Guidelines for Classroom Blogs

It can be a tricky task selecting what to include in your classroom blog, and what to leave out. The following are some guidelines that will hopefully keep you safe, whilst allowing your content to remain interesting and keep students and parents informed.

1. Keep it about the learning
Focus the content and theme of your classroom blog on the learning that is happening. Discuss the tasks and learning intentions you focussed on as the teacher. Report about the different group lessons and the learning that took place.

2. What happens in the classroom, stays in the classroom
This is the “fine line” that is uncrossable if you want to keep yourself safe. It may seem slightly ironic, because to have a classroom blog, you’re automatically NOT keeping it “in the classroom”. But what is meant by this is that the personal experiences that are shared, the individual behavior  problems that occurred, assessment results and the like are to stay in the classroom, under all circumstances. If you focuss on the learning that is happening, as per point 1, then this shouldn’t be an issue. You certainly don’t want to be sharing the argument two students had and the consequences they faced, or writing about the latest test results, all written out online.

3. No names
When sharing students work (maybe a piece of writing – see point 5), only use initials to identify students. Then your class will still know whose writing it is and it can be shared with friends and family, without students names being all over the Internet. This is also linked to the No Faces (point 4) rule, where you should never link a photo with a students name. Individual privacy is paramount.

4. No faces
Any photo that includes faces, especially those of children, needs permission from that person (or their parent/guardian in the case of children) before it is placed on the Internet. My suggestion is, rather than get permission from every parent (and have to keep record of those who have and haven’t given permission), just blur everyone in the photo’s face, or where possible, exclude faces from the photos when you take it. Taking photos from behind a student, so that you can only see the back of their head, is a great way of doing this. To blur faces, you can use or other free photo editors using a blur brush tool. Once again, individual privacy is paramount.

5. Celebrate Success
Whether on the sports field, or a particularly successful learning experience, celebrate the success. If someone has written an awesome story, get them to write it up and add it to the blog.

6. Update Regularly
The last thing anyone wants to see is the latest content being 2 years old, about some lesson that happened with a class group that is no longer even at the school. Your updates should be at least once every two weeks, if not more. Make it a target to write a post each week. This will enable you to make it a habit, and hopefully, will become part of the classroom routine.

7. Keep it Fresh
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Think of new ways to use the blog in your classroom. Set a treasure hunt around the internet, include lots of media, include work expectations, tell a photo story told by the kids. Don’t just make it about the things that happen in the class, but make it a place where things happen.

8. Avoid Copyright Issues
Don’t use images from the internet. I know it’s easy to do, especially with Google Images, but try and keep any media on your website self-created. It also provides more of an insight into your classroom and school environment if all the media on the classroom blog is from – well… the classroom.

9. Keep Yourself Safe
Avoid posting anything about yourself as the teacher. Keep your personal life to yourself. You have to remember to remain the consummate professional, both in the classroom, and online. If you wouldn’t share it with your kids, then you shouldn’t be sharing it online either.

10. Spread the Word
If there’s no visitors, there’s no point. Get people to the blog. Set tasks for the students on it. Include a hidden code that students, if they find it, they get an award. Get students to show their parents their work that you’ve put on there. Get parents to share it with grandparents, and eventually, you’ll have a community culture in your class, purely and simple from your blog.
Remember, your blog is for students and families, but it is also available to the whole world over the Internet. Keep this in mind when you make any post! Individual privacy is paramount. Keep yourself safe, and most of all – get posting!

Hillsong Live -- God Is Able

Hillsong Live – God is Able: Review

The first time I listened through the album I was a tad disappointed. Usually there’s a bit of a guarantee that there’ll be a hit song on a Hillsong album. But nothing stood out.

So I do what I usually do, and put the CD in my car. It’s now been in there for 3 weeks, and I can say there are some songs that slowly filter into your life through the subconscious. Within days, I found tunes singing in the shower and found myself wondering where they came from, only to find out they were on this CD.

All the songs seem to flow together, without being overtly seamless playback. Track 4 “The Lost are Found” hits home for me. It falls into a repetitiveness that captures the soul, without becoming tired. The words settle into the heart well, and are taken from verses in the bible. It also leads into the title track which has a forgettable riff, but immediately jogs your memory once it begins.

The other songs that stand out are track 9 and 10, “Narrow Road” and “My Heart is Overwhelmed” respectively. “Narrow Road”  really speaks about one of the first thing we need when we come to worship, and that is a humble heart. If we come to worship without a humble heart, we often miss the point.
“My Heart is Overwhelmed” is another song that just settles into the subconscious, but it has a Mumford and Son’s type feel that brings a different yet comfortable feel to corporate worship.

The true test of a worship song is their playability. If the song is impossibly tricky, it’s unlikely to get picked up by the worship team, and the congregation. Having picked up a few of the songs myself (without the aid of!), it goes to show that these songs have a relatively simple base from which to work from.

I was, however, bitterly disappointed in the DVD. Usually you’d expect a CD/DVD set to have the audio version on the CD, with the DVD having all the songs performed live. Not so. Only 3 songs are on the DVD with some interviews with some of the songwriters.

★★★☆☆  – 3 Stars

Purchase Album

A Million Dots

A mathematical problem asked today was to think about getting a million dots in class. It begins by showing your class a thousand dots on a page and discussing how many we’d need to make one million. It turns out you need a thousand of these sheets to make the million. Challenge students to begin by making ten themselves, and then they can get help.
Well. I made that help with this page. On it, I have used a simple PHP code (repeated a few times to spread the server load) and the result is One Million Dots!

See my Million Dots page


Worship for Men

It’s one area I am passionate about. Ever since seeing Matt Redman’s comments about how most worship songs are not manfriendly, I have been aware of the struggle for Men in church and their participation in corporate worship.

The church I am in at the moment is in an unusual imbalance, where of our 5 worship leaders, only one is female. And of the six other regular singers, only two are female. But even with this imbalance, we still struggle with a few of the reasons mentioned in this article.

There are a few reasons why worship in church has become de-male-ised. I do not place blame on my female counterparts at all, but purely am putting the scene in perspective.

1. Girl-Talk Lyrics

This is the number one reason why guys are turned off from worshipping corporately. Words like love, grace, beautiful, wonderful, majesty, feature heavily in the songs that we sing. These are not in most guy’s vocabulary, let alone when singing these love songs to another guy, Jesus.

2. Singing ain’t Cool

Most guys think back to their school days. In New Zealand, and I’m sure in other parts of western culture, it’s just not cool to sing. It’s a girl thing to do, and if you were any good at singing, and anyone heard it, you were laughed or scoffed at. Unless you were in a rock band of course, and then you were just cool. It’s not macho. It’s just not cool.

3. Key Change

This is one I struggle with constantly. So much so, I’m going to have to do some more research into it and write another article. But I know in the many churches I have been a part of and played in, that a lot of songs are transposed into another key, under the guise that it “fits the congregation better”. More often than not though, it’s because the girls can’t reach a certain note, or it’s too low for females, and so it is changed – often with disregard that it could make it un-singable for most men. Suddenly, not only are men finding it hard to sing because of the lyrical content, the personal humiliation of singing in public, but it’s in a key that is out of range to sing with any degree of confidence.

The Way Forward

There’s no easy answer. Take for instance my third point; the key is changed to suit the congragation, with the majority of the congregation is female – because all the men have left because they find it difficult to sing in tune and in public, it makes it very difficult to break that cycle and get men back into church.
Worship will always be difficult, as everyone has their own preferences as to how they like to worship.  But at the end of the day, Worship is a choice. It’s a life style. It’s a choice of your heart. And as long as men are worshipping, in whatever form that takes, and they are setting great examples for their children, then who are we as churchgoers to point fingers and criticise? I will always encourage men to be a firm and strong presence in church, but I know first hand that this asks a lot from men. All churches should be looking to see how they are engaging their male population. But at the end of the day, God knows how to connect with the heart of a man better than anyone. Men; we need to be prepared to open ourselves up and let the ultimate man show us how to worship and fellowship with others.


Related Reading

WordPress – New Post Label

I have recently implemented this code to create a new post label on my own site. Previously, I had just used a simple script to put a new label on the latest post. Now, the code checks the post’s date against the date two weeks ago. If it is less than that, then it displays the post.

I have used a tiny bit of CSS to position the new post label with z-index to bring it to the front. The CSS class for the label is “new-post”, which is for an empty div, with the label graphic set as the background image for the selector.

Here’s the code:


<?php $post_date = the_date('Y-m-d','','',false); // Get the date of the post as a variable (not echo'd)
$twoweeks = strtotime("-2 weeks"); //The date from two weeks ago
$posted_date = strtotime($post_date); // The post date formatted to a comparable variable
if ($posted_date --> $twoweeks) {
$new_post_label = true; //If the post is less than two weeks ago, set the label to true.
} else {
$new_post_label = false; // Else, don't display the label.
<li><?php if($new_post_label == true){?>
<div class="new-post"></div>
<?php };?>
<a href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>" title="<?php the_title_attribute(); ?>" class="post-title">
<?php the_title(); ?></a>
<br />
<?php the_excerpt(); ?>
<?php endwhile; else: ?>
<?php endif; ?>



.new-post {
   background:url('images/new-post.png') top right no-repeat;

And that’s it!

You can see the example of this code as implemented by my website.

Note: There’s probably a plugin for this, and probably an easier way, but this was easy enough to make part of my homepage template.

Worship Fractions Chart

Fractions in Worship

Lloyd Rankin was also at Plugged In, run by New Wine on the 27 August, 2011, and expressed in a very easy to understand way a theory that I had been introduced to before; the more instruments there are, the less each one has to play.
The main point I got from Lloyd was that it is good to think of the worship team in fractions. If there are five members in your worship team, each member needs to bring one fifth. If there are 2 members, they both need to bring half. And you never want to get bigger than 1. Essentially this follows the rule that I mentioned in my earlier article, in that the more instruments the less you play. If there are 2 members in the team, both bringing half, youll have a lot more space to play in than if there are 8 members, and each only having to play one eighth.

Worship Fractions Chart Taking this to the extreme, if there is one pianist, they will have to play everything, including bass, mid range chords, high range fills, and rhythm. As soon as you add an acoustic guitar, that halves. The guitar fills the mid range (as that is its strength and limitations) and also picks up the rhythm. The piano then only has to play half of what it was doing before, and just pick up the bass and high range. (Note, it still contributes to the rhythm, and thus enters into complimenting, rather than competing against the acoustic guitar.)

Obviously, this is a best fit model. It is going to vary depending on individual skill, song choice, style, and a whole range of other factors. One of the main general points that this is getting at is that we don’t need the different instruments to each be bringing 4/5 to the song in terms of their mix. As soon as that happens, it cuts out the space for other instruments to work in, and leads to people playing over the top of others and competing for that space, rather than working harmoniously to bring an overall better sound by playing less.


Finding Your Space in Worship

Last weekend I headed up to a worship conference run by New Wine, called “Plugged In”. The following points brought up by Tim Costley builds on my previous post but possibly in a more succinct way.

High and Low Dynamics

Tim Costley began his seminar showing us a graph where different instruments fit between high and low. Low Range being things like the kick drum and bass guitar. Mid Range being the snare drum, acoustic guitar. High Range being hi-hats, cymbals, violin, electric guitar. Keys or piano, of course, will fit across all of these ranges.

Tims major point of the seminar was that instruments shouldnt compete for what he calls sonic space. Competing for this space causes a bit of tension and conflict. Instead, instruments in the same dynamic range should work together and compliment each other. We all know (or should do, at least) that the bass and kick drum should always lock in. But the reason is, not that its what we do, but because both are in the same dynamic range and should work together. Likewise the acoustic guitar and the snare drum. Instruments such as keys which can fit anywhere should therefore fit into the spaces that are not filled by other instruments, as they are the most dynamic. Some instruments, such as the violin, can only fill one dynamic range; the High end, and therefore itd be unreasonable to expect them to fit anywhere else.

All in all, it was great to hear some similar viewpoints that I have coming from other people, if ever so slightly annoying that he was able to put it much more aptly and succinctly than I ever could.