Best of 2013 So Far…Tips for Managing Academic Blogs

We’re half-way through 2013. Like I’ve done in years past, this week I’ll be featuring some of the best new tech tools of 2013 as well as some of the most popular posts of the year.

In the course of a year I get to run a lot of workshops about blogging.
One of the questions that frequently comes up in those workshops goes
something like this, “do you recommend that I have just one blog or
should all of my students have their own blogs?” There is not a clear
cut answer to this question because the answer depends upon how you
envision using blogs in your teaching practice.

If your use of blogging is going to be limited to just distributing
information about your class(es) to students and their parents, one blog
is all that you need. Even if you teach multiple courses, one blog is
sufficient if you’re only using it to distribute information. Simply
label each new blog post with the name or section of the course for whom
the information is intended. From a management standpoint it is far
easier to label each blog post on one blog than it is to maintain a
different blog for each course that you teach. That is a lesson that
took me one semester to learn.

In the fall of 2005 I was teaching five sections of the same ninth grade
social studies course and even though the content was the same each
class always seemed to be in a different place than the others so I
tried to maintain five different blogs. Before long I found myself
either posting to the wrong blog or my students were going to the wrong
blog because they had forgotten the blog’s URL and asked a classmate
from a different section of the course for the blog’s URL. After that
semester I decided to create one blog to use as the central online hub
for all of my students. All students who took a course with me would
have the URL for my blog and go there whenever they needed an update
about their courses. I found it very easy to say to students, “go to my
blog and click on the label for your class.” Even when I started to have
students contribute to group blogs they started out by going to my blog
and clicking the link to their group blogs.

If you envision having all of your students write blog posts, proper
planning of the blogging process is critical to being able to keep track
of your students’ work. Teachers who have twenty-five or fewer students
might be able to have each student maintain his or her own blog and
keep track of all of them, but even twenty-five blogs is a lot to keep
track of. The solution that I recommend is to create a group blog for
each class that you teach. Create the blog using whichever platform you
like then make each student an author on the blog. To track who wrote
what on the blog make sure that the author’s name (first names only or
use pen names with young students). Alternatively, you can have students
label or tag posts with their names or pen names to sort out who wrote
what. As the creator and owner of the group blog you will be able to see
who wrote what from your administrative panel, but that doesn’t help
parents who want to check the blog to see what their children have been

Teachers who want students to use blogs to experiment with web design
and coding will have to allow each student to maintain his or her own
blog. Likewise, if the goal is to have each student showcase work for
college or internship applications then each student will need to be the
sole author on that blog. Keeping track of all of those blogs is a
challenge, but a manageable challenge. One quick management method is to
create a spreadsheet of all of your students’ blogs. Another quick
management strategy is to create a list of links to the blogs then post
that list in a side column on your own blog so that you or anyone else
visiting your blog can quickly jump to a student’s blog.


Thank You Readers for 14 Amazing Years!