• 21 Apr
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    This is the fourth and final guest post in our Digitalk series, where we ask teachers to showcase their class blogs. The aim is to promote blogging in school as an incredible tool to improve literacy, confidence, connections & ICT skills.

    School: Heathfield Primary School
    Mr David Mitchell (@DeputyMitchell)
    Class blog: You can follow all the Heathfield blogs on http://heathfieldcps.net but you might want to specifically check out http://y62011.heathfieldcps.net ; http://sandwich.heathfieldcps.net ; http://pandora.heathfieldcps.net and http://walkabout.heathfieldcps.net

    I have never been more excited about learning than I am right now.

    Blogging and the world of Web2.0 tools has revitalised my teaching, my enthusiasm and my dedication to the pupils I teach and the staff I lead.

    You should see the effect blogging has had on my pupils at Heathfield Community Primary School. I have been blogging with my pupils for 16 months now and in that time I have seen tough Year 6 pupils that were switched off from education become excitable enthusiastic learners who are now passionate about learning and their role within it.

    The BBC recently reported live from Heathfield Primary School in an article highlighting our success with blogging. They mentioned that Heathfield had “stumbled upon this tool”.  As indeed we had.

    Dianne Spencer (our Headteacher) had sent me on a fact finding mission to Chorlton Park Primary School in Manchester through the SSAT to see what tools other schools were using.

    It was there that I was charged by Jack Sloan and John Sutton to question two things about my teaching:

    1. how I chose the tools I used
    2. when I chose to use them

    A seemingly simple challenge, but one that created pins and needles in my mind –  I knew what I wanted but also knew that blogging was a tool that took a while to develop.

    Writing was, and still is, an area that Heathfield were working to improve. This time 12 months ago, we were not only trying to raise levels of achievement, we were desperately trying to build the enthusiasm and engagement levels of our Year 6 pupils.

    Teachers are competing against the PS3, XBox Live and other forms of home entertainment, but I knew that if this was done right, blogging could make writing cool. It was also clear that a motivation for the pupils would be an audience – something blogging could provide like no other.

    12 months on, the engagement levels are something we are so proud of. Our pupils are switched on, excited, engaged and take above expected levels of responsibility for their own learning.

    So in just 12 months, how have we got where we have?

    People often associate ‘Heathfield Primary School’ with ‘Blogging’. I’m sorry but I have to insist that there is so much more to it that just having a blog.

    Every class blog at Heathfield is different – with it’s own colour, character, and charisma, driven by it’s authors.

    It may be a truism but in every school every teacher has a different understanding and competency with ICT. Introducing blogging to other members of staff was carefully thought through. It’s a credit to our teachers that ALL blogging training was done in teachers’ own time on a one to one basis at the pace set by the teachers.

    Within a couple of months, the then Year 6 blog (old Year 6 Blog) had about 10,000 hits and comments were coming in from around the globe. However, not all the children were as excited as others and even to this day, blogging hasn’t transformed the lives of every learner at Heathfield. There is still work to be done but each child in each class has that opportunity to showcase their learning to a global audience.

    This audience have been instrumental in impacting learning for so many. It was lovely to take some current Year 6 pupils to the BETT Show in January to present a seminar about blogging. How great must it have been for Binyameen and Raja to be stopped repeatedly in the main arena and asked to be interviewed or just to shake the hands of their readers?

    Our learners are global learners. Our learners are now authors. Authors who have (by my calculations) an audience of 500,000+ and 3000 comments from over 120 countries since September 2010. Our current year 6 were our first year group to know something pretty special was going to happen them this year. Why? They had watched with dropped jaws as the previous year 6 pupils transformed before their eyes.

    Our current year 6 differ massively from the previous year 6. These guys just want to write, create and show off to their audience. I ask them to blog their learning and ‘consider their audience’ – and if they forget, their audience tells them!

    Heathfield have been blessed by quite substantial media coverage too, though inevitably  the media sometimes doesn’t always give credit to what blogging really is.

    For me, blogging is a tool, that when used at the right time in the right moment can transform lives of learners. I would like Heathfield to be seen as a ‘roofless school’. Anyone visiting one of our blogs can see deep inside the school and absorb the wonderful rich learning is taking place each day.

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  • 11 Apr
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    This is the third guest post in our Digitalk series, where we ask teachers to showcase their class blogs. The aim is to promote blogging in school as an incredible tool to improve literacy, confidence, connections & ICT skills. We’ll leave it you to be inspired by this latest entry below.

    School: Bearwood Primary School
    Ms Jennifer Martindale
    Class blog: http://year4atbearwood.wordpress.com/

    At Bearwood Primary we have only been blogging for around a year, but now that we have seen so many successes I can’t imagine why we didn’t do it sooner and couldn’t imagine learning without the blog to show case and reflect on our learning.

    The blog has quite simply changed the way we learn.

    It has motivated all children in my class, including the boys. It is incredible to see the sea of hands (including previously ‘reluctant writers’) that shoot up when I ask ‘So…who wants to blog about what we just learned?’ or even better when a child asks ‘Miss, can I stay in at lunch and write a blog post about that?’

    As the year has passed the way we use the blog has evolved.

    It started out as a ‘window’ into our classroom with mostly parents in mind. I wanted a way to share what we do with the families of children and include them so they could support learning. At first, the posts were mostly written by me and mainly featured photos of activities from class.

    Now I hardly ever write posts unless it is to add links to a learning resource or to pose a question or discussion prompt.

    The blog allows many opportunities to enhance and extend learning.

    Children love writing posts to explain what they have been doing. This not only provides an authentic writing experience but also allows an assessment opportunity for me as teacher to see if they have learned what I thought they would.

    Adding comments allows children to reflect on what went well in a lesson.

    I am certain that these authentic experiences have contributed to the vast improvement in writing levels in a  short time in my class. Here’s a selection of genuine reactions from my class (quoted verbatim – you can read the rest on their Liniot Wall):

    A dynamic wall that the pupils added their thoughts about blogging

    • “I like blogging because it helps you with your learning and if you are ill and can’t come to school then you can see at the blog. – Shawon”
    • “I enjoy the blog becuase it helps you with things you found tricky at school like angles then Miss Martindale puts on an angle game wich helps me. Also it helps me with my writing- before I didn’t like to write but now I really enjoy writing now. – Paige”
    • “Before I thought that when I wrote something nobody could read , now we can put our work on the blog and anyone from the world can can read it. Blogging is fun!!!!! – Zara”
    • “I like blogging because if you have forgotten anything you can look at it on the blog and I like the math games. – Cameron”

    We have also developed learning further by using various web based tools, mostly recommended by teachers on twitter.

    For example we have successfully used Voicethread to peer assess writing, Audioboo to record word problems and embed these in the blog, Surveymonkey to do market research and to write quizzes to support learning. These tools have allowed the blog to extend learning and allow 24/7 ‘learning without walls’. They have changed the way I teach and have up-skilled children in using ICT to enhance learning.

    The possibility of having your work shared with (quite literally) the world has motivated and engaged children across the curriculum.

    It now seems crazy that we used to write stories without sharing them beyond our own classrooms. I would never have predicted that we would receive hits from literally all over the world. It was a revolution to children (and staff!) when we received comments from teachers and children in Australia saying we had inspired their learning or giving us feedback on our work. We have had nearly 40,000 visitors to our blog from over 40 different countries.

    The latest development is that we have started a school radio station that is shared via our school radio blog.

    We took part in a film- making project through creative partnerships. During this project the blog gave children a reflection space and also allowed children to document the film making process. This helped children to learn but also documented the whole process so that I can use the blog to teach this myself (without the aid of a professional film-maker) to future classes. I’ll leave the final words to a couple of girls from my class:

    “We adore blogging because it gives us a chance to keep learning even out school and helps us with our education. It’s so amazing that we can’t wait to get home and share with our families what we have been doing at school. We love it when we can go onto all the links that our teacher Miss Martindale puts on the blog like voice threads, linoits and so many fun games!

    Not only can we look at what we’ve been doing at school, we can leave a comment showing our opinions and have discussions with our class mates and they can give us feedback of what they think as well.

    Many people all over the world comment on our blog and see all our hard work on our subjects. So far we have 42,477 hits.

    When someone is in the middle of writing a piece of writing they can type it into a Voicethread and get feedback to improve their story or letter.

    We’re actually at the moment trying out something new where a child can write a story or exiting news, put it onto a memory stick or email it to our teacher at any ttime and post it on the blog for the whole world to see.

    A few weeks ago our year group was doing a film project and as we were working on our films we put a few clips on the blog which really helped us to learn.

    Also if there’s a lesson that we need to be ready for the following day, Miss Martindale can type a post up so we can plan for what we need to do. It’s simple really, all you need to do is write your name, email and post to leave something on the blog.

    We hope you find our blog very interesting because it really helps us.”

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  • 25 Jan
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    This is the second guest post in our Digitalk series, where we showcase class blogs. The aim is to promote blogging in school as an incredible tool to improve literacy, confidence, connections, ICT skills and…well we’ll leave it you to be inspired by this latest entry below. The enthusiasm from Mr Sloan and his class for blogging shines through.

    Ferry Lane blog

    School: Ferry Lane Primary School, Tottenham, London
    Teacher: Mr Jack Sloan | Email: jack.sloan2 at gmail.com
    Class blog: http://year5.ferrylane.net/

    When I first started blogging with children nearly five years ago, I could never have imagined the impact it would have had, both on me as a teacher, and on the children that I have taught. Blogging has revolutionised my practice. Using blogs within schools has two powerful and measurable benefits.

    Firstly, it allows for real collaboration; within and outside the school.

    Providing the ability for parents, other schools, professionals and relatives in other countries to comment, criticise, and collaborate in their childrens’ work is hugely powerful. My children know that when they work, they do so with the support and encouragement of their peers and a more extended network.

    They know this because they get comments.

    Lots of them. Straight away.

    They improve on their work because children from New Zealand tell them to look out for their capital letters, and because a headteacher in Tanzania helps them with their subject knowledge.

    They work with each other over the weekend without leaving their living rooms, using tools like Voicethread and Google Docs to help them collaborate. They come into school telling me that they have been doing experiments, visiting museums and advising their classmates on using more interesting adjectives. They are engaged because of the blog.

    Mr Sloan's class uses Voicethread to encourage collaboration

    Secondly, school blogs provide a window on the world.

    The children I teach will tell you where our visitors come from. They will argue over why so few come from Sub-Saharan Africa and why we never actually see Australians on our blog during school hours (although we know that they visit us in their hundreds).

    Blogs provide an audience and a real-life interface to the outside which is easy to keep safe, but still has the immediacy and excitement of the social-media world (in which they live outside of school hours).

    • Our kids feel valued.
    • Their work is looked at, scrutinised and appreciated.
    • It doesn’t live in a dusty book – it develops through time.
    • My kids write, and write, and write!

    Enough from me. Here are some views from my fantastic Year 5 children at Ferry Lane Primary School.

    They’ve been blogging for six months, and advocate the use of blogs in school as much as I do. To kick things off in style, here is Sharon writing for the most cynical of classroom Luddites. Sharon is 10 years old and wrote this as a post at home, by herself. It is unedited here.

    Have you ever thought that the Internet was an incredible waste of precious time?

    Do you really think that mindless kids could achieve incredible things?

    Are you positively sure that blogs are any safer than enraged hyenas?

    Well, if you really are that cynical, I don’t know what kind of things you have been hearing. However I haven’t written this great (if I say so myself) article to mock you.

    This is specifically to the most negative of adults (and kids) who haven’t the foggiest idea of what they are talking about when they say “Blogs are horrendous, they’re not safe . BLAAH, BLAAH, BLAAH!” And on and on they drone.

    I guarantee you that by the end of this article you will be star stuck.

    Also you will be left in complete and utter awe, just thinking “Where was I all this time?” Utterly re-born (trust me!).“Yeah, yeah, as if I will ever learn to love a nonsense blog,” you may be complaining. Even if you are in this position, you will soon understand what the fuss is about.

    A long time ago (in approximately 2009) lived a time where life and excitement were at war. Blogs and schools neglected each other.

    A time that I honestly hated. When no one really cared about us poor, innocent, little children.

    And if you were to learn this piece of information from anyone in the world, you would probably have to learn it from us, the spectacular Ferry lane Yr5. Soon after (basically 2010) the blogging revolution changed everything completely. It took a turn down brilliant lane, which of course was marvellous. Blogs were officially accepted in schools!

    Such mind-blowing news, right?

    Well not for all (maybe not even for you). If you would just hear my humble yet glorious words, your treacherous thoughts will vanish within one heartbeat.

    Beautiful things happen at times you don’t quite expect them to. I mean, we used to live a life of horror and torture (this was before, mind). Until the hero arrived (finally), of which you may know him as….”MR. SLOAN!”

    You could get why he was so popular to us. He was THE creator of blogs. Well let’s just say the creator of blogs within our area. When the blog began, each and every one of our lives transformed from a terrible murky grey, to sprinkles of gold.

    We started to write, write, write and we became more famous by the minute (not so surprising really). Although this isn’t my point, in fact being famous is never the point of blogging and never will be.

    What I am trying to say is that when you see kids (even adults) learn and explore brand new and fascinating things, don’t you think much more excitement will grab hold of someone’s distressed life. That wouldn’t be so horrible, would it? Just think of it!

    Aren’t you a tiny bit tired of hearing the same old words being said by the exact same people “I don’t want to do any work!” Don’t you just plead to see children have a laugh (a good laugh by the way) on the Internet knowing that they are proud of their own precious work? You see, me being a child, I certainly know that us kids just don’t get many opportunities during our childhoods.

    That’s one of the greatest things about the blog, no matter what the age; you have the skills to SHINE (seriously)!

    Encouragement has a huge influence on blogging. No encouragement means no more writing. Children will never for the rest of the millennium, even think about typing a single letter on the blog without it. Plus all these users from around the world will expect outstanding work.

    This is why it is a big deal for people to comment.

    You know, to make them think “Oh, I’m quite good at this let me carry on doing it!” To make them never give up on a single dream.

    The impact on my life would most definitely be the blog. The comments make me stronger as a person, the activities are compelling and I just have a BLAST!!

    “So what, you get good comments, you still haven’t proved to me why I should go on this so called, ridiculous Ferry lane blog”.

    “Well, you just don’t understand the complete message of blogging, do you?” (and anyway who said I was finished?).

    You can’t even be bothered to go on this stupendous blog, and yet gazillions of people from all around the world can. I can name you a montage of countries that have checked up on our blog. Australia, America even Mongolia. New Zealand, Canada, Swaziland too.

    So you get what I’m saying.

    The quality of our work is outstanding and that’s what usually gets more people attracted to our blog (you can’t argue with that, we’ve already had over 1,000 comments in 5 months).

    All pieces of great of work are something that children cherish. In 10 years time, we will probably think “Oh, is that really what I did at the age of 10?”

    Blogs aren’t just about improving your writing, there are sacks of things that you could do.

    Maths, science, being critical about each other and more. This doesn’t only affect users, it also helps other generations. Basically, when new kids start blogs we could be an inspiration to them, people from outside of Ferry lane.


    You see, blogs aren’t made for lazy, people who waste time. So don’t just sit there, START PRONTO!!!

    The impact of blogging is huge. Writing attainment is rising rapidly as a result, as is engagement. Parents and staff are keen once their fears over e-safety are allayed, and I have never seen such a straightforward, attractive and easy to manage way to get schools looking through the window, full of awe, into the world around them.

    Click here for a large version of the Voicethread

    PS: If you liked the above you might want to check out “Digitalk No.1 – If I hear that song again…

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  • 19 Oct
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    This is the very first Digitalk post, part of a series of showcases written by teachers and children all about their experiences of class blogging. If you’d like to showcase your class blog please contact us.

    School: Greenpark Primary school, Sefton
    Mr Rafferty
    Class blog:
    Pupil blog: http://gpyear4.greenparkschool.org.uk/

    “If I hear that song again I’ll scream!” has become a common phrase amongst the parents of the children in our class.

    Why? Because the song and accompanying video (part of the Horrible Histories collection detailing the different fates of Henry VIII’s six wives) is catchy, sing-along-able and, most importantly, embedded into our class blog. This means that not only is it available in school but the children can go home and play it (and sing-along), to their hearts content!

    This is just one small example why class blogging has transformed the way we do things at Green Park. It connects us to the world around us.

    1. We share our activities with a world-wide audience and contribute to other classes and communities across the globe.
    2. We feel part of things and enjoy the links and connections that blogging brings.

    Y4 had a “standard” class blog which was so successful I felt comfortable in 2009 creating a separate Y4 Kids Blog: http://gpyear4.greenparkschool.org.uk .

    This is a self written, self monitored class blog run by the pupils in Y4. It was an experiment in trust as much as in blogging. Both elements of the project worked. Not a single word or phrase had to be changed, altered or amended for inappropriateness. The ideas and thoughts that the children expressed were delightful to read, both for the teachers and the parents.

    If there is just one, outstanding example of the impact of class blogging and the effectiveness of ICT in the classroom then it has to be Reece’s brilliant e-book post.

    The theme for our Summer Term Project was “how schools have changed over three generations”.

    The choice for our class was either:

    1.     To do the project as a pen, paper, photograph and drawing exercise

    2.     To do it as a blog.

    The split between the class was about 50:50. The bloggers of the class made progress with their words and pictures and extended their knowledge of themes and widgets.

    Occasionally as a teacher there are those moments of astonishment. I had one while reviewing the most recent posts from the class blog through my i-google account when I came across Reece’s e-book “School through the years“.

    Myebook - School Through the Years - click here to open my ebook

    If there was ever a moment that confirmed why blogging in education was absolutely the right thing to do then this was it. Of course Mum, and especially Dad, had an input in creating the ebook but extending the boundaries of learning is certainly no bad thing and bringing home and school closer together can only be good.

    Reece had interviewed his Grandmother, Mum & Dad about their school days and chronicled them using a website called “Myebook” that allows anyone (for free) to create  and publish/share eBooks, Photo albums, Comics, Magazines, Fanzines, CV, Brochures and all sorts.

    Thanks to Reece’s project our school newsletters are now published in the e-book format.

    Reece’s brilliant e-book has had, at time of writing, 7209 views, and not once has it ever been said “If I read that book again I’ll scream!”

    It is just too good.

    Thanks Peter! A cracking tale of the benefits of class blogging. We also interviewed Reece and his Dad to capture their experience in their own words.

    BrainPOP UK: Why did you chose Myebook as your medium for your project?

    Reece: Mr Rafferty sent out a list of useful websites that offered free software for schools. We looked at the list and choose Ebook.

    Luke (Reece’s Dad): I have seen ebook type magazines before of thought it would be fun to have ago.

    BrainPOP UK: How did you do go about making the ebook?

    Reece: I interviewed everyone and got the photos. We scanned the photos and I typed the words on the computer. Then my dad put them onto the ebook.

    Luke (Reece’s Dad): It was quite easy once we understood it. I have used Microsoft PowerPoint before and constructing the ebook was very similar. Reece typed the text on Microsoft Word and I copied them onto ebook. The pictures were uploaded onto the site and then inserted into the ebook. We did struggle changing some of the page backgrounds.

    BrainPOP UK: What do you think about the results (and fame!)?

    Reece: I really like the ebook because loads of people are looking at it and everyone in the world can see it. It was more fun than doing it on paper because you could do more stuff like, putting photos in it and adding circles. I like being famous because all my cousins have seen the ebook.

    Luke (Reece’s Dad): Reece and I enjoyed doing the ebook. I keep getting emails from Myebook telling me the number of views the book has got. We would definitely use it again only next time it will be aiming for a Booker Prize.

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  • 28 Jul
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    One of the most popular movies on BrainPOP UK is our Blog movie. We love to blog too. You might have noticed.

    In fact, we believe in it so much as a way to express yourself and your ideas that we’d like to showcase some real class blogs, or school blog initiatives & projects. Not blogs written by teachers. Blogs written by kids.

    We want to find 4 classroom blogs to form our new blogging series: “Digitalk – classroom voices”

    We’ve seen some extremely interesting, passionate, engaging classroom blogging happening in UK schools and we want to spotlight your work on the POPtalk blog. We want to email interview and feature class blogs written and run by kids, of any age. Why? For fun and inspiration.

    Or, if you’re feeling creative, you can present your work in any digital form/tool you like e.g. video, audio, presentation, animation…as long as we can embed it and write about it here.

    This is an opportunity to tell the world about YOUR blog. For example:

    • What sort of things do you blog about?
    • What are the best/worst things about blogging?
    • How do you decide what to write?
    • What have been your biggest success stories?
    • What’s the hardest thing about writing for a blog?
    • How do you combine it with school work?
    • Do you use multimedia or social networking in your blog? If so, how?
    • If you could say one thing to an aspiring class blogger what would it be?

    Your blog doesn’t have to be slick, cool or popular – it just has to be authentic and interesting. Watch this video “What pupils at HeathfieldCPS think of blogging!”:

    We will feature one blog a month between September and December 2010. Your interview (with any multimedia you can give us like screenshots, videos, podcasts etc) will appear here on POPtalk and will hopefully encourage our readers to check you out and be inspired.

    Think your blog fits the bill? Does your class deserve to be one of the 4? Are you a teacher who would like to nominate your class’s blog?

    Then email info@brainpop.co.uk and we’ll be in touch.

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