Your students live in a world where newspapers are going out of business and citizen journalists are cracking cases on Twitter and writing about it on their WordPress site. Incorporating lessons on how to be a part of this world is critical to improving their chances for success as they move through school and into the working world.
One way to prepare them is to teach them how to blog. See how this new tool will challenge your 21st century students.
Give your students their first assignment: set up their own blog. Learn how to do it yourself – you can set up a classroom blog – write out the directions, and have them go through the steps, either alone or in groups. While following directions may not be a new skill, having to find and learn the tools needed to set up a blog will be, making it an unfamiliar and rewarding challenge for them.
If your students have worked in Microsoft Word, then formatting from the front-end of your blog isn’t going to be much of a challenge. Formatting with HTML however, will be new. Use these resources from Edutopia to help guide yourself and your students through the process. Have them test their skills on a new blog post done entirely from the backend. You can do this within most blogging platforms, including WordPress.
Choosing and Installing Plugins
Plugins make your blog more fun, adding functionality that doesn’t exist without them. Students can choose from a list of plugins you’ve suggested, download the one that appeals most to them, install it and test it out. Bonus: have each student teach the class how to use the plugin on their own blogs.
Sharing on Social Media
An important part of being a 21st century citizen is understanding what a digital footprint is, where you’ve left yours and what it says about you. It’s important that students learn about this at an early age. “Kids need to start establishing a positive digital impression of themselves … as young as they are, they need to cultivate their personal brand, and they can do this by posting about what they’re involved in at school, learning in their classrooms, or other co-curricular activities they enjoy,” says Jenny Luca, teacher and librarian.
To teach students about their digital footprint, give them a social media challenge, during which they share a new blog post on your class Facebook or Twitter account. The task includes:
• Using appropriate language—no swearing allowed and must use proper grammar
• Choosing relevant hashtags—a comprehensive understanding of the topic will help them determine the best hashtags to use
• Understanding the impact—for example, once you post something on social media it will be online forever
Adding Photos and Videos
Blog posts have higher rates of being shared if images are included. Challenge your students to include a few important images in their next blog post. But, don’t stop there. Teach them how to imbed a YouTube video that helps explain the topic.
Teaching Fellow Students
Learning how to blog isn’t much different from a tradition classroom lesson—all students will learn at a different pace. This gives you an opportunity to have students teach one another. Let them pick their favorite new skill or give each student a task. Separate the class into pairs and have each student teach their partner how to complete the task or master a skill.
Learning how to blog—and everything that comes with it, including using social media and coding—at a young age not only teaches students how to be a valuable citizen in our hyper-connected society, but allows them to carve out a spot for themselves in the bustling online world. “Students start to create their own essence as a writer first playing around with fonts but then creating tag lines for their blogs and deciding how they want to present themselves to the world as writers. This is powerful at the elementary age,” says Pernille Ripp, education blogger.
Encourage your students to blog, challenge them with unfamiliar tasks, and teach them how to be a great 21st century citizen.
Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.