This topic strikes fear into the hearts of safety conscious educational leaders, but I believe every school should have a blog, written by the children, and preferably linked to social media.
Having worked with high risk, and extremely sensitive groups in the past I fully understand the reasons why many schools do not have a ‘school blog’ (privacy, ethical and even marketing risks). But I believe in most settings the potential for learning far outweighs the risk management involved (which can largely be managed with clear process and simple digital solutions).
I’ve talked before about digital literacy in the early years, and how record keeping influences memory and identity. I’ll explain how blogs aid specific class room learning in more detail later, but for now let’s see how my own children arrived at blog writing…
My children have made many piñatas in their short lives. When they were unable to get their hands on this one (the industrial strength glue needed due to the size was not child friendly) they instead volunteered to document the process by ‘writing something for the Internet’. (They have regularly observed me recording our activities to share with a wider audience, so this seemed like the obvious next step to them.)
My 6yo sat beside me with a device in her lap and she slowly typed step by step instructions. My 4yo walked around with the camera and took photos of what she thought was important. This is their brief first collaborative ‘article’:
BY ANICA AND ELKA
- 1 blow a balloon up
- 2 mix water and Gue
- 3 Tear Paper
- 4 put the paper on the balloon
- 5 dri the pinata.
While the end product is short, the process they went through was thorough. In writing this short post my children were practicing observation, particularly focused on process, and sequence. Anica was primarily practicing traditional literacy skills (and started conversations about what a sentence was, letter combinations, punctuation and spelling.)
Elka was not writing, but she was building her foundation understanding of story telling through pictures. Elka was also learning key aspects of visual language (framing, content, perspective) and verbally articulated her basic understanding of these principals as she problem solved to get her desired shot.
Both children were extending their concept of reporting, and using ICT skills appropriate to their age.
In a classroom setting this has further potential for social and emotional learning; Choosing different children to document an activity each day bestows power and allows them to exercise responsibility (similar to the learning benefits that come with being ‘class leader’). Alternating the combinations of individuals that make each days ‘reporting team’ gives room to build relationships and alter classroom dynamics. The students are creating the record themselves and, as we’ve talked about before, self perception is highly influenced by the records kept on us.
The external benefit of a class blog is that the children are learning to ‘publish’ to their parents and carers. (Teachers can confirm posts before they go live, and privacy settings can be changed to allow as many or as few specific viewers as desired). This allows the blog readers to support the classroom learning in the home setting.
There has been much research into the benefits of reinforcing learning in the home setting. The benefits of this are often seen first hand in the progress of children who have involved families, but is arguably more relevant when children begin to see disparity between formal education and their home experiences.
Since the introduction of compulsory schooling educators and theorists have grappled with students who loose interest in their formal education when it no longer aligns with their world view and thus seems to hold no value to their lives. This is not something that can be solved in a single blog, but by keeping parents and carers informed you give them the tools to engage with their child about their formal education, to connect their school experiences with their out of school lives.
At its most basic level the school blog allows a route in for conversation about school activities (avoiding a case of ‘school day amnesia’ many parents talk of). At best it allows for topics to be expanded in the home setting when the parents see something that talks to their own area of interest. This could range from a history buff Dad building a giant replica with his teenage son, right through to the most easily executed activities that any working parent would gladly embark on (ie ‘I see you are learning about China, let’s get Chinese for dinner tonight!’)
Blogs will never cure the disparity between home life and school life, but they do give parents a chance to engage in their child’s education, particularly when linked to more readily accessible social media.
Blogs will not be one of the primary means of communication when our children are adults. There will be new ways of communicating by the time they are entering the workforce. Blogging instead provides foundation learning in a number of key areas that will be essential to our young ones to master.
With such potential to aid learning I think it is time we brought the self publishing revolution into the school system. Connecting school life with students out of school world.