I'm about a six months old....and just beginning to walk. Hoping to run soon. Do you like the way I look?
Oh it's been a wild ride ever since I was opened last fall. Mrs. Ratzel didn't know a thing...and I mean a thing. Oh she knew about blogging and moderating digital conversations....but nothing about setting up a blogging space for 60 kids.
Setting up the blog was tough.....
So much to figure out....what it should look like and how to get each kid logged on. The first step was probably the most time consuming because each students had to have a gmail account setup. So using the single class gmail account, every student was setup using the strategy of lmseagles + email@example.com . Thank goodness Mrs. Ratzel learned that when she had to setup VoiceThread account a few years ago.
No matter how many mis-steps Mrs. Ratzel made, Sue at Edublogs always was there to help. Offering ideas and suggestions....cheerleading and fixing up mistakes. Somehow the blogs were up and running well enough to get some wobbly steps ready to launch for our first student challenge.
Students were excited and since they were signed up for the September Student Blogging Challenge things went pretty well because everything was incremental....first change the theme, then learn the difference between posts and pages, learn how to leave trackbacks and so on. Kids became more and more excited....and some even branched out into their own blogs. Through the students that Mrs. Ratzel was mentoring, students visited other kids from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other places in the United States. You should take a look at the Cluster Map on the main page to see all the spots on the map worldwide....places they've never been before.
A couple of students asked if they could redesign my banner....and Mrs. Ratzel was only too pleased to let them do so. Using Piknic, my new spiffy banner was inserted and how I came to be so "pretty". As the fall semester went along, students enjoyed posting more and more....and Mrs. Ratzel developed criteria she used to determine which students continued posting on the class blog and who received their own blog.
The Student Challenge linked to many teachers who offered excellent advice on writing better posts and easy ways to improve our commenting. The kids favorites was definitely widgets....they can't get enough....no matter how many are on the blog, they always need just one more. Oh....and the falling snow feature is a huge hit for them!!!!!
Want your own blog....well, write better!!!!
I'll have to admit I was a bit hurt....after this great start students wanted to do their own blog. They didn't want to be constrained by the posts Mrs. Ratzel wrote. 30 students have demonstrated consistently good writing quality and enough responsibility to earn their own blogs. It hasn't been easy, but they've learned so much technology AND maintained their writing quality. Out of those 30 students who blog on their own right now, probably 9-10 love to post about their own ideas and do so regularly. Carson just recently wrote about snaking eating badgers, Hanna wrote beautiful Valentine's Day poems, volleyball and visiting the Study Island "beach", and William explained how he wants to climb Eiger. All of these confirm that it was important for them to cut the strings from our class blog and branch out on their own. I'm excited for the March Student Blogging Challenge because I think these fledgings will do magnificent things.
I'm the Comeback kid...and I'm ready for the March Challenge
So it's March and I'm ready to go. Mrs. Ratzel has improved the way she prepares the kids to write on the class blog. Telling them the topic 2 days in advance....students complete a worksheet on the topic. Mrs. Ratzel had students write 4 goals for their blog writing. Then using a pre-writing brainstorming worksheet, students prepare the day by writing down their goals, brainstorming ideas for their post in writing, listing the facts that will support their writing and then checking their goals to make sure they'll show writing improvements.
More kids to launch on their own blog if we can get them to amp up their writing....so who knows maybe I'll be like the Maytag repair guy and be the lonliest blog in the world come May. Maybe my remaining 30 students will stick with me...or maybe they'll get to be good enough writers that they'll fly away.
We're warming up with posts about ancient China. Starting on Tuesday we'll be posting, so we'll see how the writing is going to be. What could be cooler?