Using a class blog in the classroom can be an effective and powerful tool. In this post I’m going to share how I integrated it into my classroom and why this proved to be a wise decision and a great learning experience for both my students and myself.
How it all started
It was April 2012 and we were about to start a collaborative project with my 6th graders. I’ve always been an advocate of project work and considered it a highly learner-centred and effective way for language learning. Students love it as well because it can be totally personalised and creative.
So, the project was called songs parade and it had been successful with many students over the years:
Students work in groups, select their favourite song and turn its lyrics into a cloze for their classmates (a fill-in the gaps quiz). They then make a word document with the quiz, put pictures and give me to make photocopies for their classmates. Each group is to present their project on a different day; they can talk a little bit about the song and singer/band, play the video clip on the IWB (before an IWB was installed in class, we used a CD player, which was also great) and ask their classmates to fill in the gaps. Depending on the group, feedback is given in class or the presenters take the photocopies home, correct them and even give a mark (they love doing this!).
Why not move this project onto a blog?
The reason for taking that decision was that all project work my students had been involved so far had a particularly limited audience (their classmates) and that after the presentation the projects were filed in their portfolios and got forgotten or even lost. There was of course, some discussion and feedback after each presentation but time never allowed us for a deep and constructive reflection. “A class blog that could host this would be great” I thought, and started researching blogging platforms and services.
Our first class blog
I need to admit that at the time my knowledge of setting up and running a blog was extremely limited but technology is something that can only be learned through trial and error. You can never tell what a tool is like or whether it works for you unless you get your feet wet, play with it, make mistakes and work out solutions.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the things I didn’t know but also excited I could give my students the opportunity to
- extend their audience beyond classroom walls.
- engage in a discussion through comments.
- go back to what they have created and reflect on it.
- keep a permanent record of their work.
And that’s how it all started. Looking back, I can confidently say it has been the best project I’ve ever been involved in, not only because it proved to be extremely successful but mainly because of our shared enthusiasm of trying something new. I was not the expert who taught students English but a fellow learner who was learning with them. We made mistakes, got stressed, experimented, laughed our heads off, agreed and disagreed but we enjoyed every single minute of it. This is a sample of my students’ work posted on our very first blog called song parade.
Our current blog
Little by little and as we were discovering the potential of class blogging, we felt that apart from hosting our song projects it could host students’ reflections and anything they wanted to share. So we unanimously decided to rename it to blogging town so as not to restrict ourselves to only music-related content. Since then, students have been blogging about anything: their hobbies, their favourite celebrities, issues such as internet safety and the environment, celebrations, to mention just a few. You can take a look here and here. The range of topics can be really endless and it depends on the particular interests of your students as well as your teaching objectives. It’s totally up to you. I usually set challenges and topics that students can work on collaboratively but individual ideas are always welcome and students know they can write about anything they feel like to. It’s really great to see them taking the initiative to blog without being assigned to. This is what blogging is all about, isn’t it?
I’m not sure if this blog will continue to be hosted on blogger or if I decide to move it to edublog. It’s an informed decision I need to make for the forthcoming school year considering some issues I have encountered on blogger- mainly that it may be blocked by parental control filters making it difficult for some students to work from home. You see, you never stop learning, experimenting and working out solutions once you get started. There’s always something better to discover and experiment with; and that’s the beauty of the journey I reckon, isn’t it? 🙂
(On a forthcoming post I’m going to share some practical tips on class blogging based on my experience and what I have found on the way)