Blogging 20 Time

There are three good reasons to incorporate a blog with a 20% Project.

  1. The blogging process teaches essential 21st Century literacy skills that meet ISTE, P21, and Common Core standards.
  2. It gives students who are working on a project outside of class something to do during 20 Time.
  3. It is the perfect reflective tool for students to evaluate their progress on their project/time.

Before You Get Started

Create an internet agreement between you and your students which explains their posts are treated as any other assignment.  Students do not have 1st amendment rights and are subject to stated consequences if something they post goes against school policy.  Taking a look at your school or district's current internet usage agreement and then modifying it a bit works well.

Blog: Creating Blog Planning Sheet

So How Do You Get Started?

After students have chosen a project, researched their topic, and filled out their implementation guide reserve some time in the computer lab for demonstrating the blog.  It is generally a good idea to handout a planning worksheet like this and ask the students to consider what they'll cover in their blogs.  The actual blog requirements are:
  • Post Page: Must be updated once a week with reflections or news about the project.
  • 4 Static Pages (Informational Pages): Must be completed by the end of the project.
  • 1 PLN Page: To be updated as they learn and meet new sources.

Research

Ask your students to spend a day looking for great resources online both websites and other personal blogs about their topic.   Then show them how to bring their sources into an RSS feeder that will automatically update when their source posts a new article on the site.  With the death of Google Reader, a good RSS substitute is feedly.com which is both internet-based and has an app for devices.  If you are not familiar with RSS feeds, check out this video.  Feedly is pretty intuitive and shouldn't take long to figure out.  Better yet, ask your students to help you figure it out- they love to participate in a teacher's education too!
With RSS feeds, research now comes directly to the student rather than the student constantly searching for his/her information about a topic.
Nothing is better than making SSR time RSS time for 10 minutes a couple times a week, especially if you allow students to put a couple websites that are non-topic related in their feeds.  News feeds just for news-sake is always refreshing.


Organization
Now that your students have articles to read, what happens if they find a good one and want to keep it to write about for 20 Time later in the week?  This is where social bookmarking sites like Evernote come in really handy.  Sites like Evernote allow the user to create folders in Evernote to tuck "notes" away.  Notes can be typed, audio, video, images, or even URL links.  With the Evernote app, students can type notes during class, even take pictures of a teacher's Presentation slides directly into the same note they are typing notes into- and they can do it offline.  Evernote will sync the note when the student enters WiFi.
For blogging purposes, Evernote gives its users a unique email when an account is opened.  If a user finds a great online article, the user can email the article to the Evernote email, put the folder name in the subject line (@blogging) and the link is automatically dropped in the user's Evernote account.  on 20 Time days, students can access Evernote, pull up recent notes, reread them, and incorporate them into their posts.

Before You Let Them Publish Anything Online

Require they submit a brief outline of what they'll be posting about.  Approve it with a quick signature and send them on their way.   You may want to have a paper form they fill in each post day with questions like:
  • What kinds of things inspired you online this week?
  • Will this be a narrative, informational, or persuasive post?
  • What will your post title be?
  • Briefly outline your post and approve it with me before typing.

Creating
There are four ways students can post each week.  The one you choose is based mostly from what you have access to.
  1. If your students have access to a computer or Chromebook, have them post directly on the internet version of the blog.  Blogger is a great suggestion, especially if you are a Google Apps for Education school.  Students can log on with their GAFE ID and blog away.
  2. If you don't have weekly access to a computer lab or computers (there are a lot of us in that boat), ask students to download the Blogger app.  They can actually post using their phones right onto their blog.  They can even include pictures from their camera roll.
  3. If the app doesn't work, Blogger, like Evernote, gives users a unique email (found in settings).  Students can type their post in the email, title the post with the subject line and, when emailed to the unique email, post directly to their blog.
  4. If you don't have access to any devices but students have computers at home, you can have them approve the outlines in class and make a mandatory post that night a regular assignment.

Showcasing

Students love to show off their handy work.  You can showcase their blogs in a couple of different ways.
  1. Set up a class website with a short write-up and link to each blog.  Now share the website URL with parents!
  2. Ask students to print a hard copy of the first page of their blog and add a QR code to it.  Staple the assortment of blogs to your classroom wall.  This display is great for Back to School Night/Open House and it gives the students access to each others blogs.

Grading

There are some great grading tools for GAFE apps out there but they are pretty expensive.  One way to make it easy and free is to create your own feedly.com account and bring the URLs of each blog into it.  You can easily keep track of how many they've posted and what the content is.  An easy way to streamline this is to create a Google Form that asks them for their URL.  This way you have it in an excel sheet and can copy them into feedly.com.  You can even segregate them by period.  If you have a student aide, this is perfect.

Below:

Pay it Forward is the blog of a high school student.  She created informational/static pages and posted once a week.
Irvine Nature is the blog of a 1st grader with her mom's help.  The 1st grader took pictures of bugs and animals on the way home from school, looked the bugs up on Wikipedia, and typed what she found interesting about them.

KS Blog

                                   Irvine Nature Blog

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