What else can I have on my blog?

This post is day 17 of 20 days to better blogging with children and considers the use of widgets on blogs.

A widget is a a chunk of code that adds content to a page.  Usually the content is not static.  For example, on the right hand side of this blog I have several widgets, some static and some not.  The Kidderlit and Clustr map are examples of widgets that are not static.  They change as new readers visit or as a new first line of a book is shared.  The link to Weboword and the Edublogs badge are examples of static widgets.

These are not trivia but are important parts of a blog.  They tell you a lot about what the writer is interested in and what they want you to know about their blog.

Some of my favourite widgets are:

Where in the world

  • ClustrMaps – this shows where your readers are from
  • Whos.amung.us – gives us a map of our readers like ClustrMaps but has flashing points for readers who are reading the blog at that time.  This widget will also give you some reader stats.
  • Feedjit will tell you where your readers are from when they click on your blog.

Time

  • A nice range of clocks here, although not all are suitable for young children
  • Showing the time in a variety of different ways is very popular.  Have a look at  ClockLink

Other Fun Items for Children

  • Kidderlit gives you the first line of children’s fiction.  Great for sentence level work and for wondering what genre and whether it hooks you in.
  • Voki is my favourite if they get through your filters

If you use Edublogs then Sue Waters explains clearly about widgets and how to put them onto your blog.

What are your favourite widgets?

Hyperlinked texts – the cat’s cradle of writing

Day 11 of 20 days to better blogging is thinking about how we write hyperlinked texts and how we can share this with children.  Budtheteacher has been thinking about hyperlinked writing  and has, over time, created a series of posts about it. In fact, what did you do about the hyperlinks in the previous sentences?

I have read several papers about hyperlinked writing being a new genre but I am not sure about that.  A set of instuctions is a set of instructions whether it has hyperlinks or not.  At the present time I am more inclined to think that it is a new way of writing already known genre, but I am open to being persuaded that I am wrong.

For me, hyperlinks introduce me to the blogs and articles that have been part of the idea formation for the post.  They give me a trail that shows how thoughts have come together and they provide extra information.  In fact they give a text depth and a richness that I miss when reading online and hyperlinks are not used.

So, the question is should we be teaching primary school children how to write hyperlinked texts?  I am sure I am hearing an overwhelming YES.  Below are some ideas to support teaching about hyperlinking:

  • when planning a post, create a mind-map that draws in the resources that you have used
  • give all children the same piece of text and ask them to add hyperlinks where they think they would be important.  These can then be shared and the differences explored in relation to the experience for the reader
  • when reading blog posts, try to draw up a list that categorises why people have hyperlinked.  What are the conventions of hyperlinking?
  • read hyperlinked posts in shared reading and discuss whether to click on the hyperlink or not and what you are expecting if you do.  What happens then?  Do you return to the text or follow other lines of enquiry?

Your challenge today is to explore hyperlinking with children and to model writing a post that includes hyperlinks.

Image Cat’s Cradle by Steve C

Creating a community of readers

Part of the emjoyment for me of being a blogger is starting a discussion or train of thought that others will join in with and help extend your thinking. In order for this to happen, blogs need readers so day 10 of 20 days to better blogging with children is about establishing a community of readers who join in the discussions that children are starting when blogging.

In fact schools are a ready community of readers.  There are the pupils in the class, pupils in other classes and other adults that work in the school.  The only thing that needs to happen here is for time to be built in to allow for reading and commenting.  Many schools have taken guided reading out of the literacy lesson.  Whilst the teacher is working with a group the rest of the class are ususally engaged with reading activities.  Perhaps reading and commenting on blogs by pupils in the school could be one of these activities.

But what about a wider community?  Could parents have access to the blogs and also be commenting?  And what about making links with other schools?  There are several places where you can look to find schools to link with.  The Edublogs site has edublog supporters promoted on the front page and it might be possible to find a school to link with here.  The British Council’s Global Gateway is another way to find schools to link with.

How far does your reading community stretch?

Post it with children

Day 9 of 20 days to better blogging with children has arrived and it is now time for them to start posting.  You will have written a couple of posts and should be ready to start with children.  This means time for shared writing where we show children how we write a post and link to other sites.

So, what to write about?  How about an event or experience the children have recently had, something that has excited them, something they feel strongly about.  Bloggers write about what interests them and use it to share ideas and also to develop their ideas.  In a sense this is writing to learn.  Many thanks to Paul Nichols  for sharing the article on twitter.

Model writing the post, how to make links and how you refer to the person behind the link.  Talk about what decisions you are making, about what to include and what to leave out.  Explain why you think some things work and others don’t.  Discuss what you hope the reader will get out of your post. And most of all share the excitement of publishing to the world!

Make sure that you have let a couple of people know that you have written a post and get them to comment on it.  The children will be excited and want to read what is written and together you can compose a reply that will keep the discussion going.  Try writing several posts with the children.

Image Post-it-face by flowers and machinery

Engaging with comments

 The title of this image is comments hell!  Day 8 of 20 days to better blogging is all about showing children how to engage with commenting on blogs in a way that goes beyond comment hell.  These are the comment equivalents of closed questions.  It is almost impossible to follow on and keep the converstaion going.

Commenting is one of the most important parts of blogging – be it as a reader or writer.  They are about continuing discussion which the blogger or another commenter has started. 

This process needs modelling with children so that they understand some of the processes that we go through when deciding what to write.  I think there are several types of comment and very often they will be determined by the post. 

  • Quite often a post will end with a question.  If readers respond you get an extended post.
  • Sometimes it will end in a manner that works with the rest of the post
  • sometimes it is just a social occasion – see the number of comments on each post here!  You do have to learn to speak the language first.

Your task today is to find a blog that the children are interested in and, together with them, compose and submit a comment. 

 

Image by P!0

What are they interested in?


funny pictures
moar funny pictures
This task is Day 7 of 20 days to better blogging with children.  We read blogs that cover areas that interest us  and so should children.  So, what are your children interested in?

I asked this question of a group of Yr 2 and Yr6 children that I was working with as part of a writing project, they were mostly boys, and received the following replies:

  • lego – this took me to a whole new world and would lend itself to photoblogging.  There are at least 10 other lego blogs!  Why am I surprised?  They would be astonished that anyone would want to read about literacy and ICT.  How about using the BrickiWiki to find a blog?  No, no.  I must stop now but how about using lego to comment on current affairs – or build a baseball stadium?
  • cars – this depends on what aspect of cars the children are interested in.  Even I am interested in paint scratches that repair themselves.  What about makes of car or photoblogging?
  • books – there are so many that it is almost impossible to choose.  These are just to start you off.
  • speedway racing – I did struggle here
  • people around the world – this is hard one to search for but I did find some that would be suitable.  I think I would need to delve a little deeper here about what interests this child.
  • cats (I didn’t cheat here honest!) – apparently cats even write their own blogs.  I have heard they twitter too.  There is no shortage here, but this is my all time favourite.  Lolcats galore.

These blogs would all support the teaching of reading  very well looking at how we respond to them as readers, how they are organised and how they convey their message.  Remember, in shared reading the children don’t have to be able to read the text themselves.  You model the reading and what you are thinking.

Posts need checking for appropriateness unless they are specifically written for children.  It may be that on the whole a blog is suitable but may have one or two postings that would not be.  They should be used in shared or guided time and you need to have checked them previously. 

So, what are your class interested in?  Let us know what blogs you find in these areas.  We could create lists to help other teachers.

Home page and rest of tasks – 20 days to better blogging with children

Post It!

Day 6 of 20 days to better blogging with children is about writing your own post.  You have been reading blogs, commenting on them and have now set up your own blog.

Time to write your first post.  You will probably have noticed that on the whole people do not write very long posts.  They also write about things they are thinking about.  You could write about what you and your class are going to do on their blogs.  You could write about how you are going to use the blogs or a welcome post for the children.  Write about whatever you want.  As Seth Godin says

It is a difficult habit to develop but an even harder one to stop.

I always use the preview button before finalising.  It shows whether the formating is what you are expecting and I quite often find typos. Hit the publish button and you are up and running.  If your blog is available publicly and you would like someone to read it and leave you a comment, leave a comment with your url in on this post.

  • Day 1 Become a Reader of Blogs
  • Day 2 Keep Track of Your Blogs
  • Day 3 Joining in the discussion
  • Day 4 Staying Safe
  • Day 5 Finding your blog
  • Day 6 Post It!
  • Day 7 What are you interested in?
  •  Picture by http://www.flickr.com/photos/zach_manchester/

    Finding Your Blog

    finding your blog

    So now that you know how you can use a blog, the time has come to find a suitable host for your blog.  This is Day 5 of 20 days to better blogging with children.

    There are many different places to host blogs and what you use will depend upon what you want to do.  There are several sites comparing blogs but they quite often don’t include sites such as edublogs which have been specially developed for educational use. 

    To overcome this I have set up a wiki which is open to all to allow people to compare the hosting facilities and to add others that are not included.  I use both Blogger and edublogs.  I find Blogger is the easier to set up and that edublogs offers you a lot more options.  Your decision will probably be based upon how ICTish you are and whether you are willing to pay to remove the adverts.  You will also need to decide whether you want a blog per child, a blog for a group of children or one blog  where you are all authors.

    And then you need to go and set up the blogs!

     

  • Day 1 Become a Reader of Blogs
  • Day 2 Keep Track of Your Blogs
  • Day 3 Joining in the discussion
  • Day 4 Staying Safe
  • Day 5 Finding your blog
  • Day 6 First post
  •  

    Staying Safe

    Day 4 of 20 days to better blogging with children is about ensuring that the blog that you use is as safe as is necessary for your class. 

    The first place to start is your Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) to see if it has a publishing to the web section.  Your next step is to talk about what you want to do with the relevant people.  This will vary from school to school but will obviously include the ICT subject leader.  You will need to discuss the following things:

    • what a blog is
    • what would be acceptable to include in it : –
    • school name – some blogs are called by the school name, others don’t mention it at all
    • names of children – how other children refer to their friends, whether it is appropriate to post under a child’s name
    • whether photographs and film can be included in posts
    • what you might need to share with the parents about what you are doing
    • who the blog will be visible to – totally public or private so that only you and the children can see it
    • anything else that is relevant

    These are all issues that must be resolved and each solution will be  different for each school.

  • Day 1 Become a Reader of Blogs
  • Day 2 Keep Track of Your Blogs
  • Day 3 Joining in the discussion
  • Day 4 Staying Safe
  •         

     

    Keeping Track of Your Blogs

    Keeping track of your blogs is the task for Day 2 of 20 Days to Better Blogging with Children

    Why do I need to keep track of the blogs?

    You will eventually find several blogs that you are interested in reading more than once.  In fact you might want to read every post that they write.  The thing is, how will you know when they publish a new post?  Have you really got time to visit every blog each day to see if there is anything new.  I track about 86 blogs at the moment.  I can’t visit them so I have them visit me and for this to happen I use an RSS feed,  Google Reader.

    What does Google Reader do?

    You put the url of the blog that you want to keep upto date with into Google Reader and then everytime a new post is published it appears in the Reader.  If you have an igoogle page you can have the Reader displayed on it so that it is available everytime you go there.  If not you can bookmark the Reader page and visit it regularly.  If you are going to have more than one blog for children to write on then you will also want to put them into your Reader.

    How do I get Google Reader?

    Many thanks to John Larkin for this detailed set of instructions that explain how to get Google Reader.

    If this doesn’t appeal to you, many blogs have an email subscription.  If you look on the right-hand side of this blog at the top you will see where you can sign up.  This would be an option if you are not going to follow too many blogs and don’t already receive hundreds of emails.

    Enjoy your reading!