Mark Ahlness has written a great post he titled “The Case for Classblogmeister” that teachers and administrators contemplating options for classroom blogging should definitely check out. If you’re not familiar with David Warlick’s free Classblogmeister tool, you definitely should be. Many, many teachers are using it– and others started with it who have branched out to other tools. Mark wrote:

So here’s my testimonial, my sales pitch for Classblogmeister. First, it’s not blocked. Next, it offers TOTAL teacher approval before any student post or comment on a student post (take that, MySpace fear mongers). Teachers can leave online feedback for students to improve their writing (like if they want to get it published) that is hidden from public view. Next, it’s free (thanks to David W’s generosity). It also has a very active list on Yahoo! Groups for sharing and problem solving. Last, I have never, in 25 years of teaching, seen a more powerful classroom tool for motivating students to write. Nothing else even comes close. It is the perfect blogging tool for teachers.

There is more on his post, so check it out– I agree with Mark that we did not hear much about Blogmeister in the posts from NECC and we should have. I listened last week to the great four part series on “Telling the New Story” that Dean Shareski posted recently (part 1part 2part 3part 4). I actually haven’t listened to part 4 yet– I’ll do that this week– lots of great stuff there, but my favorite section was probably hearing Clarence Fisher talk in part 3 about his evolutionary journey with different blogging tools. Clarence is now using Learnerblogs with his elementary students, but he didn’t start with that tool– Classblogmeister was his entry-point into the world of blogs and he articulates well how that journey proceeded and why the tools he selected for class and student blogging are working for him. As with any technology, different tools should be used depending on purpose and context, which can change over time.

I am a big advocate for the safe use of blogs in the classroom– they can serve as a positive, disruptive influence for student engagement and literacy development. As Brandi Caldwell said last night in our skypecast about NECC 2006, however, small steps are the key— Clarence describes the process as a teacher getting comfortable with reading blogs as putting their toe in the water, and then moving forward with the entire foot I think, as they learn about aggregation, setting up a class blog, etc.

Mark’s sentiments about the importance of students having THEIR OWN blog are on target also, I think. He wrote:

Anyone reading here who is looking for a safe blog for students, look no farther than Classblogmeister. It is especially suited for elementary and middle school aged children. Please be clear about this, students EACH HAVE THEIR OWN BLOGS. In my opinion, having students leave comments on a teacher’s blog is NOT blogging, nor does that practice empower students to deal in any way with the reality they face when they go home and go online – which is part of the reason to start young, and at school. More importantly, it does not present a learning opportunity for writing.

FEAR is really prevalent in our world, unfortunately, and the educational environment is no exception. I had a wonderful conversation last week with Glen Henry, who is the Director of Arts in Education for the Office of Standards and Curriculum in the state of Oklahoma. Glen observed that if students in class are not engaged, they are often experiencing either ANXIETY or FEAR. Teachers may fit into this frame as well. Blogging with students is by nature a risky enterprise, and we don’t want people to have bad initial experiences.

Administrators, teachers, and parents are likely to cringe with fear at not just the prospect of students blogging or commenting on blogs, but also having their own blogs. To this fearful response, Classblogmeister is a great response. A teacher in Garland, Texas last year presented to her school board to win approval of her request to use Classblogmeister with students. She was able to demonstrate how she would have CONTROL over the content posted– and that is the main thing the adults are concerned about. Depending on the age of students, the culture of the classroom, etc– other teachers may want to “get out of the way” as Clarence says, and give the kids more freedom. But Clarence is in the minority of teachers, I think, having his kids in his classroom most of the day. (This is sad, I think self-contained classrooms are generally preferable when a caring teacher is in charge– but that’s an aside.) So especially in elementary contexts– but possibly also in secondary classes, there are persuasive reasons for teachers to start classroom blogging with Classblogmeister.

Mark is right, we need more people talking about Classblogmeister and sharing it with other teachers. David Warlick is quite gracious to grant access to Blogmeister to any teacher who will contact him. There is no getting around the inherent risk of using disruptive technologies in the classroom– but Mark is correct that Blogmeister provides more CONTROL and FEEDBACK possibilities for teachers than other blogging tools out there. In our era of headlines about MySpace and other issues related to internet safety, we definitely need to also be talking about Blogmeister!

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5 Responses to Safe blogging and Classblogmeister

  1. Cheryl Oakes says:

    Maybe we need to look at a continuum of blogging tools for education and the public. I am still a fan of a protected closed blogging site for educators . You have already blogged and done a podcast of this free tool promoted and sponsored by Oracle. It is the only tool I can use to keep up with 200 students in 3rd and 4th grade. However, when I introduced this tool to my students, I also engaged parents as my partners! It was the first time that I believe parents understood that I am not the only one monitoring their child’s work, messages, contacts on the Internet. Parents need to monitor the activity from home. So far, it is working. Cheryl

  2. campbell205 says:

    I am a pre-service teacher, so I don’t really know much about blogging in the classroom. However, I think that this tool is a really great idea to use in the classroom. Students need to feel a sense of freedom and be able to make choices, but they also are still learning about life and need some guidance. I think it is great that all the blogs are pre-approved before being put out on the internet. I am sure that some students might have their own blogs elsewhere so they can post whatever they want, but I think that a majority of the students will be content with this blogging site. This past year there have been so many news articles about MySpace and other similar websites and how dangerous they are. I think it is really great that there is this website that can fill the students’ desire to blog and such, but also be controlled so that they are much safer. I am definitely book marking this site and putting it on my To Do list for when I’m a teacher!

  3. Sara205 says:

    I am also a pre-service teacher. I really do not know much about blogging. This semester is my first time of ever blogging. I really do like how this site is safe for blogging. There is so much “stuff” that is very unsafe for anyone to use, such as Facebook. Earlier this year, facebook became more stalkerish until each individual could set what others could view. Anyways…I like how teachers using this type of blog have control of it. I think it is good to get students aquainted with all of the new technology. The more they know, the better off they will be. So, all in all, even though some may view this as not a “real blog” because the teacher has control of it, I believe it is very beneficial for students to participate.

  4. Laura205 says:

    Wow…this must be a popular site for our class!

    I too am a pre-service teacher…go figure! 🙂 I agree with what Sara205 and Campbell205 have said. They both make very valid points. I cannot wait to use this site in my future classroom. I love the idea of it being SAFE for my students. I want to expose my students to all sorts of technology but my number one concern is making sure they are safe and feel comfortable. The idea of giving feedback that not everyone can see is awesome because then the student doesn’t have to feel embarrassed with their work. It is also like I am talking to the student face-to-face because we are the only ones involved in the conversation. However, the one concern I may have with blogging is that I may not have as much face-to-face interaction with my students. I realize that blogging helps students write but I am going to like to have conferences with them so I can see their reaction when I am talking to them about their work. Overall, though I will definitely keep this in mind!

  5. miked205 says:

    Again, I am a pre-service teacher like the several posts before me. I am an advocate of blogging and appreciate how safe the Classblogmeister can be. I feel that safety will always need to be re-evaluated based with time evenothough initially a site can be considered safe. I too want to expose my students to blogging as it can become a useful tool to use as they advance with their own education. Being able to talk to students in a one on one manner through blogging is great, but be aware it can have its problems. Teachers can rely too much on blogging and can slowly replace face-to-face communiction because blogging is easier and maybe more convenient. Case in point: At my university we use this system called BlackBoard for posting of announcements, calendar information, viewing of grades and much more. Well, teachers feel that they can just put an assignmnet, resources, information, external readings (links to websites) and the students have to be required to complete it all. There is no way that we would have enough time in class to cover all of the extra nformation posted on Blackboard, but yet because of the convenience and ease of posting information from the teachers standpoint creates so much extra work that students need to be accountable for. The ease and convenience of teachers posting, creates a lot of extra work and at times unfair for the student.

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