The success of our “all school” student blogging program. A unique program, unlike anything else currently in schools anywhere in the world
As a senior leader and head of ICT at NFPS, I helped initiate an all school blogging program this year. In the space of six months, we have managed to have every staff member start their own blog, every classroom has its own blog, most departments have a blog and every student in the 3 to 6 levels have their own blog. While the process has been large regarding organisation and PD, it has proved to be extremely successful in several areas.
We have been looking for a way to integrate ICT across the school curriculum. It becomes an integral part of each curriculum strand rather than a separate unit. This is how it is in the world and how it should be within a school structure as well. Blogging has been one of the platforms that has helped us achieve this aim.
Secondly, we were trying to move the school to focus more on Web 2.0.
While the world has rapidly understood and accepted this change, bureaucracies are always slower on the uptake merely because of how they are set up. Issues such as control and fear are constantly hindering the effective teaching of up-to-date practice regarding ICT. While our school was doing OK regarding the creative use of computers (making movies, animations, podcasts, etc.), these things were merely taking up server space and students and teachers were never sharing their learning and teaching. Blogging has become the platform that has allowed us to instantly overcome this issue (along with helping us solve our space issues). Teachers and students are now constantly posting their work, whether that be in text form or using more of the digital literacies such as film, music etc. All of a sudden our podcasts became real podcasts that people from all over the world could hear rather than merely simulations.
This has had a flow-on effect into other areas of interest to me. I am a big believer in not teaching applications. Applications should only be learned at a point of need. When there is a demand, the learning becomes more effective and real. Staff and students are now demanding more use of digital video cameras because there is a real use for them rather than the trite reason of doing some subjects in teaching IMovie. All of a sudden, cameras that have been still for years are now constantly booked out and we need to buy more.
This sharing of learning and knowledge is also something that excites me. As teachers, we can move our profession on to a far deeper level if we combine our knowledge and it is through blogging that our teachers are able to simply and effectively do that. Successful lessons are filmed and instantly uploaded. This has also had the effect of introducing new communities to many of our staff and students. Social networking is how the internet has moved in regards to communication, yet it is still frowned upon by our educational institutions. The blogs have been a great introduction to many of our staff into the world of social networking and how it can be used beneficially.
The blogs have also been really beneficial in helping to link the various curriculums through the school. In my other role as a music specialist, I have always been keen to find ways to link specialist programs into the who life of the school (rather than merely be seen as an APT provider for classroom teachers). Now the students are happily blogging about what they might do in my classroom or their art programs and specialist teachers can video or record classes or work upload those files to whatever file sharing program you use, and then email the classroom teachers the relevant URLs which can be passed onto the kids.
This has dramatically increased the specialist program and highlighted the student work. Parents can see, classroom teachers can see and plan accordingly. Of course, this also applies to our support teachers and their programs.
There are numerous other benefits such as pushing towards student-centered learning, authentic learning, greater display and pride in work, helping those with ICT phobia get onboard, etc.