Tuesday, June 21, 2016

5 Reasons to Have a Classroom Blog

Earlier today someone wrote the following in response to my post featuring a good example of a teacher and student blog,
"Franklly (sic) I don't want to blog with my students. I want to talk with them face to face in class."

While I appreciate that the person who wrote that comment on Facebook wants to emphasize the relationship she's trying to develop with her students, she's also overlooking the benefits of having a classroom blog. In short, it's not an "either or" proposition. You can have a classroom blog and develop face-to-face conversations with your students.

1. Being authors on a blog gives students the opportunity to share their thoughts with you, their classmates, and their parents on a longer timeline than is typically feasible during a school day. Not every student is going to be able to quickly articulate his or her thoughts during a face-to-face conversation with his or her teacher. Having a place to write down his or her expanded thoughts after a conversation is one of the best benefits of inviting students to be authors on a blog.

2. Parents are privy to the comments and question that their children raise in regards to school. Parents often complain that their kids come home from school and say,"nothing" in response to the question, "what did you do in school today?"

3. Authoring a classroom blog can be a great way to create a record of what you and your students do in your classroom. By the end of the school year it can be hard to recall what you did in which week earlier in the school year. The blog's archive makes it easy to look back at the year.

4. Authoring a classroom blog provides students with a real-world audience for their work. Connect with another classroom or two to become blogging buddies. Students in each class then have an audience for their work that extends beyond the typical confines of a paper-based writing assignment or face-to-face classroom conversation.

5. A classroom blog can provide parents and students with a calendar or upcoming events and assignments.

This summer I am teaching an online course about blogs and social media for teachers. The course begins in July. Learn more about it on this page

5 Ways to Quickly Get Your Students On the Same Webpage

Getting all of your students on the same webpage at once is one of the small and annoying challenges of using websites and web tools in your classroom. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to this challenge. The solution that you pick will be partially based upon the type of devices that your students use in your classroom. Here are five ways that you can quickly get all of your students on the same webpage.

1. QR Codes: This is a good solution in a classroom in which all students have an iPad, an Android tablet, or are allowed to use their mobile phones. You can create QR codes for any webpage by using QR Droid's QR Code Generator. While the name implies that you need an Android device, QR Droid's QR Code Generator works in your web browser. Once your QR code is created you can project it for students to scan and or print it and post it in your classroom for students to scan. Learn how to use QR Droid's QR Code Generator by watching the video in this post.

2. Shortened & Customized URLs: For years creating shortened and customized URLs has been my go-to method for directly people to webpages in my workshops. I use Bitly.com to create customized shortened URLs. Rather than relying on the default shortened URL provided by Bitly, I customize it to something that is easy to spell and is in all lowercase letters.

3. Share to Classroom: Share to Classroom is a Google Chrome extension designed to make easy for teachers to direct students to specific webpages. With the Share to Classroom extension installed you will be able to push webpages to your students' devices by simply opening the extension and specifying which of your Google Classroom classes you want to receive the page. Students do not need to do anything because the page will automatically load in their web browsers. You can also have students push pages to you.

GAFE domain administrators can install the Share to Classroom extension for all users in their domains by following the directions outlined here.

4. Post on Classroom Blog, Website, or Google Classroom: Rather than feeding your students a different link everyday, just get them in the habit of visiting your classroom blog, website, or Google Classroom in order to find the links for each webpage or web tool that you want them to use. Once they're in that habit you can simply post links there for them to click and use.

5. Text / Push Notification: Use a tool like Remind or Cel.ly to send links directly to your students' mobile devices.