== What _is_ blogging? ==

‘Blog’ is short for ‘weblog’. Blogging is a simple way of publishing information to the web.  Blogs started as online diaries, and this is reflected in the way that posts are published chronologically, with the most recent post at the top of the page, and earlier posts towards the bottom.

Blogs make it easy to separate the process of content-creation from stylistic concerns. Using pre-defined templates or using one which you design yourself, the content you then create is automatically formatted. In addition, features such as ‘trackbacks’, [[RSS Feeds]] and ‘pings’ allow other people to know when you’ve updated your blog and when someone has linked to yours.

For a more in-depth description of the advantages of using blogs and the technology behind them, see the [ Wikipedia entry on blogs].

== How do I ”blog”? ==

Blogs are provided free of charge by many different companies.  Some of the most popular include:

*[ typepad]
*[ wordpress]
*[ teacherblogs]
*[ learnerblogs]

These services provide easy to use, easy to customize blogging services for no charge.

Those people who feel a bit more confident about ICT could investigate hosting their blog on their own server, perhaps using wordpress software, or [[user:Doug Belshaw]]s [ edupress] software.

== How do I use a blog for teaching and learning? ==

Firstly find a blogging service that is not blocked by your schools ISP.  There’s nothing worse than setting something up and proudly showing your year 9s the "this page is blocked" screen that your LEA liberally splashes around. Some people have raised concerns that the ‘Next Blog’ button added by default to blogs created using Google’s [ Blogger] service may lead to inappropriate content. However, in ”practice” [ Blogger] provides an excellent service which is simple to use and free.

===As a virtual teacher’s desk===

Teachers and pupils often have a lot to communicate to each other, and to remember.  This is true for all ages of students, page references and success criteria for homework, links to interesting sites, reminders to hand in consent forms for trips, or to bring in evidence from home are often forgotten by teacher and student alike. 

A blog could become a teacher’s record of what has happened in a course so that "I forgot the homework title, page reference etc" could become a thing of the past if a blog is referred to constantly.  Such blogs can also act as a useful revision aid or a record of "what we’ve done" for students who have missed lessons.

===As a record of reflection or CPD===

Reflective practitioners need somewhere to reflect.  A classblog could be a space for a teacher to reflect on that class, or a teacher could run a blog dedicated to their professional reflection and development.  You can find several examples of such blogs, for instance, Doug’s [ Teaching] site.

===As a virtual display board===

Given the chronological nature of blogs they make ideal platforms to showcase the most recent work done by a class/in a department/by pupils in a particular school. Images and even videos can be added to blogs to showcase pupils’ work. Examples of a display blog can be found [ here] and [ here].

This second blog is an example where work done online and offline by students is displayed together.  In addition the "post of the week" is a good way of incentivising pupils, especially when a small prize is offered.

===As a student workspace===

The government has proposed in the coming years for each pupil have access to their own ‘VLE’ (Virtual Learning Environment). They would be able to login to this and work upon projects set by their teachers. This is already possible with systems such as [ Elgg] which has the added advantage of semi-automatically creating virtual ‘communities’. Several individuals and schools (including [ Miles Berry] have had success with combining [ Elgg] with [ Moodle].

A blog, provided it is set up and maintained properly and guidance given to pupils, can be an extremely motivating and effective tool for teaching and learning. Using one of the services above such as [], teachers can allow their pupils to showcase their work to the world. Using the [[RSS Feed]] from each blog, teachers can then put all the work together using a site such as [ SuprGlu].


Webquest – Evaluation


Your task was to come up with some ideas for a year 9 lesson.  Take a couple of minutes to think about how successful you’ve been.  Do you have any new ideas?  Are there some resources on this webquest that you could use?  Do you have a stronger idea of where to look  for, what to do with, or even more importantly, why you might want to do different activities using ICT?

Take a few minutes to discuss how successful your research has been, and if you think it’s useful to do so, record your thoughts in your file.


The author of this webquest would love to hear from you about how sucessful it has been, or any changes you might suggest for it.  Please let him know by leaving a comment at  the end of the next section, the conclusion.

Webquest – Your Mission

Your task is to discover enough to be able to cobble together some ideas for a lesson that will allow your year 9s to practise some historical skills. You’re also going to have to gather some ideas about what makes a good “history through ICT” lesson, to buy you some time before you have to start cascading across the school (if it’s possible to cascade across anything).

You do a couple of searches, gather some information on what’s available on the school network, and what applications work in your classroom.  You decide that you need to focus on the following areas.

  • Web Enquiries – using the web to find out about something.
  • Office Applications – using the ‘standard’ office applications to help students learn history actively.

It looks like these relate to activities that you might be able to get up an running fairly quickly, in that they use the web, and standard applications, both of which students are already experienced in using.  They might each be the focus for the activities in a lesson on their own, or together, but you need to find out more before you decide.

You quickly knock up a word document to use to help you record and order your thinking.

Click on this link now to open the word document.  Save it somewhere you can get at it again

Now… get to work, before you get taken for cover!  Click on this link to move to the task.

Webquest – Web 'Research'

Web Enquiries

The internet is a great resource for information.  Perhaps though, it is too great.  There is so much out there.  It is so much easier, for students, to cut and paste text, than to read, assess and use it in an argument.  This means that many ‘internet’ lessons descend into historical sausage factories – disinterested students stuffing raw history at best, or unprocessed rubbish at worst, into Power Point presentations or Word documents.  The aim of this section is for us to plan lessons that avoid these problems.  This section deals with

  • Webquests; and
  • the Big 6.


You’re taking part in a webquest right now.  They’re a scenario, posted as a webpage, that allow students to use the internet in a guided way to make enquries.  They can be relatively closed ones, like this one, or more open ones, in which students can choose which resources they use, or what approach they should take in completing the task.

searchBriefly read the section about the ‘essential’ features of a webquest from the website   What advantages or disadvantes can you see in devising or using webquests for teaching and learning history?  Record your thoughts and those of your colleagues in the space provided in your document.  Briefly note in your Word document your first impressions of what webquests are.

Why do them?

The “Concept to Classroom” website claims that webquests will help prepare students for tomorrow’s “knowledge economy” world, in that it will help them “grapple with ambiguity”, so that they can. They will need to commit themselves to a lifelong process of learning, honoring multiple perspectives and evaluating information before acting on it”


What sort of topics lend themselves to webquests?

The “Concept to Classroom” website claims that “The best use of the Webquest format is for topics that are less well-defined — tasks that invite creativity and problems with several possible solutions. They can address open-ended questions like:

  • What kinds of people were most likely to survive the sinking of the Titanic? Why?
  • What was it like to live during the American Gold Rush?”


Task(2)Take a look at some example webquests from this American website (the history ones are under social sciences – secondary).  Discus with your colleagues the following questions:  What kinds of topics do the history webquests address?   Do they offer opportunities for students to develop the kinds of skills and abilities mentioned above?  How far do they address historical skills?  Record the points made in your discussion in the space provided.

The Big Six.

According to the website, the Big Six is “the most widely-known and widely-used approach to teaching information and technology skills in the world. The Big6 is an information and technology literacy model and curriculum, implemented in thousands of schools […]. Some people call the Big6 an information problem-solving strategy because with the Big6, students are able to handle any problem, assignment, decision or task.

Task(2)Take a look at the section for older students of the Big6 website, which is here.   Explore the different stages, but pay close attention to the sections 4 and 5 on using and synthesising information.  Discuss with your colleagues the kind of work you would need to do to make these instructions useful for historical enquiries.  Is the ICT adding anything here?  Record your thinking in the space provided in the document.

You’ve picked up quite a lot to think about, and perhaps some ideas for your “cascading” discussions with the head.  However, you’re not really any closer to coming up with a lesson for year 9.  Can you think of any lessons or activities that might draw on what you’ve already learned, which you could use in teaching your year 9 lesson?

Now you have completed this section click on the link to move on to the section on using standard applications in teaching history.

Webquest – Using Standard ICT Applications

Using Standard ICT Applications

You know that these applications work on the computers in your room.  You know that the students have used them before.  It seems sensible to base your lesson on one of the three main types of ‘office’ application.  You decide to look at each in turn:

  • Word – a word-processor
  • Excel – a spreadsheet program
  • Power Point – a presentation program

Why use a word-processor?

It seems that word-processing software is a good place to start with whole class ICT activities.  All but the most technophobic student will have used such a piece of software before.  Perhaps their expertise might cover your own inexperience.  After a quick search you come up with a website that offers complete lessons using ICT.  One lesson on appeasement appeals to you in particular, because it uses Word.  The lesson write up promises that:

“By the end of the lesson pupils will:

  • know the main arguments for and against Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement;
  • be able to develop a personal opinion on the overall effectiveness of the policy”

and that

“This module will give you the opportunity to:

  • develop skills in using word processing software;
  • teach aspects of twentieth century history;
  • evaluate different interpretations of historical events;
  • plan questions that will encourage pupils to reflect on their learning.”

Which sounds great.   You’ve just been covering the rise of Hitler, and this would be a great thing to impress the head, and the outcomes sound promising too.  The lesson seems to be built around a virtual card sort and a writing frame.  There’s a very gimmicky “you receive an email from Chamberlain” bit, but it seems possible to avoid it.  You decide to investigate further.

Download the virtual card sort and writing frame (either directly by navigating the site, or by right clicking on the links above and saving them on your local computer).  Take a look around them before thinking about the following questions and recording the answers in your own file:

  • what advantages are there to you as a teacher and to your students as learners in using word processor as a glorified card sort?
  • are there any disadvantages?
  • in what ways could this card sort be adapted so that it takes further advantage of the technology, either by using features of the wordprocessor, or of the internet?
  • what about the writing frame?  Would this activity help students to construct a written piece of work that answers this question and deepens their understanding of the events, and helps them to extend their skills of historical argument?
  • Could you improve either activity?

Excel – Do Maths and History Mix?

You find a great thread here about Numeracy and another website here that contains lots of numerical data, that you might be able to use to make a good lesson using a spreadsheet.  However, you don’t have time.  You do spot something that looks interesting, on Hitler’s rise to power.

Using the excel file attached here, and this ‘how-to’ guide make a graph to show the relation between unemployment and political success in Germany between 1928 and 1933. What kind of questions would this kind of resource generate?  Could you tweak the activity to help students get more from it?

Taken from The International School of Toulouse humanities website here.  Interestingly the excellent teacher who came up with these ideas is no longer employed by the International School of Toulouse, after they sacked him, for seemingly spurious reasons.  If you’re interested, you can read all about it here.

Power Point – Just for Presentations?

You’ve got students to use Power Point before.  They spent a lot of time cutting and pasting pictures of Henry Tudor from the web, playing with fonts and embedding annoying tinkly “Greensleeves” tracks.  That’s not going to be good enough this time.  If you decide to use Power Point, then it has got to add something.  Perhaps though Power Point is merely a way of transmitting information efficiently (though in a dull fashion)?

You do another search.  Firstly you find this (right click and “save as”) at the great GCSE revision website run by Simon Ross,  Could you use this to present ideas?  Could your students use it to present ideas to each other?  How about this excellent homework on Peterloo, or the debate lesson from this mini scheme of work from (err, sir, this website is biast).

Take a closer look at the ‘Peterloo’ resource set out here.  How could you adapt it so that students are making presentations rather than newspaper articles?  Would this be a good reason for using Power Point?  Record your thinking in your document.

Now you’ve completed this section, evaluate how much this webquest has helped you achieve your goals by clicking on the link to evaluation.

Webquest – Conclusion and Comments


You have completed the webquest.  Hopefully you have got some ideas for your lesson, whilst feeling more comfortable about starting to use ICT in your own teaching.  Perhaps you also feel more confident about talking to other people about ICT and learning – including the head! 

You might want to take things further.  If you do, then you could do a lot worse than look at the following items:

  • Get hold of a copy of History, ICT and Learning in the Secondary School, by Terry Haydn and Christine Counsell.  It will be worth a trip to the library, bookshop or amazon, if only for chapter one (though the other chapters are also great), which deals with the debate between those (policy makers) who see ICT in school as a panacea, and those (chalkface teachers) who have concerns and fears about technology and teaching.
  • Browse, read and perhaps even contribute to the forums at
  • Pinch a history through ICT lesson from here and adapt it for your own class, book an ICT suite and have a go!
  • If you’re feeling brave, or in need of a challenge, why not have a look at blogging.  You could read this site about running a class-blog.  There’s a good (if I do say so myself) example at

Finally, please do take a look at my delicious bookmarks, which although slightly dis-organised (I know, who would’ve thought it) do have some very interesting things in it.

If you’ve enjoyed, or hated, or were bored by this webquest then please leave a comment!


Teaching and Learning History using ICT – a Webquest!

How can ‘bog standard’ ICT help history learning and teaching?


Imagine that you are an enthusiastic and dedicated history teacher (go on, you can imagine that), and for years you’ve been passing yourself off as an expert on teaching and learning using ICT.  Your school has just bought a set of 17 computers for your classroom and the head keeps mentioning how much he’d like to come and observe “a couple of lessons” to see you “work your magic with them”.

The truth is that you’ve used PCs quite a lot in teaching – but mostly to design worksheets and make the odd video to keep students amused.   You’re just beginning to realise that you have not really begun to think about what it means for history students to use computers to help their learning of history. 

It is now Monday morning,  8.15 am.  Your pigeon hole is crammed with notes from the head of year 11 about missing library books borrowed by members of your form sometime in year 7, and never returned.  You spread the notes out on the desk in the history office.  In horror, you spot a “yellow” sticking out from the bottom of the pile.  A few words in the head’s spidery writing are visible.

“Good news” he writes, “conference at House of Lords been cancelled.  I’ll be able to come and watch your year 9 set tomorrow – can’t wait to see what you’ve been getting them to do on the computers, and to have a chat about how we can ‘cascade’ your good practice across the school”.  You sink onto the office chair, forgetting that it only has three wheels instead of four, and slither gracefully to the floor, still clutching the “yellow”.