Blogging – I love that word, don’t you? According to Yahoo answers the first blogs emerged during 1997 and the Spring of 1999. Online journal author Peter Merholz took Jorn Barger’s word ‘weblog’ and split it into the phrase ‘We blog.’ Soon after the word ‘Blog’ became shorthand for weblog. I am almost ashamed to admit this but I only really discovered blogging a decade later in 2009. What was I doing with my spare time before then?
I caught up fast though, quickly discovering the joys of reading other blogs and of realising that I was not alone in the classroom. I learnt new things, I explored new tools, I made new friends. I also experienced the power of receiving positive feedback, from my own personal reflections. It was only natural that I became keen to bring this tool into my classroom, so my students could experience it too.
After checking out a few platforms I decided to sign up to edublogs. It seemed to me that using a tool which in many ways positioned itself at students, was the way to go for a novice blogger like me. So in January, I took the plunge, signed up and off we went. The experience has not always been easy, life in Year 5 is busy, blogging adds a whole new dimension to our day and our (my co-teacher and myself’s) workload. It has though been an overwhelmingly positive move.
Edublogs have been amazing, I really do not know how Sue manages it. Most of the time I have used their excellent help section for advice and on the couple of occasions when I could not work things out, help has been simply an email away. The edublogs class and student challenge also helped give meaning to some of our posts. Although, I have to admit, we are running a little behind on our tasks.
If you read other class blogs you will note that different teachers seem to have different uses for their blogs. Obviously other schools and countries have different ideas or guidelines on what is appropriate to place on the Internet in terms of privacy. So there are some blogs with many photos of their students and some with none. Others are used in much the same way as a moodle site with extensive links and lists of homework tasks etc. Taking it slowly we decided to start with weekly messages. Some of these showcase our students work, others reflect on our learning and some are just set as a homework task. Slipped into that mix are a few entries in the challenge, so filling posts has never been a problem.
What has been really interesting though, is our student’s enjoyment and engagement with the process. After several weeks of just commenting, I recently allowed several of them to set up their own blogs. I have linked these through to our class blog. The writing they are completing and the reading and commenting they are engaged in, is almost entirely in their free time. Without them even realising it, many of them are communicating around the world in an excitingly, new and authentic way.
So what do I see happening and why is it worth doing? I see reluctant writers, commenting almost daily. I see friendships being forged outside of the classroom. I see some of my more quirky individuals expressing themselves in new and creative ways. I see amazing peer tutoring in problem solving. I see some of the shyer ones opening up to others around the world. Real life learning about cyber safety, on-line protocol, creative commons, plagiarism and more is occurring in a real life context for my Year 5 students every single day.
Check us out: year5rc, after all that all important flag counter needs more flags!
Check these other examples too.
The Blogdogs – Mitch Squires doing great things with his Year 3 class also in Sydney.
Room 13 – Pam Thompson and her Year 6/7 class in South Australia. Pam’s blog is full of fabulous entries and interesting links.
Miss T’s classroom – Ms Trask’s Year 5 class in New Zealand who we Skyped with a few weeks ago, to great excitement.
Blogging is not for everyone, not all of my class were interested, not all of the parents would allow it, but for those that are the rewards are immense. Yes it can be an effort, and not easy to set up, but if you are prepared to meet the challenge, it can be done and you and your students will be so much the better for it.