Fostering digital literacy is an important ingredient to modern teaching. Our youngest generation will be under pressure to demonstrate unparallelled tech skills in the workplace, so the best place to begin developing simple digital competence is in the classroom.
Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the overabundance of edtech and limited time to learn new skills, it’s worth starting with a simple approach. A great jumping off point to get your class digitally literate and even learn entry level web skills is to start a class blog or class wiki — a simple, shared online space for you and your class to write and publish content. But what exactly is blogging?
What is it for?
You can use a blog or class wiki to share homework, publish class photos, discuss projects and push information out to parents.
You can also set creative writing tasks, showcase work and publish diary entries from school trips throughout the academic year. In fact, the content ideas are only limited by your imagination.
Perhaps set a ‘photo of the week’ challenge to pupils, or a feature a piece by one or more members of the class each week. Giving the pupils free rein to choose their subject matter will encourage creativity outside of the set curriculum.
Why get your pupils blogging?
So, why start a class blog or a wiki? Here are five reasons to get your class writing online:
Blogging promotes expression and creativity in your pupils. It encourages them to think about subjects that interest them, and current affairs. Laura McInerney speaks about the influence of politics on education, for example. Blogging is an excellent way for pupils to learn how to articulate themselves on topics that are important to them.
The more your students get excited by and creative with their blogging, their skills will continue to advance. They will engage in reading other blogs, giving them new, creative ideas for their future writing. Mr P’s ICT blog, for example, promotes and teaches ideas for how learning digital literacy is important for pupils development.
The transparency of writing for a real, genuine audience (including their classmates) gives pupils more motivation to produce quality work. The higher the volume of work produced, the more they will build an online readership, in turn generating greater motivation to continue.
Once pupils have the blogging or wiki basics under their belt, they’ll have the independence to publish pieces on their own timeframe, building a strong sense of ownership over their work.
Blogging can be the ideal vehicle for generating teamwork projects in the classroom. Pupils can work together on topics and create collaborative pieces, encouraging participation in less confident pupils. Leading Learner is an educational blogger and Head Teacher from Blackpool who talks about encouraging transformation in schools through engagement.
What’s more, thanks to the power of the internet, pupils can work together with classes from different schools, or even across the other side of the world. Encourage your pupils to think ‘outside their bubble’ to embrace other cultures, languages and societies.
Engage mixed-ability classes
The accessible nature of blogging means it’s the perfect means to engage pupils of all abilities.
Blogs or class wikis can be made up of any combination of text, photos, audio and video, so projects can easily be differentiated for all pupils. Blogging engages all members of your class by giving motivation to those who are less able, but still pushing those who need to be more challenged. This flexibility allows you to set ability-appropriate projects, giving the whole class the opportunity to learn.
Teach feedback and critique skills
The open visibility of a wiki or blog means anyone across the world can read and comment on a pupil’s work. When challenged on their ideas, students may be forced to defend their opinions. This teaches pupils to articulate their arguments, form a debate, and structure a response.
Providing valuable feedback and giving a constructive critique of their classmates’ work are valuable skills to adopt for both higher education and the workplace.
How do you get started with class blogging?
The idea of creating a class blog or wiki may sound positive for learning purposes, but knowing where to begin, not to mention finding the extra time to learn new terminology and technology, can be offputting to some educators. The truth is, blogging is incredibly simple. Best of all, there are plenty of blog and wiki platforms that are free.
One of the most popular wiki platforms for education is wikispaces, on which you simply register, create a basic wiki using simple word processing-style forms, and then add users.
There is a plethora of free and straightforward blogging software that can be easily adapted for schools. These include incredibly popular platforms WordPress and blogger, which all allow some level of personalisation.
With the increasing popularity of educational blogs, however, there are platforms created specifically for educators such as Primary Blogger, powered by WordPress. Simply register and choose your blog address — the URL that people will use to visit your site — so ensure it is relevant.
Once you’ve read some other educational content and feel inspired, the next step is to create your first post. To do this, simply complete in the boxes, it’s that simple. Your first post will need a title and some simple content. You can leave it as basic as you wish, or you can add pictures or you can highlight text and add hyperlinks. The content possibilities are virtually limitless, giving you the freedom to be creative.
How to plan ahead
Now you’ve decided to create your class blog or wiki, there are few final considerations to keep up the momentum:
Who will blog?
Will it be just you, a pupil each week or are all students going to have the opportunity to publish content? If the latter, ensure you set pupils up with their own user accounts so their user names will appear as the authors.
How often will you update it?
Blog maintenance takes a level of effort and commitment so decide up front how many posts per week you will publish. It may be worth creating a content calendar with your pupils to give everyone an opportunity to participate, and to ensure your class wiki or blog stays up to date.
Edtech in the classroom needn’t be daunting or time consuming. With a few simple processes, you can engage all your pupils and teach better digital literacy that will set them up for their future careers.