About four years ago, I heard of a wonderful tool, Kidblog, that could be used as an ad-free environment when blogging with students and the key word that caused me to perk up when I heard about the tool was that it was “free”! The platform also offered settings for the teacher to be as open or as private as necessary depending on security rules. For about a year after I first heard of Kidblog, I pondered…
- How I would use blogging if I was in my own classroom (since I was a literacy coach at that time)?
- Would there be enough technology to support getting students on and going yet?
- Was I ready for the cultural shift of leaving digital footprints?
Then, in the fall of the 2011 school year, we were able to start using a laptop cart with a wireless internet connection. Then two of the teachers I worked with started to consider the idea of using Kidblog with students. As they decided to implement this routine, I was able to work with them and the students to begin the process of blogging with kids. I loved tip-toeing softly into their rooms and hearing the “clicking of the keys”.
At first, I started blogging with the fourth graders in Ms. W’s class. They were so jazzed about me joining their writing community! I also connected my learning from participating in my first Slice of Life Challenge (March 2012) by encouraging the students to read and respond to two other students’ posts. I couldn’t help but feel giddy about their work! They were becoming so serious about their blogging. The blogging was getting a lot of positive PR and another teacher I was working with wanted to get her students blogging as well. I helped to set up her class and then had to spend the next month at my alternate building. While I was gone, the fourth graders hooked-up with the fifth graders in Mrs. P’s class and they began blogging together. The excitement was growing…
By the time I returned to the building in May, I was surprised by how much the students got into their work when blogging! The teachers were feeling so proud of the work the students were doing! The three of us continued to collaborate with each other on how to help the kids learn and do more with their blogs. And then, disappointment struck! The district announced the closing of the building. All of us-teachers and students-were disappointed and angry to learn about this! The students used their blogs to air their feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness. At the end of that school year unfortunately, we all went our separate ways…
At the start of the 2012-2013 school year, I landed in first grade at Robinson Community Learning Center. Now it was my turn to try out all of the wonderful things I had experienced as a coach with in my own classroom! I had to play catch-up learning all of the things that had changed since I left the classroom. Blogging with students was one of the main things I wanted to try but wasn’t sure enough to implement as I was still feeling overwhelmed with all of the changes. I did get the chance to blog with older kids in our after school enrichment program by building a blogging club with the fourth, fifth and sixth graders. Having older students who could help was a key to success of blogging with first graders as two of the members of the blogging club became lunchtime volunteers and worked with my first graders when they finally got started blogging.
As I began using Twitter more frequently and joined the #1stchat Tweetchat, I saw more and more first grade teachers making the leap to getting their students using Kidblog. Thinking about getting students writing and sharing their voices via blogs weighed heavily on my mind. I looked for inspiration and found two sources support:
- The Primary Blogging Community created by Kristen Wideen, a community of mostly first and second grade teachers who joined together to get their students connected via quad blogging
- The Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Writing Community
I knew the success I felt blogging could be shared with my students but I still felt scared that it (I) would fail…
So bravely, in March 2013, I pulled together my two volunteer students from the blogging club and five of my most tech-savvy first graders (whom I made blog coaches) and our blogging adventure began. I set a goal for us to blog once a week (due to limited technology accessibility and the time factor). I knew in my heart, my students could become bloggers. They just needed the chance to try. Within the classroom, we talked about ways to use the internet safely. And we were off and writing our posts (sometimes just one or two sentences-and that was okay).
The big change for the students was moving from writing for the classroom audience to now writing for the world audience. I don’t know if the kids really understood this or not but we blogged anyway. We were bloggers who were sharing our voices with the world!
- Our spelling wasn’t perfect.
- Our grammar wasn’t perfect.
- Our conventions weren’t perfect
As the last few months of school progressed, I saw kids who grew from knowing little or nothing about a blog blossom into confident one to two sentence writers and even more for some students. They became learners who left comments on other kids’ blogs too. They were walking the walk of the digital natives and were leaving their digital footprints for the world to see.
I have no regrets about getting the kids to blog. I only regret I didn’t try it sooner and talk more about connecting with other classes to share in their learning. So, here’s my advice, give up something good (writing only in notebooks) to get something better (blogging with the world). Teach students how share their voices with the world! They matter!
Amy Rudd has returned as a Literacy Coach with Akron Public Schools in Akron, Ohio. She loves children’s literature and always tries to connect new learning with great books. She enjoys working with children as well as teachers on all things “literacy”. She blogs regularly at theamyrudder.blogspot.com and tweets @aruddteacher100.