Blogging with Elementary School Perspective

Considerations when teaching students to blog vary greatly depending what age your students are. Elementary, middle, high school, college students and professionals are a natural division how to teach, what to take into consideration, and how to prepare them in general to dive into the world of blogging.

Safety, netiquette, commenting, collaboration and global audience awareness need to be approached from different angles for different age groups.

The safety and privacy issue is of the most concern when blogging with elementary school kids . You talk, you model, you remind, you check, you talk again, you show bad examples, you show good examples, you have them look out for each other…

Here is what I posted on our school’s TechConnect site about online safety.

There is a BIG online world out there! You get to be part of it via the computer, a cell phone, AIM, an Xbox, Wii, or on Social networking places like Webkinz, Build-a-Bear or Club Penguin. The online world gives us an incredible opportunity to search for information, entertain us, communicate with others, connect with people from other countries and cultures.Where ever you are or however you choose to connect to these places, you always have to play smart and keep yourself and your friends SAFE.

Here are a few guidelines that you need to keep in mind. If ever in doubt, ALWAYS ask your parent, teacher or other trusted adult how you should handle the situation.

  • Never publish online the following information:
    • Address
    • Last Name
    • Password
    • Phone Number
    • E-mail address
    • Detailed physical description
    • Detailed location where you can be found on a given day and time
    • Photos of yourself
  • Never share your user name or password with anyone besides your teachers and parents. Never log in as someone else.
  • Think before you post: Make sure what you write is appropriate to put online.
  • Always tell the truth on your posts and comments.
  • Be cautious about email messages from anyone, asking you for detailed personal information or attempting to arrange secret meetings. Talk with your teacher and parents immediately if this kind of situation arises.
  • Online work is NOT private. Never say anything via email, chat, blogs, or on wikis that you wouldn�t mind seeing on the school bulletin board, or in the local newspaper. Make sure you can be proud of your online work and it would not embarrass you if your grandmother or teachers read it.
  • Capital letters are regarded as �SHOUTING.� Don�t be offensive, and don�t ever use bad language.
  • Never use a computer to harm other people. Never snoop around in other people�s files. Never use a computer to steal.

These �Rules of Netiquette� were adapted from Grade 3 Blog Pals who in turn adapted from the following publication: John, El Paso, TX Internet Driver�s License: Internet Guide and Workbook,Classroom Connect: Lancaster, 1997.

You need to have these conversations with your students BEFORE you even start blogging with them. You need to have these conversations when they are reading, writing and commenting on blogs. You need to encourage them to look out for their friends when they are in an online environment. They need to feel that they are responsible for each other.

Then comes the work of actually setting up the blog(s) for your students. There are different ways of doing this. You can create one classblog and add each student as an author of that blog. Each student will have their own category, that they will tag each one of their posts with. Like that it will be very easy to filter and separate the work of each blogger out of the main blog. This option allows a faster set up (only one blog), but limits the students’ ability of customizing their space.

The other option is to set up a classroom blog and link individual student blogs to it. I have used WordPress hosted on our own domain and externally hosted so far. That option takes some time to set up, but will allow each student the possibility to customize their blog with the colors and theme that will personalize it to them. When choosing the name of their blog, each student needs to think about their online identity. The name of your blog will give a potential visitor their first impression. It is important to select a personal, appropriate and safe user- and blog name. I also allowed each student to be a co-administrator on their own blog. Since the plan was to connect with other student bloggers around the world, I decided to allow anyone to comment, but EVERY comment had to be approved by an administrator before it would be posted.

Once the blog(s) are set up, the real fun begins of going beyond “Hey waz up?” posts and “Cool” responses. I like to allow students to write without any instructions or directions (beside the safety ones). It is amazing what some of them are coming up with. It also gives me the opportunity to talk about a range of examples from our own pool of first posts. I then encourage them to comment on another student’s blog post. Again here is an opportunity to talk about how does it make you feel when you receive a comment on your post? What is appropriate? What is considered inappropriate? We have to remember: NO ONE HAS ever shown this students how to behave and act in these kinds of online environments. Their parents most likely will have never read or responded on a blog or chatted in a multi-player online video game.

Then it is time to try out a guided writing prompt. I think it is a great idea to ask them to reflect on what they are learning by using their blogs.

  • Writing a blog post makes me…
  • Receiving a comment from my best friend on my blog made me…
  • If I were to receive a mean comment on my post, I would…
  • I will write about …. on my blog, because…

Once the kids are comfortable

  • logging into their blogs
  • adding links to their blogroll
  • posting and commenting to each other
  • inserting an image (learning about the concept of copyright in the process)
  • embedding a code from various sites, ex. Animoto or PictureTrail

it is time to invite other student bloggers to our conversation AND participate in theirs. I think it is really important to stress the concept of conversation with our younger students.That’s where I am at the moment with my TechClub Kids. When we meet this week, some students will be ready to read blog posts from student bloggers in Singapore and Bangkok and then write their first comments. I will help them include links in their comments. Always good to know the basic HTML code for adding a link :). Others will be still working on their theme, blogrolls and first posts or responding on comments that were left for them.

I have also added a clustermap to the teacherblog to show and start a conversation with my kids about where visitors who are reading our writing are coming from. We will also go on Google Earth to find the Singapore and Bangkok where our blogging pals are from.

Here are some more blogging adventures and tip resource posts from the elementary school perspective:

Please add links to your posts where you reflect on your experiences in blogging with the elementary school crowd.