Friday, April 10, 2015

KidBlog: A Review

Kidblog Instead of Blogger

I have used a few different platforms for blogging with younger students. A few years ago, I settled on Blogger because it was apart of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) which I use regularly in class. The interface is similar to the other GAFE applications students use.

Last year I learned about KidBlog and was invited to participate on another classroom's blog. I was impressed by its set up, so decided to use it for my classroom blog this year. At the moment I am only using the free features. However, when my school finally gets Chromebooks, I may look into getting a premium membership as I love the fact that it has Google Drive integration.
  • is free
  • is ad-free
  • is easy/simple
  • has Google Drive integration for premium members
The site motto is "safe and simple".

What I Like About KidBlog

FOIP Friendly

When students log in, they have a drop down menu to select their name from (I wish more sites did this). You can choose for each student whether or not their name is in the login list and blog directory. Those students who you do not want to be listed publicly can scroll down when logging in to "show all users" and then find their name.

When students who are not listed in the blog directory post, no one can see their posts on the blog. So students who may not be able to participate in blogging on other platforms due to FOIP can still blog but it is only visible to them and the teacher. 

You can have 40 users for you class with the free account. I add (safe) adults who I often ask to help respond to blog posts. However, you can have any visitor make a comment without needing a login, if you wish. You can also restrict comments to only being from users in your class and/or other users from other Kidblog classes.

One Blog, Many Bloggers

One of the things that I like is that all the students' blogs are centrally located. When you set up your class, you have one main blog. Then each student is a blogger within that blog. When you, as the teacher, do a new blog post, it shows up on the main blog site. When students do a blog post, it does not show up on the main blog site but on their own blog that exists within the class blog.

When you go to your class blog, you'll see the most recent teacher posts and then on the right you'll see a blog directory. The students' names are hyperlinked to their own blog.

What A New Post Looks Like

Their new post format is very similar to other blogging platforms. I wish it was a little more division one friendly. In general, students have minimal difficulties with composing new blog posts. Younger students will need help finding drafts and making edits on already posted blogs.

Teacher Dashboard

The teacher dashboard is well set up. You get a quick glance at if there are pending comments/posts that need your approval. 

Some Ways I Have Used It

Class Writes

PDULI4I often model a form of writing prior to students doing their own writing. I give a purpose to these class write by publishing them on our blog. This also provides parents the opportunity to see what we are doing in class.

Commenting as a First Blogging Experience

Before letting students do their own blog, I introduce the site to them by having them learn how to comment. This year I posted a picture from a field trip and asked students what their favourite part of the field trip was. I like this as an entry point into blogging because it allows them to learn how to navigate the site without the extra complication of writing expectations. 

High School Commenters

wDTzhWTo give my students the full blogging experience, I connected with a teacher in high school and arranged for his students to comment on our blogs. My students were excited to have a real (and older) audience. The high school teacher said his students found the assignment challenging.

I will say getting other classes to comment on our class and individual blog is a challenge. I use Twitter and G+ to try to solicit involvement, as well as emails to friends and colleagues.

kHguFB Student Created Math Problems and Answers

I won't go into this activity in great deal as I recently blogged about it. Students took pictures of their concrete graphs. These were then made into blog posts. Each student had to write math questions to go along with their picture. Then they each had to answer another student's blog/questions. 

Keeping Connected

I have one student this year who is moving temporarily to another province. She will be back for grade three. She is able to stay connected with her friends while she is away. She has posted twice now and the class has replied in the comment section. Her mom emailed me to say: She is super happy to be still in touch with her friends. Thank you Colette. Talk about writing for a purpose!

Suggested Reading

If you are interested in exploring Kidblog further, I suggest reading Blogging4Kids' posts on Kidblog.