Thursday, August 31, 2017

Module #2: Social Networking - Blogging

Blogging is today's newspaper, book, magazine, and thinking pad all rolled into one.  The beauty of a blog is that it provides the creator with a true freedom of expression.  It allows us to create freely and express ourselves in ways that weren't available 20 years ago.

This form of expression is ripe for the classroom:  
  • Many teachers at all levels use blogs to provide a painting easel for students to create. 
  • Some teachers use them to share information about what is happening in their classrooms (a much more direct form of communication than sending newsletters home each week. 
  • Many teachers use blogs to share their projects or ask advice of other educators.   The opportunities are endless.
I thought that I would share a few of the blogs that I like.  I have tried to break these into the three categories that I have just listed.  PLEASE share your favorites with us by inserting a link in one of the comments below. (It may say "no comments:" now, but click on it and add your thoughts.)

Student Creations

Sharing What's Happening in the Classroom

Sharing Ideas with Other Educators


The best way to learn about blogging is to read blogs. Select at least 3 blogs concerning your educational interests to follow throughout this class. You can select from the list above, or you could look for suggestions at 52 Education Blogs You Should Follow ( or you could Google it by entering the term, Blog, and then your area of interest, i.e., Universal Design for Learning.

Following Blogs

Once you have found the blogs you want to follow, you need to find a way to get to them easily.  Yes, you could bookmark them in your browser and then click on them daily.  BUT, there IS a simpler way. 

It is possible to use a Feed Reader to check your blogs daily and inform you when something new has been added.  There are many of these feed readers, but to make it simple, I am going to suggest using the Feedly Chrome Extension.

Here is a short video on how to install Feedly as a Chrome Extension.*
* I am recommending using Chrome as a standard - for simplicity sake.

Once you have added Feedly, add at least the three blogs that you have decided to follow.

Getting Into the Blog-o-sphere

You have already entered the blog-o-sphere by beginning to follow some bloggers.  What did you learn?  What comments did you leave on the bloggers' postings?  Did you get any responses back from anyone? 

Now that you have reviewed the postings of accomplished bloggers, what do you think?  Was it useful? How could you make blogging useful to you?

It is time for you to create your own blog-o-sphere identity. You will begin by creating a blog and then begin to share your ideas, experiences and resources. In the past we have said that blogging involves Reading, Commenting, and Writing/Creating.  You have already had the opportunity to read and comment.  Let's hope that you continue with this enthusiasm as you embark on your blog writing/creating experience.

Writing/Creating a Blog

Writing is the key to it all. This is where you can share your ideas with world. It is where you have to confront your thoughts. I once had a professor (Dr. David Moursund) who told me that he didn't know how he felt about a topic until he had written about it. Writing requires you to organize your ideas so that you can express them in a clear and cogent manner.

First thing you must do is create a blog. Do you already have a blog?  If so, review these steps and then move on. The easiest blog to create is in Blogger.  Some of you have created blogs using other tools like WordPress or Kidblog.

WordPress: A powerful blogging tool that is used by many of the leading bloggers.  I know of a number of them who have even moved their Blogger blogs over to WordPress because of the additional advantages.  If you are interested in continuing your blogging after this class, you may want to open a blog on WordPress.

Kidblog: If you haven't heard of Kidblog, you might consider it for your students.  It has many advantages
  • It is easy to use. 
  • Each student has his/her own blog.
  • All of the student posts can be directed to appear in the class blog. 
  • All postings and comments can be moderated by the teacher
There are probably many other pros and cons for KidBlog so if you have experience using it or like to explore new software, please inform all of us about what you find.

Here is a 5-minute video by Adam Bellow on How to Use KidBlog.  They allow you to have one free active blog.  If you want more, it will cost you $5/month.

How to Start a Blog
I have written many instructions on how to begin a blog but I just found an extraordinary blog posting that Tells It All.  This posting, How to Start a Blog Today, by Scott Chow is an easy to understand simple step-by-step tutorial.  I must warn you that he has written this to market the BlueHost website, but it is possible to do all of this for free using Blogger, WordPress, KidBlog or any other blogging system you find useful.

  • If you don't have a blog, decide on a blogging system that you would like to use and then follow Scott's steps. 

  • If you DO have a blog, read through Scott's steps and see how it might step up your game.  I know that it gave me a couple of good ideas.

    REMEMBER!!!  Blogging is PUBLIC!! It is NOT in an enclosed eLearning discussion group that ONLY you, your classmates and Dr. Z will read.  It is in the public. All of your classmates will be reading it. People in the public may read it.  DON'T write it like you are answering writing prompts on a test.  Write it in a manner that will interest your colleagues.  

    You will find the ACTUAL ASSIGNMENTS on the eLearning Website.

    What to Write?  Sometimes it's tough to find what to write.  The MOST important part of blogging is to be PASSIONATE about what you write.  Here is a collaborative list of ideas for writing prompts.  Look there for inspiration but share your own ideas and sources for inspiration as well.

    Once you have an idea, here are some hints for making effective postings.  You may have found some other ideas about what makes a posting interesting.
    • Begin with an active title. (i.e., Making Your Blog Postings More Interesting; 5 Ways to Extend Your Summer Vacation; How Blogs Changed the Writing Process in my 10th Grade English Class; or ????)
    • Include an image or photo of some sort.  You can find a wealth of photos you can use (as long as you cite them as I have done below) at Flickr/CreativeCommons  (
    • Always include at least 2 links to something relevant on the web. This means that when you discuss the Dr. Z Reflects and Clif's Notes blogs, you must have links to those websites so that your reader can examine them.  It is similar to the APA citations you have to do in your research papers, only it is MUCH easier to include. Include links to your classmates' postings.  Build community.
    • Your postings must have depth and that is more than can be captured on the single page.  Writing a post can be a small research project that will provide readers a deeper understanding of the topic.  This depth is provided by the additional links you provide your readers.
    • End your postings with questions to elicit responses from your readers.
    Here are some blog postings on how/why to create good blog postings.
      So how do you see yourself using blogs in your future teaching/training careers?

      Vlogging Challenge

      If you are interested in taking the challenge, explore this posting, How to Create a Free Video Blog (or "Vlog") by Gretchen Siegchrist.  Don't think that she is a certified teacher, but she provides a series of steps with a plethora of resources.  Spend some time and challenge yourself to take the next step.

      The only tricky part in inserting a video into your blog is EMBEDDING it so that it will play like my video above.  The easiest way to do this is to upload it to YouTube and they will then give you the HTML code that you would insert into the HTML code of your blog posting.  If this sounds like GREEK to you, then ask a friend (or classmate) or search on the web or ask Dr. Z.

      Let's Hear from You!!

      Respond to this experience in Blogging.  Insert Comments below to add your ideas and suggestions.  Make this a 2-way process.  You won't be graded for your comments but this is a wonderful way to build our community. 
      • How do you use blogs?  
      • Which blogs to you like to follow?  
      • What suggestions do you have for using blogs in an educational situation? 
      • Have you already posted this on your blog?  Insert a link to your blog so we can read it and learn more about you.


      1. I was shocked to see my classroom blog listed under Dr. Z's list today. Reading this post has me thinking about how I could create a blog of tech resources geared for the teachers at my school. Hoffman's Tech Toolbox? This might help my teachers have a better understanding of some of the tech tools that I could introduce or (ideally) co-teach with them in their classrooms.

        1. You make some good points, Erin. You suggested that it might help you share tech resources with your teachers. I must admit that that is EXACTLY why I started Dr. Z Reflects. Instead of trying to remember all of the links of cool things I found so that I could share them with my teachers, I just posted the cool links on my blog and when they asked me the address for the link I am recommending I just told them

          I look forward to working with and learning from you.


      2. At first I didn't really realize that I read a lot of blogs, but when I began searching, I apparently do! I love to cook healthy food so one of my favorite people to follow is a blog called Skinnytaste. I get emails and I follow her on Pinterest. I also started following Techie Tuesday and The Library Voice.

        1. I think the line between a "blog" and a "website" has definitely blurred in the last decade or so. You used to be able to easily tell what a blog was - they usually had an appearance that was easy to spot (title, sidebar, one main column of text content). :-)

      3. I follow a ton of teaching blogs. I also follow several fashion and food bloggers. I have my go to bloggers that I also follow on Instagram. A few of the blogs I follow are: Elementary Shenanigans by Hope King, Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd, The Lemonade Stand, Hello Literacy, and Top Dog Teaching. My favorite fashion blogger is Loverly Grey! I have always wanted to blog, but have never felt like a good writer or that I have things to share that people want to hear. I guess here is my chance.

      4. I have used blogs on and off the past few years. Some of the blogs were made to just talk about my life and things I've experienced. Others have been created as a resource for when I become a teacher. Because I deleted my last blog (again), I do not follow any blogs at the moment. When I did have a blog, I never followed other blogs very much because I wasn't sure how to discover them. Also, I wasn't very interested at that time. As far as future advice for blogging in the classroom, I would just recommend that teachers are cautious about the websites they allow their students to use. I recommend kidblog!