To Blog Or Not To Blog? is a talk which was given at this year's Scottish Learning Festival, SETT 06 about the blogging and podcasting experiences of Woodhill Primary School in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire. Introduced by Fiona Andrew, LT Scotland and delivered by Susan Buchanan, Principal Teacher, Fiona Cunningham, classroom assistant and three Primary 7 pupils from Woodhill, the seminar describes how the project has helped pupils learn French in and out of school.
Quoting from the blogger website, Susan emphasises that a blog is "whatever you want it to be ... a personal diary, a daily pulpit, a collaborative space, a political soapbox, a breaking-news outlet, a collections of links, your own private thoughts, memos to the world ".
She gives an overview of the Woodhill project, explaining:
- what blogs and podcasts are
- how they can be used purposefully and not in a contrived way to raise attainment
- why teachers would want to use them in an educational setting
- how others can get started in their own schools, mentioning the online blogging and podcasting guide PC Pod developed by the LT Scotland Masterclass initiative as an excellent place to begin.
Fiona Cunningham gives us some background on how she got involved in the project, as well as her thoughts on how it has raised motivation amongst pupils in learning French vocabulary.
After some groundwork training on using the new technology, Fiona and classroom teacher Jennifer Derrick recorded sound files and made worksheets together which Susan and Fiona Andrew uploaded to the Woodhill blog. Groups of six pupils at a time learnt how to use iTunes, download a podcast and operate one of the four iPods they had access to. Once the pupils had mastered these skills, Fiona says she was amazed how keen they were to listen to the podcasts during wet breaks, lunch time or any other free time they had.
"They were queuing up to learn their French. We found they were having competitions amongst themselves. They were making up games. The children were testing themselves and we were amazed at the amount of children who were getting all the vocabulary correct. The children were then invited to bring their own mp3 players into school and we uploaded the sound files on to them. This enabled the children to work on their French at home. Later when we looked at the worksheets we were amazed at the number of children who were getting all or nearly all of the vocabulary correct. But then it was fun one day, Susan and I overheard the children saying that they had cheated because they had listened to their iPods the night before. So they knew exactly what they were going to be tested on, but this is what we wanted them to do anyway. So we were really pleased. The children who didn't have mp3 players were able to log on to the blogspot and they were able to listen to their lessons there."
Pupils from the school, Callum, Lauren and Sandy demonstrate how they would listen to a web exercise on their iPod by playing a sound file on learning different weather types in French from the school blog.
"This a great opportunity to learn because instead of standing in class with everybody else shouting out the answers we had our own personal teacher and it was brilliant. I brought my own iPod into school and Mrs Cunningham and Mrs Buchanan downloaded the things for me. So if I was out with my iPod I could start listening to my French instead of my music. It was brilliant for me and I've got on much better with my French now."
The children then show how easy it is to publish a post on the blog and leave a comment, reminding us of the importance of using a spell checker!
For the final part of the presentation, Susan gives more practical examples of how blogs or wikis can be used in education and highly recommends the book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms by Will Richardson as a way of getting started. To finish, she answers some questions about internet safety from the audience, reassuring them that all comments are moderated and that the school has never received an inappropriate one to date.
Susan has made her presentation including relevant weblinks available on a new To Blog Or Not To Blog blog where teachers are invited to leave comments about their own ideas on using school blogs. David Muir and John Johnston who were in the audience have also written posts about the seminar on their respective blogs.
To listen to the seminar click here