipped classroom model, please check out my flipped classroom video on lynda.com. Also, we can share Screencasts the same way I'm using a screen and audio to display information. You can create the same content for your students and upload it to your blog so they can access it at any time. You can also share homework, so students can access it from anywhere. In fact, I've gotten in the habit of telling my students, just check my blog for homework, as opposed to having them always asking me, what's the homework tonight? I didn't know what the homework was, I didn't know it was due.
Instead, the homework is clearly posted on the blog for students to access also you can have the lesson notes. This is a great thing if you have students that are constantly absent. They can simply go to your blog and figure out what you guys talked about in class that day. This is another thing you can use for Flipping your classroom, students can start gaining information of your lessons. Outside of the classroom walls and that's going to free up class time for our extension activities and for you to focus on helping your students master content as opposed to delivering content. And finally, you can also post assignments and instructions.
I've even posted instructions for a lab and asked my students to go to my blog during the lab to get those instructions. In addition to Student Centred Blogs, you can have Student Created Blogs. This is a wonderful way to build a performance assessment into your unit. Things that students can share online could be Class News. Instead of having a class newspaper, transition to having a class blog. It requires fewer resources and students are very excited about the fact that they can go home and show friends and family the work that they've done online. You can also have students create blog posts for Project Presentations.
Students will be able to upload to a website images and descriptions of their project to share with their fellow classmates. The blogging system will also allow for interaction between students. So one student can actually post comments on another student's presentation. This leads us to class discussions or students replying to other student posts. When students are using blogs online, you're actually capturing that conversation so you can reference it in class and finally, you have a history of their learning. Students can look at their blog posts from the first day of school all the way to the last day of school and actually track the growth in learning they've done.
If you choose to use a student created blog I will have one note of caution, please be sure not to release student information. If you're going to have any images of students make sure you have the appropriate releases before you put them online. And please mask out all student names or give your students an online alias so that you can protect yourself and not accidentally release student information. The next thing to talk about is where we should use these blogs, what's available to us as educators. The most common place is Wordpress.com. Here you can quickly create a free blog. There are hundreds of themes you can choose from, and you can quickly be up and blogging in a matter of minutes.
Another really common platform for educators is Edublogs.org. This is also free, and it's an educator community-focused blogging network. Here, for your own blog, you have the opportunity to interact with other educators. Now, Edublogs.org is actually built on top of a Wordpress framework, which means that navigating an Edublogs.org blog or a Wordpress.com blog is the exact same thing. If you can use one platform, you can use the other Platform. One of the downsides to Edublogs.org is some of the functionality is limited unless you're a premium subscriber.
If you're not a premium subscriber, the number of themes you can choose and the content you can post is limited. The last platform I'm going to mention for this video is Blogger.com. Blogger.com is part of the Google network, and it integrates well with other Google devices. All three of these blogging platforms are free for you to quickly create an online blog. There are a variety of blogging platforms out there, and I urge you to do your own research to determine what's going to work best for you. Let's go ahead and take a look at a blog that's build it edublogs. This is going to to give us an idea of how you can quickly build a blog for your own classroom.
Now, the blog that I've set up in here has zero content to it. All I've done is I've gone through and created a few custom categories and I've changed the theme slightly. One you log into Edublogs I can simply access my Dashboard by clicking on it in the upper right hand corner. Now whether you're in a Wordpress blog or in Edublogs, this Dashboard is going to look very similar with a few changes. There are some Settings in the left hand side that Edublogs makes available to all of their blog Users. That will not be available in a wordpress.com blog. If you're using a wordpress.org blog, or a self-hosted Wordpress blog, then you can choose to add some of this functionality back in by adding additional Plugins.
Once you have your blog established, the first thing you want to do is go ahead and set your blog up. To do this, I'm going to go to Appearance, and I'm going to click on Themes. For this blog, I've chosen to use the 72 Class theme. As you scroll down, there's a variety of themes you can choose from. But some themes are for edublogs pro only, and the rest of them are available for any member. So for example, I could choose this chalkboard theme, but unless I chose to upgrade, I wouldn't be able to use the Brand New Day theme. As you scroll through these blog themes, things to keep in mind are, how does the feel of this match my class. And does the layout of this look that it fits the content that I'm going to use? For example, over here on the right hand side I can see that this is a very narrow part of the page that's going to allow for the blog post, and the right hand side's going to be taken up with searching items as well as a calendar.
This theme may not work for what I want to do, I want to have the majority of the content fill the page. As I scroll down further, here I can see that this particular theme allows for the blog post content to go all the way across the page without a sidebar. Now some of the ability to turn sidebars on an off may be theme specific. So you never really know until you go ahead an take a look at your blog, which you can easily do by clicking Live Preview. Live Preview will quickly show you all of the content of your blog, inside of the blog theme, I'll scroll back up to the top. Now once you have a theme selected what you can do is click on the Customize tab.
In the Customize tab you have the ability to make some common changes and see how they effect the blog right away. For example, I can click on Colors and here I can change the Background Color, right now it's a very, very, very light blue color. I can even maybe make that a very light green color if I think that would match my LIfe Science class a little better. Once you've made the changes that you like in the left hand side, you can simply click Save and Publish and your blog will now be live with those changes. First thing to do is to create some Navigation. As I look at the top bar here, I can see that there's no navigation on this site.
If users were to come to it, they would only be able to read what was on the front page. Now scrolling down, I can see if there's some navigation already in the footer, such as going to the Site Admin, Logging Out, or taking a look at these RSS feeds. And this information is there to help me while I build the blog. I probably want to remove this Meta section before I actually use this blog to my students. I can also see that I have a recent posts section where students can click between the various posts that I've most recently done. And its automatically creating some Archives for me. Let's go ahead and talk about how we can format this Footer and as well as add a Header so that students can navigate through our blog a little easier.
To do this I'm going to hit the Close button and come back to the main Dashboard. I'm going to go down to Appearance, and I'm going to choose Menus. If there's no Menu created, the first thing you need to do is type in a Menu Name, and click Save Menu. I can have multiple Menus available, and then once I've created a Menu, I can apply that Menu to different locations in my theme. This particular theme only supports one Menu, which is going to be the top Navigation. So what I need to do now is add some items to this Menu. I can do that by scrolling down and taking a look at pages or categories that I have available.
What I'd like to do is go ahead and add some categories for the different posts that I'll put on this blog. I'm going to click the View All sections so I can see what these are, now notice how some categories are indented. What that means is if I add this class information then Assignments and Homework will be directly below that as a dropdown Menu. I'm going to go ahead and do that now, I'm also going to add Student Work with projects directly below that. I'm going to click the Add to Menu button. Now when I click Add to Menu, they call came in completely align to the left hand side. What I would like to have happened under Class Information is for that to be a drop-down Menu with Assignments and Homework.
And under student work, I would like that to have a drop down Menu of Projects. To do this, I can simply grab assignments, and drag it to the right. I'll do the same with homework, and I'll do the same with projects, and then I'll click Save Menu. Let's go ahead and take a look at my Site, I can hover on my site, choose the site that I would like, and then come over to Visit Site. So here on my Site at the top part of the page now I have Class Information with a drop down of Assignments and Homework and I have Student Work with a drop down of Projects. Now students can quickly navigate between these different blog posts categories but you'll notice that I have oh, nothing there.
So we need to actually add some content before these really fully work. But before we start adding some content let's go ahead and clean up that Footer. I'm going to go back to my Sites and chose Science and Technology for Student Achievement. Here in the Dashboard, I'm going to come down to appearance, and this time I'm going to choose Widgets. Now Widgets are simply different sections of functionality that you can move around a Wordpress page. Over here on the right, it says Sidebar one. Now my particularly blog doesn't have a sidebar. What it's using is all of this information inside the Footer. Let's go ahead and take Metadata out of there by clicking and dragging it off.
Let's take recent comments out of there and let's take the Search bar out of there. So all we would like to have is Recent posts, Archives, and Categories. If there's any Customization you can do with these, you can always click the Dropdown menu and go and title them and also choose the number of posts to display. If at any time you'd like to just add some custom text to a part of your Webpage, you can always grab the text widget, drag it to the section you'd like, and then go ahead and add the text you'd like to add to your Site. If you do make any changes to a Widget, be sure to scroll down and click the Save button otherwise, those changes won't take effect.
' Kay, now that I've cleaned up the side bar, let's go ahead and take a look at the site again real quick. If I scroll to the bottom I can now see I just have Recent posts, Archives and my Categories as well as the Text box that I added that says welcome to my blog. Let's go ahead and scroll back up and let's add some content so we can see how our students will use this particular blog site. To do that, I'm going to go back to my site and click on Science and Technology for Student Achievement. Here I'm going to come down to Posts, there are two ways to add content. I can create brand new pages and link to that page, or I can go ahead and create posts.
Posts are a great way to categorize your information because they use categories. You can also add tags to post so that students can search for information as you have posts that build up on your site. Let's go ahead and add some new content. This post title is going to be Group Project Reflection. Now, I'm going to ask students to please reply to the post with their thoughts about the project. Now what I can do is come over to the Category section and I can choose which category this is going to go into. This is actually under class information, It is an assignment. So, I'm going to choose the Assignment Category and I'm going to click Publish.
Now Edublogs is going to give me a warning that says that I can't embed videos, widgets and other things unless I upgrade. For this particular post, its just text, so even though the warning appears, that's okay. Let's come back to the Site and take a look at how that post appears. Because its showing my most recent posts, I can see that on August 10th I posted a Group Project Reflection it posted in assignments. Students can now click on this particular post. When they're logged in they can come down and leave a Reply. This is going to create an ongoing communication string between my students and myself and allow me to assess what they thought of this last group project.
So at this point we've talked about what blogs are available, what kind of blogs you can have as an educator, and a few ways in which you can get quickly up and running with your own blog. I hope you enjoy exploring the world of blogging with your students, and that this is a valuable asset inside your classroom. I'll see you guys next week, with the next edition of Teacher Tips.
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