#Blessed2018 #Happy2019

I miss blogging! I used to blog quite regularly – on my first website, Grading Girl, and on this site, TLC – Technology, Literacy and Citizenship, home to my professional reflections. (Dare I say I’m contemplating creating another site … perhaps more on that later). I’ve had my students blog regularly, spoke about blogging in the classroom at conferences and taught two courses for teachers in my district on blogging in the classroom. It’s hard to believe, in fact, that this year will mark 10 years since I first began dabbling in writing online!

Writing heals, soothes and strengthens. Writing spurs clearer understandings of ourselves and those around us – especially when we use writing to reflect. Blogging in particular offers an accessible, digital opportunity to share some of those reflections with authentic audiences we might not otherwise reach. And whether that audience consists of one, 10, 200 or 1,000s, the act of writing in itself is a growth opportunity.

This holiday season, I’ve been especially reflective. My family experienced a surprise, major health scare less than a week before Christmas that abruptly reminded me how life can change in an instant, and how we take way too much for granted. I’m very grateful to say that everything turned out positively, a true Christmas miracle really, with my special family member recovering well and growing stronger each day with a smile.

I often fall back to old books like old friends when I need guidance or inspiration or a gentle reminder. One of my favorite reads from a few years back is Gretchen Rubin‘s The Happiness Project. (I can’t wait for Gretchen’s latest book coming out very soon!) Early in The Happiness Project, Gretchen talks about articulating overarching commandments to live by to help maintain those specific resolutions we make each year. This idea for creating better versions of ourselves with guiding principles really resonates with me this year. So today, I’m reflecting on 2018’s lessons, surprises and blessings as I look forward to 2019’s daily opportunities. Some of these are principles I’ve already been striving to live by but, upon reflection, I’ve come up with these nine as most important to me right now. Similar to Gretchen Rubin’s philosophy, I think these will help maintain my specific resolutions. I’m sharing this publicly to make myself more accountable … another blogging bonus.✨

My Nine Commandments (no special order):

  1. Be kind. The old adage that everyone is going through something rings true. Being cognizant of that helps spread good will and strengthens relationships.
  2. Be more REAL and approachable. The world needs more real!! Over this past summer, I read Tara Martin’s book, Be Real, and continue to be inspired by her mantra for educating sincerely, from the heart. I’ve since had students create Martin’s awesome #BookSnaps as a fun way to share their independent reading books and am consistently searching for more ways to be real, approachable and open … both in and out of the classroom, at work and home.
  3. Laugh more. Life’s too precious and short to worry. The only things to worry about are those occurrences that side-swipe us so suddenly that we won’t have time to worry … so don’t bother with that which we have no control. Smile and enjoy each day for what it is.
  4. Life can change in an instant. Live presently, enjoy each day. Life proves this truth time and again.
  5. The glass is half (or more) full.
  6. Do what ought to be done. I stole this from Gretchen Rubin’s list but it resonates! Any task undone seems more daunting than it actually is.
  7. Enjoy each step in the process.
  8. Timing matters.
  9. Love is all.

Thank you to Edublogs for continuing to offer a most user-friendly, accessible platform for students and teachers! Thank you to Kathleen Morris for posting and sharing this motivating January Blogging Challenge. Thank you to my PLN friend, Gail Dessler, for inspiring me to actually follow through! It looks like the daily do’s on the calendar really won’t take much time. ↓ Per usual, tasks seem more daunting than they actually are once we set out to complete them.  I’d love for more educators to join us in the process!! Who’s in?!


Finally, I’m delighted to say I will be bringing blogging back this upcoming semester with my students; I’ll have even more reason to post on the benefits of blogging in education!!

Poster from Kathleen Morris – http://www.kathleenamorris.com/blogging/

And as for my 2019 resolutions, here are some of them (no special order)😊:

  1. Tell at least one person a day how grateful I am to know him, her or them.
  2. Hug more.
  3. Drink more water.
  4. Create something every day.
  5. Learn something new each week.
  6. Take on a unique experience each month.
  7. Travel somewhere I’ve never been each year.
  8. Share my passions more to help others.

Begin Student Blogging as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Using EdublogsWordPress for schools, teachers & students – these are the three steps I take to initiate my student blogs.  This is certainly not the ONLY way but this is the process I found to be most helpful.  The best resource is the very helpful user guide Edublogs offers.  Every process along the journey of classroom blogging is outlined and explained well in that online guide.  

I find it more efficient to conduct this initiation myself rather than the students.  For one, I can set up their URLs in a uniform fashion, eliminating the possibility of silly URLs students may regret owning later – URL name is the one item that cannot be altered.  Additionally, the twenty minutes or so this takes me to do is undoubtedly faster than the entire period it takes students as this very well may be first experiences with the blogging world.  Students will have ample opportunity to “own” the experience through choice of theme, fonts, colors, etc.

Once you’ve set up your own class site via edublogs.org, perform the same steps to set up each individual student site. **NOTE:  Because I illustrate this step-by-step, this may look much more involved than truly is. . . . Again, see the Edublogs guide for the thorough step-by-steps.  This is simply my own step process, in my own words:

1.  TEACHER DOES:  Set up each student account individually at Edublogs.org.

    1. Click on “Get Your Free Blog Now” (just as you would have done for creating your own account).
    2. Make the “username” the first initial of first name, last name (i.e. tchristensen) for each student.  This is what he/she will use to log in.  Creating uniformally formatted will be easier for you to create and them to remember.
    3. Skip the optional “email.”  This will not be needed if you have uniform usernames & passwords!
    4. Create a “password” that is easy to retrieve for each student (id?/birthdate?).
    5. Make the “blog domain” something that sufficient for future digital portfolios (full names?  first initials of first names/last names?  first names/first initials of last names?).
    6. For now, make the “blog name something like  “Theresa’s Blog, Jason’s Blog, etc . . . they can change this later.
    7. For “blog type,”  don’t forget to indicate it as a student blog!  This will allow them to “join your class” site later.
    8. TLC TIP:  If, after performing the above steps, Edublogs tells you that student name already exists, add a numerical digit at the end of the name.  For uniformity, you may want to think of this number ahead of time and keep it the same for each student.  (i.e. 2014 for that year)
    9. Go back to the Edublogs.org site for EACH student and perform this same process.  It really doesn’t take long!

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 11.17.46 PM 2.  TEACHER DOES:  Link the student blogs to your own Edublogs site.  Taking this step ahead of time, prior to unveiling the student sites to your students, will add to the fun because they will see their names on the “blog roll!”

    1. Log in to your own class site on Edublogs.
    2. Go to the Dashboard.
    3. On the left hand side, go to “Links” and click “Add New.”
    4. For each student, create a link:
      1. Fill in the student’s name in “Name.”
      2. Type URL (that you already created) for that student’s blog under “Web Address.”
      3. Under “Description,” type Brad’s Blog or Skylar’s Blog, etc.  This appears when the cursor hovers over the link on the blog roll.
      4. If you have ONE class, this is all you need to do!  If you want to place more than one class in your blog roll (in other words, have more than one class linked up to your site), you will need to set up each class as a category:
        1. Go to “Posts”
        2. Click “Categories”
        3. Fill in a name for your Category (i.e. Period 5 or Period 6)
        4. Press “Add New” and voila.
    5. Now your links should start appearing as you named them within the right sidebar!Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 11.58.39 PM

TLC TIP:  If the blogroll doesn’t automatically appear on your right sidebar, go to “Appearance” and “Widget.”  Drag over a Widget called “Links.”  HERE is the complete guide for this process.

3.  STUDENTS DO:  Students join the class site.  ~EDUBLOGS PRO option ONLY

    1. First, unveil the sites to each student!  I’ve used THIS document in the past.
    2. Once the students log in to their sites and get over their initial excitement, have them go to the Dashboard, go to “Class” at the left-hand side and “Join a Class.”  They search for your site, request to join and you approve.  Having them join your class allows you further control of their posts – if you choose to have it.  In other words, you can approve posts or comments before they are published, you can easily see who has completed a post, etc.
    3. TLC TIP:  I’ve used Edublogs both with and without a PRO account and have functioned well with both.  While I prefer having the PRO for its advantages (more control of privacy, more media upload capacity, more themes, the new reader function, etc), managing posts is doable without it.  You will simply need to click on each student link within your blog roll to check the posts.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 12.55.46 AM I hope this explanation is helpful in easing your initiation with classroom blogs.  Like I mentioned above, there are a couple of different ways to begin but this is what I found to be the least complicated and time-saving.  In the meantime, Happy Blogging, Friends!

Lucky 13 Steps to Meaningful Student Footprints

**These are the steps I’m sharing with teachers new to blogging in the classroom: 

  1. Choose a blogging platform.  See THIS chart for comparison of the widely used platforms in education.
  2. Teach students how to blog.  Have students either do a “practice” journal post online or HERE is a cool example of a “paper” blog activity to get students understanding the concept of sharing with an authentic audience without actually sharing online yet.
  3. Talk about online safety and etiquette. Taking time to teach some do’s and dont’s goes a long way. Don’t assume they know the proper code of conduct.  Common Sense Media has some great lessons.  Last year, my school used some digital citizenship lessons from them – more HERE.
  4. Teach students how to comment. In order for blogging to be effective, connected comments are needed; but, if students don’t practice proper comment etiquette, they will lose out on a significant part of the experience. I tell students that the rule of thumb is only write what you would not be afraid to tell someone in person.  My comment rules are HERE.
  5. Start small.  You may want to make the first post be a journal entry about the students’ favorite subjects – themselves!!  You may want to invite them to make one appreciative comment to one another student as well.  HERE is an example of a first post assignment I’ve used in the past . . . although every year I do something different for the initial post, depending on the nature of the students and the class.
      1. two paragraph minimum
      2. one media (picture, map, timeline, word art, video etc) to be included
      3. one comment on one peer’s post of the same assignment
  6. Include parents. Parents appreciate knowing what we are doing, what students are writing about and enjoy an invite to comment.  The students enjoy the extra connection too . . . even if they don’t always admit it.  HERE is an actual post assignment in which I involve parents.  Providing parents with the website URL during Open House and/or within Schoololgy, iTunes, or an Infinite Campus note is helpful too.
  7. Connect with one or two classes. While comments from around the world are phenomenal, the connections anywhere outside of class are key. Pair up with another class within your building or within the district.  Here is an example of when I paired my senior E405 Expository Writing students with my E108 Freshman English.  Reach out on Twitter or QUADBLOGGING or through #comments4kids to set up something more permanent.
  8. Visit other classroom blogs. Inspire your students by opening class with an example class blog from time to time.  I usually find blogs simply by searching “High School English Class Blog” or “High School World Geography EduBlogs” or something like that.
  9. Let students explore. My students love to play around with font, color, and images. They often change their themes too!  They teach each other how to do anything fancy (and also let each other know when font or color choices are poor!). This is a way for students to come into their own as creative writers and also start to think about creating their online identity.
  10. Perhaps, don’t grade the first post. Blogging is meant to be a way to practice writing for an audience and learning to respond to critique. I, of course, am clear about requirements and the edit process but I never ever chastise them for mistakes made . . . online or off; usually, peers point out mechanical errors and/or students immediately fix errors themselves once they see them “showcased” as clear as day on their sites.  By the way, HERE is an example rubric I’ve used for posts.
  11. Challenge students. Often students write about a given topic we are studying but, to keep students writing on their own, you can offer weekly (or bi-weekly) challenges in which you ask students to research to find the answer to a tricky question or have them write one higher-level thinking response to a prompt you give them a week or so to ponder.
  12. Map class connections. To motivate and inspire, you can start a WORLD MAP OF YOUR CLASSROOM on a bulletin board within your classroom, marking those places where site visitors come from.  Placing the CLUSTER MAP widget on the site helps too!
  13. Have patience! Some students take to blogging instantly, others aren’t so sure, and yet they all end up loving it!   The sheer mass of paper we save by having students create online is staggering.  By the way, if you have a homebound student, blogging is a GREAT way to keep them writing and involved with the class!!

TLC TIP Take part in blogging yourself!!!  I’ve been blogging on my own personal site since February 2009 and never looked back.  We need to practice what we teach, it’s a perfect venue for us to professionally and/or creatively hone our own writing skills, and we better understand the trials and triumphs our students experience. ONE OF MY FAVORITE INFOGRAPHICS on “Blogging in the Classroom:” (courtesy of Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano)

From Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano @ langwitches.org

From Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano @ langwitches.org

**I modeled my above steps from Pernille Ripps “14 Steps to Meaningful Student Blogging.” I modified my steps for the high school classroom, using my own resources as examples. Check out Pernille Ripp’s site HERE for fabulous blogging resources!

Blogging Bound ~ My Students’ First Digital Steps

Thank you to Bob Schuetz, Technology Coordinator at Palatine High School, for including this post as a guest blog on his site, NOCKING THE ARROW.

MY BLOGGING BACKGROUND: My blogging adventures began in February 2009 when I was offered my own website through StudioPress.  At that time, I barely knew what a “blog” was much less what I was going to do with this site.   I contemplated back and forth between posting creative writing or professional posts.  Initially, I opted to use Grading Girl as a space to write reviews and share personal pieces.  I quickly learned that word travels fast on the internet and companies started sending products to review.  It’s great fun and a productive way to channel my own writing practice.  Teaching, however, is in my blood and, naturally, much of my life centers around the classroom.  Fast forward to today, five years later:   Grading Girl has grown to over 2500 views per day, I’m a 1:1 teacher in the classroom and launched this second site, TLC – Technology, Literacy, Collaboration, devoted solely to my technology and literacy experiences.



RATIONALE FOR BLOGGING: Exuberantly experiencing my own blogging adventures led me to begin blogging with my students over the past three years.  Both the Common Core and my school district’s Critical Learning Standards emphasize the need for students to read a variety of text for understanding, to write clear, supported arguments and to apply knowledge and skills to real-world problems.  I believe writing blogs can fulfill those expectations.    Blogging provides students with digital writing experiences to pursue understandings in the real world, not just within a classroom.  It’s no longer a matter of earning a grade – it’s a matter of voicing views to a real audience.  Moreover, blogging across the curriculum, not just in English class, allows for both formative and summative assessment because it helps writers see the progression in development of a piece of writing. It may actually take more talent and skill to create an interesting persuasive post on the French Revolution, let’s say, than a traditional essay.  Like an essay, a persuasive post needs to be clear, concise, and convincing; on top of this, there is the overriding need to be compelling.  That said, we need to teach blogging as a skill to help students voice arguments succinctly as they prepare for communication in the competitive job market they will take on later.

It’s Not Fair Argumentative POST

More advantages to using blogging as a writing tool as cited in the European Journal of Social Sciences – Volume 9, Number 4 (2009) article, “E-Learning Environment:  Blogging as a Platform for Language Learning:”

  • Encourages feedback and represents both writing and reading activities;
  • Stimulates debate, critical analysis, and encourages articulation of ideas and opinion;
  • Offers opportunities for collaborative learning; projects, debates or interactive travel logs;
  • Provides environment in which learners can develop skills of persuasion and argumentation;
  • Creates a more student-centered learning environment

WHY EDUBLOGS: I use Edublogs, WordPress’s platform for education, to create a site for each of my accelerated freshmen and senior writing students.  I’ve dabbled in other platforms but find EduBlogs offers the most customization with the most secure environment.  Here’s more specific reasons to support Edublogs:

  • Safe and Reliable – Blogs can be completely private or completely open to the public or somewhere in between.  Since they only host education related content, Edublogs are allowed by most school filters where other blogging platforms are not.  Even the most leery of educators can find a comfort zone.
  • Student Friendly – It is as simple to add to and update a blog as it is to send an email or write a letter. Teachers can easily create and manage as many student blogs as needed.
  • Rich With Features – A few of the most popular featured widgets include discussion tools, video embedding, Facebook and Twitter integration, and calendars.  EduBlogs seems to offer the largest amount of widgets and plug-ins to accommodate.
  • Customizable – There are over 100 different themes which allow for control of colors, images, and layout.
  • Research-Based – Engages students in their learning and enhance instruction through collaboration, student portfolios, and seemingly endless classroom uses.


Writing with Parents:

And Student Sample HERE and HERE and HERE

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 4.19.59 PM

Writing with Peers outside of class:  

Seniors & freshmen share philosophies

Writing for a Public Audience:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 1.33.00 AM

Sample Book Review

NEW BLOG EXTENSION: Beginning this spring semester, my two accelerated freshmen classes will be expanding their websites to include reporting on their very own Passion Projects.  I’ve been following Catlin Tucker, Google Certified Teacher and CUE Lead Learner, and inspired by the experiences she reports on within her blog.  I’ve previewed the project with the students, discussing Google’s concept of 20% Genius Hour.  Robert Schuetz, my school’s innovative technology director, graciously took the time to speak with my students about digital citizenship and taking on a project such as this to pave the way for their ever-growing digital portfolios.  While time allows us to take a modified 10% of class time this year, students are devoting a portion of their research and discovery outside of class that I am excited to share.

Student Sample of Passion Project progress so far . . .


My goal for next year is to incorporate blogging within each of my classes at each level.   There is need for students to become proficient in 21st century collaborative web tools. Digital writing is no longer an extra tool to voice opinion – it is mainstream, here to stay and continually evolving.  

Blogging in the Classroom – Paving the Way for Our Students’ Digital Footprints


Interested in giving your students more authentic writing practice while helping them initiate their ever-important digital footprints?!  Click this link to my Illinois Computing Educators 2014 presentation for an overview of creating a classroom site, initiating student blogs, and maintaining proper digital citizenship.