Primarily I have been using WordPress for my class blog and using my laptop logged in to my account for the students to blog on. Thanks to a blog from Kim Cofino I discovered a way to have individual logons for a class where each post has to be approved by me. I have been trialling this approach with my form group with varied success, some of the students have found a topic they feel confident blogging about.
I have decided to role out this approach with a year 9 maths class who will log in using their own account details on my laptop in lessons, blog about our lesson but unlike my other blog the students can choose to add to the blog themselves outside of the lesson. Furthermore all students can comment on the post at will.
The two classes are very different and I envisage more effort being required to embed the blog effectively for the year 9 class. Luckily, we have parent’s evening in a few weeks, which is a great opportunity to get the parents following the blog as well as promoting the benefits to parents face to face.
One of the reasons I want this class to blog is that in their recent assessments the class have struggled with written explanations, which is restricting their progress on some topics. Will the bog get then writing more in future tasks?
I will let you know how it goes. Please follow the blog and drop us any comments of the work if interesting.
If you are interested in blogging with your class I have added an infographic tweeted by @edudemic that gives an idea of how to get started. Please drop me a tweet @mr_brouse if you have any questions about the blogs or getting one set up for your classes.
This is an update on my progress since a previous post Blogging: the new exercise book? Aware that the notes in some of the student’s books were not useful to them I wanted to try out another way of recording our lessons for absence, revision, review and reflection.
I have emboldened the text so my tips for blogging stand out without having to re-read the entire post.
My year 8 group have been blogging for all their lessons this year. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of the process so far.
The Technology Hardware
Laptop (The addition of desktops in classrooms this year has enabled me to use my school issued laptop for blogging)
Smart phone (I let the students take pictures on my smartphone… I have made the expectations very clear!) Software
WordPress website (I bought the domain name and set up rouseclassblogs.com)
WordPress android app
The setting up process
I set up a blog last year and after some deliberation decided on putting all blog posts on the main page. While other pages can be created the process is quicker if the posts are all on the main page.
I created an instruction sheet to sit alongside the blog computer so students can check how to add pictures and tags etc.
I get the students to put their first name and initial on their mini whiteboards each lesson. This allows me to post their work, for them to identify it but it dow not identify them to anyone else. No student is ever in any picture on the blog (apart from one set of hands holding some top trump cards)
The process in lessons
Currently my students are on a rotation that uses two of them per lesson for the blog. One writes the explanation and the other takes pictures. Imagine a reporter and his photographer and you have a pretty good idea of how it currently works. I think this ticks my cross-curricular links to the English faculty. Furthermore we are pushing our literacy across the curriculum so our poster for reminding students of the basics of punctuations sits next to the blog computer.
The class are a very nice bunch and they seemed to be interested in the blog, which I demonstrated on our first lesson. There have been some issues to overcome so far:
Pictures to WordPress! Initially I tried using the WordPress app, taking pictures and posting them as private posts. You can then get access to the pictures through the media library. However, after taking loads of pictures of the student’s work it turns out that if you take the picture first it doesn’t work. I was gutted as I thought I may lose them if I promise that their work will be displayed and they find non of it on the first blog post. Fortunately I have a resilient class, either that or they didn’t bother to look at the blog. So the following lesson having solved this problem, taking all the pictures on my phone then doing a bulk upload at spare moments in class, it was working.
After a whole lesson with comments and pictures on the post we embarked on a plenary of deciding on the tags (keywords) for our lesson. Once complete I cheerfully clicked on publish to find the network was down and the blog post was lost. I spent an hour and a half re-writing it based on the times I had dropped in on my bloggers to check their work.
The process is getting better, but it is a lot of work while also managing a class. After everyone has blogged and we have reviewed it the process can be refined and should become easier to manage.
Do the bloggers learn? There was always a danger that the bloggers would not make the progress of the rest of the class. While there have been some occasions during starter tasks where the previous lesson’s blogger has needed a bit more guidance I have found by sitting and discussing the blog for a few minutes during the lesson and making sure the students add examples into the blog we are overcoming this hurdle and they are achieving the same understanding as the rest of the class.
I now have a record of all my lessons with this class in chronological order, tagged and categorised. I anticipate this being a useful source of information for parents and the students should they be ill or need to revise but this part of the blog does not seem to have come into its own yet.
The blog will be a record of formative assessment and feed into the APP process as I level the students over the course of the year.
I want to publicise this to the parents more as I would like to have every parent signed up to follow the blog. I imagine parents at work getting an email letting them know that their child has just had a maths lesson and they can have a look at it there and then.
Regular review of the blog will help increase the quality of the posts and their use after lessons. I am going to get the students to comment on the posts and build a best practice list which we can display above the blog computer.
In its current form I would not be able to carry out a blog for more than two of my classes. It is important that I review each post before publishing so I do not want to rush it but I would like to extend this to more classes over the year. As the students become more familiar with the process then they should develop more independence with it. I am keen to not lose focus on the fact that the blog is only worthwhile if it benefits learning. To establish the effectiveness of the blog on student learning a cycle of action research will be necessary. Particularly gathering feedback from students and parents. I have already asked my learning triangle (this is a new process for managing our professional development) at school to view the blog and feedback to me. They are not in the mathematics faculty and therefore I hope they will be able to provide constructive feedback on how the blog can be utilised to its full potential. This peer review will be very useful and I hope it will also inspire others to try a class blog in other subjects.
I am pleased with the blog so far and glad I have put the effort into getting it running every lesson. The students are keen to find out when their turn is and the posts are developing despite being a more pictures than text.
Has the blog replaced my exercise books…. Not completely but only key information goes in the exercise books now. I have found the students are more confident trying things out when working on whiteboards and then we can record the key notes in 5 to 10 minutes each lesson.
Let me know what you think and if you ahve any suggestions or tips for improving my class blog.
Have I discovered the answer to all my problems? A class blog…
I have been thinking about starting a class blog for some time but as with these things I have been busy and never got myself organised to start. This post should give me the prod I need to make this happen.
Using wordpress I have created http://rouseclassblogs.com/ in order for my classes to record their progress in lessons. I am going to start with my year 8 group and using an extra laptop one student in a lesson will be given the task of writing the post. Recording the title of the lesson, the task, key words, ideas and make a record of how the lesson went.
There will be a rota so the students know when their turn is coming. I also hope to develop a crib sheet to help create a useful content to each blog post. However, I intend to let this guidance come out of the process from review and feedback in class.
Each blog post can be allocated to a category from Number, Algebra, Geometry, Shape and Space, Data Handling and Probability. This gives all stake holders; students, parents and teacher the opportunity to easily search lessons for a number of purposes. Prior to assessments students can review past lessons. Parents can subscribe to the blog or RSS feed to stay up to date with the learning taking place in their child’s class. As a teacher I have the chance to review the progress by reading the blog posts.
More excitingly is the use of tags! “group work”, “fun”, “problem solving”, in addition to topic references could help make the blog become a real tool for learning.
I need investment from the students to write something they have thought about. Therefore I will need to invest time in reviewing and feeding back on their posts. A starter task?
I have to find a regularity of blog that can be maintained rather than a burst over a month that fades.
I hope to report back on the successes and challenges of this additional learning tool in my classroom.
Some things you may wish to discuss with might be:
One blog per class or one page per class on a blog? Can it work equally well for all Key Stages?