Wow! Talk about a long time coming! Today my students and I were finally able to blog, but it took us 7 weeks of school to get there.
I'm using the Edublogs site, which forces all posts and comments to go through me before they are published (which is very helpful). After deciding to use blogs with the kids (and do it right!) I located an extremely helpful blog posting (fitting) which had 5 lessons for introducing kids to blogging. We started out talking about what blogs were by looking at a number, then we looked at a few PSA videos about safe posting online and cyberbullying (made a BIG impression on the kids!), and finally discussed what made meaningful posts as well as helpful comments.
After getting all this done, I started our class blog. Through Edublogs, you can either set up student blogs individually or set up one class blog in which students have individual logins and categories. To be on the safe side, I started with one class blog. If students can prove they are posting high quality posts and meaningful comments, they will be able to get their own blog.
The only issue that came up for this was finding email addresses to use with the kids. Since many of my students don't have computers/internet at home, many don't have email addresses, which is required to sign up for many online things. In most cases, the point of what we are doing is not that they have an email address, but that they can be verified through the address. Hence, (again from the same helpful blog post) I discovered that I can actually create 20 sub-emails under my own gmail account, which was really helpful. Using my teacher gmail, I added all the students who didn't have email already (around 18) and then all account information was automatically sent to me. (Way simpler for me to keep track of than irresponsible 12 year olds!)
After much ado, and much playing around with Edublogs, I finally fixed all the glitches with accounts, passwords, invitations, etc, and was prepared for today. Of course, before we could even log on to our class blog, we spent the requisite 15 minutes waiting to get a consistent internet signal. (This has been the norm with the laptops this year. After about 15 minutes of the wireless signal dropping in and out, we're good to go the rest of the time.) My kids were extremely patient as they waited through a ridiculous internet connection, and 27 other kids to catch up to them. But when it finally all came together, it worked like a charm!
While I could have forced kids to perfect their posts before I allowed them to be published (and probably will enforce this next time), I decided that for the first time out, I'll let them see what their writing (and commenting) looks like to the rest of the world. This worked like a charm. A number immediately realized mistakes they had made (but couldn't unless I did it for them). For their first post, I had everyone just post general information about themselves (family, hobbies, etc.) One girl described her best friend, and immediately regretted publishing it, as 3 other girls then approached her and asked why they hadn't been listed. Tough lessons, but I think the point was made.
So overall, it was a good experience and I think it can only get better! Good luck to my class! Please come comment on the blogs too, the kids will love it!