Random Thoughts

Blogs in Student-Led Conferences

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Let me start this post with a disclaimer. There are a million ways to use blogs in education. The following is just one way we are using blogs at SAS.

As my time winds down here at SAS I find myself reflecting on the past three years and keep asking myself:

Did I leave a mark?

I think we all go through this and we all want this on some level. We want to know that our institution is better off because we were there. That somewhere we left a mark on a student, on the organization, or on fellow teachers. I think it’s a natural human feeling to reflect and hope that you have had a lasting positive effect at your workplace.

Last year I introduced blogging to SAS. A year later we have close to 700 student blogs/web sites and we’re closing in on 200 teacher blogs/websites. I say blogs/websites because I do believe the two are different and the way in which a user decides to use the space they have been given is up to them.

Last year we saw the blogs be “another thing” that we were doing at our school. This year thanks to some leaders in the classroom the blogs at certain grades have become just what we do.

Our middle school was been moving to a Student-Led Conference (SLC) format over the past two years. Personally I think it’s the only way to hold conferences with parents as it puts the student at the center of the learning process (what a concept). My last three years in the classroom I ran SLCs and at my last school in Saudi Arabia was head of a committee that saw us implement SLCs K-12 in our school (my lasting moment at that school).

Student-Led Conference are usually built around a portfolio created by the student. This year our 8th grade team with the help of Amanda DeCardy (8th Grade Math teacher, and next year a technology integrator for the school) set out to use the blogs as a place for student to produce, upload, and reflect on work in their classrooms. Essentially creating an e-portfolios.
Early in the year I sat down with the 8th grade team for about an hour and we discussed how students could organize their blogs using categories. 8th grade was a great year to start this project as the year before in 7th grade all of the students were exposed to blogging in their technology class which was taught by no other than…..me. 🙂

The students already had a fundamental understanding of blogging before the year began. The teachers then had the responsibility to help the students create an organizational structure on their blogs. One that would work for both class work and random reflections as well as for an e-portfolio. Each student with their advisory teacher (students have an advisory class that meets every other day in which the portfolios are created and maintained) set up an organization structure that worked for them and their blog.

This was the school’s first year using blogs as an e-portfolio platform but we also realized that not everything has to be done with technology so the Student-Led Conferences this year are a blended model of using both the blog as a way to reflect and a notebook portfolio.

Yesterday I talked with Amanda to see if we could get a student and their parents to let us record their Student-Led Conference to share with others both in and out of our school. For our school this will become a training video and at the same time allows us to share the great work our students are doing at our school.

If you have questions about the set up, the format or the use of Student-Led Conferences you can e-mail me or leave a comment below. Amanda is also willing to answer questions as well.

The one thing that I ask is that if you use this video at your school, or if you enjoy watching this very personal experience for a student that you PLEASE leave him a comment on his blog. He took a risk (dragging his family along with him). The least we can do is leave him a comment knowing the impact this video has had on you and your school.

Thank you Alexi and the Msays’ family for allowing us to share this with the world.

You can also download this video via iTunes on my On Deck podcast site.

My hope and vision for the blogs at SAS is this:

1.That they will be used as an e-portfolio platform for all students so that when a student leaves SAS whether in 9th grade to go to another school or when they graduate that they have a record of their learning that was shared with the world.

2.That teachers will continue to find innovative ways to use blogs for learning. E-Porfolios are just one aspect of the use of this very powerful and open platform. The ability to share knowledge with the world and receive feedback is a powerful learning journey.

3.That in two years time every student 5-12 has a school based blog that is part of their learning platform and is an embedded part of their schooling.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jim Stratton Reply

    Hola from Quito, Jeff!
    Jim S. here, down in Academia Cotopaxi. Outstanding use of blogs as an electronic portfolio platform. This approach provides solutions to a lot of e-portfolio issues: online connectivity, portability, a venue for reflection, feedback possibilities. All of that in an exciting, engaging and eminently manageable interface.
    Are the http://blogs.saschinaonline.org/ student blog sites and the http://teachers.saschinaonline.org/ blog sites both created with Edublogs campus?
    Ideas on how I might go about getting this going here at AC I would greatly appreciate!!!
    Thanks again for the great info.

    • Both the teachers site and the student blog site are ran using WordPress MU http://mu.wordpress.org.

      They are two separate installed. We didn’t want students to be able to make fake teacher sites and we wanted to make sure we designated teacher sites for parents so we installed the same program and set up on both sub domains. Once it’s installed it’s pretty easy to manage. I’m getting ready to upgrade us from 1.2.4 to 1.3.3 the latest build. Like all of WordPress a pretty easy and straight forward process.

      If I was doing it over again, I would take a long look at Elgg http://www.elgg.net as the platform that has a lot of possibilities and built in features.

  2. Pingback: Student-led Parent Teacher Conferences « ISTE Learning

  3. Hi Jeff,
    Wonderful to see a student led conference on video- I have been advocating for this at my school and your example will allow my administrators to see the benefit.

    I am just beginning the adventure of blogging myself and when I asked my students about it none of them had ever experienced it. In fact a large number said they had never heard of blogging. Since I teach 8th grade math I was interested to hear your opinion regarding the use of blogs in math and what sort of projects you may have seen..

    One more question- do you still primarily use WordPress at your school?

    Thanks so much for writing about your experiences.


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