Here’s What I Said On Educational blogging! What Would You Say?

Here’s What I Said On Educational blogging! What Would You Say?

Commenters on my What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging? post asked if I would share the essence of my presentation from Alec Couros‘ s EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education course — so as promised here it is!

You can watch an Elluminate recording of the session here.

Pre-presentation Preparation

One of the best aspects of Alec’s course is that participants post reflections on their blogs.  Wouldn’t that be nice if you could research and interact with participants before every presentation to be better prepared?

By checking out their Shared Google Reader folder I was able to:

  1. Read their posts and leave some comments.
  2. Get a feel for who they are as individuals and where they are at
  3. Find out what they learnt in previous sessions
  4. Target my presentation based on my perception of their needs

Most of the participants are fairly new to using social media and blogging so I decided to focus on what they really needed to know about educational blogging.

Here’s What I Covered

I created the following diagram to explain how through the process of writing posts and engaging in discussions in comments we are constantly evaluating, reviewing, reflecting and revising information.  And that by this continual process we’re learning.

Unfortunately I don’t feel I adequately emphasized how this learning is very different from how most of us are used to learning.

Nik Peachey provides a great summary in  his comment “With out this final stage of reconstructing information and turning it into knowledge that is useable by others in my professional community, much of the information that I read or see on the web would just pass straight through me”.


Community and learning as part of a community (or network) is one of the most important aspects of educational blogging and one of the key areas that most educators fail to appreciate.

The whole process of creating, connecting, communicating and collaborating as part of a community through the interactions of posts and conversations in comments is essential.

Unfortunately educators often fail to adequately encourage the community and commenting aspects in their student blogging programs.


Here are a few examples of good approaches to student blogging:

  1. Jan Smith’s Huzzah class blog – starts her students on the class blog and gradually moves them onto their own student blogs.
  2. Sue Wyatt’s Student blogging challenge

It’s really important to experience how blogging  changes your own learning to appreciate the impact it has and to understand how to use it effectively with students.

Here is the participants brainstorming of their thoughts, challenges and concerns based on where they are currently at with their blogging.


A key point I emphasized is their course provides them an excellent opportunity which is ideal for developing their blogging skills; they need to focus on working together as a community while gaining skills they can use with their own students.

My tips were:

Step 1: Change comment moderation settings

Currently they are all using the default comment moderation setting which means all commenters must have had a previously approved comment otherwise the comment is moderated.

Unfortunately in their situation this is negatively impacting in the comment conversations.  New commenters don’t gain from reading older comments.

You change comment moderation settings by going to Settings > Discussion.


Step 2: Set up Google Reader

The best way to work as a community is to set up your Google Reader account so that you are subscribed to both posts and comments from all the blogs.

Here’s my instructions on how to Manage Comments and Posts On Blogs Using Google Reader.

Step 3: Engage in Conversations

They need to start focus more on learning off each other and engaging in conversations by:

  1. Reading each other posts – each of them will have different perspective on the topic and working collectively they will gain more than working individually
  2. Commenting on each others posts – take the time to share their thoughts in response to each others posts.  To expand the conversation and really make each other think.
  3. Comment back to comments on their own posts – respond to people who leave comments.  Use it as an opportunity to find out more information from the person who left the comment.
  4. Learn how to pingback on other bloggers posts

Final Thoughts

Alec asked me to frame a question for response by participants at the end of my session.

So I’ve asked them to write a post on “What are 3 questions (and why) you would like answered on educational blogging or building personal learning networks? so that I and the other participants could visit their posts and leave comments to answer their questions.

If you would like to ask me these same questions please feel free to write your own post and:

  1. Pingback my What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging? post so I’m notified of your post
  2. And/or leave a comment with a link to your post on this post

Thanks to everyone who left comments on What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging? — all participants have been asked to read through your comments!

Would also love to hear your thoughts.  What would you have said differently?  What else should I have included?

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

23 thoughts on “Here’s What I Said On Educational blogging! What Would You Say?

  1. Your comments are right on target.

    I used to read English Ed student blogs to get a sense of what they were learning (or not). I gave up when I realized that

    (1) The students had no idea that blogging was a social activity. They did not, for example, comment on one another’s posts.

    (2) Students didn’t understand the difference between a digital entry and a print diary entry. Most did not attempt to format for online reading, for example.

    (3) The instructors were using blogs mainly so they could say they were using blogs, not because a blog added something to the class that students would not get through traditional print assignments. I don’t recall ever seeing an instructor interaction. Students would make totally unsupported comments without anyone questioning them.

    1. @Linda Aragoni, those types of situations make me feel sorry for the students.

      Unfortunately too many assume because the students grew up with the technology that the students will know how to use it well and will be able to use it in a learning context.

      The key focus should be the instructor progressing them towards the interaction; and knowing when they need to leave comments to encourage more conversation.

  2. Hi Sue,

    I’m going to disagree mildly about comments. I don’t think there’s any ‘one size fits all’ approach. With my younger students I leave moderation on, so every comment triggers an email to me. The delay is usually very brief, but this ensures that I read each comment in a timely way. It also reminds students to be respectful. So far, I haven’t seen that it inhibits them at all (if I did, I would turn off moderation and see whether that changes their behaviour).

    For an example, see my current Grade 9 blog, here:

    With older students I forego comment moderation and set up RSS feeds as you describe above.

    However, I might have a younger group that is extraordinarily trustworthy, with whom I would forego moderation, or an older group that needs closer monitoring.

    I agree that the goal is to have unmoderated commenting, but we don’t always get there right away.

    Bottom line: know your students and act accordingly.

    For me the great value of student blogging is giving young writers a real publishing venue, with a real audience. They learn by reading each other’s work; they care more about writing well, knowing their work will be read by others; they are inspired and challenged by those who write better, and encouraged to see that their work is as good or better than other students’ work. And with the right kind of supportive culture, even the weaker writers are motivated to contribute and give it their best effort. In these respects, blogging is the best thing for student writing that has come along in many years.


    1. @Eric T. MacKnight, I totally agree with you and this is exactly what I said during the session.

      In their situation because they are adult learners they need to not use comment moderation but with younger students it may be more appropriate to make all comments moderated.

      The post was getting a bit long which is why I didn’t clarify it in that section.

      The other struggle I had during the session was there just wasn’t enough time to cover everything. I know I definitely didn’t adequately discuss your last paragraph “the great value of student blogging is giving young writers a real publishing venue, with a real audience”.

    2. @Eric T. MacKnight,

      I noted that each student’s posting at your blog had zero comments, zero reactions. On what do you base your claim that students are writing for a real audience? How do you know the posts are read by anyone other than the moderator if there are no comments?

      (To be fair, I know only a small proportion of students contribute anything that’s not required even in online graduate classes.)

      I’m not knocking blogging. I’m just not convinced that it is accomplishing what proponents claim.

      Linda Aragoni

      1. @Linda Aragoni,

        Hi Linda. I think you were looking at the most recent onslaught of postings. We’re on holiday now and their deadline for posting journal entries that will count on the first report card is Sunday night, so they are busy writing rather than reading and commenting. Next week I will ask them to read each other’s journal entries, leave some comments, and get some ideas of what books being read by their classmates might appeal to them.

        To see the other end of the range, try this category—

        It’s certainly true that they tend to comment more on personal writing than on literary writing; but then, don’t we all?



      2. @Linda Aragoni, ‘I’m not knocking blogging. I’m just not convinced that it is accomplishing what proponents claim’

        It’s like anything. There are educators that are doing it well, achieving amazing accomplishments and others that aren’t.

        For example, I know from personal experience that Jan Smith outcome with her students has been absolutely amazing and the gains by her students are greater than students that are a lot older than her students.

        I also think that you can’t just look at the surface; it’s also important to know the history behind the student blogging. For example, as Eric highlights his students have been on holidays. How long the students have been blogging also is a factor.

        Probably the most incredible work I’ve seen is students from non-Engligh speaking countries.

  3. Eric’s clarification of the timing of the posts is helpful. Kids, being kids, they aren’t going to post over holidays.

    One question that keeps nagging at me, however, is whether we can say a blog is truly an authentic writing situation if we have to prod students to contribute. Outside of class situations, the motivation has to be in the writing content, doesn’t it? Can we say the class blog does more than approximate an authentic writing situation?

    Sue’s comment that some teachers use blogs well supports my basic sense that the anecdotal reports of writing gain may be the result of factors other than the blog medium.

    Bottom line: I’m not convinced blogs produce the effects described. I may yet become convinced, but I’ll need something other than anecdotal evidence.

    I love having this conversation. It forces me to clarify in my own mind what I think . I believe the thought-clarifying function is what makes blogging valuable.

    Thanks Sue and Eric.

    Linda Aragoni

    1. @Linda Aragoni,

      Hi again Linda.

      So much depends on what we are comparing things to. I begin with the assumption that just about nothing is truly authentic about schooling: it’s all contrived, artificial, unnatural, etc. Give anybody the choice between their best day at school and going home to relax—the school would empty in minutes.

      Writing instruction, in particular, has peculiar qualities in a school setting, one of which I wrote about here—

      —the way that real writers collaborate with many others, whereas in school we insist that students write all by themselves. (If they get help, we call that ‘cheating’.)

      However, compared with the situation when I began teaching in the 80s, we are much better off now. Then, the only ‘audience’ was the teacher. Students almost never read each other’s work, or commented on each other’s work. They had few models of good writing to work from; they had little idea how their own writing compared with their classmates’ work. They had less motivation to do their best, because only the teacher would read it. Etc. So compared to all of that, blogs are a huge step forward.

      And I don’t feel bad about asking students to comment on each other’s work, either. Most of us are lazy by nature. We need someone to nudge us in the right direction. In the classroom that’s me, and I accept the job.

      Yes: thanks for this conversation!


      1. @Eric T. MacKnight,
        I began teaching in 1970. By the end of the first week, I gave up teaching the way I’d been taught. From then on kids wrote, I moved around reading & suggesting, having one person consult another, creating small groups on the fly. I’ve never gone back to doing things by the book.

        I’m not entirely sure that having many readers is as important as having one reader whose opinions you respect. I think a too- supportive environment can be as bad for the intellect as a too-soft mattress is for the spine.

        There may be nothing authentic about school from our point of view, but school is kids’ equivalent of our jobs. For them school is “real life.” I am sure they would rather go home and relax. Hey, I’d rather relax than sit by myself (no collaboration here!) and write about how to install steam turbines. Real life is not much fun some days.

        Here’s hoping you’re having a better day than I am!


  4. You can find my post The Benefits of Using Blogs in Classrooms at

    It is the result of your discussion in Alec’s class last week and as a first attempt to respond to concerns of Alec’s for credit students in their blogs.

    I would love to have your reactions.



  5. Hi mam,

    I am actually new to blogging well after reading your article here i have really learn t a lot in my new experiencing here.well i have read some of the other comments here and i am really inspired with Eric T. MacKnight ,well thanks for such wonderful post and great conversations


  6. You have presented really very well. those who dont understand the graph can further email to author. I appreciate the effort and hard work you have invested

    Thanks for nice writeup

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