Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blogger: Sometimes It Can Just Be That Easy!

Tonight I was fortunate to spend time with a team at Butler that is interested in communicating more regularly, easily, and openly with parents than they have previously.  They asked a great question that became a starter for a really good conversation -- "How do we even go about doing that?  We've heard about blogs -- is that the right tool for the job?"

To answer the question, blogs are an easy, yet powerful, way for teachers to maintain regular communication with students and parents.  They are flexible enough to serve a variety of roles, from an online journal to a fully functional web page/presence.  Most importantly, they are easy enough to anybody can learn to meaningfully use them in relatively short order.  Tonight I watched a team of teachers transform into teacher bloggers in about 30 minutes.  It is amazing to see what can happen to a teacher once they see just how useful and easy the tools are to use.

The tools that we most commonly recommend for blogging in the School District of Waukesha are:

Blogger


Owned by Google, Blogger integrates beautifully into our platform because the same email and password used for our district Gmail (and student Gmail accounts) will get you into Blogger.  No extra passwords or logins needed.  The platform defaults to open, meaning the world can view your posts, but it can also be locked down tightly and shared with only a few specific viewers if desired. It works incredibly well on the iPad, and it is something our students could learn to use in less than a class period as a way of exploring their thinking in writing.



Blackboard Blog Tool


Built into Blackboard, the Blog tool is a great way to integrate written responses and commenting directly with the online lessons and resources teachers develop.  The tool lives right within Blackboard. That means it can only be published to teachers and students enrolled in the Blackboard course, making it more of a walled, private blog.  While it doesn't have the same bells and whistles that Blogger does, it does offer teachers some relatively useful tracking tools that make reading student blogs and comments a snap.  Trade-offs between ease of use, privacy, and openness are key considerations when determining if Blackboard suits the needs of the teacher and students.


What is MOST exciting is just how easy both of these tools are to use.  My friends at Butler suggested several times tonight how surprised they were at how easy the blogging tool we were exploring (Blogger) was to use.  That should always be the goal.  As a Technology Department and as Technology Coordinators, we are always evaluating the ease of use and likelihood the tool will readily be adopted by students and staff.  We all have more important items on our daily checklist than spending a lot of time struggling with technology.

As always, if some tool or resource you are using isn't working as easily as it should, feel free to engage us in that conversation.  We are always willing to lend a hand, a suggestion, or to work to get the tool working as well as we can!