Communication and collaboration are two key words at the heart of blogging. In schools where blogging is used well, achievements are celebrated, with the whole world having a ‘virtual window’ in to the life of the school. Imagine children going home at the end of the day with parents already knowing part of what has been learnt, having seen a photograph or video clip on the class blog; could this be the end of the eternal answer of ‘nothing’ to the question, ‘What have you done today?’. Not only can achievements be celebrated, but blogs can be used to share day-to-day things going on in school, keeping parents up to date with things like homework or key dates and information.
Pupil blogs can be a terrific tool for teaching our children to stay safe online, respecting privacy and developing an understanding of copyright. Pupil blogs can also be used as an ‘e-portfolio’ of work and achievements across the curriculum. Peer assessment via comments, and collaboration via shared blogs, can become integral parts of the learning process, and giving pupils an audience for their work is surely motivational.
Many school leaders make excellent use of blogs. A ‘Headteacher’s blog’, if used well, can be of great motivation for the whole school community, with the school’s vision and values permeating the posts.
E-Safety and School Policy
Before endeavouring on a journey with blogging, it is important that school leaders, including governors, staff, pupils and parents have an e-safety policy in place that all stakeholders adopt. This policy should include who is responsible for any blogs, and any ground-rules for posts and comments on posts. Questions to consider include who can write blog posts? Do the posts need checking by a line manager before they go public? Who can comment on posts? What rules, if any, are established for commenting? Comments on posts will undoubtedly need to be moderated before they are published live. The e-safety policy should also have a clear section about keeping children safe online, including whether or not images of children in school are used, and if any personal details such as first name are associated with images or other online content.
Examples of education blogs
So many educators around the globe are inspiring whole learning communities with the blogs they have created. A web search will soon reveal many examples of educators who blog regularly, whole school blogs serving a whole school community, and class blogs maintained by individual teachers, but here are a few useful links to explore:
- UKEDChat: http://ukedchat.com/2014/04/02/vote-for-your-favourite-uk-educational-blog/
Cooper School, in Bicester, Oxfordshire has so many blogs that a directory is needed! http://www.cooper.oxon.sch.uk/blogdirectory.html
Microblogging involves blog posts that have a restricted number of words and are, as such, straight to the point! Due to the shorter nature of messages, Smartphones are ideal devices for microblogging. Many schools make use of the popular (huge understatement their) microblogging website Twitter to communicate with the school community. School Twitter feeds can be useful to share up to the minute information such as sporting fixtures, useful weblinks, a quick photograph or similar. Twitter is also extremely popular in the education sector for sharing thoughts and ideas between practitioners, and many teachers, myself included, have built ‘learning communities’ over the years, collaborating with hundreds or even thousands of educators from around the world.
- Twitter – http://twitter.com/pda3
Edmodo has a similar feel in, some respects, to using Twitter, but it is designed for school use, and can be ‘locked down’ so only pupils with permission can access. Pupils can communicate with the teacher and each other using Edmodo, with key e-safety skills being considered during the process. Edmodo can also be used for work submission and online polls and quizzes.
I’ve only recently discovered Pinterest, and whilst not a blogging tool itself, it is a super way of creating your own collections (called ‘boards’) of related web content, or exploring the boards created by others.
Weebly is an online website creation tool that includes a powerful blogging facility. Whilst Weebly is free, an educational upgrade to the ‘Pro’ version isn’t too expensive and allows lots of extra features. Weebly is relatively simple to learn how to use for blogging or for creating websites. Additional users can be given access via email, allowing multiple editors. Other notable features include easy embedding of documents including audio, video and even MS Office, and a wide range of customisable themes for your site or blog.
Examples of schools using Weebly:
- http://www.elmhurst.bucks.sch.uk/ (very good example of a blog used for the news)
Google Apps for Education
Google Apps for Education is free for schools, and includes some excellent blogging features. Users can create their own ‘sites’ using Google Sites, with an ‘announcement’ feature that is equivalent to a blog. Google Apps for Education can be configured so that sites are only visible to users within the school’s domain, meaning that pupil e-portfolios can be private.
WordPress is a very powerful blogging platform and is hugely popular in schools around the world. There are a number of companies that provide hosted WordPress sites specifically for schools, often with additional features and content.
Quadblogging is an inspirational idea that helps schools work together to create audiences for each other’s blogs. Find out more using the link below.
100 Word Challenge
Another excellent tool for engaging pupils. The focus here is on writing. Find out more using the link below:
Email Subscriptions and RSS
Parents may well wish to subscribe to a class or school blog to receive email updates whenever changes are made or new posts are added. Wordpress has many plugins to achieve this. If using Weebly, or most other blogging platforms, Feedburner (http://feedburner.google.com/) can be used to set up an email subscription list based on the RSS feed from the blog.
Content from a range of creative websites can be ’embedded’ in your blog posts. Below are some examples of content embedded from elsewhere.
Animoto – create amazing videos. Free for education. http://animoto.com/
Tagxedo – word clouds
Answer Garden – word clouds with participation