Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Creating your Classroom Blogs Part 2 Personalize and Audience

Here goes the second attempt at this post.  Deleted it yesterday by mistake:(

Kids crave audience.  To have a good classroom blog where kids want to work you need to build an audience so they preform.  There are many great audience builders.  
I have been using this service since I started blogging.  It is simple and effective.  What you receive from clustr maps is a small icon that sits on your blogs sidebar.  In the design part of your blogspot blog you can choose "add a gadget".  Here you scroll down till you find .  You will be posting code in from the clustr map site.  Go to clustr maps and fill in the form.  Following this you will get a box where the html code is for your blog.  Copy that code into your clipboard and then paste it into the "add gadgets" box open at your blog.  You now have a map in your sidebar that will show where people from around the world have been visiting from.  The beauty about clustr maps is that the map just receives dots.  A dot for every visit.  You will see after a while that many dots will show up from around the world.  Some are legitimate hits but many are just google inquiries.  The kids do not need to know this ;) Audience is audience.  Soon real visitors will come and leave comments behind.  When students have audience they will out preform previous standards of work.

Chat Boxes
I see some of you starting to shake in your shoes.  Chat boxes are an integral part of any class blog.  This can be one of your greatest teaching tools.  Kids use the boxes to help each other out.  They ask questions, answer other students questions and...... all when they are not in school.  The blog and chatbox or help box do not sleep.  This makes your classroom alive 24 hours a day.  Kids need to have some ground rules though.  Make sure that they are aware that the blog and chat box are extensions of school and appropriate behaviour is expected.  In my many years blogging and using chat boxes very few "bad" things have gone on.  The worst is juvenile boys being boys and some potty jokes.  Simply using this a teachable moment and reexplaining the rules of the blog brings everyone back in line.  If for some reason it doesn't work I could remove the chat box for a week and show them why they need it when it is no longer there for them.  Students do not view it as an MSN zone but as an extension of the the classroom because of the audience you have shown them. 

At the beginning of the year I monitor the chat room.  Answering questions and overseeing its use.  In recent years an amazing thing has taken place.  In about October students start monitoring the room.  They by choice make having the math blog open during their evening computer sessions.  It becomes one tab on their browser and believe it or not they become the teachers.  Students teaching students.... does it get any better than that.  

I have used many chat boxes but am currently using cbox.  It is easy to set up.  One thing I will recommend is to turn off the ability to add URLs.  Spammers love to drop URLs into your chatboxes.  This option negates the potentially bad links sent by spammers.  I wanted to reuse a cbox this year but the spammers had gotten to it and continued to add bad comments.  I simply created a new cbox and started over again. Simple process.  Once again just use the "add gadget" from your blogger design template and paste the html into the space provided.  

Chat boxes can change the way your blog works.  I highly recommend them.

What about the Parents?
Part of the blog needs to be for parents.  It is a spot where you can direct them to go read when they are interested in WHY kids need to learn 21st C literacy.  I found many links from John Evan's in his Diigo account. I chose 3 links for parents and here they are:
Parents have never asked me Why we blog but I am ready with answers if they do.  This brings to a close Day 2 of Setting up your Classroom Blog or Blogs.  Tomorrow we will deal with first posts for you and the students and more about building Audience.