Monday, May 25, 2015

#teachagtech -> How to Use Wordpress or Blogging in the Classroom

How to Use Wordpress and Blogging Platforms in the Classroom

How to Use Wordpress and Blogging Platforms in the Classroom.  In many of our classes, our students create work they should keep for future career aspirations.  As our society evolves into a digital and virtual society, it is imperative we teach good digital citizenship techniques (you can see a great resource here) and personal branding.  E-portfolios/blogs will be key in the future for various careers and to ensure our students can market their talents and skills.  Even if our students end up in a career that would not necessitate an e-portfolio or blog, it is prudent to expose this form of communication so our students know where their future customers, consumers and community members look for information.  

There are many platforms to choose from when considering a platform for your students' e-portfolios/blogs.  Obviously, we are limited to what our school district technology policies will permit.  However, even if you are in a district with very strict policies, you as the instructor could use a platform to showcase various class material where you can direct students if needed.  

Here are some key points to remember when guiding your students to showcase their material:

1.  Do not include personal information on main pages - they should not post pictures of themselves and addresses.  Mandate they keep a professional, appropriate level of personal information on their site.  If a student wants to include a digital resume, there are many options within different platforms where they can "lock" and "keep private" personal information and distribute that access information as they seek jobs.  

2.  Be professional.  Ask your students what they would think of walking past a storefront and seeing pictures of what is posted on their friends' feed on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.  Ask them if they would want to hire and spend their hard-earned cash on that individual/business after seeing those images.  Relate it to their own lives and discuss how these personal marketing slip-ups can be very costly now and in the future.  Remind them that just because they deleted a picture doesn't mean Facebook did - once it goes on the internet, it is there forever.

3.  Be organized and create a site that is easily navigated.  Take a moment and discuss visual elements of media with students.  Look at web pages that are effective and not.  If you are creating a site as an informational repository for your classroom, it is very important you make it easy to read and find information.  Otherwise it is just another webpage that can actually cause you more problems when a parent is looking for information and can't find it.  

4.  Create a place where students can interact.  Many of the platforms provide the opportunity for "comments" or classroom feeds.  Allow students to constructively critique peer's work - allow them to take course content where it makes sense to them.  The more they can create their own understanding of concepts, the higher the likelihood of them retaining the information.  

5.  Allow yourself to have fun and encourage your students to create.  This may be one of the first times you encourage your students to own their very own piece of internet real estate - allow them to explore and showcase their very best.  

I am very fortunate to be working in a district that supports integrating technology and the exploration of ideas to increase the technological experiences for our students.  Currently, I was given the privilege of creating a Wordpress site where Ms. Slates and I could showcase the work of our Plant Science classes.  I challenged my students to create their own e-portfolios where they had to take pictures of their work created in my Floriculture class and describe what they did - in the hopes they could use this later for job seeking.  It was amazing to see the creativity and intensity from students - they loved showcasing their work to the world.  I spent several class periods teaching the Wordpress platform, but also explaining digital citizenship, personal branding, marketing and photography.  (Obviously, the marketing components fit into learning about the business side of the floral industry - it may not work for all courses/curriculum.)  Wordpress is very easy to start and use; however, my goal in this situation was for students to be able to take these portfolios with them when they graduate.  Many times when students create blogs/portfolios/websites under the school district servers, they disappear when they graduate.   My goal was to create spaces where they own their materials.  Obviously not all districts will permit this and to some extent there is risk involved.  

There are other options other than Wordpress, such as Google Sites, Wix, Weebly and Pathbrite.  Hopefully, this will give you some ideas about how to go about creating and implementing this communicative tool in your classrooms.

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