What I have learned from using kidblog

Kidblog is a very user-friendly blogging platform. I have used it for about 4 years with students who are in a creative writing seminar. We meet face to face every two weeks, so kidblog provides us with a way to stay connected between those meetings. We had been using a wiki, but I found that the kids really wanted their own individual space more than they wanted a shared space. Also, the commenting feature worked well for our purposes of sharing creative writing for feedback. Wikis worked better for group collaboration like writing a group story or having a threaded discussion (Edmodo is also a good option for a threaded discussion.)

A couple suggestions:

1. Have a clear purpose for blogging. It may be that a different tool would be better once you establish what the goal is.. In my experience, when you put the technology first, the results aren’t always what you hope for. I started using kid blogs to address a particular need of our group, and we continue to revisit it periodically to make sure that it is still helping us address our goals.

2. Establish ground rules and expectations as a class together and continuously revisit this topic. Are you going to approve every comment and post? What is the etiquette for posting and commenting? Are kids allowed to use texting style language in their responses to each other? Are they allowed to write about anything?

3. Give kids authority over their blogspace. Let kids choose their own theme, font, etc. for their blog And show them how to do it. This is a great way for them to learn some technology skills as they play around with the look and style of their blog. Encourage them to choose an avatar and assume a screen name. Having authority over their space helps to create interest and buy in.

4. Define your role. Scaffolding and modeling are very important at first. I learned very quickly, though, that I needed to model appropriate comments and then recede to the background so that I would not direct the conversation. When I participated with my kids, they followed my lead, agreeing with what I said rather than working to develop their own ideas. So now, I get out of their way once they are comfortable.

I have learned so much from my students through using kidblogs. I hope the same is true for you.

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About emsingleton

I am the Co-Director of the University of Maryland Writing Project and a Gifted and Talented Education Program Resource Teacher in the Howard County Public School System. Also, I am a Ph.D. candidate in English Education at the UMCP with a focus in 21st Century literacies. Through my work at the UMdWP, I am also interested in teacher community learning. I am the proud mother of two young adults and three spoiled cats.
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2 Responses to What I have learned from using kidblog

  1. Megan C. says:

    Great tips, Beth! Especially #1. Do you think these guidelines would apply in a college classroom too? A lot of (if not all) college students have to use some form of online course platform for some of their classes– at UMD we now use Canvas. I’ve wondered in the past if requiring a blog adds a whole other layer of (superfluous) technology to the students’ workloads, or if blogging provides a unique benefit. Canvas and all other online course platforms have discussion boards. How are those different/better/worse than blogs?

    • emsingleton says:

      Megan, thanks for your comments. I do think these suggestions would apply to a college class, also. It’s possible that some of them will have already experienced blogging and be comfortable with setting up their own blogs without the direct instruction required of younger students, but I still think having the discussions about purpose, etiquette, and expectations would be very valuable. I haven’t used Canvas, but my experience with other discussion boards is that they feel institutional rather than user-friendly. Discussion boards are great for community-focused discussions, but blogs give the writer a special space of their own. I agree with your concern about adding layers of technology for no real purpose. Definitely, it would be superfluous and superficial if the blogs are used as an online piece of paper rather than as a genre of unique multi-modal expression and as a means of connecting content through hyperlinking and sharing to a greater audience. Hope that helps.

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