The first step in building the student blog network is to subscribe to each student's blog post feed and also to the comment feed.
Although my students generally choose to use Blogger (as most of them have never blogged before), they can actually use any blogging platform they want, provided that it has dedicated RSS feeds for the posts and for the comments. This was an essential part of my using Inoreader to monitor the student blog network: I was able to monitor all the blog posts and all the blog comments.
As I subscribed to the students' blogs one by one at the beginning of the semester, I followed this procedure:
1. Subscribe to posts: change name. I renamed each blog so that it was prefaced with the class code and then the student's first name, along with last initial or last name as needed (for example: MF Jane for a student in Myth-Folklore, IE Barbara W for a student in Indian Epics). Student gave their blogs all kinds of cute names, but I needed to be able to see the student's name in Inoreader, not the cute name they gave their blog.
2. Put student blog in class folder and in school folder. I put each student blog in a class folder; next semester, I also need to remember to also put the blog in a school folder for both classes (see My Rookie Mistakes). Having the blogs in folders is important both for reading purposes and it is also important for creating rules to assign tags (some rules apply to both classes, some rules might apply to one class only).
3. Subscribe to comments. At the same time that I subscribed to the blog, I also subscribed to the comments. Although my first semester, I did put the comments in separate folders for each class, I realize now that was not necessary; the comment subscriptions can all go in one big folder since I never run separate rules on them, but I do need to use the same name convention for the subscriptions (MF Jane, IE Barbara, etc.).
Here's a screenshot of how this works: i can view the most recents posts for the class as a whole by click on the folder, or I can pop open the folder and see the most recent posts for a given student, choosing the view as preferred (title view, expanded view, etc.), selecting unread-only or all, etc. As someone who wants to keep up with all the students' blogs and just be aware of how each person is doing, this system is fantastic: even with very limited time, I felt like I could "check in" with the class as a whole, with an individual student, seeing how things were going and intervening (directly or indirectly) if there was a problem, as well as leaving comments of encouragement and enthusiasm as time allowed! Checking in at the comments stream was really important to see if any spam had gotten through; I am pleased to say that in our first semester of open blogging, there were no spam comments at all!
Last updated: 11/23/2014.