Turn it up!
I have written two previous posts where I talk about how to use Google Classroom as the hub for student blogging and authentic feedback in a safe place. My original post, Blogging with Google Sites? Google Classroom to the Rescue! Let the Commenting Begin! focused on using Google Sites with Classroom to connect students and give them a platform for authentic feedback. More recently, I updated this idea in Google Classroom STILL to the Rescue: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting! where I broadened the scope of how students can express themselves through the various tools now available. Continuing to broaden my own horizons, I explored Microsoft Teams as a hub for students to receive authentic feedback from peers and am very excited about the amazing potential that it has.
Let’s Get Started! First, create a Team just for this purpose. It needs to be separate from the Team you use for your regular classroom assignments and activities. Set it up with a title that is easy for students to distinguish from your normal class Team, and also reaffirms the purpose of this new Team. Create a channel for each student, and then invite or manually add your students. Adding a channel for each student is easy.
After clicking the three dots next to the title of your Team, a drop down list will appear. Click Add channel.
I’m working hard, you’re working too
Now fill out the channel name for the student you are adding. Create a channel for each student joining the Team. Each time you click Add channel, you also have the option to feature the channel in the channel list. Up to 10 channels can be featured. You can use this to highlight student blogs each week, bi-weekly, monthly, or however you wish to do it. While all channels are available to students, only 10 channels populate in the column for students to see as they work in Teams. They can access the other channels too, making this prime real estate for you to use to empower student voices.
We do it every day
Once you have created a channel for each student and have added students or had them join through a code or invitation link, students can now click on their own channels and add the link to their blog. I suggest having students create a blog on a site or with a tool that they are comfortable with first, and then they can feature posts where they write, vlog, or create a podcast. The site or tool chosen needs to be able to easily embed or feature a variety of post types, including audio and video. My students learn how to use Google Sites, Wakelet, Adobe Spark Page with this purpose in mind. Microsoft Sway would also be a good tool for this. Once I teach students how to use each tool, they can then decide which tool suits them best for their blog site.
For every minute I have to work
Create an assignment which will provide students with the blog post prompt. Include rubrics, either as a resource for the assignment or by using the built in feature within Teams. To assist with saving time when grading the blog posts, have students submit their posts by a simple copy and paste from their blogs into a Microsoft Form. You can attach the Form via a link to the resources for the post prompt. This will save you a lot of time. Having one place to view and grade instead of clicking through each blog to read, view, or listen to each post is so worth the little extra time it takes to create the Form. This doesn’t require a lot of extra work from you students either. It is simply a copy and paste of either the text or of the link to their video or audio product.
I need a minute of play
Now let’s let the commenting begin! Teams allows students to reply directly to the post dropped by the student on their channel. You can also reply. Students should be taught how to give actionable feedback so that they can help their peers become better writers. This is a safe space to develop writing and analyzing skills. Teams makes it easy for students to respond in a variety of ways, including emojis, gifs, praise, attachments, and more. Digital citizenship skills can be practiced here in a safe environment, providing teachers with the opportunity to provide support and instruction as needed.
DAY IN DAY OUT ALL WEEK LONG
Teams allows students to interact in ways that mimic social media, providing guided practice on how to respond appropriately to others. Students read posts, current or older posts, written by their peers, and then they respond by commenting or “replying” to those posts. A lot of magic can happen when we let students access the creativity of their peers and then provide feedback. Teaching students how to be assessment capable learners helps them develop into adults who can assess their own work, revise, and turn in better products.
THINGS GO BETTER WITH ROCK
If you haven’t tried Teams yet to allow students to provide feedback on the work of their peers or with students from another district, state, or country to help improve the quality of work, then I strongly encourage you to dive right in and try this. There is a lot of power packed into Microsoft Teams, and we should harness that power for our students. Always consider the needs of your students first, and if blogging, vlogging, and podcasting is something you want to try, then start setting up your Blogging Team and get started!