This is an update on my progress since a previous post Blogging: the new exercise book? Aware that the notes in some of the student’s books were not useful to them I wanted to try out another way of recording our lessons for absence, revision, review and reflection.
I have emboldened the text so my tips for blogging stand out without having to re-read the entire post.
My year 8 group have been blogging for all their lessons this year. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of the process so far.
Laptop (The addition of desktops in classrooms this year has enabled me to use my school issued laptop for blogging)
Smart phone (I let the students take pictures on my smartphone… I have made the expectations very clear!)
WordPress website (I bought the domain name and set up rouseclassblogs.com)
WordPress android app
The setting up process
I set up a blog last year and after some deliberation decided on putting all blog posts on the main page. While other pages can be created the process is quicker if the posts are all on the main page.
I created an instruction sheet to sit alongside the blog computer so students can check how to add pictures and tags etc.
I get the students to put their first name and initial on their mini whiteboards each lesson. This allows me to post their work, for them to identify it but it dow not identify them to anyone else. No student is ever in any picture on the blog (apart from one set of hands holding some top trump cards)
An example of student’s work in class that has been used on the blog
The process in lessons
Currently my students are on a rotation that uses two of them per lesson for the blog. One writes the explanation and the other takes pictures. Imagine a reporter and his photographer and you have a pretty good idea of how it currently works. I think this ticks my cross-curricular links to the English faculty. Furthermore we are pushing our literacy across the curriculum so our poster for reminding students of the basics of punctuations sits next to the blog computer.
The class are a very nice bunch and they seemed to be interested in the blog, which I demonstrated on our first lesson. There have been some issues to overcome so far:
Pictures to WordPress! Initially I tried using the WordPress app, taking pictures and posting them as private posts. You can then get access to the pictures through the media library. However, after taking loads of pictures of the student’s work it turns out that if you take the picture first it doesn’t work. I was gutted as I thought I may lose them if I promise that their work will be displayed and they find non of it on the first blog post. Fortunately I have a resilient class, either that or they didn’t bother to look at the blog. So the following lesson having solved this problem, taking all the pictures on my phone then doing a bulk upload at spare moments in class, it was working.
After a whole lesson with comments and pictures on the post we embarked on a plenary of deciding on the tags (keywords) for our lesson. Once complete I cheerfully clicked on publish to find the network was down and the blog post was lost. I spent an hour and a half re-writing it based on the times I had dropped in on my bloggers to check their work.
The process is getting better, but it is a lot of work while also managing a class. After everyone has blogged and we have reviewed it the process can be refined and should become easier to manage.
Do the bloggers learn? There was always a danger that the bloggers would not make the progress of the rest of the class. While there have been some occasions during starter tasks where the previous lesson’s blogger has needed a bit more guidance I have found by sitting and discussing the blog for a few minutes during the lesson and making sure the students add examples into the blog we are overcoming this hurdle and they are achieving the same understanding as the rest of the class.
I now have a record of all my lessons with this class in chronological order, tagged and categorised. I anticipate this being a useful source of information for parents and the students should they be ill or need to revise but this part of the blog does not seem to have come into its own yet.
The blog will be a record of formative assessment and feed into the APP process as I level the students over the course of the year.
I want to publicise this to the parents more as I would like to have every parent signed up to follow the blog. I imagine parents at work getting an email letting them know that their child has just had a maths lesson and they can have a look at it there and then.
Regular review of the blog will help increase the quality of the posts and their use after lessons. I am going to get the students to comment on the posts and build a best practice list which we can display above the blog computer.
In its current form I would not be able to carry out a blog for more than two of my classes. It is important that I review each post before publishing so I do not want to rush it but I would like to extend this to more classes over the year. As the students become more familiar with the process then they should develop more independence with it. I am keen to not lose focus on the fact that the blog is only worthwhile if it benefits learning. To establish the effectiveness of the blog on student learning a cycle of action research will be necessary. Particularly gathering feedback from students and parents. I have already asked my learning triangle (this is a new process for managing our professional development) at school to view the blog and feedback to me. They are not in the mathematics faculty and therefore I hope they will be able to provide constructive feedback on how the blog can be utilised to its full potential. This peer review will be very useful and I hope it will also inspire others to try a class blog in other subjects.
I am pleased with the blog so far and glad I have put the effort into getting it running every lesson. The students are keen to find out when their turn is and the posts are developing despite being a more pictures than text.
Has the blog replaced my exercise books…. Not completely but only key information goes in the exercise books now. I have found the students are more confident trying things out when working on whiteboards and then we can record the key notes in 5 to 10 minutes each lesson.
Let me know what you think and if you ahve any suggestions or tips for improving my class blog.
Thanks for reading