Thursday, March 3, 2016

Blogger for Students - Make a Class Blog



Newsletters...

Newsletters...do you still make them? I absolutely hated writing newsletters. I shouldn't say that I hated writing them, but I hated the fact that I was putting so much time into it and knew that it would either end up in the trash or digested in a student's backpack. (It never seemed to come out in one piece.) I really came to two conclusions about newsletters: 
  1. Parents didn't read them because it wasn't really convenient. My daughter's 3rd grade teacher posts in a Facebook group regularly, and I love it. I already check Facebook. It is great when it just pops up in my feed. If you aren't a Facebook user, parents can also follow feeds on Twitter or Instagram. 
  2. Parents didn't read newsletters because they weren't relevant. Would it have been different had the students had ownership of the newsletter? Yes! I had parents visiting my website frequently because I had examples of class projects, and I had students helping with the updates. 

Class blogs...the virtual newsletter


Want to keep parents up to date on the latest happenings in your class? Use a Blogger blog. (Students must be 13 and older to use their accounts. Students must have access to their school email account.) On your class blog, students can add images, videos, and examples of what is happening in your class. It is a great experience for them to publish and report their learning. It provides a great challenge for all levels of students.

Often times, I get questions regarding getting parents to look at your blog/website. I've had quite a bit of success with a class website, and I'll give you the rundown of some top tips I can offer to get parents involved.
  1. Show students your website when it has been updated. Showing them the posts that you or students have created draws them in. They will more than likely share that information to their parents. Especially when their work or picture is being featured in a project. 
  2. Use a lot of pictures and video. Have students work as teams to build banners or edited photos using Google Drawings. Have students piece together short videos of the activities using the YouTube video editor. You could even have students create video lessons and host them on your blog. Then the entire class can use these resources when they get stuck in class. These extra features are what parents and the community want to see. 
  3. Use social media outlets. You don't have to be a social media guru. You don't have to be committed to all kinds of social media. My suggestion is to use Blogger and merely share the links to your posts through social media. That way parents see it coming in a convenient format, and they do not have to consciously check your page. If you are a bit of a tech guru, but don't really enjoy messing with a variety of social media outlets, check out If This, Than That. You can completely automate your posts to social media. 

Want to get started? Start here...

I put together a Slides presentation with some tips for setting up your blog. There are various settings you'll want to consider in the process. 



Another way to use Blogger

Awhile back, I had posted about students having their own Blogger blog. It is a bit tricky trying to sort through all their blogs if you have a lot of classes. However, it would work great if you want to try it with just one class. If this is something that interests you, click here. 

Need a paper newsletter?

If you need a paper newsletter, you can still get one. When you visit your blog, you can use the Print Friendly extension for Chrome to get a clean version of your blog. Need more information on how to use Print Friendly? Click here. 

Students under 13?

Google does not have Blogger as part of their core apps under Google Apps for Education. Therefore, they have to abide by the typical terms of service. That is that they must be 13 or older to use Blogger. So how do we get around it? My suggestion is to have students create their blog post in a simple Google Doc. Have them share it with you when you are finished. You can then copy and paste the information over when you are ready. Be sure to only use student first names when giving credit on the post. It does require a little more work on the part of the teacher, but your digital newsletter will be done and made by your students.