This was written a while ago for a fellow teacher over at Classroom 2.0 but I thought I’d repost it here because I’m not sure it’s public in its original form and some folks have been asking about managing student blogs:
Thanks for the kind comments about my blog! I’m glad its given you some ideas to try.
Forgive me if you know some of this stuff already, but I’ll try to start at a basic level. Also, know that there are lots of resources out there to check out, and I’m sure that other folks do a much better job of explaining this stuff than I do, but here goes.
First off, most any blog has within it the capability to be subscribed to using an RSS (really simple syndication) protocol. RSS “feeds” basically send out a message to “subscribers” whenever the author posts something new to the blog. It is not too terribly hard then to find your favorite blog, subscribe to it, and then be notified of new additions to the blog. These are the three steps that you will want to do with your students’ blogs.
The way I did it went like this:
1. At the beginning of the year, students set up Google accounts and sign up for their own blog at Blogger.com (I think the name will change to just Google Blogs in a while). Optionally, some students chose to create their blog at WordPress.com
2. Using Edmodo, students post links to their new blog so everyone in the class (and I) could have an easy link to click on to find their blog.
3. Using my own Google account, I signed in to Google Reader, which is simply a web service that subscribes to the RSS feeds for blogs. Some browsers, like Safari, can act as RSS readers, too, but I never was really impressed by the experience of using the built-in RSS reader in Safari and instead used Safari to access Google Reader.
4. I visited each blog and looked for the link to subscribe to the blog. In Blogger this is sometimes called the Atom feed, but it does the same thing as RSS. (There also are some plugins for browsers that will put an RSS icon next to the blog’s address that you just click on to subscribe.)
5. Once you click on a blog’s link to subscribe, it should pull up a dialog confirming that you want to subscribe to the blog’s feed. You might need to tweak a setting in your browser to make sure RSS feeds are handled by Google Reader if the feed doesn’t get put there.
6. After you confirm the subscription, the blog should show up in your Reader. You can organize Reader by using folders. My organization was to have a folder for each class period and organize each folder by student first names, but you can do whatever seems best for you.
7. As students write in their blogs and hit the publish button when finished, you will see the name of their blog in Reader change to a bold font to show that there is an unread post detected. Click on their blog to see which posts that you have not read yet. If you click on the title of the post in Reader it will take you to a simplified version of the post that is mostly text. There is also usually a link to the actual post if there are some graphics missing or you want to see more of the eye-candy that students put on their blog.
8. Generally, I kept a window of Google Reader open continuously all year to keep an eye on when students published to their blogs.
9. I also use the iPod/iPad app “Reeder” to keep track of my blog subscriptions, including student blogs, although I still do most of my reading on my Mac in Google Reader. There’s a Mac version of Reeder now too, although I haven’t felt the need to buy it.
10. Lastly, you can make your experience of Reeder a little more interesting with some simple browser extensions. I know Safari has several like “Better Google Reader” and Firefox and Chrome probably do too. These add some bells and whistles like inline previews (so you don’t have to leave Reader to see the “real” post) or colorized lists.
I would start off by using Reader to subscribe to some of your favorite blogs by educators and get a feel for how to use it that way, before you launch into using it with students. That way you can later teach them how to set it up to subscribe to their favorite blogs too!
Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions.