Student Blogging Using Google Sites

As a GAFE school, there is a tool that is readily available that makes it easy to carry out student blogging in the classroom.  Student blogging can serve many purposes as part of the learning process, from reflective writing to posting student creations to share with others.  There are tools that make using Google Sites even easier for the teacher as you can quickly create pages for your students and get notifications when they update.

 
To get started, create a site yourself.  You need a site to be able to create the pages for the students, they will exist as pages on that site.  Decide on how you want the site to look and what you want students to be able to do.  Organization will key for both you and your students, so decide how you will list the sites on the page for easy access.  (more info to get you started with creating and setting up a Google Site can be found here)
 
Once you have your main site created, now you will want to be able to create a page for each student to use as their blogging page.  The tool, SiteMaestro, will allow you to easily use a roster of students to create sites for.  Go to http://cloudlab.newvisions.org/add-ons/sitemaestro to get more information.  This tool works very similarly to Doctopus and requires you to open a new spreadsheet to get started.  If you have already used Doctopus and have a class roster saved, then you will be able to get started very quickly.  If you do not have a roster saved from Doctopus, all you need is a list of your students with their information (first name, last name, school Google Apps email address) in a Google spreadsheet and you will be ready to go.
 
Before you create the sites for the students, it would be a good idea to have a discussion with them about the expectations for what they will write and how they will behave.  We want them to learn how to behave online and if you have them commenting on the posts of others, they should know what is expected of them.  They should be writing as they would for any other assignment and not writing like how some people do when posting comments online.  Their comments could be seen from many and it is important that they realize the permanency of the internet, that once they put something online it could be there forever.  This is a topic you will more than likely be able to address multiple times down the road but that is a good thing as this is something they should learn and will not happen just from a single discussion.
 
If you want students to be posting regularly, the easiest type of page for them to have is an announcements page.  This allows them to create new posts and will have the most recent at the top.  This also makes it even easier for you to know when they have created a new post as you can use a RSS notifier extension in Chrome to alert you of updates.  This is something that you can easily set up as long as you have the RSS address of the announcements page.  ( go to here to see how to get started with this)  The easiest way to get the RSS address for each site would be to use a Google Form to have the students paste their address into, you can then use that spreadsheet to add to the list of RSS feeds you are monitoring.  (While the spreadsheet created using SiteMaestro will allow you to see the most recent edit, this will be a notification that is in the corner of your Chrome browser, which means it will be more easily seen.)
 
Student blogging is a great way for students to share out what they are learning, how they are applying what they are learning and what they are creating.  This could also be a great way to start collaboration between students as they can see who else is doing similar work or who else has similar ideas.  Not to mention this is a great way for students to start having a positive digital footprint that they can carry with them onward in their education.  Students will also feel more ownership of their learning and what they produce, much more so than anything pre-made or generic like  a worksheet.

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