We switched over to the new timetable this week, and I have a delight of a 3rd Year class. I’ve also got some interesting characters in some of my other classes who promise to keep me busy… but one thing they’ll all have in common this year is access to blogging and wiki tools courtesy of the work I put in setting up my school’s blogs and (of course) wikispaces.com and their fabulous advert-free K-12 wikis.
I’m really looking forward to putting the pupils through their paces, and can only agree with Ollie when he says it’s worth getting back to the basics. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the tech and forget the teach! From my point-of-view, if we’re going to make a real attempt to raise standards, we need to support and enhance the basics of reading and writing and this is where the ‘tech’ can help.
The first exercise I got my new S3 class to do was to write their own obituaries… and not because they’d need them if they failed to do their homework. I’ve always found this to be a really useful writing exercise on a number of accounts: it requires the pupil to reflect on what course his or her life will take, it gives me some idea of their interests and passions, and the slightly macabre premise does appeal to them (after all, they are only 14 and therefore immortal)! What I found interesting was, when I pointed out the finished article will be going on their blogs, there was a massed intake of breath and expressions of surprise followed by a sudden desire to make them better. I think this neatly illustrates what so many of us have already learned, that writing for a blog, in other words, writing for a public audience, is a very strong incentive to make your work better. Chris was talking about this very thing in her recent ‘Blog Obituary‘ (and don’t worry, she’s still very much alive and blogging!)… blogs are about giving yourself the self-motivation to write better, and as such, I believe they have a very positive role to play in the English classroom.
I was once challenged by someone about the fact that I was really just using the blog as an online jotter. I immediately started getting defensive about this and feeling that I was perhaps approaching it all wrong… but as I grow in confidence, I actually have no problems with using the pupils’ blogs for that very purpose. But I will also be encouraging them to explore the power of writing for an online audience and all that that entails… and especially as we all know that the world is changing and we have to prepare them for… well, who knows? Ewan recently posted this picture on flickr (thumbnail on the left) and it has been haunting me ever since… mainly because I believe it illustrates perfectly just how quickly we need to learn new skills or become redundant. If you ever needed to motivate someone into accepting that they need to become a life-long learner, you could do worse than get them to study this picture…
So, what next? Well I intend to start keeping a regular update of how the classroom blogs are going, and I’m aware that in doing so I’m following in the footsteps of many others, but I hope to give those of you who are new to this some hints and tips that I’ve gleaned along the way… and I hope you’ll be willing to chip in with some of your own ideas as well. Just keep your eyes peeled for the ‘Classroom Blogging‘ tag on the posts!