Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Procedures for Setting Up a Digital Environment on the First Day of School

Yesterday, a teacher asked me a question regarding how to get several classes of students to subscribe to a blog and I sheepishly answered "Mambo Line Dancing".

I wasn't kidding, actually.

What this teacher was really asking has to do with the digital equivalent of what us teachers do at the beginning of every school year: setting procedures. And my answer had to do with making an otherwise grueling task relatively fun. Ok... at least memorable.

Here's my system for setting my students up digitally at the beginning of each school year in a 1:1 computing environment.

1) Set up a gmail account. This comes just after: "Hi. My name is Mr. Wojo. Welcome to Latin class. You're gonna have a fun year." The gmail account ensures that they have email accounts that will be accessible anywhere. Our school supplies students with 'official' email accounts, so what I do is have them set their gmail to forward there. This means there are always no less than two ways for them to access email. Cuts down on excuses and only takes about a minute to set up.

2) Set up a blogger account. Once they've set up a gmail account, they automatically have a Google ID. That makes setting up a blogger account a cinch. If you are new to blogging, see my little four-part series on the sidebar of this page. In my experience, I can get 40 kids set up with on blogs in no more than 20 minutes.

We are now about 25 minutes into our first class and students are set up with email and the personal blogs that they are going to use for their year-long digital portfolios. All of their classwork, homework, and assessments are going to be posted to their blogs.

3) Show them my own class blog. On my blog, I've got the procedures, syllabus, and course calendar all posted. So at no time should the students ever be able to complain that they "didn't know". It's all there.

4) Get them signed up as subscribers to my blog and to my calendar. This is where the Mambo Line Dancing comes in. I put on a little music, we spend five minutes having a little meet and greet while each student plugs his or her brand new gmail address into a box on my blog and a box on my calendar. When they are done, I click 'ok' on each, and from then on whenever I post an assignment to my blog or a due date to my calendar, the students receive an email of the assignment or the due date at gmail.

Now we are 35 minutes into class. We've got email addresses, blogs, and course/calendar subscriptions all done.

Now we go for a nature walk.


The next day, I'll present a lesson on our class topic all the while demonstrating the most effective use of the digital resources -- the blog, emails, and calendars -- as I lecture and while we have class discussion.

And then we're off to the races!


  1. I am wondering if you know if there is an age requirement for students to use blogger since I am a middle school teacher?

  2. Any advantages to blogs vs. Google docs or sites?
    What do you do on the days when your server goes down or the internet is unbearably slow? My classes all have assignments they can work on off the net, but I am always looking for more ideas.

  3. I started a new quarter today and when I tried to set up Gmail accounts with a class Google shut us down saying that large amounts of setups at one time are seen as spam. Similar experiences or suggestions???


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