What is blogging?
Blogging has been around for years and some people make a lot of money from it; telling people about their lives, giving their views on the news or offering reviews of products and services. It’s a communication method, a little like a diary, where consecutive ‘posts’ are added to a website that can be viewed by the world or just within a private domain. In education, we too can make use of blogs and in many different ways and the good thing about it is that:
• It’s FREE
• It’s easy to set up
• It’s easy to manage
That should hopefully have put the minds of the school’s finance officer and technophobes to rest!
Which provider should I choose?
There are many providers but my favourite is WordPress. Their interface is user friendly, they’ve got a wealth of free extras and their security settings mean that instead of being published to the world, you can operate the blogs on a closed, private system visible only to those you invite. WordPress also offers a clear guide to getting set up including templates that mean you can get started straight away. Just visit www.wordpress.org to get started.
How can I use WordPress to help learning and teaching?
In our work on non-fiction writing I asked my class to consider the style and language used in diary writing. We talked about how the text is personal to us and often demarcated by time adjectives. Normally we would have kept a paper based diary for a week or two, or perhaps over the course of a school holiday but on this occasion we decided to set up a blog for each pupil. In an ICT lesson we ‘decorated’ our diaries with a design theme from the software and then got started. Some of the children noted that they could add photographs and yet more commented that it was like Facebook in that they could post what they were doing and attach photographs whilst other users they allowed to view their page could comment on it. Even after the topic was finished, many wanted to continue using their private Facebook and, like a traditional diary, referred back to things they’d done.
We were concerned that the children in our school had little idea of what was happening in the news and initially we set homework where, over a weekend, the children would have to watch the news and bring in some information from it to report to the class on Monday. This worked very well until one child compared our diary blogs to the pages of the BBC News website and made their own using WordPress over a weekend. On the Monday she asked if she could show us her blog as part of the report back and she had reworded the news she’d seen or read about and added pictures from news websites. Many of the rest of the class were impressed and asked if they could do theirs in the same way so we decided to produce our own news websites.
The project extended in our citizenship lessons to the children collecting their own local news from the community and took pictures. They visited a local council run nursing home that was earmarked for closure and interviewed the manager and the residents before conducting an interview with the town’s financial director. See the link for an example of the children’s work http://epecjames.wordpress.com/
Another great use we made of WordPress was for creative writing. We do a lot of partner editing of stories and the comment section of blogs makes for the perfect place to feedback to writers what we thought of their work and how they can improve it. WordPress is also a great repository of children’s work, enabling them to look back at automatically dated work and identify progression for themselves. It’s a good tool for teachers as we can join in with the comments and moderate them before the author reads them. Children can write the stories in Word and paste them in or type straight into WordPress. The benefit of this system is its portability as children can access it easily at home or at school. Pictures can be added, drawn by the child themselves in MSPaint or scanned and uploaded. At a more advances stage, video can be added too.
OK, so how do I start?
First you need to go to www.wordpress.org/download and register. You’ll need an email account but as you’ll be going for a private or private group privacy setting, entering an email address is still secure. Once you’ve completed the basic details, the ‘dashboard’ will appear…
You now need to click on the ‘Privacy’ tab in ‘Settings’ and click the button as shown to keep the blog private.
Now you’re all ready to start. Click on the ‘Dashboard’ tab, then ‘Posts’, then ‘New Post’ and you’ll get this screen…
The title goes in the white box under ‘Add New Post’ and the body of text in the large box. You can upload a picture by clicking the rectangle in a box to the right of ‘Upload/Insert and can then browse for an image before inserting it in your post. You can adjust the position and often the size of the image too.
Those are the very basics of getting started but the WordPress guide will give you more tips to produce a polished piece of work.