Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Get Your Students Blogging with Kidblog!

I first learned about what blogs were about 7 years ago at a district professional development class and I immediately started thinking about all of the ways I could start using a it with my 5th graders. We could have conversations about literature...I could post essential questions...they could reflect on things that went on in our classroom that day. The ideas seemed endless.

We did eventually do a lot of those things (and more) on our classroom blog, but as time went on I began to realize that there was a pretty big piece missing from our blogging experience. Most of the conversations on our blog were initiated by me; I would ask a question and my students would respond. There was really no way for them to post anything on their own. It was really "MY blog that they commented on" and I wanted it to be "OUR blog that we all can post to and comment on." I began to think about how great it would be if each of my students could have his own blog to post his thoughts or his writing or his projects and to have the rest of the class comment. I scoured the web for any blogging websites that could do what I wanted...but found nothing.

Fast forward 7 is THE answer!

What is it?
Kidblog is a website that is designed for teachers who want to provide each of their students with his or her own unique blog...for free! It is VERY simple, user-friendly, safe, fast, and secure! In short, this website does EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my 5th graders!

How does it work?
  1. The teacher creates a "class" by selecting a username, password, and a name for the class.
  2. Once your account is created, you (the teacher) will be taken to the control panel where you can add blogs for each of your students.
  3. You can (and probably should) change the privacy settings to determine who can see the posts and comments. There are also moderation settings that can be set so that the teacher has to approve of any new posts and comments before they appear on the blog (a good idea).
  4. Finally, show your students how to write a post and that's it! You're all blogging!
Anything else I should know?
  • When students login, they'll be taken to a dashboard where they will see all of the other blogs as well as the most recent posts from your classroom.
  • Students can add text, pictures, movies, files, web links, and HTML code to their blog posts. What a great way for them to share ideas, information, and projects with each other!
  • Kidblog is a WYSIWYG website. You can't change the colors, theme, or layout.
Give Kidblog a try! You'll be glad that you did!

Good Luck!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shelfari: Like Facebook...for Literature

What do you do with your students once they have finished reading a book? How do help them get excited about picking their next great thriller, romance, or mystery novel? Are there any tools that will help students recommend books to each other? These are probably all questions you've asked yourself at one time. Shelfari is a very useful and user friendly site that attempts to answer them!

What is it?
Shelfari is a website that is set up as a social network…just for books. Similar to Facebook, Shelfari users create a profile and add books that they have read to a virtual bookshelf. Other members can view their shelf, read their reviews, and ask them for recommendations. It’s an interesting way to keep students reading.

Recently, I introduced Mrs. Maria Custer's 10th and 11th grade English classes to Shelfari. They quickly caught on to the idea and built their bookshelves with books they have read in and out of school. Mrs. Custer created discussion groups and showed her students how to friend each other so that they could network. I'm excited to see what they do with the site for the remainder of the school year.

Anything else I should know?
  • An email address is required to create a Shelfari account. At this point, Amazon (who owns the site) does not offer any type of educational or classroom account for teachers and students.
  • Shelfari bookshelves are embeddable. Students and teachers can embed their Shelfari shelf on their classroom webpages quickly and easily. It will look something like this:
  • This is a very thorough website with vast amounts of information about books--far more than just a summary.
  • From what I can tell, Shelfari is not policed that well for inappropriate content. I came across a few comments from other members as I was looking around. Be aware of that if you use this site with your students.
Please let me know if your students would like help setting up a Shelfari account and bookshelf!

Good Luck!