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Blogging it

John Johnson, a teacher at Sandaig Primary School, finds that blogging is a way of breathing a new life into the curriculum.

Primary Teacher, Sandaig Primary School

Despite what some educational consultants and gurus say, new media in schools is not a revolution. It is actually a natural extension of what we, as teachers, already do.

About 2 years ago I set up Sandaig Primary's first blog for my Primary 6 class. The idea was to give the children more ownership of the school website, and an increased audience and purpose for writing.

Boosting confidence

What was immediately apparent on setting it up was the pupil's enthusiasm. Online publishing changed the pupils' perceptions of work. Publishing their work not only boosted their confidence but also gave their efforts a purpose.

After blogging for a while some of the pupils' posts began to receive comments from around the world. This has had a positive effect on the pupils: as a teacher, my comments on their poems, for example, may be welcome, but it's even more encouraging to get praise from a real poet.

Recently I was introducing a primary four class to blogging as a shared writing activity using an interactive whiteboard. The children took photos of a wall display and together wrote a post describing them and the work involved in creating them.

Within a few hours they had a comment from a teacher in Slovakia asking if she could use the idea in her classroom. Another blogger on classroom displays also commented and asked permission to use the photo on that blog. A lovely "conversation" developed between some of the Primary 4 pupils (some from home) and the teachers involved, giving the children real validation and pride in their work.

Blogging as classwork

We have used blogs for creative writing, communication to parents from school trips, shared writing, consolidation of ideas and concepts for individual and group work.

Posting such work online is not a dramatic evolution; it's just another way of displaying and creating pupils' work. The web has become just another wall (albeit stretching the globe) on which to pin stories, essays, compositions and pictures. And blogs can breathe new life into tasks across the curriculum. For example, we include podcasts (audio which can be downloaded) on our sites.

Although pupils think they are making a fun radio show and learning about computers, they are in fact working on writing, talking and listening. The pupils involved are beginning to give each other valuable feedback. They willingly write and record in their own time, if necessary to get a program out in time.

Setting up a blog

Setting up a blog for schools need not just be for enthusiasts. The software is becoming easier and easier to use and, can be installed on school websites or developed for free through online services, some designed specifically for education.

For blogging all you need is an internet enabled computer; for podcasting, some free software and a cheap microphone.
You also need a wee bit of enthusiasm to make a blog work for your pupils, and this may even mean using some of your spare time.

The value of blogging

Blogs have a value far beyond simply helping improve pupils' computer skills. In fact, it is not really about computer skills at all. Blogs give children a voice, build a sense of community and help make pupils feel more a part of the school. Also, parents are given a window to their children's' work and teachers can witness the unbridled enthusiasm of their classes for tasks that would normally elicit less enthusiasm.

For me, Sandaig Primary's blogs are just another teaching method, and one we have only just started to scratch the surface of.

Visit Sandaig Primary's blogs at www.sandaigprimary.co.uk