Sunday, 8 February 2015

Keys to success: Adventures in Blogging in Year 4.

Is blogging the key?
Tagxedo of text from our class blog page.

Whilst carrying out research for my CPD targets last year, I read a very insightful book by Mark Anderson - "Perfect ICT Every Lesson".The book contained may good ideas and prompted several questions for next steps in my classroom and school. 

Notes from my Thought Journal whilst reading the book.
The thread that made me think most was the section and suggestions on blogging. I had used closed online systems online before e.g. Edmodo and Superclubs, but I had not had time to explore blogging in the primary school. Mark's insights about Quadblogging and praise for the 100 Word Challenge encouraged me to read further. 

I decided to explore the options around a venture into blogging with my Year 4 class. I wanted an easy to use and secure platform for the children to use and easy bulk group management for myself. Looking through the list of posts on the 100 Word Challenge website, there were many very impressive pieces of writing; furthermore the prompts were varied and inspiring. My mind was made up, I wanted to give this a whirl with my class. One of the commonly used blogging platforms used on the 100 Word Challenge website was, it fit the criteria set out for my use with the class and setting the group up didn't take too long. As you are able to upload from a csv I was therefore able to use the usernames from the pupils' Google accounts with ease.

I pitched the site to my class at the end of October 2014, we had all of their accounts set up and ready from November 2015.

Incorporating the 100 Word Challenge into the classroom has inspired several of the more reluctant readers and writers to take an interest in reading and writing. Building opportunities for the children to participate in blogging is essential, we have put the blogging in as a guided reading activity. Within their carousel of activities the children have at least one opportunity to read ad respond to children's blog posts and write their own. Several children have continued to write their posts at home or during their own free time at school. Between 3rd November 2014 and 8th February 2015 35 100 Word Challenge posts have been published by children in my class. Many more posts have not made it past the draft phase - we either need to build more time into the guided reading cycle to enable the children to complete the draft, check, redraft, peer check publish cycle; or we need to build more opportunities at other parts of the school day. 

Improved engagement does not always equate to improved attainment or progress. I decided to measure the progress made by pupils in writing during the period we have been using Kidblog. The data makes interesting reading: 

There is no concrete way to know whether the rate of progress in Pupils A, C, E ad H has been directly accelerated by posting to the class blog. However, accelerating the progress of the children's writing is not the sole reason for blogging. The process of blogging satisfies many aspects of the National Curriculum:

"Purpose of study: Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world."
"Within the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum pupils should be taught to: "select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information."

Giving the children access to a wider audience, as authors, is far more important. They are extremely happy when they get a comment on their work from other pupils and teachers from around the globe. 

I shared our class blog with our school community during a Teachmeet last week, several staff have expressed a interest of joining in. Next steps could well be to Quadblog within our school. I will be continuing to use KidBlog and the 100 Word Challenge with my class and will roll it out across Years 5 and 6. First we have to get their new hardware set up. This week's ICT task: set up 16 Google Chromebooks and 53 Ipads. Very exciting! 

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