Monday, February 14, 2011

Blogs and Wikis Active Learning Sessions

Tomorrow, I'm doing a pair of 40 minute sessions as part of the school active learning in-service day on blogs and wikis for celebrating success and collaborative learning. I'm planning on delivering this primarily through a blog page, where possible involving the participants in the process. First of all, I want to involve the audience in sharing what they already know about the platforms. I might use this;

1. What are blogs and wikis?

By clicking on the link above, we'll hopefully see some responses in real time, although I'll probably trial this with a few people in the department in the morning in case of glitches. I have part of a presentation I used some years ago now which should help define what a blog is, so no peeking at the bottom of the post :-)

2. Why should I blog?

This gives some indication of why other people think it's a good idea for teachers to blog. I maintain that without a blog, I would have a far sloppier record of work, less and poorer lesson resources to draw from and a network which wouldn't really extend beyond my school or authority. I can say without hesitation that it has enriched my teaching and, hopefully, students learning. My own blog is here. Another teacher tells her story of how blogging helps her be a happier teacher here. Michael Stephenson also explains the benefits of being part of online communities here.

3. It seems very technical, it's not for me...

One of the most often used and flimsiest excuses for not exploiting the use of IT in lessons. I left University after submitting one piece of word processed work in four years and I paid someone else to do it. I worked in a bookmakers using a calculator and then in credit using nothing much more than powers of persuasion before becoming a teacher. Everything I use, I do so because it's easily within my capabilities. Using the link above, I'm going to show the audience how easy it is to blog, for instance;

Open email

Compose an email. Attach whatever you want to it, as long as you don't mind it being viewed by others- a word doc, powerpoint, picture, audio.

Send it to

Sit back and wait on your email coming back

Take ownership of your blog. You are now a blogger.

I want to illustrate that it's as simple as sending an email to start a blog. While people are doing this, I'm going to try sending a picture from the room via my phone to this. I think it's a great way to show students that when you say you are going to give their work an audience, you mean it and can demonstrate it by the end of the period.

4.That's fine. I've now got a blog. What about the students?

I think an even more compelling argument can be made for the involvement of students in blogging. Most are probably doing it without realising (facebook?). However, it's maybe best to leave the reasons to a student rather than teacher. This is a Y5 student (P6 equivalent) outlining her reasons for blogging. Thanks to John Sutton for the link. In my own experience, children are also pretty good at evaluating their own work and others. This was my first steps in trying blogs as a means of building a portfolio, something I think will become increasingly important in future assessment.

5. OK, my head hurts now and you're not even on to wikis yet...

I've tried to make this quicker and easier to get going on. I'm still really quite proud of the first wiki page I created, and this is it above. I'm going to give a dummy account out and let people have a play with the wiki page. It's basically as simple as editing a word document, except it can be someone else's work that you are editing. I think this is a great way to encourage kids to peer assess and build content, even through tried and tested formulas like past papers.

6. That's the basics. When I go away and try this, I'm bound to hit a snag...

That's probably correct. To make setting up a wiki simple, I've included a step by step guide here (not mine). It will also help with setting user permissions, so important in an educational wiki. Please feel free to ask me about this if you decide to set up your own. I'm also including a guide to using blogger, my preferred blogging host (simply because I've used it for so long), which goes into a little more detail about what can be done with a blog and how to do it. It's a little old now, and there may be some variations, but it's generally the same - presentation below. Again, any questions re: this or posterous, I'm happy to take.

7. Show me some more examples to inspire me!

Fortunately, there are loads. A good place to start might be your subject association. For example, the Geographical Association collate teacher blogs in the one place. Thanks to Alan Parkinson for these, my blogging mentor ;-). I should mention that glow now has blogs and wikis, and Alan Hamilton was kind enough to supply a list of blogs. Some colleagues have offered their wikis as examples too. Dave Terron, an English teacher, has a couple of example here and here. Caroline Breyley, a primary teacher from Shetland, has one here for a collaboration between schools. Drew Thomson, a Scottish Physics teacher working in England has this and this. However, there are so many that a simple google search will net loads of examples. It's about what works for individuals and groups, and the beauty of these tools is their flexibility, regardless of subject, age or stage.

Many thanks to all those who have helped put this together. If I've missed you out, it's not for lack of appreciation.