We Did it… We Built It…Will They Come?

We did it!

Our school has a blog for EVERY classroom. We are also in the process of rolling out individual student blogs to be the platform for student portfolios. It is a huge shift for teachers to “think” blog as their home/school communication hub. An even higher learning curve among teachers seems to be the shift to using the blog as platform for:

  • writing
  • conversation
  • communication
  • collaboration
  • presentation
  • visual learning
  • global audience
  • higher level thinking
  • worldwide learning community

Teacher Learning Curve

Workshops, 1 on 1, small group sessions and constantly just in time support are needed to move an entire school with teachers at various level of expertize and willingness to create a school network of blogs.

You can follow along with me by reading though the blog posts that somewhat narrate the journey of the blog implementation:

  1. Getting to Know Your Blog: A Beginner’s How-To-Guide
  2. Dear Parents: Moving to a Classroom Blog
  3. Web Literacy and Differentiated Teacher Blogs
  4. Adding a Video to your Blog with Vimeo

We built it!

So now we are at the point, where all classroom blogs are up and running. The main goal, of course, is to improve student learning. I can’t remind teachers enough that the blog itself is useless and the technology skills needed are secondary if we don’t keep the main objective in mind: Student Learning!

Classroom Blog

Resource Blog

So, besides the fact that we want blogs to be the platform that supports 21st century skills and literacies, there is the element of wanting parents and community to be informed and involved. The blog should eventually replace the Friday Folders.

Especially resource classes, who most often do not get recognition as a “real” or “important” subject compared to Math, Language Arts and Science, often feel left out and without an audience for all their work they put in on their web sites/blogs (trust me…I am speaking as a former Resource teacher here).

Will they come?

Once you have built the sites, what can you do to promote them among your parent community?

  • How do you ensure that parents are “literate” to navigate a blog platform (pages, posts, links, categories, etc)?
  • How do you educate parents to use a classroom blog to its full potential (RSS feed, image galleries, videos, etc.)?
  • How do you introduce parents to using the blogs as a conversation starter at home and review with their child?
  • How do you encourage parents to join the conversation and classroom learning community by leaving comments that extend and support learning, encourages and motivates all students?

It takes extra work from the school (administration and teachers combined) to support classroom blogs and educate the parent community.

How about hanging banners in visible places to remind parents to visit the blogs?

Come Visit

How about holding Parent Sessions to talk about, explain and support blog communication and involvement?

How about making sure everyone, including office staff, refers to website and blogs during any phone call that requests information that could have been found on the classroom blogs.

Calls to School Office or Teacher

Image licensed under Creative Commons by Deman

I have asked my network on Twitter to answer a brief survey about their experience of getting parents to visit and to comment on their classroom blog in the following post: Parent/School Communication & Interaction on Classroom Blogs. Thank you to all who took the time to answer.

There seems to be a common thread running through the contributions you can read below.

  • It takes effort and additional time to help parents visit a classroom blog.
  • The clue seems to be to continually reinforce the availability of the information online as well as to get students excited to share their work with their parents.
  • Most teachers seem to follow up with an email to remind parents of blog updates as well as use open houses, weekly and monthly newsletters to get parents to visit.
  • The majority of teachers who contributed to the survey have not received or solicited parent comments.
  • It is hard to get parents to visit classroom blogs, even harder to get them to contribute quality comments.

But see the answer to the survey questions that have been contributed for yourself. What are you taking away? What advice or tips stand out for you?

Do you feel that you have a good percentage of parents who visit your blog?

Scale: 1 (less than 10% of parents visiting) to 5 (more than 80% of parents)

Have you held a parent information sessions about blogs?

Have you held an information session for parents?

Do you give a grade or extra credit to students with parents who comment?

Do you give extra credit to students if parents comment on blog?

How do you promote parent visits to the classroom blog?

  • I sent them an invitation letter. Every time I see them I make sure to tell them how important their participation is.
  • Newsletter articles
  • Student enthusiasm, notes home, links on school webpage
  • Tweet it.
  • It’s part of an overall web site.
  • Promote through parent group.
  • Email link when there is a new post.
  • I blog about announcements and activities. I then send them an email letting them know the info is on the website.
  • That is where they can see what their children are doing during the day. The calendar keeps them updated. Articles and links to sits for their kids to use are there.
  • Se lo mostramos a los chicos y los chicos se lo comentan a los padres.
  • Children involve parents – see posts created, get parents to look at it.
  • Put blog address in homework diary at start of year and encourage it as way of getting involved ad communicating with school.
  • I put videos and pictures of the kids on the blog.
  • I also link all the kids’ favorite games from class up on my blog.
  • I have business cards with my blog’s address printed and ready to distribute for Open House Night. I put the address on ALL printed communication.
  • I plug it all the time and I also have students encourage them.  Show them how much it means to the kids and it also teaching parents about internet safety
  • Regular email updates, verbal reminders and placing quality content on the blog
  • I mentioned it during Open House.
  • News in two monthly newsletters and mentioned and shown at back to school night.
  • I send weekly email reminders.
  • I send out a weekly email letting them know that everything is updated with information for the coming week.
  • Email parents about recent posts.
  • Include ideas that the parents might use to compose a comment. For example, if it is a post demonstrating high level vocabulary. Tell the parents that.
  • Encourage the parents to mention something about vocabulary in the comment section. Some parents really don’t know what to say in a comment section and tips/ideas from the teacher can help them.
  • Adding an RSS/email button so that parents can be sent a message when a blog post is published.
  • At parent conference, talk about how blogging reinforces reading/writing/thinking skills. Encourage parents to help their child by writing comments together. Set a goal for 2-3 times per week.
  • I let them know in weekly newsletter and in the letter than goes home at the beginning of the year.
  • A walk-through at back-to-school night and surveys for parent responses come to mind.
  • Talk it up at BTSN, conferences.  Make it a link from my faculty page.
  • We have a wiki and it is only if students direct them to it for use of databases for research assignments.
  • My students are 7/8 years old and I show them new posts on the IWB so they are eager to tell parents about their work or photos. I also use the blog to assign homework on internet links – math games, digitial stories, etc. At least at the beginning, most of the kids need (or parents require) parent help to get on the internet.
  • During progress report time, I send out a flyer mentioning its address. Additionally, I upload forms that can only be accessed through my site.
  • Present it a back to school night, introduce commenting during American Ed Week, make it a hw assignment for kids to go home and get parents to comment.  Link it to class website.
  • I hound them with emails. And I make sure that there is something there that will get them to come back again. Interesting, informative info.
  • E-mail parents when something new has happened.
  • Get the students to be the advertisers.
  • Notes in school newsletter
  • Questions for kids in daily bulletin
  • I haven’t really done anything yet.  I recently started sending home a newsletter for parents so they know what topics we are covering.  I’m thinking of putting the blog topics, maybe even highlights from what we are doing on there.  I’ve also added the web address to the newsletter, just to eliminate the change that they say that don’t know how to get there.

How do you promote parent comments on your classroom blog?

  • They actually can’t comment
  • I made sure to let parents know commenting is as important as visiting the blog.
  • Asking questions, and attempting to solicit their response
  • Pointing out to students when parents comment.I haven’t done a lot of that yet.
  • I don’t worry about comments on the blog. My parents tell me personally about responses for different posting. I see my parents daily which is not the standard for public school teachers.
  • Cuando comentan los chicos, le pedimos a los padres que también lo hagan.
  • Don’t really…don’t get any either!
  • By asking them to comment and sending them links when we do update.  I also include in our homework report daily and our weekly newletter
  • This usually only occurs in upper Elementary. Teachers place thought provoking questions which parents can respond to.
  • I don’t really because the site is more for the students.
  • Haven’t yet.
  • Parents usually email me
  • At this point, I use the wallwisher.com website as an add on.  I put some topic of discussion out there and have parents comment on this fun Web 2.0 tool!
  • Family Blogging Month
  • Featuring Family Members & Family Members
  • We give a sticker for each comment given. If a parent leaves a comment, the child gets a sticker for that comment.
  • I could do more of this!!
  • Write posts to a general audience or some post specifically aimed at parents.
  • I have not been able to, so far.
  • We don’t
  • In past years it was a bit frustrating, but again it was via the kids’ excitement. Most comments were of the general “”good job”” variety but at least they were seeing the blog.
  • I introduced the blog at the back-to-school parents night by showing bits of blogs from previous years.
  • This year I am planning to create a “”parent discussion”” blog to link to the classroom blog. The purpose is to go deeper into various issues of interest to parents (rather than kids) and we’ll see what happens….”
  • They haven’t commented yet.
  • Comments is a challenge. I can get them to read but to comment is a huge step.  Need help with this.
  • Set tasks to be done with parents for homework on the site.
  • I have not had one yet, but am unsure exactly what to do.  I know I would write a quick personal note to the parent to try and encourage them to keep writing.

Additional thoughts about using a classroom blog to improve, increase, encourage parent/school communication and interaction.

  • I think classroom blogs are a wonderful way of building community. Parents should be encouraged to check the blog out and comment on the posts too. It’s really enriching.
  • Thinking about doing some type of scavenger hunt activity, or someting along the lines of a word/phrase/picture search and offering rewards for those who accomplish the task.
  • I haven’t done a lot with parental involvement and the class website and blog. I hadn’t thought about allow the parents the opportunity to comment on the thought of the class.
  • I have done since 2006 and it was a great replacement for the program’s newsletter. I will do as long as I run my program.
  • Recién comenzamos, muchos docentes piensan que es mucho trabajo para tan poca respuesta por parte de los padres
  • It’s excellent for keeping parents aware of what we do in school – have had comments that parents who have to work away use it to keep in touch with what their children are doing, children are really proud to show parents their work, etc.
  • Make it worth visiting!
  • My parents love it! and I feel more in touch with them
  • In the short time I’ve used it, I’ve realized that I can make it accessible and give directions until I’m blue in the face, but commenting on my webpage is just above and beyond what some parents are willing to do.  I’ve already learned that everyone has their own comfort level with technology and it’s important for me to remember that.  I figure my job is to continue to make it available, use as many Web 2.0 tools as possible and be glad that I have 24 out of 27 families reading my webpage online.  I feel fortunate that I have such a high percentage of families accessing online.
  • Here is a link to an educational blogging wiki I created. There is an example of a parent letter under the “”How to Teach Commenting“” section.
  • I love educational blogging and am glad to help others join in!”
  • I think it is a great idea for grades 9-12 but I am the library teacher who has many wikis for student use and haven’t had the need yet to include parents, but I think it is important to open up the communication channels and using a blog with items that might catch the interest of parents (discussions of topics, books, history) would be great.
  • A blog can be anything you want it to be – from a school-marmish recitation of this week’s spelling words and reminders of school activities, to a photo repository, to the philosophical, personal or quirky. I love the freedom to nudge the boundaries of my classroom and inform/entertain/engage with my students and their families in another way.
  • Classroom blogs are best when they sound like the people (students and teachers) who create them and not like class by class cookie-cutter projects.
  • Possible downside to that (which I’ve seen hatching) is teacher competition/loss of confidence when parents compare class blogs within a school or grade level.
  • On a more reflective note….today’s classrooms are  like fishbowls with full pet shop participation. The stress of being hyper-examined, micro-managed and accountable to parents of every conceivable educational persuasion is an on-going personal and professional hazard.
  • To commit to a blog that is more than school window dressing is taking a risk, but worth it.”
  • I wish parents had the “time” to access it and to look at all the student projects!
  • It could be fantastic if only i can get parents involved in the journey.
  • Start from day one with students and parents.  Show them on back to school night, hand out passwords and usernames and encourage them to go take a look and play around.

How have you dealt with parent “illiteracy” of accessing, reading and commenting on blogs?

  • I offered them help. I made sure to let them know I’m willing to teach them about blogging.
  • Created mini “tutorials” which were in the school newsletter visually explaining how to access, view, and comment.
  • Modeling with students
  • No.
  • Talked about it at “back to school” night.
  • I haven’t yet, but feel it is becoming necessary.
  • Haven’t found that to be an issue. Once I made them aware I was doing this parents started accessing. Adding the email subscription was a great success. A few do through RSS reader, but most do email.
  • Para muchos leer y comentar en blogs es algo habitual, otros no saben de qué se trata y tratamos de lograr la “literacy” a través de los hijos.
  • Not issue as far as I know
  • I show the kids and then they show their parents.
    I sent home my kidblog letter and have been very available for extra questions and help
  • This is an area that we may need to work on
  • Not an issue since parents don’t really use it.
  • In my weekly email correspondence, I try to push the wallwisher.com topic, thanking those that were able to comment on last week’s topic.
  • How to Comment Video
  • No passwords! Any barrier to the blog is an obstacle.
  • Not formally.
  • We first concentrate on students using the wiki….later we will conquer the blog (which we don’t use yet)
  • Accessing & reading is not a problem though there has never been an outpouring of comments. But by the time I get through my email everyday I’m not sure how much more I want to hear from parents 🙂
  • Some.  Most parents will learn from the kids.
  • Need to deal with this
  • Slowly and showing them the benefits. They take a long  time to change and see importance.
  • too early to say yet.
  • I haven’t yet, but am looking for ideas.
  • No.  I’m pushing that we have a parent night at our school dedicated to technology and what their child’s classroom is suing and how they can get info from their web presence, and participate in it too.