Bringing Home the Blogs

There are a number of different ways you can use a wordpress blog in a school. Blogs, for example, can be setup as content management systems, for recording class activities, growth portfolios, photoblogs, to chronicle an activity, to organize groups and to highlight activities in one area of the school.

A common use of a Blog is to extend the classroom creating a space where students can discuss, react, expand, collaborate or even rant. Over the past five years of using wordpress in the classroom I’ve seen three different possibilities when helping a teacher setup a blog for this purpose.

A teacher (T) blog where the teacher published different prompts and had students comment on the prompts. To work with a system like this I usually needed to show the teacher a few basics, such as creating posts, pages and link categories. This is an easy system for a teacher to manage as all they would have to do is read the comments. However, in terms of adding to a students Digital Identity this system does little.

Teacher Ease & Digital Identity

Teacher Ease of Use & Digital Identity

A teacher-author (TA) blog where the teacher or the students could write about whatever they choose. In this system students are given the roles of authors. A little more to do in terms of helping the teacher. There would be a need to show how students with author privileges could be added to the blog, as well, as, looking at different strategies that might be used to read and organize student created posts. As in the previous example, the teacher would have control over theme choice, adding masthead graphics, adding and placing widgets: personalization of the blog.
Again this is an easy system to manage. The teacher, as the blog administrator, controls all aspects of the blog. Students could be assigned to a category so finding what each student was writing would be fairly easy. As authors, students could create their own posts or react to a teacher prompt. With this system a student again would not add a much to their digital identity. Although the student has more independence than the previous system the blog essentially belongs to the teacher.

A student (S) blog where the student has their own blog. The teacher would not have to do anything, in terms of, setting up student accounts. However, more work would need to be done to read student created content. At a minimum level a teacher would need to visit each blog to read student writing. In addition, consideration would have be given to creating a blogroll so that navigation to the students blogs is made easier. With a little more work the teacher could be taught to understand how RSS feeds could be used to aggregate student content.  In the end, this system would require more assistance on my part and more work on the part of the teacher. In this system, however, the student controls all aspects of the blog. The blog itself becomes an extension of the student as even personalization of the blog is totally up to the student. In this setup the blog offers a student the opportunity to show a different aspect of their digital identity than might be shown with other online tools the student might be using . The blog also is portable can be taken off of the school system and moved.

Although the student blog requires the most work for myself and the teacher the payoff in terms of the digital identity is, in my opinion, well worth it. When I read,  in my RSS feed, The Future of  WordPressMu,  I finally realized what feedwordpress could do. Using this plugin with wordpressmu  a fourth way of helping setup a blog is created. The beauty of this is that it takes about the same amount of work on my part but is much easier for the teacher to manage. The best thing is that the students get their own blogs.
Looking at our system, instead of just 354 unique blogs being served out of one virtual server one can envision a number of  multiple interconnected nodes with each new teacher blog creating a new hub within the blog system (need to create a visualization of this) .
The video below is how I setup a mini aggregating blog/hub for my ICT nine class and. Today we will add a middle school hub and Wednesday I will add an AP English hub, with hopefully a few more will follow.
Things here at SSIS continue to move in interesting directions.

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