Blogging is a relatively new phenomenon, with many teachers embracing the opportunities that occur when writing reflectively. However, there is a huge swathe of colleagues who don’t know what a blog is, and are probably not even interested in sharing their experiences privately or openly. Catherine Steel is a Year 1 teacher (pupils ages 5-6 years old) in Bradford, England, and explains how blogging has transformed her teaching positively, opening her classroom for all to share in the experiences that take place with her pupils.
This article was published in the May 2014 edition of UKEdMagazine, and is available to view by clicking here.
A few years ago I didn’t know what a blog was, let alone run one for my class and have my own personal blog too. Since starting work at my current school four years ago, the thought of not using the blog is unthinkable, but this is not the case for all educators.
The Power of Blogging
I am aware of teachers who don’t know what a blog is, have never posted anything or have rarely used one. Could it be that they think it involves coding and that therefore puts them off? Is it the fact that they don’t see the point as no one will read it anyway? Maybe they think that the children in their class are too young to understand and use a blog and so it won’t be used?
[pullquote]Blogging has opened up a whole wealth of opportunities.[/pullquote]Whatever the reason, and I can only speak from personal experience, blogging has opened up a whole wealth of opportunities for me as an educator and for the children in class. Many schools have a blog site for children, parents and, of course, Ofsted to view, but the quality of blogs varies widely.
Why Bother Then?
Speaking from experience, I use the blog as a way to publish and celebrate children’s work. I have found that if the children think that there is an audience they become excited to produce quality work for publication. This isn’t always a piece of writing or a number sentence. Sometimes it’s a slideshow about what they have been learning, a comment asking a question about the topic or a video.
The whole concept of blogging for an audience is something that is at the heart of David Mitchell‘s Quadblogging. This connects four schools who take turns to comment on each other’s blog sites, but the principle is still the same whether it be two or one hundred schools collaborating online! It’s all about the blog being used for purpose. Children can blog within their own year group, to other classes or even across sites depending on the school set up.
I was fortunate enough to work with Philip Webb recently, a literacy consultant in Bradford, who commented on a study that suggested that the reason boys typically find writing difficult is because ‘it hurts’. For some children, boys in particular, typing comments on the blog about their learning encourages them to write. Not only does it remove the physical aspect of holding a pen or pencil, but it is electronic, which my boys enjoy.
Philip also commented on how important the right stimulus is. Giving children real experiences so they have something to write about.
Having visited an aquarium in Hull the day before as part of our deep sea topic, the children took charge of the iPads, photographed the sea creatures and took notes. Back at school, we selected which photos to upload onto our blog through careful discussion.
Part of our daily routine is to have Blog Buddies who take turns to help create things for the blog. Using Slide.ly, we composed the photos and wrote captions.
With a mixture of Eastern European, White British and Pakistani children in my class, the blog encourages the class to communicate in English and collaborate on making sure that it’s fun to use and looks good.
[pullquote]I have seen an increase in the number of comments and the quality of the sentence writing.[/pullquote]This year, I let my Y1 children take control of the content and subsequent feedback of the year one blog page. By giving them ownership, I have seen an increase in the number of comments and the quality of the sentence writing. As a class, we created a page called ‘Sentence Corner‘ whereby they can write about absolutely anything from Iron Man and Disney Princesses to their visit to the shops with their brother. Since starting this in January, the page has over one hundred comments from children either in school time or at home.
Your Mum Says, “You’re Not Allowed…”
Despite training the children on how to blog and constantly encouraging them to use it, I still come up against issues around parental engagement.
Children may not be allowed to go onto the blog for various reasons, including time, Internet access or, quite frankly, a lack of understanding from parents and carers about how to use it. Some parents may not even know it exists!
At the start of the year, I gave all parents a paper copy of the link to the school blog and verbally explained that the blog provides an additional platform for learning as it is used to post homework, ideas linked to the topic and links to educational games.
It all stems back to the idea of parents being the main educators in their child’s life and a blog can help provide ideas about how to help at home. I now find that lots of parents love viewing their child’s work online and read the newsletters there too, but it has taken discussion with them over a period of time to arrive at this level of interactivity and engagement.
This, in addition to constant promotion and use of the blog with the children in class, means that blogging has become embedded into daily practice.
Is it Safe?
There will always be concerns around e-safety, which is understandable and right to be a priority. However, as long as schools have permission for children’s images to be used, it needn’t be a problem.