Monday, October 13, 2014

Setting up blogs for 1:1 classrooms

Teachers should always look for a way to allow students to publish for authentic audiences. Kids just work differently when their product is going to be publicly displayed. In this digital age, there are so many tools to choose from and publishing can be easily accomplished from many different devices. So what's stopping you??

In many of our 5th grade 1:1 iPad classrooms, teachers have allowed their students to create blogs to share their learning. It's really easy to get them started. Here's a guide for how you can get your students started using Blogger.

Set up your blogs
Self-explanatory, I know. Students log in to their Google Apps accounts and access Blogger. Check out the video below for some direction on how to get started.
  • When students sign in initially, have them "create a limited Blogger profile" with just their first name. No need for Google+.
  • Determine a naming convention for the students such as "Matt's 5th Grade Blog". That will save a lot of time. The names can be changed later if necessary.
  • Remember that you can pick whatever title you want, but the address has to be unique. Remove any spaces and punctuation and you might have to mess around a bit with the address to make it available.
  • Don't mess with the templates at this time. Patience. 

Adjust the settings for commentary
Blogs are great for the social interaction, but we want to make sure our students are protected. Blogger has many settings to allow safe, moderated commentary.
  • Always have comment moderation set to "Always". This means that nothing will appear published on the blog unless the author wants it on there. 
  • Consider having "who can comment" set to anyone. This setting would allow anyone who finds the blog the opportunity to comment. Often times relatives of students love adding comments, but may not have a Google account to use. 
  • Start with what's comfortable for the teachers, students, and parents.

Adjust the widths of the blog
Because most of our publication will come from the iPad, it's important that the blog be formatted properly. We've found that if you don't adjust the widths, pictures that are published from the iPad will overrun the posting area when in landscape mode.
  • Have the students go into the template area to customize it. Go to the "adjust widths" option and make the sidebar the minimum width.
  • Play around with the widths and flip back and forth to the preview to make sure it's going to work.
  • Publish a picture that is horizontally oriented from the iPad as a test. Then go back to make adjustments if necessary. 

Give them a chance to customize the blog
It's what everyone wants to do, so let the students show their personalities by customizing the background, colors, etc. 
  • Have the students put away the mouse and just watch as you walk them through some options. Be sure they understand they'll have time to work in a moment.
  • I think it's best to only use the "simple" and "picture window" templates. Those are the easiest to figure out. 
  • Show them these areas: templates, backgrounds, and advanced. I like to show how to adjust the entire color scheme as well as individual pieces like the blog title and header backgrounds.
  • This is a great time to discuss best practices. Making sure the title is large and legible. Use contrasting colors so pieces are clearly visible. Don't go crazy and make it distracting. 

Once you have the student blogs created, make sure you find an easy way to share them. It's a good idea to create a separate spot on your classroom website or blog to add links to the student blogs. The students can find and create a shortcut to their blog on their school iPad and then AirDrop them to their peers to bookmark as well. And of course, utilize your classroom Twitter account to tweet new blog posts. A great hashtag to use to promote discussion is #comments4kids. 

Have fun! Looking forward to seeing your students's posts. 

Changing Passwords for Student Apple IDs

So after living with the Apple ID for Students program for a few months (and not just a small amount of suffering), Apple is finally starting to get the message that schools need more control over their accounts. They've just given districts the ability to change passwords for students. I'm guessing they realized they don't have the manpower to give schools the timely support needed, and it was time to hand over some control. Here's what you can do to get started with changing passwords.

Choose "Teachers"
The first step is to log in to your school account at When you get in, choose the option for "Apple ID for Students". If you haven't been there since last week, you'll now see an option for "Teachers" listed amongst the options for uploading and managing student account. Click on "Teachers". 

Next you'll have to add teachers to your site. Simply click "Add Teacher" on the right side and enter your Apple ID. You'll then be added to the list. Feel free to add any teachers or administrators you would like to have access to change accounts. 

Now, visit and log in with your Apple ID. You'll need to have the student's Apple ID and birthdate. Enter that info and press "Continue". The next screen allows the student to enter the password that he/she wants. Once it's entered, a screen tells you that an email has been sent to notify you about the changes. However, when I tested the process, no such email was received by the student or the parent. Sigh...

A note for administrators. When playing around with this process, I found that your Apple ID can only be used at one location. So if you have multiple locations set up in your school district, you'll need to have the media specialists or whoever manages that building enter their Apple IDs to reset passwords. 

Let's hope this change is a sign of things to come. Happy password management!