My learning project with my PAA classes is coming together, but slowly. If you recall, my last post indicated their lack of exposure to blogging and digital learning so we have spent a great deal of time working through the technical literacy part from email passwords to blog features. Also, PAA courses have limited instructional time, so that also means we are unable to work daily on this project.
Gaining ideas from other teachers that blog, I have found it useful to use the class blog to post directions on. This allows students to follow with ease in class, but also gives them no excuse if they want to work at home or have missed a class. I also found it very helpful this past week when I had a substitute in my class as she was able to follow along very easily with what we were doing and share with the students “next steps” to keep the class going. My sub plan did not need to include the specifics student directions.
Students have created individual blogs and played around with many of the basic features of WordPress including hyperlinks, inserting media, quotations, fonts, and polls with plugin from Polldaddy. We have also discussed how writing can be less formal using a combination of bullets, headers and paragraphs and should be visually appealing to draw the reader in with visuals and key words that stand out. Readers must be drawn to key pieces in the post to get them to read the whole thing. Sue Anne Dunlevie has 16 great tips to keep in mind as you start to write. She says:
Even if the headline appeals to them, with no other clues about the content, people will be reluctant to start reading. By helping people scan your blog posts with a good layout and telling them more about what information they’ll find in it you can entice them to read the post in full.
To work through the technical pieces I created Stinky Monkeys, just another blog domain to play around with so if you check it out, it looks like nothing much as it is a place to play with the set up of a blog. This avoids messing up our class blog as we play around with WordPress tools. One key frustration we found is the consistency in how the editing menu is set-up if individuals are using various themes. After some headache, I decided to have all students change their theme to pen scratch. This was very helpful because it ensured that when we are in the admin mode that the options in the left menu would be organized in the same format. After the students know how to navigate on their own, they can change their themes to whatever they want. This simple video is helpful for students to review if they forget the basics although it does not cover hyperlinks. But, they know they can always search for a video to find help on a specific WordPress topic or ask their learning partner for assistance.
I hope by the end of this week I will be able to share some samples of student’s first blog posts as they explore blogging. We have all of their blogs linked to the class blog and I will be able to use the comment function to give them feedback. Students will also be able to network as they click on the links to one another’s blogs and see what their peers are doing. This week will be fun as we now get to creating and publishing!