I first turned to Blogging about three years ago when the Writing Folio was introduced at NQ level in English. English teachers had been calling for a creative writing element to be returned to the final exam grade – it had previously been an internal assessment at pass or fail – and, while a Folio was certainly not what we wanted that’s what we got. I wanted to avoid the usual pile of paper, written for an audience of one, so turned to Blogging. I wasn’t tech savvy at all. I used Glow blogs, not because they were the best option; they were the only option. Looking back now I’m glad I did. My senior classes were a bit unsure. They still felt that they were writing for an audience of one and when I opened the blog up for peer comments they initially reverted to insult and mockery. As teenagers tend to do as a default position. However, after we discussed ways to peer assess something started to happen. I began to see posts at 11pm, 2.30 am. 11.30am (when they were avoiding Maths in the library!- and the blog began to take shape.
Throughout that year I also had S1 blogging about their reading; S2 blogging about Inanimate Alice and S3 and S4 blogging reflectively about their learning. Some took to it more keenly than others; some still wanted to write on paper. No problem. What blogging did for me was to understand more the importance of audience. Writing for an audience of one is tedious and counterproductive.
What I had at the end of the year was the makings of what I thought could develop into e-portfolios. How can we achieve that?
So why blog in the classroom. It certainly helped my students to become more reflective learners. When we emphasise the word ‘Publish’ in class as an alternative to Write, they do see a bigger picture and take more care to ensure work is accurate. It allows students to showcase their writing – and more and provide instant connections between parents and school. It allows students to celebrate achievement through a collection of their work. And not just ‘Best Work’ . If done properly a blog can display improvements through early written drafts to final pieces.
If we are to seriously see a 3-18 curriculum as a viable and workable option then Blogs/ e-portfolios need to be our way forward. We can all trace the development of the child throughout their school career with out having to wait to be sent work from previous teacher, previous school. And maybe, just maybe, if we trust learners to use ICT responsibly in schools they may well be allowed to establish real online identities with our assistance rather than doing it themselves under a cloak of anonymity and hidden from adults. Our current policies are doing more damage than good. And arguably not protecting them at all.
Although I used Glow as it was all that was available to me there are other platforms available for this kind of work. Some swear by edmodo – @funky_penguin and @nwinton for a kick off – and that is the one thing I will try when I return to school this week. However I also use threering.com , and app which allows me collect evidence of assessment in photographic form as well as video and podcast. Think of the possibilities.
I am not doing anything new or particularly original in my class. This is not new technology. It may changing; it may be developing and improving; but is already out there. And generally for free.
We teachers have only one thing at our disposal and that is our ability to teach the best we can. It is up to us to develop the best lessons for our students to take our teaching foreword. E-portfolios seem to be a great way of celebrating the achievements of our classes as well as providing great assessment material. Let us return to our schools and develop great series of lessons, with blogs and edmodo and three ring or whatever you want to use – and go and knock on doors to get permission to get Blogging started. Knock those doors down if you have to. We have an opportunity here to set real change in motion. Let others say no if they want to. But don’t assume that they will.