Report on Blogging
This is a copy of the Report done for Yorkshire and Humber grid for Learning. ( Feb2011)
Using a class blog to motivate writing.
On February 26th 2009 I launched our class blog.
I had previously set up a class website and it was possible to set up the blog so that it was linked from the class website. This was useful as the blog is http://shareit.yhgfl.net/leeds/hovingham/
The website is www.super-school.co.uk - and is therefore easier for the children to remember.
A set of 8 Fizzbooks were purchased at the start of the project from a grant from the YHGfL. These were set up in the classroom so that the children were able to access the Internet without relying on the school’s computer suite.
Introducing the class to blogging.
Initially the children were taught about internet safety and how to access the internet. This initial introduction to Internet safty is vital and we have repeated this at the beginning of each year.
The pupils need to log on to Leeds Learning net, before getting on the blog – and then logging on again to blog.
The importance of understanding e-safety and the dual logging on required, in my opinion makes blogging best suited to pupils from Year 2 upwards. In schools where children are more familiar with the Internet from home, it might be possible to start earlier, and there are examples on the web of schools with blogs in Year 1.
From Feb 2009 to July 2009 the children chose usernames that were based on the characters that they had made in Literacy for a Mr Men and Little Miss topic. The passwords were kept as 2Red ( the classname) for everyone. In subsequent years, as we have started Mathletics in year 2 the children are set up with blogging accounts that use the same username as their Mathletics username.
Initial objectives for the project.
When the project was set up with the YHGfL, it was hoped that blogging would motivate the boys to write and that it would also engage parents.
However in the 2009 it soon became apparent that very few families had the Internet, and that even in families where there was a computer, it was not for the younger siblings to use.
However 1 boy did have the Internet at home, and as an only child he was able to use it. He wrote on the blog from home, and also often wrote out his tables and number bonds. He clearly did not see that his blog entries needed to be just writing. His mother did not engage with the blog, but was happy that her son had found a way that he enjoyed writing and could use independently at home. His results at the end of the year showed that he had exceeded the schools expectation of his progress for the year.
September 2009 –July 2010.
The 2nd cohort of children to be introduced to the blog in Year 2 were a very boy heavy class.
In September 2009 I introduced Mathletics to the school from year 2-6. The enthusiasm for this meant that the children were much keener to use the Fizzbooks to access the Mathletics site, than to blog. However in sessions when we had the computer suite the class still continued to regularly blog, often on work related to their current Literacy lessons. Blogging definitely gave the children a purpose for their writing and they were always excited when they received a comment from the Head teacher. Still very few families had the internet at home, and there was only one girl whose uncle posted a comment for her. All other comments were from myself, a teaching assistant, or from the Head teacher. Receiving a comment definitely motivated the children to write, and clearly if it had been possible to get families looking and commenting on pupils work, it would have been great.
As an aside, another positive experience from blogging was when a girl pupil wrote a post from home, telling me how unhappy she was. She was new to the country and was lonely at school, but also unhappy in her new home. The post was send as a draft, and I was able to chat to her about it, and we never published the post. I had not anticipated being able to use the blog almost as a ‘worry box,’ but clearly this child had realised it was a way she could get a message to me. Our blog is set up so that all posts and comments need to be moderated by myself first before publishing.
In 2010 the Government had a scheme for families with a child in year 3 and above, who received free school meals, whereby they were eligible for a payment to purchase a laptop and Internet connection for a year. I ensured that all families who could benefit from the scheme were given the necessary information and most of these families did get the grant. Although my blog is with Year 2, it had a positive effect on our work as several of the children had older siblings and so they were part of these households that got new laptops and the Internet. However some children in year 2 do comment on the fact that older siblings do need the computer for their homework and therefore the time that they can access the Internet is often limited.
This subsequently resulted in more children blogging from home – although amongst the boys there was still a preference to use Mathletics when they were online. Still no parents commented on the blog. With 26 languages spoken by the pupils at Hovingham, and many families speaking English as an additional language - this may also explain why some parents are not presently commenting.
September 2010- February 2011
This year the children in 2Red were introduced to the blog and to Mathletics in the 1st week of Year 2. Again Mathletics usernames were used for the blog too. There is a definite increase in the children’s enjoyment of blogging this year. More families have the Internet and at a recent parents evening I handed all parents a sheet entitled, “Mrs Fisher’s Guide to using the Internet to support your child’s learning.’ Interest from the parents was significantly greater and now more than a third (12/30) of the parents said they did have the Internet at home and that they did allow their child to use it. Parents also appeared interested to know how to comment on the children’s work, although at present this has not happened.
Recently I have started to use Spelling City and Word Duck and have put links up on the blog for the children to use to play games to help them learn their spellings. This has been a successful strategy and children who previous made little attempt to learn their spellings are using these links and enjoying them! I have also incorporated the use of ‘Wordle’ into our sessions in the computer suite and the pupils have responded very well to this – I would like to use Tagxedo as the children could save their work as jpegs and then put them on the blog. Unfortunately at present the school computer suite does not support this site, as it requires Silverlite.
- Fizzbooks in the classroom are an excellent resource. To really integrate learning classes need access to laptops / computers, with internet access in their classrooms, in addition to a school ICT suite.
- More families now have the Internet – while this project to date has not been able to demonstrate the power of blogging in terms of engaging children in writing – it is clear that it’s impact is beginning to build and I would predict that in 2 years time it will be a powerful tool to drive learning and engage families in their child’s learning.
- The blog also has links to other sites that support learning across the curriculum – by putting all these links together; it has encouraged the pupils to look at other sites. Children now regularly play Mathletics and practise their spellings on Spelling City and WordDuck.
- Children are very excited when they receive a comment – at present this is mainly from myself and the Head teacher – but with more families having computers now, I am sure this will increase.
- During the period when snow closed the school, I blogged and gave the children tasks to do and links to use. Although only a few children accessed this, it is an important use of the blog, which again will gain momentum as more families get Internet access.
- I am now following teachers on Twitter, many of whom also use blogs to engage their pupils in writing. I feel that this is also increasing my knowledge about how best to use it. Ultimately it should be possible for my class to comment on other children’s blogs and also to receive comments from other classes.
Less positive aspects.
- So far I have not been able to take blogging further in my own school than my own class. This means that children learn the skills and get into blogging in 2red, but then don’t carry it on.
- Time management – it unavoidable that maintaining a blog does require time – and I feel that this is one of the main reasons staff are not keen to do one. Personally I think the time is well worth the positive gains of having a blog.
- Occasional comments that need deleting – I think this is inevitable – but shows why it is essential that comments and posts are moderated before publishing.
In conclusion I would like to thank the YHGfL for the grant which provided the Fizzbooks and for setting up the blog for me. While the project, at this point, does not show that ‘Using a blog encourages parental engagement and motivates boys to write at KS1’, I do feel that at present it demonstrates that blogging is becoming a powerful tool with which pupils can be motivated to write by providing them with an audience – which has the ability to feedback to the pupils.
What is required now to make this difference is
- More laptops/computers and Internet access in classrooms.
- More laptops/computers and Internet access in pupils homes.
- More staff engaged in blogging and actively commenting on pupils work – this may need some CPD to give staff knowledge and confidence.
- More parents engaged in blogging and actively commenting on pupils work – parents may need some support to become confident in doing this.