Blogging with students

Somebody is reading!  Ali from Rohampton sent a very nice comment, which I’ve only just picked up.

Only get the chance to call in and see what you are blogging about occasionally, but I am interested in the idea that it can help to describe what happened when using technology in a history lesson as a way into working out what could be changed the next time. I am suggesting to a new bunch of PGCE people that keeping a reflective blog, attaching examples of resources and plans that were triumphs (or disasters!) might help them reflect and so develop their practice. Any advice on this? Your blog was one of the inspirations for this idea…

I think that, with a couple of caveats, that this would be a great idea.  The blog is a (fairly) easy way to get into habitual reflection about what you’re doing.   It would also be a fantastic way of keeping a ‘group ethos’ going during long practices – perhaps you could encourage the trainees to comment, supportively, on each others’ blogs.  I can also see it becoming a way of swapping practical ideas and resources.

In the fine old tradition of modelling behaviour and strategies, I’d be tempted to run a public blog yourself for a littlewhile and then introduce the idea before they go off for their first school practice.  This might also form a central point, which the other blogs would link to, and be another way of connecting with the students away from the seminar room (kinda what I do with my a-level students at ).  I’d also run a few competitions – most incisive comment, funniest post, that sort of thing – this has worked really well with some recent wiki work I’ve done.

Finally, on the tips front, I’ve learned this year that a blog can be a great place for tangents, and enriching the blog with stuff that you don’t have the time for in lessons is a way of making it more interesting for students and a place that they’re more likely to visit.  I offer this as a humble example of a post that got great feedback (verbal – I can’t get them to post comments!) and which grew out of a question in the lesson about modern Italian dialects.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has any top tips for using blogs with students.

Right – now with the caveats.  Reflection in public can be restrictive, and I’d worry that it might also become self-flagillating if not thoughty through properly – which I guess is partly where your modelling comes in.  Perhaps you could use a structure around which you’d like trainees to post – along the lines of what were your aims, what went well, what would you do differently?  This would prevent the ‘oh my god I’m soo useless’ posts that might otherwise get.  Of course a good rant is healthy sometimes, so you’d have to strike a balance.

This brings me to my second point, and it’s one I only just learned myself.  I’ve been working with the wiki again with Jane at OUDES (which isn’t called OUDES anymore I know, but I can’t remember what it has changed to…), and last week (at her suggestion I’m ashamed to say) I did some online commenting myself on their work on the wiki.  I followed this up with an informal praise session in class and a bar of chocoloate (impressive looking milka with cream) for the author of the most effective page.  The result has been a tenfold increase in participation, and in enthusiasm.  All this is a very long way of saying that you, the teacher, need to be actively involved often (perhaps much more often than in ‘offline’ pedagogy) to maintain momentum and to encourage and enable students to get the most out of reflecting in this way.

This experience mirrors some research I recently read (from a long time ago) at Jane’s suggestion by some Cambridge researchers, who observed that lessons that involved higher level thinking and higher levels of purposeful pupil collaborative work were those in which the teacher actively and frequently intervened in the learning and interacted with the learners.

Phew – when I started to type this I had no idea what I was going to say!  Reflection at work I guess.  Thanks once again for the comment Ali, let me know how you get on!  Laughing

Leave a Reply