Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Class blog - a tool for reflection

Over the last two years my class of Year 6 students (aged 10 and 11) have had the opportunity to regularly participate in creating content for our class blog.

I would like to reflect on the “whys” and “hows” of the class blog and where we are with it now.
Part of my teaching philosophy is the belief that children need the opportunity to reflect, create, self assess and take part in authentic experiences which they can use to construct their understanding of the world around them.

Moreover, I think it is important to allow the children to have the opportunity to create “for the real world” and have the opportunity to display, justify and critique their work to a wider audience than simply the class or even the year group. In fact, last year, when I began structuring the blogging experience, the class was becoming very excited. One of the boys pointed out something quite interesting, the fact that now, his older brother who was away at another high school, could now read about what he had been doing.

As noted earlier, there had been detailed discussions with the school’s principal and we were given the green light to create, along a carefully delineated path which I had mapped out, our Blended Teaching and Learning Environment (BTLE).

As a class we had to determine how we would contribute to our blog, how we would maintain control and address privacy issues while still allowing the children to analyse, create and evaluate in our learning community. We initially housed our blog at Wordpress.com and then set to work setting up the blog.

For security reasons, it was decided that I would be the person to post messages for the time being although the content would be contributed by the children. Furthermore, as a temporary measure, it was decided that comments would not be allowed. It was not ideal, but I also knew that the roadmap ahead promised far more opportunities in the future, and this was a small step toward that.

The class and I then set out our ideas of how to organise our content and who would write it. We eventually decided that a weekly rota would be created so that everyone in the class had an opportunity to contribute reflective content about what they had done.

In the end, the first year of our blog was very successful, with over 5000 visits in an academic year. As we moved along, we fine tuned how we ran it but essentially, I continued to be the sole person responsible for placing content on the site after the children had discussed, drafted and written the material.

This year we have moved our blog to Blogger.com mainly because of the improved ability to use widgets. As a result, we have added items like a customised layout, Shelfari, and other widgets which we actively use in our lessons. Another change we have carried out this year is the allowing of comments. While the comments are always moderated by myself, it has now opened the door to far better reflection and discussion both outside of class and inside. Now, postings which get comments are topics of discussion in lessons as well, and the children are reading and writing as a fun activity which helps to increase interest and passion! The last change to our class blog policy has been to allow all the children in class to be contributors to the blog. They can edit their own posts as well as comment on others, but I still control the content to maintain security.

The class blog is just one aspect of the children’s PLE. Nevertheless, it has made a huge difference in they way they approach their lessons. They are increasingly recognising that we are creating a Community of Learners where their work is authentic, reflective and which they have ownership over.

Do you have a class blog? How do you arrange contributions to it? Which widgets do you use and why? How has a class blog helped your students? Share some of your insights with us in the comments!

Photo Credit: Maria Reyes-McDavis


kunami10 said...

Congrats to you and your class for a sucessful first year of blogging. I look forward to seeing how your journey continues this year.

Meredith (@msstewart) said...

Last year I kept a class blog which my 6th graders (age 11) commented on

This year my students each have their own blogs. I've loved seeing the ways in which they've customized their blogs, and I love it when they post without being required to! The blogs are used for lots of different subjects- math, english, science, music, etc. I am still keeping a class blog, but it's mostly become a place to describe what's going on in the classroom and link to student blogs.


happy blogging!

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