My Middle School is using blogger (part of Google) as a platform for our students’ blogfolios. The blogfolio (term coined by Andrea Hernandez) is part blog and part digital portfolio. Students not only showcase their best work, but document their learning journey. A blogfolio shows student work at a particular moment in time (due to its chronological nature) with a reflective component to show evidence of growth and learning over time.
Using a blog as a platform amplifies the opportunities for:
- social learning
- for writing with a global audience in mind
- for receiving feedback, new perspectives and becoming a link in the chain of learning of oneself and others
- archiving information over time: organizing, linking, connecting, categorizing
One component of the blogging platform, that supports a strategic and pedagogical redefinition and transformation of learning are labels (as used in Blogger) or categories and tags (as in WordPress).
Blogs and labels are also about INFORMATION LITERACY. We are in the age of information overload. Our students will amass more and more digital information at a faster and faster rate. We have to prepare them to not only create it, but also to organize that information.
Labels/categories function as a tool:
- for searching
- for filtering
- for curating
- for organization
- of assessment over time.
Our students use the blogging platform as their hub for documenting and reflecting on their learning. It means that they do NOT have a separate blog for Math, another one for Humanities or P.E. All there work is on one blog. With time that means hundreds of blog posts in one school year and potentially thousands of posts over several years. When not organized well, this can become… well… a mess…
Students won’t be able to find a particular post or another , when selecting blog posts for their Student Led Conference. It will make it impossible to search for specific posts, when not choosing blog post titles containing specific, related keywords.
Teachers will spend more and more time having to look through hundreds of student blogs to find a post, created for their subject area. Instead they could have been subscribed (via RSS feed) to their subject specific category or tag, filtering like this other student blog posts irrelevant to their feedback or assessment.
Labeling becomes indispensable for bloggers. Being able to organize your work, tag it, categorize, group them and later on find them again IS PART OF INFORMATION LITERACY!
As our school (K-12) is slowly spreading blogfolios across all grade levels, we have to look a labeling as part of the “big picture”. How will we use the blog for growth over time? How do we facilitate connections and the learning process for specific skills?A reader of a blog, should be able to tell, by simply looking at the list of labels/categories what types of blog posts the author likes to write about.
When labeling, keep the following in mind:
Universal: It is important to keep labels/categories broad. When choosing a label/category, ask yourself if you will be blogging about this type of content again?… frequently?…. Think of your readers. Would a potential reader be interested in finding more blog posts like the one you just labeled with that category?
Less is more: The broader your labels, the less labels you will need in the future. The less labels, the easier for your reader to find items of interests.
Pre-set Labels: As a school community, we have pre-set labels, that we ask every students to choose from for EVERY blog post they publish. Grade Level and subject area labels are a must and the label “SLC” will be used, if a student chooses to highlight a particular post to present during their Student Led Conference. We are also asking students to label blog posts with the identified core values by the school.
Personalized Labels: Learning does not only happen in school during the pre-set hours of the school schedule. We are encouraging our students to document and reflect on the learning and the growth outside of the curriculum areas. Students will create (universal) labels for their out of school interests and learning that they choose to share on their blogs.
When left to their own devices, some label/category lists on student blogs have gone a little out of control. Hundreds of labels, when there are only 10 blog posts to date, do not help but hinder the information flow. I am recommending to be extra careful to not create the following labels/categories:
- Two versions of the same label. Ex. reflective and reflection. Try to stay consistent.
- Specific technology tools. Unless you are a pro at a specific tool and you envision to be writing regular posts about the mechanics, examples and tutorials about Photoshop, for example, do not label your posts with the tool you happened to use to create an image inserted into your post.
- No need to label your post with your name…. this is your blog… supposedly all posts are by you…unless you invite a guest blogger
- A specific book title. Although you might write two or three posts about a specific book, most likely you will move on to other books and never use the same book title label again. Better to use a label called “books” or “reading” in order to tie and connect with other posts about books you have read.
Examples of current label lists of our student blogfolios
I am looking to learn with all of you. How can we support our student blogs with a labeling system that guides students in learning to work, organize and curate their own digital information? The digital information created by our studnets (inside and outside of school) will jut keep growing exponentially! How are you teaching students to label their work on their individual blogs? Have you created a system for your class or your entire school to facilitate multi-year blogging? How are your librarians and media specialists getting involved?
Further resources about labeling