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Blogging @ St Mary's Christchurch - reflective summary by Murray Debenham

Background:

The three Christchurch schools of St Annes, St Mary’s and St Albans Catholic School are part of the Kura-Iwa Cluster in the third year of their ICT PD contract.

At the beginning of the contract each school developed class wikis. These were replaced by classroom blogs with the recent purchase of ipads and tablets. This led to an identified learning need of posting appropriate on-line comments and to widen the on-line community.

Goal setting

  • Continue to utilise the iPads and class blogs to communicate, celebrate and reflect on learning.
  • Communicate within a group of schools to view and interact using our class blogs.
  • Develop a sense of online community and authentic audience.

Strategies

  • Teachers from the three Catholic schools of St Mary’s, St Albans Catholic and St Anne’s to initiate a class link through class blogs.
  • Teachers to model appropriate online commenting.
  • Students, as a class, to comment online – this will include feedback, questioning and responding to questions.

 What happened

  • Each classroom developed a blog after professional development with our facilitator, eTime.
  • The purchase of iPads meant that the upload of information was made much easier and the sharing of information less cumbersome.
  • The children were able to get instant viewing of the work that they were sharing on-line.
  • Children were getting their parents to view the postings.
  • Parents were commenting, although not always on-line, about what the children were doing and what they had seen.
  • Further discussion with lead teachers and facilitator lead to the development of a small group of schools with whom we could share on-line comments.
  • Three schools of St Mary’s, St Albans Catholic and St Anne’s agreed to co-operate with the commenting.
  • Teachers were encouraged to comment on the class blog of the same year level.
  • There was some initial inertia in teachers making comments.
  • Permission to comment was an issue with some sites and delayed the opportunity to comment.
  • In-class development from the facilitator, who modelled with each class, how to make comments on-line, has encouraged the whole class ability to comment. We put links to our buddy classes on our blog to make commenting easier.
  • The recent purchase of data projectors enabled easier whole class viewing of blogs and class involvement in commenting.

Evidence

  • Links to our blogs:

http://stmaryschch1.blogspot.co.nz/

http://stmaryschch2.blogspot.co.nz/

http://stmaryschch3.blogspot.co.nz/

http://stmaryschch4.blogspot.co.nz/

http://stmaryschch5.blogspot.co.nz/

Reflection

The beginning of the ICT contract was the beginning of a steep learning curve for the staff at St Mary’s school. We had a pod of laptops that the staff and children were able to use, but for the most part, these were used for Mathletics and asTTle in the senior area of the school.

The first year saw us begin to consider the uploading of data to share with the parent community. This was begun with the setting up of a class wiki. The wiki proved to be a difficult medium and not particularly user friendly. Despite the difficulties, teachers persevered and with the assistance of our facilitator, teachers managed to create their class wiki. Staff were discouraged by the difficulty of the wiki programme

We were disrupted considerably with the earthquake when were off-site for a period of time followed by a two week stint in tents. Towards the end of the second year, the principal, facilitator and the lead teacher met and discussed the options that we available to moving forward over the next 18 months. At this meeting the idea of using iPads was mooted and the setting up of classroom blogs with a view to moving away from the wiki and using blogs instead.

Within a month, a set of iPads were purchased for the teachers and BlogPress was introduced. It was the ease with which the iPad could be used that generated the rapid change from Wikis to Blogs. Staff began to take the iPad outside during a lesson, for example a sports lesson, take photos and add some text, then post it online, all within minutes. Children were able to view their activities and take pride in their work. They were also able to go home and tell the parents what they had been doing and show them the site.

Further Professional Development sessions, on-site and off-site, from our facilitator, enabled the staff to become more conversant with the iPad and use an increased number of apps suitable for use in the classroom. From this, children began to see the iPad as more than a game machine but a tool for learning.

When introduced to the blogs from other schools with the facilitator, the children were enthused with being able to share their work with other children. They were eager to make comments about what other classes were doing and enjoyed seeing the comments coming back about their own work.

Our next step is to continue our journey and to look at other ways that we are able to increase our involvement with the wider community.

Teacher quotes:

‘It’s more transportable and instant’

‘So easy to use to put onto the blog with the children alongside’

‘Editing is easier and the children can do it’

‘It is one way we can share children’s work with the parents’

‘Lots of hits from lots of sites around the world’

‘Even past pupils keep in touch via the blog’

 

Pupil quotes:

‘We use the iPads for researching and learning’

‘My favourite is using Google Earth’

‘I like using the iPads because when you touch them they do what you want’

‘I like using Bookworm and Drawing Pad’

‘The only thing is that we can’t print from them yet’