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
Teacher: 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:
- how I chose the tools I used
- 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.