Our very first guest post comes from Damien Quinn, 6th class teacher in Ransboro NS in Sligo and the man behind Seomraranga.ie, wnner of the Best Individul Blog in the 2012 Edublog Awards. This is the first in a two part guest post as Damien’s pupils will talk about blogging in part 2 of the post.
Over the past few years I had read articles on the internet about other educators using Kidblog(www.kidblog.org) to introduce their pupils to blogging by creating individual blogs for them. I didn’t delve into it too much as I had been teaching younger pupils for the past few years. However, when I moved back up to sixth class last September, I decided to investigate this blogging platform and to see how I could use it in the classroom. Having sought advice of other teachers using the platform, I decided to take the plunge and set up a class account in late September 2012.
The benefits of using Kidblog are:
- It is used by educators around the world to enhance and compliment the curriculum
- It is a safe and secure platform that is specifically geared towards schools
- The teacher is able to control activity
- It is a means to motivate pupils to learn, write, ask questions
- It teaches pupils the rules of Digital Citizenship and how to behave responsibly in an online community
Pupils can publish posts and participate in academic discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. The teacher maintains complete control over student blogs and user accounts. The pupils’ blogs can be private and viewable only by classmates and the teacher or they can be public. Schools can connect with each other through Kidblog. Pupils can work on their blog at their own pace/level at home or at school. Pupils are able to comment on each other’s blogs but comments can be moderated and approved by the teacher before they appear. The teacher can also post a private comment to the pupil about a piece of work. Through using this safe and secure blogging platform pupils can:
- create classroom discussions
- learn digital citizenship
- practice writing skills
- create an e-portfolio
- reflect on learning
Having taken the plunge and introduced my pupils to the whole concept of personal blogs I was totally unprepared for their reaction. Over the course of the first week, the pupils set out on a journey into the digital unknown with such enthusiasm and positivity. Although I have given lots of written assignments for homework to be done on the blog, there has been quite a lot of spontaneous written work appearing on pupils’ blogs. Pupils’ voices have been heard through their blog posts about their hobbies and interests, so I have been reading about horses, dogs, planes, football, birds, animals, hurling, trucks, dancing, online games. The list is endless. Kidblog seems to have given the pupils what the English curriculum intended – writing for a purpose with a real audience in mind.
However, two things have been really interesting for me: firstly, the way that the blog has gelled the class together – they are being hugely positive and supportive to each other and commenting on each other’s posts and asking each other questions; secondly the blog appears to be serving all ability levels within the class. Everybody is working at their own ability and the others are supportive of that in their positive comments and encouragement.
As a teacher, I’m also looking for the positive educational benefits of this way of working. I’m looking at how the pupils are developing their different genres of English writing. I’m admiring the way that they are encouraging each other with their positive comments on each other’s blog posts. I’m learning so much about the individual pupils and their hobbies and interests and it gives me a great way to start a conversation with them in class. In fact, the whole blog has turned out to be one long conversation with the pupils’ voices at its core.
From the evidence of activity on Kidblog, it has been hugely motivational. It seems that pupils are excitedly doing blog work at home and delighting in the comments they are receiving. I’m trying to comment on most of the posts and they seem to like that also. I’ve got very positive feedback from some parents who are amazed at the enthusiasm of the pupils for it. One parent remarked that she never before saw her child so eager to do homework!
Such is the pupils’ enthusiasm for the blog, I’ve even had to put a curfew on activity on it – 9pm is now cut-off point with the threat of losing their account if they are on it after that time. I can see that some pupils are on the blog even before they come to school. Some pupils have even been blogging on weekends, without prompting from the teacher. At this stage of the year we have published an amazing 2,000 posts and commented more than 7,000 times on the blog in a truly collaborative exercise.
The real test of a classroom innovation is the opinion of the pupils. After about a week into this blogging project, one of the pupils put up the following blog post spontaneously one night. I think it sums up the feeling of a lot of the pupils:
“We are now over a week on the blog. I think that everyone is enjoying themselves, especially me. I love it. It is really fun. I am learning so much about it and it is so fun reading everybody’s information. And sharing my information with them as well. It is great. Learning on the blog is totally different it is such an experience to me. Every day I go on the blog and see what I can read and learn. On the blog we do a maths puzzle every day. Some of them are easy but some our hard and I can’t understand them, but mostly every day I do them. We also do homework on the blog. It is soooooo cool.”