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The Power of Blogs at Boulcott School

Boulcott School in Lower Hutt is using class learning blogs as powerful online learning environments, which actively engage and motivate their teachers and students.

Milestone 5, Reflective Summary:

National goal 3

Teachers to integrate e-learning effectively into their practice creating an innovative and exciting learning environment for all students

With the intention of using this to move towards
National goal 4

Family and whānau to actively participate in their child’s learning

Cluster goal 3

Teachers and students use ICTs capably, creatively and considerately within authentic learning experiences resulting in higher levels of student achievement

With the intention of using this to move towards

Cluster goal 4

Family, whānau and the wider education community participate through online environments and the sharing and celebrating of eLearning

Aims and purpose

The aim of classroom blogs is to create another link with, and improve communication and engagement via ICT with the school community.

It is to be used as a window into the class learning.

The purpose of our class blog was to up-skill the teachers and children in the class on the skills needed to develop, contribute and sustain a blog. The class blogs have been used to support the embedding of e-learning into the classroom and aid student participation & contribution. These class blogs have been created and developed with the intention to progress the children towards having publishing rights on a teacher-owned blog. These blogs are to be used as their eportflolio replacing the previously used paper copy data books.

Links to current theory/research

1. The Ministry document ‘Guidelines for Beginners’ highlights the understanding that schools have kept paper documentation of children’s work throughout each school year. To move forward and engage our children as digital citizens the Ministry published ‘Guidelines for beginners’ to support school, teachers and children in moving forward with ICT. This has been a useful tool for us.

2. TKI e-learning and eportfolios. This website outlines the what and why we should use e-portfolios.

3. We looked at a number of blogs from others schools. Point England  Muritai School

4. Read the article by another Principal who had used his sabbatical to look at eportfolios, Graham Sullivan

5. Investigated the use of other eportfolios, ie mahara, commercial LMS, keynote, google sites.

6. In the link below are some keypoints that resonated.  We have been increasingly looking at improving student achievement in writing and the link between this and ICT.

http://www.assortedstuff.com/stuff/?p=70

Method, interventions and actions

Our first step was to move from Blogs being a choice of a few teachers through the school to making it mandatory. Each teacher had a blog set up for them. They were then walked though the processes of changing the settings to ensure that the blog operated in a uniform and safe way. Teachers expectations were set, they would maintain their classroom blog by regularly posting, (at least once a week).

The ICT leadership team has run techie breakies, PD sessions on blogging as well as regular support in team meetings to help the teachers to meet the expectations set. The contributions are there to share some of the learning experiences within the class. Class blogs are thought of as a window into the classroom (a concept learned from Carolyn Stewart at Tawa Intermediate).  

We had regular professional development on web 2 tools to enhance the content on the blogs.

ICT and the development of e-portfolios has been included as a strategic goal after community consultation. Therefore it is embedded into the school systems and annual targets. 

Summary of key results

Outcomes and impact

We saw that students became more engaged in the use of ICT. Teachers feel both enthusiastic about a new approach to engaging the children and community as well as daunted by the expectation that maintaining a blog site brings.

Teachers are now looking further afield, using other school blogs as a catalyst for updating and maintaining their own blog page. Students in some classes are adding to the blogs, allowing students to have more ownership of the learning that is happening within their class. All teachers at Boulcott School now have a classroom blog. After the 3 lead teachers trialing individual e-portfolios we now intend to move all Boulcott School children onto an individual e-portfolio by the end of term 3 2012.

Conclusions and recommendations

  • All classes are regular uses of their own and other blogs.
  • Teachers are more confident in using ICT and we actively look for this ability when employing new staff.
  • Children in the trial group are teaching parents how to blog.
    “Jim came home and showed me his blog.  He was so proud of it and so was I.  Then he taught me how to set up a blog. Now we use it as our family kind of diary.  It’ll replace our end of year Christmas newsletter.”

    It is interesting to note that Jim is dyslexic. Paper portfolios are not a good reflection of his learning.  Using programmes like vocaroo give him the chance to share his learning more holistically.
  • Students are excited about their learning through exposure to blogs.

Next steps

  • To have every child with their own e-portfolio and continue to develop their understanding of being a digital citizen.
  • For parents to use e-portfolios as a way to engage in their child’s learning.
  • Have a parent evening to share our ideas and show parents why and how we intend to use e-portfolios at Boulcott School.
  • Use effective professional development to allow teachers to seamless integrate e-portfolios  across the curriculum
  • Increase students’ hands on access to hardware, especially around digital devices.
  • To provide access for parents who don’t have a computer at home to participate.
  • For students to teach others in the spirit of Ako.