2/04/2014

Classroom Communication

Below is a short analysis of the basics around using Blogger.com as a platform for classroom communication. 

If you are looking for a simple, easy yet meaningful, get-off-the-ground-today tool to connect your classroom to the outside world, post at least one photo to Instagram  everyday from a mobile device. 

Classroom Communication with Blogger 

Classroom communication has changed shaped over the last few years. Newsletters and weekly folders were daunting administrative tasks that many teachers took on to connect their students to the learning in their classroom. Today, there are many shapes and sizes of social media that are adapted to be used in classroom settings. Using digital tools, mainly cell phones or tablets available at teacher’s fingertips, are the easiest methods of sharing student learning from classrooms to family and beyond.

While I explored the idea of using Instagram and Facebook as the tool for classroom communication based on their ease of posting content, the tool I believe to be the best tool for communication in my classroom is Blogger.com. Blogger is a part of Google Apps for Education suite of collaboration tools available to schools, and is easy to set up and get off the ground without any technical experience. While I could spend time creating a blog on a large number of other free blogging platforms, I believe Blogger’s integration with Google Apps to be very beneficial in the long run. Some of the first pieces of content to share through my classroom communication tool are photos of students and staff in action in school. Blogger has apps for almost all mobile devices and can easily upload photos on the fly during discussions or learning activities. Blogger provides a clean and simple platform for a teacher to reflect and share what they are doing in their classroom without worrying about the design of the site and color of the menus. You can change themes in Blogger, and even get more advanced personalization for those who really want to make their blog look like no one else’s, but for a majority of people, the design of Blogger helps me focus more on the content I am writing or posting to share.

The biggest benefit of using Blogger as a communication tool is the ability to have a safe and secure environment to post snapshots of learning. Students should be posting content and sharing what they are doing at school. Using Blogger and Google Apps for Education with all teachers and staff, students are able to write and submit their own posts to the classroom blog. Blogger has a wonderful workflow that simply allows the teacher to approve or deny a student’s post. If you are using the internet as the main form of communication from school, it is important that you have oversight on the content written in blog posts. A blog in Blogger can be shared in a variety of ways, one of which would be to share it only with people who have the link. Parents, grandparents, family members will all be able to share and forward the link to our classroom blog, but Internet search engines will not be able to find it. Student-authored posts can be a large or small project, allowing one or many students to post content to a blog every week. Students can be encouraged to submit blog posts whenever they encounter certain understandings or thoughts out on their own, and Blogger allows students to simply submit a post day or night.
Screenshot of Blogger content editor

Sharing the blog encourages families and other classrooms to participate in online discussions and share their opinion about other people’s ideas. Blogger’s ability to allow the teacher to approve or deny blog comments is also crucial to an online form of communication. It is easy to find negative comments on the internet, mainly because people are allowed to post under a username much more anonymously than they could in person. Moderating comments on blogs puts the teacher and students in charge of how a blog is used to communicate to helps prevent one or few negative comments becoming large topics of discussion and promote useful feedback.

Finally, Blogger is a communication tool that is easy for parents and other classrooms to follow. Along with providing simple RSS feeds, Blogger allows you to invite people to read or comment on your blog via email. As other social media tools emerge and become easier to post content from, such as Instagram mentioned earlier, Blogger will be able to embed that content right in the class blog. There are many methods of automating this process as well, such as sharing every Facebook post to a Blogger post to connect all your online sharing in one place. By inviting everyone via email and sharing a link to the blog with everyone else, Blogger becomes a very private place for students to have open conversations and share authentic and candid feedback on their learning.

PS. If you want to get more involved with an Instagram.com or Blogger.com project but don't have access to any tools, buy the cheapest web-enabled smart phone on Ebay.com or craigslist.org for less than $20.