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Over the coming weeks, we will bring you some stories and tips from bloggers in the education community. Hearing how others got started, and their obstacles and successes can be so powerful when reflecting on your own blogging journey.

This week, we start at the lower end of primary school and bring you the story of Becky Versteeg. She is a Grade Two teacher from Listowel, Ontario, Canada​.

Becky’s fantastic blog is called Team 2 Eagles.

This class uses a CampusPress platform (this is basically Edublogs that her school district set up for the whole district to use).

About Becky

Pencils and paper were the only ‘technology’ that Becky was confident with when began her career with the Avon Maitland school board in 2006. Old habits die hard, and she still does not own a television. This aside, she has thoroughly embraced the challenge of turning her physical classroom into a place where digital natives can thrive, and has enjoyed Becky Veersteg photoevery minute.

Becky has joined our community to learn, to share, and hopefully, to model for educators how to take risks themselves by embracing their fear of technology and failures and turning it into a success. Becky’s most recent success was being awarded recognition for her classroom blog on Feedspot’s Top 100 Classroom Blogs and Websites for Classroom Activities.

Becky’s current personal inquiry project is an Instagram (@justanotherclass) attempt to connect with primary teachers around the world.

Everyone who meets Becky remembers her laugh, and Becky remembers just about everybody…

​Why did you start blogging?

I started to blog because of grant I applied for: creating student digital portfolios was the condition for getting 10 iPads for my classroom! I had an old classroom website and I remember being reluctant to change, and even more reluctant to manage all those student blogs. I think I was overwhelmed – I’d never used an iPad, and just figuring out how to manage 10 of those seemed Herculean!

However, I had seen the difference iPads for learning had made for district colleagues, and… I was beyond inspired. I told myself ‘If it makes you uncomfortable, it probably means it’s good for you. Learning isn’t supposed to be easy!’ and I applied for the project.

Looking back, if I had to choose between what I’ve gained from blogging and what I’ve gained from having classroom iPads, I would choose blogging in a heartbeat.

When did you start blogging?

​My first post is dated October 23, 2013.

Fun facts:

  • I’ve published 607 posts since then
  • Together these have received 1365 comments.
  • I have created and moderated over 100 student blogs. (They aren’t all here, I didn’t think of creating this page until I’d lost a set of URLs.)
  • My ‘flag counter’ today tells me that the blog has had over 60 000 page views. This isn’t accurate, since I tend to accidentally delete it every few years when I’m teaching students to add their own. It’s the greatest little widget for inspiring social studies inquiry — the numbers and flags change daily and I field all kinds of questions about countries around the world.

​​Where do you get ideas for your daily posts and how do you integrate blogging into your classroom?

My The Ontario Curriculum

My blog drafts act as my daybook. My day plans double as blog drafts. At the end of the teaching day, I edit my day plan to decide what to trash, what to publish and what to cut and paste into the top of the next day because I didn’t get it finished.

The Calendar

My audience is my six and seven year old students, and to them every birthday/holiday/school event/weather event is a big deal. These things get written about. I also try to include my ‘star student’ of the day in my daily posts. (The kids have to present some kind of project or oral presentation).

TIP: My class does not present in alphabetical order. I use birth order. I just started this idea this year, and I think all primary teachers should do this! The oldest kid, not the AA kid goes first – they are after all, a sixth of a life older than the youngest!). This means that their projects and presentations are also assessed in birth order. My December babies have had time to figure out what to do by the time it is their ‘day’ and are far more successful than they often are otherwise.

What have been the benefits of having a classroom blog — for yourself, students and families?

​For Me

Getting started was a lot of work, but since I discovered that a blog draft can double as a day book, it’s made my teaching life so easy. I teach the same grade every year, so my January lesson links are all ready to go, as are student exemplars at every achievement level!​ (I just scroll through former students blog archives for this one).

For Students

MOTIVATION TO LEARN! Since my students are 6 and 7 year olds, a blog that is used as a digital learning portfolio is their first chance to communicate online. I haven’t met a child yet who was not motivated to by this. They want to share, and they want their audience to like what they share. Since I require them to share their Grade 2 learning, they put a lot of effort into what they are learning every day!

Do you have any tips for new bloggers?​

The more you blog, the more mistakes you will make. Mistakes are important. You will make a lot. I sure do. ​But ​I’m a better teacher because of it, and you will be too.

​Is there anything you would do differently in hindsight​?

I’ve never bothered to develop a decent way to categorize or tag old posts. Furthermore, my titles are often creative, or student written (alliteration, joke titles, birthday shout outs, etc) and really do not give much insight into what the post is about. This means that, much like my own closet, I’m sometimes the only one who can find things I need without using the search feature!

What a great insight from Becky! Is there anything that Becky said that resonated with you? Feel free to leave a comment and ask any further questions too!

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14 Comments

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  1. Thanks for sharing, Becky! I learned many new things while reading your post, but I have to admit my favorite Ah-Ha was using birth order for presenting. Simple yet genius!!

    • Thanks Jennifer,
      That tip had nothing to do with blogging, but it’s made such a differnce for me that I snuck it anyway. Glad you appreciated it!

  2. Hi,
    Ms. Morris,

    Very nice to meet with you.
    I am really excited to learn how to use blog and learn from each other.

    • Great to connect with you, Syeda! 🙂

      • Kathleen Morris
  3. Thanks for sharing, Becky! I learned so much from this. I have popped over and had a look at your blog and I love it! Can I just confirm, do you blog every school day?

    • Hi Kristy,
      Yes, I try to post something every day. When I started it was more like once or twice a month. Somewhere along the line, I started making it part of my end-of-day routine. Now it’s just something I do!
      Becky

  4. It must be a great experience. I have friends who have started blogging to be connected with their students but what you have done with your young students is a source of interteresting experiences.
    You have brought the world into your class and your students are lucky!

    • Tiziana Angiolini
  5. Thanks for sharing Becky. I am a Year 1/2 teacher and have been feeling worried about how I will be able to blog with such young students. Reading your thoughts has inspired me that it will be be fine and more importantly worthwhile for both myself and my students. I particularly liked the idea of using your day book to help plan your posts and using birth dates to present. I have been teaching over 20 years and this had never occurred to me! Thanks again.

    • Deirdre Bolland
  6. Hi Becky!
    Thank you for sharing your blogging journey and your Blog full of wonders. I totally agree that students want to share, and that they care about their audience being pleased. My students make their best when writing to be published although our school doesn’t allow to show their faces.
    I have plenty of photos of them on the walls of our tiny room: writing, studying, playing educational games, reading or building geometric solids; when I change the photos, I glue the ones I take away in their own notebooks.
    Blogging seems to come to life at a new level when you can actually show the protagonists of the blogging adventure.
    Ines

  7. Hi Becky,

    Congrats on your blog and for sharing your experience with us. Though I’ve never worked with such young children, some tips are really fantastic!
    Best wishes from Portugal,
    Alexandra

    • Alexandra Duarte
  8. Thank you for sharing, Becky. I am just dipping my toes in the sand with blogging. I want to get my 8th-grade writing class blogging. I have some ideas, but I think they will have to be my Guienne pigs for this project and just plunge in. I think I will be setting them up on edublogs and just let explore. Any suggestions?

    • -Safety/common sense lessons first. Make sure rhey know the differnce between a blog and social media, and make sure they submit posts to you for review.
      -at that age I would consider having them photograph their school work and write about what they learned and what they might do differently another time. If the blog is a place where they write assignments, at that age you are looking at a lot of reading! This trick means they generally post about stuff you marked anyways.
      – to build enthusiasm, and to expose them to each others ideas, do a weekly name draw – whoever they draw they write a meaningful comment to.
      -they’re in grade 8 and they’re digital natives. They could probably could teach me how to blog better! Take their suggestions seriously.

  9. Thanks for sharing your real life story. I am a first-time blogger and really behind. Every time I think am I doing the right thing or what should I write. After reading your post gave me courage and inspire me lots.

  10. Hello Becky,
    That’s quite a great inspiration. Wish I was one among your six-seven year old. I am highly motivated by your journey of blogging. I hope to learn better blogging in the near future. Thanks for this insight.
    Gomathi

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