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Using blogs and wikis to connect Beyond the Classroom.

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Started by Catriona Pene 25 Feb 2013 5:39pm () Replies (9)

When schools I am working in identify the Beyond the Classroom dimension, in the eLPF, as one they need to focus on, the question keeps coming up around how we can engage parents and the wider community in the children's learning.

One of my favourite and most successful ways is to use a blog (or wiki) to give parents and the wider community a window into the learning in the classroom and a voice to comment on learning and encourage the students.

However blogs (wikis) are no magic formula, you cannot set one up and just expect it to work, it's important you educate the parents around how they can become involved and keep the blog fresh and the children actively involved in order to keep the parents coming back for more.

Recently Allanh King bookmarked this great guide to involving parents in your blog (thanks Allanah) and it got me thinking about how much we presume parents know about blogging (wiki-ing) and how many teachers become disillusioned with their blogs because the parents and wider community fail to engage.

SO here are a few of my beginning of the year suggestions on how to get your parents engaged in your blog and I hope others of you bloggers (wiki-ists) out there will contribute your ideas and suggestions too.

1. Send a letter home at the beginning of the year introducing the blog and explaining the basics.

2. Provide opportunities before and after school for parents to access the blog via the classroom. The children can show their parents around and be the experts.

3. Teach your parents how to comment and subscribe to updates. Either by handout or in a mini after school workshop.

4. Put prompts to posts on the blog in your class newsletter, homework books, school newsletter...

5. Make a big fuss when parents do engage in the blog, comment or just visit. : )


  • Jill Hammonds (View all users posts) 26 Feb 2013 6:44am ()

    6. Put criteria for responding to the blog into the actual blog or wiki with exmples of the types of comments that are useful.  In that way parents and whanau can get beyond just "awesome" and start providing feedback that will add to the student learning.  I find this particularly with student writing where kids often don't consider their audience and thereby often leave out some of the information that is vital to full understanding.  If parents come in and ask them questions such as "What did you mean by . . . ?" or "Who was the person that  . . . ?" the kids get to see where they left some of the info in their own heads rather than woven into the story.  I also talk to the kids about using detail and word choice to "paint pictures in the minds of their reader to engage them in the story."  So comments such as "quote text" reminded me of when I was little and we . . . " so that the kids can see when they succeed in engaging their reader.
    See the example on this blog in the "What great bloggers do" at top right.

    7. To involve other than parents and whanau, make blogging a reading and writing activity.  In reading time have your students read other class blogs and leave feedback comments and then a link back to their own class blog.  In this way they will start to generate traffic and comment back into their own blog.  You can start by reading other class blogs from your school and then widen out beyond.  Kids get a real buzz when they find they really are writers and publishers.

  • Catriona Pene (View all users posts) 27 Feb 2013 10:24pm ()

    Great contributions thanks Jill.

    You reminded me that i spent some of my literacy time teaching the students to write good comments and then displayed this sheet in the room and sent it home to help parents understand how they should comment too.

    see it here... Writing great comments on blogs.

    Keep the suggestions coming please!

  • Jane Armstrong Bos (View all users posts) 04 Mar 2013 9:02am ()

    In the video clip, Using e-portfolios to record the learning processRussell Street School teacher, Jacqui Innes, describes the process and benefits of planning explicitly for what students will share on their blogs which form the basis for their e-portfolios.

    Students are encouraged to relate their posts and comments to the learning intention and success criteria, which are known from the outset. This means when they make their blog post self assessment and peer assessment can come through.

    She has found using Google reader has been a good visual way for students to be more accountable for their comments.

  • Karen Spencer (View all users posts) 05 Mar 2013 8:07am ()

    Thanks for this thread, Catriona - great stories and suggestions coming through from everyone. To pop my parent hat on for a minute, the thing that is most likely to engage me on a blog is not the blog per se but the point of it in terms of my child's work.  I think many parents want to be part of the learning and that would be the 'hook'.

    imageSo, I wonder if we need a two-pronged approach -

    • explicit support around the technology (so the school helps whānau understand why we use technologies for learning) as we have described here and 
    • all in the context of the why - how does this post, this writing, this photo talk to me about what my child is up to and how they are getting on? Do we talk about 'blogging' or do we talk about 'writing'? And does it matter if I never comment on the blog, as long as I am talking about the work at home (a crunchy question that a BoT member asked me about the other day)?

    Great discussion, people - keep 'em coming:-)



     Other useful links:


    [Image source]

  • Togi Lemanu (View all users posts) 27 Mar 2013 11:30pm ()

    Faafetai lava Catriona.  Thank you for your discussion post and others that have responded.  This is something that I am going to take to one of the schools I had come back from today.  I am very excited about sharing this with the teachers to give them some reassurance that it does take time to get parent responses.  I think for our Pasifika parents its important to tell them that blogging is part of their child/rens learning and that it is not 'facebook' because I have found that Pasifika parents tend to be relunctant on their child/ren using the internet to show them their work that they have done at school. 

  • Catriona Pene (View all users posts) 28 Mar 2013 9:24am ()

    Malo Faafetai Togi, 

    I can understand parent's reluctance about their children's photos being shared with the world via a blog or a wiki, and recognise the need to tread carefully here and consider all cultural perspectives.

    In my mostly European and Maori class it was acceptable to parents to post photos of their children online, using only their first names to identify them.

    Maybe this could look different for other cultures.

    How do other cultures feel about the use of their children's names and images when being shared in this way? 

    Interested to hear from others about their perspectives and experiences.

  • Roxy Hickman (View all users posts) 03 Apr 2013 6:14pm ()

    One thing that engaged parents in e-portfolio blogs at Kimi Ora School in Wellington was the inclusion of lots of videos. Kimi Ora school caters for students with very high needs, so the e-portfolios are driven by the teacher and therapists.

    The main aims and intentions for setting up ePortfolios for their students were as follows:

    1. A way for teachers, therapy team, support staff and family to assess each students progression within their IEP goals and daily routines at school.
    2. A place where the students family and friend can support and share in achievements in regards to all aspects of school life.
    3. A record of achievements and milestones.
    4. As another way of building relationships and communication between school and home.

    This video clip setting up e-portfolios at Kimi Ora shares the process of getting key people involved in e-portfolio blogs. Following this video all students had an e-portfolio developed within the following few months.


  • Anne Kenneally  (View all users posts) 13 May 2013 11:45am ()

    What a wonderful thread!  I have found the use of a class blog and wikis to be transformational in engagin whanau in the learning journey.  But as you say rightly say, it does not happed magically.  Some ways I have found that work are:

    Learners encouraged to comment and add to the blog ubiquitously, so there is increased opportunity for whanau involvement;

    Learners running sessions at school on how to write a good blog comment and how to engage with the blog and the wiki.   The power of the learners showing extended family what is required is amazing.  I believe it must now be part of our job to empower our learners to educate their extended family.

    Learners who have a significant blog post to share wear home a lanyard or bracelet which reminds them to contact extended family and friends to engage with their latest posts.

    Careful labelling of all blog posts makes it much easier for family to find their learner's posts.

    Time in class before and after school and even during school for whanau to view and comment on the blog on class computers.

    Continual modelling of posting, submitting blog comments and responding to all comments received to develop interaction and collaboration!

    Happy blogging.... Smile

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Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the Classroom

Beyond the classroom - Connecting school to the wider community with and about technologies.