Brian McLaren: How classroom blogging enables learning narratives
Brian McLaren is Depute Head Teacher at Clackmannan Primary School in Clackmannanshire. In this blog post he describes how classroom blogging has enabled pupils to develop their own personal and collaborative blogs while developing technical skills and demonstrating reading and writing skills across the curriculum.
Over the last 6 months or so our school has taken on blogging for a range of purposes and we are delighted with the way it has gone.
In September 2010 we had no blogs, but the germ of an idea that they might be useful, through to March 2011 when all 180 of our children from p4-7 had personal blogs , all 11 of our classes had outward facing blogs, 11 teacher evaluation blogs were ongoing, and a DHT blog and an HT blog were in place and working well.
There are a number of key aspects to the success of our blogging and the idea of personalisation and choice is certainly key. When we started I was very keen that the children felt that they had control over their blog so we spent a good couple of hours looking at different ways of making their blog feel like their own. All of the blogs we use are hosted within Glow and are based on Wordpress so we were able to play around with themes and then very quickly move onto configuring and personalising the appearance changing layouts and headers, adding widgets etc.
Children loved avatar makers like lego minimizer (kid safe version), and the quick creative control of sites like anymaking and Graffitimaker let them express themselves quickly and easily, while learning a huge range of technical skills in context.
The blogs are growing into a real learning narrative for the pupils where they can describe what they have been doing, across the curriculum, and link and embed their work. We love Voki because we can create characters that suit our learning and have them speak our words (sometimes even in our voice). We love glogster edu and the creative outlet it provides allowing us time to think about how messages are put across and how important presentation and layout are to that message. We love Prezi and how we can create interesting and engaging presentations and tailor them to our audience. All of these sites allow us to develop and extend our knowledge skills and understanding but without the narrative of the blog they are disparate and soon lost and forgotten, if you can write a blog post about how you tackled Prezi, or Voki or Glogster and link it to clear learning outcomes then you make learning real and personal.
If you then take the great strength of blogging that is audience and add that into the mix then you are creating a very potent brew. Each of our classes manage their own outward facing blog and have embedded visitor counters and maps. These are checked regularly and the excitement and motivation generated by watching red dots appear on your map showing where in the world people are reading your blog is unbelievable! If some of these visitors go so far as to leave a comment then a real dialogue can take root as you are inspired to follow their link, read their blog and leave comment on it. This is reading and writing for a real life purpose, we have links to schools and classes all over the world.
Since beginning our blogging journey children are identifying clear links between reading and writing, developing their technical skills, creating texts with a responsibility for a real audience and dealing with almost immediate feedback from all over the world. Blogging gives our children all of this and more.