Category Archives: Lessons in Blogging

Different Approaches To Using Student Blogs And Digital Portfolios

More and more educators are discovering the importance of having their students build some form of digital presence. Blogging is an excellent way for students to create their own online space, but what do you call this?

  • Simply a student blog?
  • Digital portfolio?
  • ePortfolio?
  • Learning showcase?
  • Blogfolio?

When I first started teaching in 2004, each of my grade one/two students had a scrapbook where they would paste their work samples each term. The goals of this process were: documentation, reflection, assessment and sharing with parents.

Often the same goals apply to the online equivalent of this scrapbook. But if we aren’t doing things any differently than 10-15 years ago, why are we bothering with student blogs? Why aren’t we still cutting and pasting in a scrapbook?

When blogs are used as more than substitution, they offer many advantages.

  • Research tells us that student work is of a higher quality when it involves an authentic audience.
  • The opportunity for feedback and discussion through an online presence is greater.
  • There are many skills to do with writing online, using technology, understanding digital citizenship etc. that are not only useful for students to know, but required in most curriculum standards.
  • Influencing your own digital footprints from a young age can be a powerful experience.

This post explores a range of approaches to student blogs and digital portfolios. We have included classroom examples, and encourage you to share your approach to student blogging in the comment section.

When To Set Up Student Blogs?

When I first started blogging in 2008, I didn’t really know what sort of blogging framework would work for me, but along the way I came up with a model that suited the age of the students, our combined experience, our objectives and our equipment.

This digram shows the progression some classes make from class blog to student blogs

The model I adopted was as follows:

  1. I established a class blog and wrote the posts, while teaching the students to write quality comments.
  2. As students became more familiar with blogging, some students start publishing guest posts on the class blog and learned posting skills.
  3. When I was teaching grade two, had limited computers and was new to student blogging, I didn’t think it was practical for all students to have have blogs. Instead, certain students who had demonstrated enthusiasm, parent support and blogging skills, earned their own blog. This added a new layer to the skill set of commenting and posting: maintaining a blog.
  4. When I was teaching grade four, had a one to one netbook program and had experience managing student blogs, I set up blogs for all students, as digital portfolios.

Throughout all four stages, quality commenting and parent participation is taught and encouraged.

Many teachers begin their blogging journey with a class blog and perhaps progress from there. However, you can jump in at any point of this framework.

You might only be comfortable with having a class blog initially. There is certainly nothing wrong with this approach, although keep in mind that aiming to have more student involvement at some point in the future can be advantageous.

At the other end of the spectrum, you might have the confidence, experience and equipment to set up student blogs from day one. Go for it!

Whatever your approach, a class blog always complements a student blogging program. It provides a home base where you can post assignments, showcase student work, publish recounts, communicate to parents, establish community/global connections and more.

How To Set Up Student Blogs

We have many resources in our Edublogs Help Guides that will walk you through the process of setting up student blogs. Sue Waters’ five step guide to setting up student blogs is a good starting place.

One really useful feature on Edublogs, that takes the hassle out of the logistics of student blogs, is called My Class. This is a tool that allows you to:

  • Easily create your student blogs after you’ve set up your class blog
  • Control the privacy of the blogs and control moderation settings
  • Read and/or moderate student posts and/or comments right from your own dashboard (no need to open up 25 tabs in your browser to keep track of what your students are up to)
  • Install a widget to the sidebar of your class blog and student blogs which links to all the student blogs in your class. This means students and readers can easily visit all the blogs, without searching, bookmarking, or adding links individually.

Digital Portfolio Expectations and Frameworks

Many educators refer to their student blogs as digital portfolios.

Academics and thought leaders often debate the meaning of the term digital portfolio. What does this mean? What does it look like?

Perhaps an useful alternative term is ‘blogfolio’ which Silvia Tolisana describes as the glue that can hold it all together in learning. 

Blogfolios are the glue that can hold all curricular content, goals and objectives as well as support school initiatives, observations, assessment and accountability requirements or personal passions, interest and projects together.

Diagram breaking down the concept of blogfolios

For the purpose of this post, we are less concerned with semantics and more concerned with exploring the different frameworks that teachers adopt. Hopefully considering how other teachers approach student blogs will give you some ideas on what would work for you and your students.

I have observed differences in how student blogs work in a variety of areas. There appears to be a spectrum in at least six key areas:

duration privacy content reflection quality control - 6 aspects of student bloggingLet’s break these down and consider where you might sit on each spectrum.

1. Duration

Some student blogs are only active for a year. The student might move up to a non-blogging class and their individual blog remains stagnant. This can be frustrating for teachers who invest time in establishing an effective system for their student blogs. It can also be disappointing for students.

Other institutions think ahead with a whole-school approach. At The Geelong College, which operates their own Edublogs CampusPress platform, there are long term plans.

Director of Teaching and Learning, Adrian Camm, explains the philosophy:

…each student from Year 4 to Year 10 at our College will have a digital portfolio that follows them throughout their time at the College and has a unique identifier accessible on the web.
The ability to export their content easily when finishing Year 12 to be used in the tertiary admission process or in future work endeavors has also been a key point…

Consider: If you’re investing time in establishing student blogs, how can you showcase this to the wider school community and motivate them to establish a school wide plan?

2. Privacy

Should blogs be public or private? This is always a contentious issue.

Ronnie Burt raised some excellent arguments about the advantages of public blogs a few years back, including the power of an authentic audience, ease of access, and the potential for collaboration. Ronnie noted,

If you hide student work behind passwords, then you might as well have them print everything out and hand it in the old-fashioned way. You are losing out on connections, extended dialogues, and the motivating factor of working for an authentic purpose.

In the comment section, there were some well considered opposing views.

J. McNulty argued the consequence of permanence,

Try to imagine that every stammering oral presentation, every 5th grade writing sample and every stick finger drawing you ever made in a classroom was permanently posted online, forever. As a teacher how would you feel if your class of iPad toting students were surfing through your complete “virtual portfolio” while you were trying to assign them an essay?  … Blogging is great but this new information era needs educators who fully appreciate the long term consequences of posting everything publicly.

There is a middle ground. At The Geelong College, students are encouraged to decide for themselves whether their blogs will be public or password protected.

Another option is to create a public blog but password protect certain posts or pages.

Consider: What are the pros and cons of having student blogs as public? Some schools seem to default to the private option if in doubt. Does this mean you’re giving up all the powerful advantages of posting publicly?

3. Content

What will form the content of your student blogs? What will they actually publish?

At one end of the spectrum is total freedom where teachers are less concerned about what the students are writing about, and more concerned about the students simply blogging and finding a voice.

At the other end of the spectrum, some teachers see the blogs as a space that must be in line with the curriculum and demonstrate what is happening in the classroom.

Certainly not always, but sometimes the age of the students influences this issue.

Julie Moore in Tasmania, Australia, teaches grade 2/3. The students begin by contributing to the class blog before some students establish their own blogs. Julie says,

Mostly – the children have a free spin on what they would like to write a post about. It gives them an outlet for writing about their passions/interests, and it then gives me an “in” for feedback and improvements to their writing.

She also finds this approach opens up a very wide range of possibilities to meet certain individual’s requirements.

For example:

Julie understands that the students do require some explicit teaching around blogging. She finds The Student Blogging Challenge a great way to achieve this. In addition, she runs a lunchtime club and a weekly timetabled blogging session.

Heather Alexander in Florida teaches year 9-12 ceramics. Her students use their blogs purely to document and reflect on their own art work, and respond to the curriculum. Teaching the same class multiple times, Heather has come up with a logistal framework to organize the student blogs,

What I have done is name all the students’ blogs with their class period prefacing the name so they appear in order on the page.

Heather encourages students to comment on classmates’ blogs and set up an effective system after finding students were taking too long to find a post to comment on.

I have students work in “peer blog mentor” groups. They self-select a group of 3 -5 peers and then I match their group with a group in another class. I moderate the comments so I can check for accuracy and completion before they are published.

This idea touches on the additional issue of feedback. Who will provide feedback to your student bloggers? Will you set up a peer system like Heather? Or will you personally visit blogs? What are your goals for feedback? Simple encouragement and conversation? Or scaffolding to reach learning goals? All questions to consider.

Can your blogging framework involve set tasks and freedom?

Somewhere in the middle of the freedom/structure debate, is the approach adopted by Adam Geiman, an educator from Pennsylvania. He used the first 30% of the school year to provide structure around tasks for his fourth grade students.

The students were given guidance, yet also had some freedom of choice in how they’d present set tasks. Some would do a Google Doc, while others would present their task as a comic, infographic etc.

For the remaining 70% of the school year, students were given more freedom and many came up with their own ideas on what they wanted to publish. For example, Jackson announced the new school trout, while Brooklyn talked about her new glasses. 

Consider: What are the needs of your students? Are you trying to engage them in the blogging process and help them find a voice? Or are you wanting the blogs to be a vehicle to demonstrate curriculum outcomes? Are these two things mutually exclusive?

4. Reflection

Some form of reflection is often a key feature of digital portfolios or blogfolios.

Educator Jabiz Raisdana, has documented some compelling thoughts on student blogging. He advocates for freedom, stating that:

If you want your students to blog effectively, give them the freedom to experiment and write about what interests them.

Stay away from portfolios and forced reflections on their learning, at least until they get the hang of it.

Wait until they find a voice, find an audience… before you push your agenda of meta-cognition and reflective learning.

Perhaps on the other end of the spectrum is the argument from Matt Renwick in his blog post ‘Think You’re Doing Digital Portfolios? Think again’.

Of course, all of the posted artifacts of student learning are accompanied with reflection, self-assessment, and goal setting for the future.
Otherwise, it’s only sharing content. Nice, but not necessary for students’ education.

Many teachers use a mixed approach

Teacher, Lee Pregnell, from Moonee Ponds, Australia, described how they include some set tasks in their grade 5/6 blogging program. One of these tasks is a weekly 100 Word Challenge response (see student Carah’s example) and a report on a Behind the News article (see student Mariana’s report on dreaming).

While the Behind the News task has some element of reflection, there are other set tasks that involve more meta-cognition. One of these is based around term goals. Check out the example by Alexis to see the format of this reflective entry.

What about our youngest students? How can they reflect?

Using tools like voice recordings can offer students with emerging literacy skills the chance to reflect. Kathy Cassidy is well known for providing all of her six year old students a blog. The students regularly used tools like Book Creator to document their thoughts and learning. Here is Gus reflecting on his writing. 

Another idea is to collate social media posts in a Storify like kindergarten teachers Aviva Dunsiger and Paula Crockett. Short student interviews and reflections offer a rich insight into learning. These innovative teachers have created a special section of their blog called ‘The Daily Shoot’. This is something Aviva has done with students from K-6. It is worth checking out.

Following in her students’ footsteps, Aviva even uses a blog of her own to reflect. What a mighty combination!

Consider: Most teachers agree that some sort of student reflection on learning is powerful. How can you incorporate this into your student blogs without making the process a chore or turn students off the enjoyment of blogging?

5. Quality

Would you like your students to document their learning journeys or their best work? Will your student blogs be process portfolios, showcase portfolios or hybrid portfolios?

This is a tough decision, but also one that can evolve as you go along. It also links back to the public/private debate. Do your students want every evidence of learning as part of their digital footprint?

Again, there is certainly middle ground. George Couros reflects on his dilemma about what end of this spectrum he would sit on: ‘growth’ or ‘best work’.

Since there are benefits in both options, it was tough to decide on one, so we ultimately went with the decision to go with both. The “blog” portion of my digital space allows me to share things that I am learning (like this article I am writing) while also aggregating my best stuff into solitary “pages”.

Consider: Is George’s approach something that could be worth exploring in your own blogging program?

6. Control

Many of these five areas are underpinned by the question of control. Who is in control? The teacher or the students?

Can there be a gradual release of control as the students become older and more experienced?

Perhaps there are some aspects of their blog that even the youngest students can have some control over?

For example:

  • Their title
  • Theme
  • Choice of tool or post format
  • Where they leave comments

Most teachers would agree that it’s important to consider how students can be in charge of their own learning. Digital portfolios and blogging offers a lot of potential for student-centered learning.

The My Class tool also allows you to hand over responsibility as you choose. You can begin by moderating all student posts and comments, and then turn off these settings as appropriate.


Are your student blogs igniting a passion for learning or are they just another chore to be completed?

How can you set up digital portfolios or blogfolios that allow for rich learning, creativity, excitement, deep reflection, collaboration and authenticity?

These are some key questions to ask yourself but in the end, sometimes you just need to throw in the canoe and start paddling.

Figure it out as you go. There is a big blogging community and support behind you.

Don’t let fear or indecision around student blogs freeze you into inaction. Worrying too much about whether you’re ‘doing it right’ can lead to not doing it at all.  At any level, student blogs provide benefits. Embrace them.

We would love to hear your ideas. Please comment and share your thoughts on student blogs. 

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via The Edublogger

Creating Student Blogs

Edublogs Student Blogging

When creating student blogs join the Winnipeg School Division, the naming protocol is to use the student’s Novel login credentials. For example, if the student’s name and credentials are as follows:

John C. Smith,, 90334044

Then his Edublog would be…


Create student blogs

Here’s a video to explain how:


Adding Student Edublogs from Keith Strachan on Vimeo.

Looking Good: Appearance & Themes

This is often an area that is glossed over. Teacher pick themes based on look, which makes sense. But there are many other considerations.

Edublogs Themes
Appearance Guide

When in the Appearance Theme Picker you have a number of categories, two of which are of paramount importance: Mobile Friendly and Accessibility Ready. You may wonder why I have singled these two out ahead of the others. The reasons are simple:

Mobile Friendly is critical, because the bulk of your visitors, believe it or not, will come to the site via a mobile device of some sort and the site therefore needs to be responsive. What does it mean to be responsive? It means the site and it’s assets (the images, videos and text) adjust to fit the screen size of whatever device the site is being viewed on.

Here’s a quick example to demonstrate this in action:

Accessibility Ready means that the site is ready for blind and hearing impaired visitors as much as it can be. It will handle screen readers, has colour themes that are typically higher contrast and colour blind friendly. That kind of thing.

While it is important to look good, it is more important to be ACCESSIBLE to as many people and their devices as possible in order to reach as broad an audience as possible. Keep this in mind when selecting your theme.




Have a quick look at the themes and select one that you like.

Choosing your theme



Here’s dome more information on how to customize the look of your site:

Appearance & Themes

Getting Organized: Categories & Tags

What are the most appropriate Categories and Tags for a classroom site? That’s the $1 000 000.00 question!

Edublogs Categories and Tags
Examples of Categories and Tags



Adding categories to posts

Categories can have unique names and be wordy;  you want them sufficiently descriptive so your reader understands the type of subject matter they will find when they click on the link.

As a general rule you tend to limit the total number of categories you use on a blog.

On class and students blogs categories may be used more like tags; and some use only categories or tags rather than both.

The key is to think about the structure you want to use to help your readers easily find posts.

For example, you might use categories like Class News, Blogging activity, English, Science, Maths and then for tags you might use student first names (if the student writes the post),  Algebra,  fish anatomy.


Adding tags to posts

Tags are normally short, one or two words, and are generally keywords (i.e. terms readers would be likely to use if they searched your site); terms that your readers will understand.

Tags are searchable

The larger the size of the word in the tag cloud the more posts that have been tagged using that term.

Edublogs SortingHow are you going to figure out the categories and tags you are going to use? It’s planning time…


  1. With a partner begin creating a list of possible categories and tags that you may use in your classroom Edublog site. Revisit some of the earlier blog sites if necessary for inspiration. Divide the list into Descriptive Categories and short keyword Tags.
  2. Prioritize the listing after you have created it. Best choices first.
  3. Feed ideas forward to the whole group.
  4. Begin inputting these into your Edublog.

Creating Our First Post

Our next activity is going to be creating our next post. You will have  a number of decisions to make:

  1. What will my post be about?
  2. What resources (technological or otherwise) do I need to make my post?
  3. How do I actually create a post?

I can help you with the last question by providing you with some resources and taking you through the process. It is important to understand what a POST is and what a PAGE is. These are the two ways of presenting information on a blog. PAGEs tend to present static information that doesn’t change over time and POSTs, like diaries, tend to be more dynamic.

Page VS Post

Here’s a brief explanation:


This is how a post is structured:

Post structure
Introduction To Posts And Writing Posts: The Structure of a Post



For the Post we’re creating today, we won’t be worrying too much about Categories and Tags we select. We will be assigning them, but the tags and categories we use may not be ones we eventually end up with. Typically, as teachers and students, we need to plan for categories and tags purposeful and expedient use.

Here’s how a basic post is created & edited:

Creating a Post:


Editing a Post:

This is an explanation of each tool in the Visual Editor Toolbar.

Edublogs Visual Editor
Introduction to the Visual Editor


Here is how to add some media in the form of images…


And finally, here’s the script for adding a category quickly – more on this later…

Edublogs Categories
Adding Categories to a Post


Let the Posting Begin

Getting Started

This section is designed to assist in helping you find your way around the basic interface and settings in Edublogs.

Here’s an overview of the Edublog System…

First, we need to find a resource where we can get stellar help… That’d be located here and thankfully there are three ways to leverage this assistance:

Edublogs 3 Way Help

From here you can access text and multimedia help that should address any questions you have about how to do almost any task within the Edublog system.



Let’s try logging in. Go to Here’s the script for accomplishing that…

Edublogs Login



Once we’ve logged in we arrive at the Dashboard and see the sidebar navigation to all the great features in Edublog (WordPRess)!

Edublogs Dashboard
Use dashboard help


Lets Look specifically at some Settings together to make sure you understand how things should be set and what these settings actually mean:

Edublogs Settings
Settings And Privacy help


What “Makes” or “Breaks” a Classroom Edublog?!!

An Edublog can to support student learning in any of the following ways: AFL, Process Portfolio, Ongoing or Summative Assessment, Communication, Lesson Workflows, Document Storage/Management, etc….

But this is a careful design process that takes into account the underpinning pedagogical structures valued in our Division and embedded in our Principles of Learning document.


Principles of Learning Doc

Principles of Learning PDF


5 Critical Elements of Assessment

5 Critical Elements of Assessment PDF

It is really important when we consider any kind of assessment practices in a blogging environment that we focus on the 5 Critical Elements of Assessment in order to be purposefully reflective.

Students need to be aware of both the intents and criteria and continually refer to it and back to its while working on and reviewing their work or others. It will give them ways to explain their thinking more accurately.


We’re going to give that process a try now.


To begin to understand what elements make or break an School-based classroom Edublog site.

  1. Look at a number of Edublog classroom sites.
  2. Create a menu of items, ideas, things you see that are, in your opinion desirable or appropriate in a school-based, classroom Edublog site.
  3. Create a menu of items, ideas, things you see that are, in your opinion NOT desirable or appropriate in a school-based, classroom Edublog site.
  4. Sort the menu items into groups that fit together.
  5. Create an appropriate category name for each group
  6. Organize your work and feed forward the categories


Criteria Example



About Huzzah! 2016-2017

Hi there Huzzah. We are Year 8 New Zealand students who would love to connect with you. Our blog site is and we also have a twitter account – @room5ois2016 We are new to blogging but are really getting into it. Please help us connect with others around the world.

Mr. Salsich’s Class

Salsich Team 5

The Busy Bees – Hocking / Charlesworth Year 1/2

A big thank you to Danielle Rose and Kerry Terreblanche for helping us to make some beautiful decorations. They worked hard every Friday!! We love the decorations and cant wait to hang them on our trees. THANK YOU!!!!!!

Tokyo International School Grade 4

Monday: Math riddle: a factory worker can put 8 large boxes or 10 small boxes in a container for shipping. In one shipment, he sent 96 boxes. If there are more large boxes than small boxes, how many containers did he send? Do your best. Show your work!

2015 Finalists – The Edublog Awards