The use of blogs is a big focus in education at the moment. The current explosion in numbers of school blogs, class blogs, student blogs and teacher blogs clearly indicates there is plenty of momentum and interest in the power of the blog. The availability of mobile technology and wireless internet connectivity in schools has enabled teachers and students to share their work instantly on a global scale.
Here’s the outline of our Blogging in Your Classroom adventure:
Excited? Let’s go!
What is a Blog?
In simple terms a blog allows people to post content to the Internet (text/pictures /videos/audio) with interactive features, allowing viewers of the blog to add comments to blog posts.
In schools, a blog allows students to connect to the wider world, share their work with a real audience and receive comments and feedback. Author Michael Rosen asserts “My view is that this is when writing has a purpose, the writer discovers all kinds of important stuff to do with what to write, why to write, how to write and much more. So, to my mind, we should reconfigure, reframe and reinvent ‘writing in schools’.”
This is “reinvention” of writing in schools and the power of real-time global feedback is transforming the landscape of how technology is making an impact on standards.
Used well, blogging can be a transformational process in education.
The Purpose of Blogging in Schools
The reason schools choose to use a blog to share student work needs to be clearly understood by teachers, students and parents/caregivers. A blog is a place to share work and invite feedback which leads to improvement and progress. It should not be confused with a school website or showcase of excellence. Work posted on a blog may not always be perfect and this simply reflects that both school and student are ready to accept and act on appropriate feedback.
It is a good idea to hold a meeting for parents when students begin blogging so they understand their role in supporting their children as bloggers and can recognise that a blog is a valuable tool to promote learning.
Setting up a Blog
Anyone can set up a blog quickly and easily, and at no cost. Functions to consider should include: how easy it is to post content, whether video content can be posted directly to the blog and whether posting via an app on a mobile device is possible. In addition it is important, where possible, that students be able to post to their own blog space: this builds a sense of ownership and identity. There are many blogging platforms available. Currently, KidBlog has an app which allows students to post text, images or video directly from an iPad to their own space as part of a class blog.
Other popular blogging platforms for schools include WordPress, Primary Blogger and Edublogs. All of these platforms allow schools to easily set up blogs for each class that also contain individual spaces for students.
Building an Audience
The audience makes the work matter to students as they have an opportunity to showcase their work and respond to the concept of real feedback . The audience for a blog doesn’t appear automatically (and there is a lot of competition for comments, as indicated by the number of teachers promoting their students’s blog links on twitter) so a strategy of how to build an audience is a good idea. Without an audience the blog means very little.
Suggestions for building an audience:
– Share the blog details with parents via the school websites and newsletters.
– Display links to the blog around the local community, for example the local library.
– Approach individuals to respond to a particular blog post, starting a Guest Markers project.
– Share links to the blog using social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
– Add your blog to the Literacy Shed class blogs page ( this is also a good place to look at, and comment on, students blogs from around the world)
Comments and Feedback
Everyone involved with a students blog needs to recognise the importance of the commenting process. Clear guidelines should be provided outlining criteria for commenting. This may seem a little prescriptive but it reduces the prevalence of less meaningful comments. One simple idea is to encourage commenters to say what they like best of all and provide one suggestion for improvement: this makes the process constructive and so much more powerful than simply saying “great work!”
In addition, it is good practice to encourage students to thank people for their comments.
Teachers need to be able to moderate blog content especially if students are able to post to their blog from home. Post and comment moderation settings can easily be set up on all blogging platforms through the administration features of a blog so that post and comments can be moderated before being published.
Blogging helps teach important principles of e-safety. It is essential that students are aware of rules and risks in terms of posting information, as well as in comments and responding to others. The video Jigsaw: U Think U Know is a good starting point for demonstrating the reality of posting content online.
A personal display board in the classroom is also useful as a pre-cursor to going online. Children need to fully understand that anyone is able to see the content they post.
There are countless activities which could lead to student content posted on a blog. Currently, most of the content on student blogs is writing and increasingly blogging is being used as an effective means of raising writing standards. Video editing projects, musical compositions and even interactive Google Forms can be posted on blog pages. The important thing to remember is the purpose of posting the work. Will it be commented on in an effective and meaningful way? Will students be given the opportunity to reflect and act on the feedback and respond to comments?
Sustaining a Blog
Maintaining a blog needs a commitment from all involved as to what their role is. For instance, if the headteacher has agreed to comment each week then they need to make sure they have a visible presence on the blog. The classroom teacher is often the best person to act as manager of the blog. In this role, they will need to ensure that moderation of posts and comments is managed properly and that the blog is central to much of the work the students are doing in the classroom. On its own a blog will make little difference to anything, yet once students and teachers embrace it as a learning tool, the potential impact on students is enormous.
Making the walls of the school transparent through blogging demonstrates to students how much they matter and how much their thoughts matter.
Ideas for getting started
“Blogging evangelists” such as David Mitchell and Julia Skinner are leading the way with their powerful “Quadblogging” and “100 Word Challenge” initiatives. Julia Skinner highlights the views of influential author Ursula K. Le Guin: “The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”
1. Quadblogging enable schools from around the world to team up into groups of 4 “quads”. Each week one blog is the focus blog with the other three blogs visiting and commenting during that week. In week two, another school/class blog is the focus with the other three visiting and commenting. This is continues until each of the classes/schools has had their week in the spotlight. The cycle is then repeated.
2. 100 Word Challenge is a weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16 years of age. Each week a prompt is given, which can be a picture or a series of individual words and the children can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece. This should is posted on a class blog. By setting a limited word count with a focused theme and a guaranteed audience beyond the class teacher, children have far greater motivation for writing.
3. Guest Markers build your blog’s audience by arranging for guest “experts” to provide valuable specialist feedback to students.
4. Share the blog with parents at a Blog Show to provide parents with a clear understanding of the role of the blog in their child’s learning, and the part they have to play. This also allows children to show their parents how to access and comment on their work.
5. Use the blog to keep parents informed on school events such as residential visits. The power of sharing images and videos instantly supports the learning process and is enabled by the fact that feedback and comments can be received in any location.
Don’t hesitate to add any questions, comments or blogging ideas using the comments feature of this blog. Comments are what make blogging so relevant and valuable.
So, now it’s your turn. It may take a little work to get started but the powerful impact of a real global audience is so valuable to all learners. It leads to motivation, engagement and above all, progress in learning. If you are working with children of any age, make your classroom a window to the world, to allow them to share their genius and talent. Get blogging! The world is watching.
About the author: David Andrews has a reputation as one of the country’s leading educational practitioners in the field of technology in the classroom. His work (www.mrandrewsonline.blogspot.com) has influenced classroom practice around the world. Alongside his colleague (Chris Williams) they are committed to a belief and vision that technology should be used to transform teaching and learning, rather than simply enhance it and that teachers and pupils need to embrace technology to respond to the ever changing demands of the 21st Century. Mr Andrews Online are working with the National Association of Head Teachers ‘Transforming Teaching & Learning using Mobile Technology’ & ‘Developing Cross-Curricular Writing with Integrated Technology’ and National Literacy Trust ‘How to be outstanding in the new curriculum’ and Focus Education ‘Teaching the new Computing curriculum with iPads’.