As I explained to Mr Waugh @edutronic on Twitter, I really have a different approach to blogging.
I admire the many tweachers for blogging excellent diatribes on cutting edge pedagogy and I admire the many well-written polemics arguing about the politics of new pedagogy.
But I guess as a Head of English and active SLE, I mainly put my blogs to direct practical use in attempting to extend the classroom learning experiences of my students.
So here are the four main areas I have employed blogs in my teaching…
1. Blogs to stretch and 2. celebrate
Right, for years I really wanted to set up a blog to celebrate student achievement in the subject. A way of placing a gallery of best work online.
Eventually I set it up. What amazed me were the stats when I returned to the blog a few days later after placing the first posts. 135 visits, 65 on Blackberries, 8 in Canada, 2 USA, 3 Kenya. Suddenly they weren’t taking their great work home to Mum or Dad and having it placed on the fridge under a fridge magnet. They were posting on Facebook and linking to Gran across the Atlantic, to Dad in Africa (hence long distance posts). The Blackberry evidence showed that they must be showing their friends their work. When would they normally do that with an exercise book? Publishing online obviously meant a lot more streetcred to students and achieved the intended outcome – shared celebration of best classroom practice!
So with this same group I decided to use the blog as an incentive to experiment with ways in which I could stretch them. This is a top set of Yr 8s and now 9s. Our aim is to have them at GCSE A/B standard by end of year 9 and up to A* for GCSE and then on to our 6th form (and no one else’s!)
For example, we did research on the social context of To kill a Mockingbird. The students had to work as a team (meaning meeting up outside of lessons and assigning roles for each other) sign up to times where they could borrow equipment and some decided to meet up out of school to complete. So a short presentation on the social context which has to use a mixture of writing then extended into podcasts and then into a short film. Best won a prize and exhibiting on the blog
http://www.justusks4-2013.blogspot.co.uk/p/yr-9.html – check the last short film
Or simply play this video
Similarly, my student teacher, suggested a rap as Scout. I thought this may be a little naff. No – how wrong I was…
Click here for Owen’s rap! (https://dc2.safesync.com/FRTwFWz/R09_0112.MP3?a=h1NN9_QVVwI)
How about a short film made with their toys/puppets/dolls to show the tension in Act 1 of A View from a Bridge? (My faves are Lego and Last one – with its tense close-ups). http://justusks4-2013.blogspot.co.uk/p/yr-9-view-from-bridge_27.html
Again the stats went through the roof with these. Students so excited to share their work with parents, friends and relatives. 5 different countries logging in to share in their success.
An any visible impact? These students are currently achieving 20% A* work, 40% A and 30% B and 10%C in their first year of Ks4.
3. Blogs to aid revision
Ok, I have run these for a while. Have a stroll about the following pages: http://www.bishopjustusenglishyear11.blogspot.co.uk
These are some highlights:
Lit Unit 2 Section A: http://www.bishopjustusenglishyear11.blogspot.co.uk/p/lit-unit-2_19.html
this page includes:
- a prezi on how to approach the exam.
- Podcasts on most poems studied by my groups. This allows 2 min revision guide which they can download and listen to on the bus, at home or before the exam, while looking at the text. I cant see a revision guide being more useful than their own teacher (no matter how boring and monotone my voice) taking them through the poems – reminding them of what they originally learned in class.
- Conflict poem – Prezi. This is where Prezi (now stop the hating out there) begins to come into its own. The notes and annotations from a revision class with a top set have been photographed and placed into a prezi to allow revision in one place. Then simple to embed form Prezi. Click here for Conflict revision at Prezi – or just click here and scroll to see it within blog. This allows zooming and moving around with students able to zoom into areas they want to see.
- There are also links to other good revision resources “magpied” from all over.
- Several PPT jpegs and mindmaps from students
- Scroll to bottom. Now here PREZI fully moves into its own. I have photographed a mind map and then used prezi to move around the map in sequence to help revision. LOOK AT THE ONE ON DEATH. click here to view in Prezi away from blog. This shows students how to plan for an essay while at the same time providing a useful way of viewing an effective mind-map.
Finally these revision blogs allow students to ask questions and even answer each other’s questions – this is especially useful during holidays or study leave.
All blog posts are moderated through me before arriving on the blog.
NEXT STEP: have students who have completed their exams write retrospectively advising others on how to apporach exams, revise etc.
4. Blogs for Staff JPD
As I said earlier, I don’t use this to blog to set out groundbreaking ideas of my own. Nor do I attempt to blow the world of education away with originality, but simply document what we discuss in our teaching and learning forum lunches at school and then any other useful stuff shared in the net, or by colleagues.
The advantage of blogging it? The Search function. Search for peer assessment or SOLO etc, the posts present themselves.
I was particularly complimented by @gwenelope and @Akrill’s compliments of calling it an “aladdin’s cave” of “magpied stuff”. It is still in its infancy but I can really see its uses.
Have a look, let me know your thoughts and if you like please feel free to tweet or retweet. The site went live really less than a month ago and outside of school last week. It is now on 2300 views. So shared practice from 6 teachers has spread a wider net and begins to spread globally. We do not see this as originality – but purely a sharing of pedagogy, teaching innovation and resources.
To strengthen this, I felt the need to share demonstrated good practice. So we used DV cameras to shoot short demos of innovative practice and edited them together (nothing longer than 10 mins). We also edited clips from IRIS. Labelling them with tags for moments of importance, we put them online. These couldn’t be placed on the blog as students are in them and we needed security to reveal them only to staff at the school. So I produced a concrete 5 web hub on the school’s server. This is password protected and allows teachers to share best practice or original ideas, and then accept comments or questions from others. This helped teachers share practice without having to be freed up to visit others within the timetable.
We are a Good with Outstanding school and time will now tell if this can help convert those regular “goods” to regular “out standings”.
So that is most of my showcasing of some the uses of blogs in my practice.
I hope this was coherent enough, as I have been distracted by fantastic Gareth Bale goals and Spurs going above Chelsea in the league – I may have missed some grammatical errors!
As my first tweachie blogpost to the outside world, I would love some feedback and am happy to help out and answer questions if needed. @englishteach23
Chris Healey @englishteach23