Friday, 11 October 2013

Student Blogging Challenges

In the weeks leading up to the start of my current teaching position, I discovered that my co-teacher was keen to get our class started with blogging. Yay! Student blogging was a rather appealing idea to this little newbie teacher and so my brain raced off at a million miles an hour with all kinds of plans. Fast forward a couple of months until today and... Well... It's still a rather appealing idea. The practicalities of it, however, are rather less appealing and overwhelmingly rather more challenging.

We chose to use Edublogs because it has a great security record (we're able to hide the blogs from websearches too which is pleasing to many parents), it's NOT blocked by our school system and offers a really wide range of options - in terms of formats, files, and memberships.  My co-teacher actually signed up as a premium user last year (but for a range of reasons her kiddos' blogs never really took off) so we're sliding in on her paid subscription - pretty lucky huh? (Thanks Miss B.!) This level of membership allows our students to upload files which is great for allowing them to showcase their learning. I'm slowly learning more about the functionality of the platform, but there are some pretty interesting features.

However... For reasons that tend more to user error (mine) than anything else, the process of setting up our students' blogs has lead to actual tears of frustration  (again, mine). Without boring you with the whole saga just let me say that it took the two of us HOURS to sort it out to the point that we currently have 16 (out of 30) student blogs set up and linked to our class blog. ONLY 16! The issues have grown to include the expected 'forgotten passwords' (even after being asked to set their password to a given shared password to avoid this very problem); blogs mysteriously appearing archived; students mysteriously not having privileges to access even their own blog; some students' requiring additional support to use the technology; and challenges posting particular file types. We're working through the issues as a class, in small groups and one-on-one, but it's taking time and is - as you can imagine - rather frustrating.

Creating a 3D shape which was later
labelled and shared on the blog .
The challenges have been huge but so too are the benefits. The students are eager to write on their blogs, and excited to share their learning. Knowing that their work will be seen by someone other than a teacher makes the task much more authentic. Pride is being shown where previously it wasn't. Students are demonstrating their learning using web 2.0 tools (many of which I'd never previously heard) and sharing links in their blogs. Peer tutoring as one student learns a new shortcut or tool is more and more common. Greater levels of independence and engagement are already evident. These are all fantastic developments!

They'd be even better developments if the whole class could access them, but we're not quite there yet. Student blogging is all about learning though so we'll keep trying and looking forward to our next point of learning. I'm really looking forward to reaching a point along our journey at which parents and families are able to be engaged in our teaching and learning programme through our student and class blogs. I love the idea that our students will be able to use their blogs to both showcase their learning and reflect on it. The opportunities for connections that can come from blogging are quite exciting, and I hope that our students are able to take advantage of them. This project, for all the frustration and challenges, remains appealing and exciting.

Do you have any tips for us?

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...
Standard 2.6 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) 
Standard 3.3 Use teaching strategies
Standard 3.7 Engage parents/caregivers in the educative process
Standard 4.1 Support student participation
Standard 4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically
Standard 6.2 Engage in professional learning and improve practice
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2 comments:

  1. It must be as satisfying as a glass of premium Adelaide Hills shiraz to watch kids positively teaching their peers.

    ReplyDelete