A Hashtag You Shouldn’t Ignore

There are a great deal of people like me that blog.  I can tell you that it’s exciting when someone takes the time to add a comment to a blog post.  While I don’t blog solely for comments, it does sort of makes the whole concept rewarding.  It’s good to see a conversation starting around a thought that you might have had.

People are having students blog in schools as well.  The concept of writing online is very powerful.  If students are also making their blog posts available to parents or other students, that’s great as well.  There’s the certain rush that they feel when they get replies.  It also reinforces the notion of publishing their opinion.

If you’re a Twitter user, you’re used to seeing hashtags.  These are words, phrases, etc. that follow the hash character – #.  You can make these hashtags anything that you want to and the more unique that you make one, and get people who are interested in the same topic to use it, the easier it is to track a topic through a maze of comments.  At the OTF Event recently, we used the hashtag OTF21C to identify messages coming from those who where using Twitter.

There is a special hashtag that isn’t tied to an event like this though.  It’s a common event that’s happening in classrooms world-wide.  The hashtag is “comments4kids“.  This is a special tag that teachers use to invite anyone who is willing to drop by and read what a class is blogging.  It’s also an invitation for you to make a comment or two on what you read.  When you do so, you can change the writing perspective of students in a heartbeat.  It’s one thing to get mom and dad to respond.  It’s their job to be supportive.  It’s another thing when someone from who knows where takes a moment to share a thought.  It reinforces the concept of bloggers as citizen journalists.  Like a newspaper editorialist, a comment from the reading public is very powerful.

It doesn’t require a big commitment.  Often, when I’m watching a football game, and the commercials come on, I’ll grab my laptop or iPad and do a search for the hashtag.  It doesn’t take long to read a short entry and then I like to somehow post a comment to the message and then ask a question of the student about their topic.  It takes perhaps 30 seconds.  But, the time that it takes is nothing compared to the excitement that gets related back from the teacher who appreciates the effort.

It’s not something that you need to do constantly.  When the need to  do a random act of kindness hits, give it a shot.  You’ll feel good and you may just make a big difference in a classroom somewhere.  What do you get started?  Here’s a place.  Take a second to help the blogging cause.

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18 thoughts on “A Hashtag You Shouldn’t Ignore

  1. Thanks Doug, for helping to motivate others to leave a comment on student blogs. I agree, and love to hear surprise of delight when one of my student’s receives a comment on their blog. At the same time, they’re sharpening their geography skills as they check to see where the dots on the clustr maps are from.
    Students are inspired to continuing blogging when an authentic audience visits their blog. As other social media sites compete for student writing time (e.g. Facebook), students need inspiration to continue the blogging path.

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  3. Hello Doug and all,

    I’ll probably be in the minority on this one. Just scanning the twitter replies tells me that I am. I just can’t get my mind around it. Many of you reading this know me, so be kind with your replies. It is just a gut feeling that I have.

    I just ran this by the best teacher I know and we concur. After all, I thought I might be losing my touch a little. I know teachers allow adults to comment on their students’ blogs all the time but I wouldn’t be comfortable with adults my students have never met commenting on their blogs. There, I’ve said it. Now let the comments and discussion begin.

    And give me your best educator’s argument on this one. I promise to keep an open mind.

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  4. Thanks, Heather and Kent, for sharing your thoughts. Heather, I do agree totally that the responses can be motivating and will inspire students to continue to write. To me, that’s the reason why we want to do this. We keep talking about giving students voice and what a great way to do it. I feel that the responses give credibility and respect their voice.

    I think, Kent, that your concerns could be addressed in the implementation. It would be reckless and foolish to have a blog that’s wide open and anyone, anywhere could comment and spam messages. Typically, teachers that endeavour to do this, will choose a blogging platform that allows for teacher approval before it goes public. I did comment on the New Zealand blog that I’ve referenced above and it’s still pending approval. If Mr. Wood deems that my comments are not appropriate for viewing, then it will never see the light of day. I’m equally as good with that as teachers have a responsibility to make sure that it truly is a learning experience.

    If the best teacher doesn’t agree, then I’m OK with that too. She just won’t use this medium to motivate students. I hope that she can find something equally as inspiring.

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  5. Writing for an audience is crucial to the inspiration of young writers. Comments are rewards for hard work! I think of it as fishing. The kids throw out their lines and are absolutely delighted when they reel in a “fish”. I have never had a bad comment to our blogs. We posted a poll on our blog yesterday, went to Twitter to post it, and by the time we returned to the blog site, already had votes! “Who’s out there!” exclaimed on of my young students. They were so excited to watch throughout the day as the views and votes accumulated. Please keep commenting for kids!

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  6. Doug, thanks for the post. Having adults comment on students’ writing is great, but don’t leave out many of us have our students leave comments as well. Part of the process of comments4kids is also going to other class/student blogs and making connections. There are many benefits students get from that.

    Kent, I get this question often. “Stranger” is a rather inflammatory word that brings to mind creepy guys in trench coats luring kids into cars with candy (or the digital equivalent of a man sitting in the dark staring intently at a computer screen as he pretends to be a young girl/boy . That is the image that popular media has given us. Honestly, the statistics are overwhelming. Students are safer surfing then net than they are walking down the street.

    If you are referring to people your students don’t know (a much less inflammatory phrase) my answer is another question. Do you want only people you know leaving comments on your posts or comments? A friend of family member can leave great, critical comments. Is that as exciting or memorable as another student or teacher from another country leaving the same comment?

    As Pete mentioned, comment moderation is a necessity when using blogging with kids (at least kids in elementary/junior high/middle school). I will say that in the four years my students have been keeping blogs, I have never had an inappropriate comment left on one of their posts. That is a pretty amazing thing to say, especially if you read comments on any news site.

    I hope my tone isn’t to confrontational. In my opinion this conversation is difficult in this context. I suggest you check out the testimonials on the comments4kids.blogspot.com blog to get some more anecdotal evidence. You could also create a google form and send out the link on Twitter for teachers and/or students to fill out with reasons why they think commenting by people they don’t know is important to them. I am also more than willing to talk to you about it as well. You can find my contact information on my blog. 🙂

    Wm Chamberlain
    NoelTigers.com
    Comments4Kids.blogspot.com

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  7. Thanks, Doug, for bringing this hashtag to my attention. I fell off the student blogging wagon this year, as I focused my tech efforts in other directions (attempting to push Google Apps/Sites/Docs to its limit, it seems), but I fully intend to implement student blogs next year. I have had experiences blogging with the students, and I think I echo everyone else’s comments about, well, comments. And I can say that comment moderation is a must, even on the high school level.

    Two examples: a project I tried last semester with my seniors, and will repeat in a few months, and a colleague’s classroom blog where the students are posting weekly, and I know for a fact that “outsiders” have commented on student posts. I spoke to one student afterward, and he was SO impressed that he received comments from outsiders, and that I engaged him in a conversation about the post as well (he is not currently my student).

    For context: the Little Brother project uses CommentPress, a theme for WordPress that allows comments by paragraph. I uploaded the text (with the author’s permission), and we read the entire book online. Students were allowed free commenting (unmoderated), but a comment from anyone outside the class would need to be moderated by me and approved before being published. I intend to push this a bit further in the next iteration, providing more guidance (in the form of critical questions) and some way to catalogue reactions (I’m not sure how the theme will allow me to provide for “journaling” – yet another challenge!).

    I feel that it is essential for students to understand that there is a larger world out there, and to form and maintain these connections. If we can instill this in them now, the type of conversations we are having right here, right now, will become status quo.

    Thanks again for the heads-up on the hashtag – I will certainly pass this on to my other colleagues.

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  8. Thanks for this information. I quickly found a 2nd grader’s blog post about a Ruby Bridges book. I commented that Ruby and I were in 1st grade the same year, but that my school was in Iowa and hers was in New Orleans. I said that I don’t think kids of any race have that much trouble just trying to go to school in the United States now. I will keep checking the hashtag.

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  9. Kent, I’m closer to you in terms of caution with my blog, but it wasn’t necessarily because of the outsiders, but the insiders.
    The first year I did my class blog, we used a generic login (one per class, two classes in it) and unfortunately, despite lots of work on digital citizenship, some kids logged on anonymously (using the other class login) to insult other kids. It was upsetting because we had to close the blog to investigate and so many kids wanted to use it – it lost momentum. This year, thanks to our Google Apps Education account, all our kids have (modified) Gmail accounts so they can log in individually. I want them a semi-private place where they can learn their mistakes safely. I really do want the benefits of having comments from all sorts of people beyond our walls (some of which were shared by other commenters) but …

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  10. Thanks for the information. I am still pretty new to blogging and using Twitter in my professional development. I am starting to put together a class blog. I will need to remember this when we post and search for other blogs to visit with a purpose.

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  11. I love the conversation here and the debate about the benefits of adults commenting on students blogs. I am a big fan of #comments4kids. The authenticity it has brought to my students writing is phenomenal. I completely moderate all comments and have had very few that i have not published.
    My latest post was on just this subject!
    http://ccoffa.edublogs.org/2011/02/16/no-contest-a-good-week-of-kid-blogging/
    That was last week and it has only improved.

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  12. I’m just now beginning to understand the power of blogging personally, so I don’t venture out too much with my students yet. Also, I teach Spanish, so my students are still self-conscious about their language use. For this reason, I keep all blogs between just students in my classes. Having said that, however, I love the idea of taking their writing to a broader audience because it makes the task more relevant and worthy of their time.

    For those worried about “strangers”, I wrote a poem about 20 years ago (when I was 15) that ended:

    To someone I’m a stranger.
    To another I’m a friend.
    To those of you who don’t believe,
    for you this poem will end, but
    to those of you who care to listen,
    do you understand me yet?
    In this world there are no strangers
    just friends we haven’t met.

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  13. I find it extremely rewarding when people leave comments on things I post. It makes me feel good that someone actually took the time to read it, has an opinion, and possibly likes what I have to say. The comments some people leave I enjoy reading. I believe that it is okay for anyone to comment on a blog post as long as the comment is appropriate. People enjoy reading what other people have to say.

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  14. Thanks Doug for spreading the word about #comments4kids. Some of my students have been lucky enough to receive comments from you. I use kidblog.org with my 4th graders because it is a very safe environment for them to experience blogging, as I moderate all posts and comments. From August to date the 69 4th graders I teach have written 466 posts and received 1,469 comments from readers all over the world. Imagine how powerful that is to a 10 year old? Yes, it requires a time commitment form me to supervise this process, but I love the rewards it brings. I am so glad that @wmchamberlain set this up for us to use.

    Happy blogging to everyone.

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  15. The really potent part of love is that it allows you to carry around beliefs about yourself that make you feel special, desirable, precious, innately good.

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