Friday, 24 October 2014

Blogs - my tool of choice

I am a self-confessed "eteacher". I tweet, blog, curate, clip, pin, pad(let), Google, research, wiki, QR code, filter, share, collaborate, comment, read, reflect, teach, learn...  However, on reflecting I have come to realise that I am a bit of a "blog addict". Not sure if that is a category, but you may recognise some similar traits. Of course I love Twitter - and my PLN, but I think they are different tools for different jobs.

I love blogs!  Writing and curating content for my own, following links to others from Twitter, reading blogs from educators I know and respect, reading blogs from educators I respect but only know from Twitter and they don't know me , but what the heck - it's Twitter, everyone is a friend! I also have my favourite "techie" blogs, the ones that keep me up to date with new ideas and new tools, searching, sifting and curating the web so I don't have to.

So, why do I think blogs are so powerful?
I think that blogs as a platform can serve many different purposes, for me they are more flexible and easier to use than Wikis (again I have several of those!) but it is the power of publication that makes them such a powerful tool for learners. The other aspect that links to publication is the reflection on a written piece of work. If a student hands in a piece of writing to their teacher, no matter what the standard, the only people who see it are the student and teacher. If it is a fabulous piece of writing, then hopefully it will get home to be shared with parents but probably it is destined for the desk, locker or even rubbish bin. This is where class blogs are fantastic. Writing, photos, videos, events, wonderings, learning etc is shared with the class and family. Students learn to reflect, comment and support others in their learning. The writing process of drafting/ editing/feedback/publishing works well. There are some very good ideas in this blog post from te@chthought about using technology to teach writing.

So how have I used blogs?
Last year I set up a Year 9 class blog inspired by many teachers including @annekenn, @MsBeez, @krivett @kiwiallana @Jackbillie35 and many more. The class blog Ti Kouka-Directions for Learning was a reasonable success. 

We just got started, we didn't wait to get it perfect. After everyone had posted on the blog and we had 1000 page views, we celebrated with cake (idea from Allana). Next time I create a junior blog, I would use it as part of the formative writing process which would fit in nicely in a year 9 or 10 programme.I know that for many primary schools, class blogs are used extensively, but are not as popular at secondary. I would love to hear from other teachers who are using class blogs at this level.

The other blog I started last year was called The Shed - a blog for blokes.
I started this because I had a lot of boys in my junior classes who were reluctant readers, reluctant writers and reluctant learners. The idea was to find interesting blokey stuff that we could share with the class and then use as starters to write about. We would find You Tube clips, Ted talks, dog stories, car stories, anything that would catch our attention. Not all of this went on the blog as some of the TED talks were too long, but it was great to expose them to lots of different ideas. The story about the Cyborg emphasised the potential impact of 3D printing. This was one of our favourites and highlighted the way technology is changing our world.

One of the challenges at secondary school is working out how to add something new on top of a busy curriculum and NCEA assessment. This is often the reason we don’t try to make even a small change in our practice. Teachers will say if it is not going to save me time then I’m not going to try it, or how do I know this will work or be better than what I am doing now. Do we need to move on from this kind of thinking?

This year I have also started a blog for staff here at my school(idea from @Aimiesibson) adding posts about interesting techie tools, advertising eCafe on Fridays, workshops and sharing articles and my own PD. This has been a low-key way to share elearning ideas and tools with the odd quiz  thrown in to make it interesting and a  chocolate fish as a reward. I have also continued to post on my own teaching and learning blog, with the posts able to be used as evidence for registered teacher criteria , linked to my appraisal portfolio.

I will finish with quotes from two educators I have been inspired by: Kevin Honeycutt @kevinhoneycutt who said"Don't wait to get it right,just start doing it"  or something similar. And Ewan McIntosh @ewanmcintosh whose image (below) appeared on the Twitter feed for Edutech14.

If you haven't started a personal blog then I encourage you to try starting one, or even just start a Google Doc and record your thoughts each day. And if you don't know what to write, here are some starters for blogging from the team at Te@chThought, courtesy of Justine Hughes @cossie29
And if you want to start a class blog, four resources below.

Bling4yrblog   Allanah King @AllanahK
Ako: Teacher Learnng    Allana Taylor   @kiwiallana


  1. Aaah how sweet you lovely lady, and after we had drinks last night too!
    Blogging is great for kids as a class, inspires them to write if they have their own and helps me sort my ideas out and be accountable to myself. Definately something to do.
    Class blog:
    Teacher blog:

  2. I really like how you have encouraged the students to contribute to the blogs. I have to admit to have had difficulties with this myself, and generally use blogs (in secondary) as a record of the lessons/learning that I write and manage. Student input is definitely the "next step".
    I must echo your comment about keeping a personal blog as well. These can provide excellent evidence for Appraisal, as well as making interesting reading when you have the time to reflect.