Using blogs to engage boys in learning

We all know that it can be quite difficult sometimes (or all the time) to engage boys in learning. One strategy being used at Allerton CE Primary is to use a “Football Manager” blog to encourage boys who are interested in football (and girls) to write and do arithmetic.

I well remember working for 6 months as a student with a young lad called Karl who had left school with no academic qualifications. He was working in a meat processing unit of a frozen food supplier and was supplementing his rather low pay by betting. His ability to calculate the odds and potential winnings was amazing, and he was also pretty good at calculations to do with weighing meat. All he had needed was to see a use for the skills and he acquired them.

Since football is such a huge motivation for young lads it is a great way into engaging them in their learning. Blogging about their team, players that they want and building a fantasy team on a budget in order to get results exposes them to brilliant opportunities to write and do maths.

Have a look at the ACE Football Manager site and see what you think. And if you need help getting into blogging do contact me.

 

Using blogs to engage parents

Often schools struggle to communicate and engage with the parents of their pupils and the wider community. We have found that blogging has an amazing potential for improving communication and engagement without too much extra work. Most blogging tools will interact with other social media such as Facebook and Twitter so it is relatively easy to write a blog post that is then automatically posted onto social media. Here are some examples:

  • If your website allows you to blog then why not use it to communicate the latest school news – the meetings about to happen, the ones that have just happened, the latest football or netball match reports (perhaps written by your pupil reporters), that amazing Ofsted report, job vacancies, new staff, etc. The list is almost endless but by making a news blog your community will be able to see what happens in your school, prospective parents and staff will be able to get a better feel of the amazing things that happen and you will have a fantastic record of your achievements.
  • Why not have an “ACE Work” blog to celebrate all the amazing achievements of your pupils (and maybe your staff!)
  • Class blogs are a superb way of sharing what is happening in that small community of the classroom and encourages engagement between pupils, teacher, parents, community and even the world. Teachers can celebrate the work of their pupils, pupil and parents can add their comments (moderated of course), homework can be set, blogs can be used as a creative medium for pupils eg story writing, reporting on news, etc. Schools can join together and comment on each others blog posts (a great example of this is “quad blogging“). By providing the world as an audience pupils can become more enthusiastic about their creative skills.
  • Blogs for clubs or subjects. I have run blogs for computing clubs for many years and this has given pupils an opportunity to show off their computing skills and has also been an interesting record of their progress. I have also set up blogs to share school weather station data making records of the weather available to other people all over the world. Weather data provides a huge opportunity for developing data handling skills.

By sharing the news of your school, your achievements and the amazing work that your pupils do you can engage so much more with your pupils, parents and community. There are lots of blogging sites and blogging tools available, some free, some that involve payment, some that are very public and some where you have lots of control. If you would like advice, help in setting up blogging in your school or training then do contact me.

iPad Apps: Using Mobile Podcaster to podcast to PrimaryBlogger

mobilepodcasterWhy Podcast?

Over the next few weeks I am going to be working with groups of primary school pupils to try and improve their speaking and listening skills. One way of helping with this is to record them and play back the recordings so that they can hear and analyse themselves.

There are lots of podcasting solutions available for the iPad but I wanted to find a simple way of recording pupils using an iPad, reviewing / re-recording them and then publishing straight onto a PrimaryBlogger site based on WordPress. One of the more popular ways of doing this is with Audioboo and I will look at this in another posting.

There are a couple of things you need before you start:

  • a WordPress blog (we use Primaryblogger)
  • your blog administrator needs to enable the Blubrry PowerPress plugin (thanks to Ed at PrimaryBlogger who made this available) and preferably configure it to display the audio player correctly
  • Mobile Podcaster installed onto your iPad (£1.99 from the app store)
  • I would also suggest that you create a separate user for publishing podcasts to the blog and that this user is set as a Contributor so that you can moderate blogs before they are published
  • You can also create a Podcast category and set the app to automatically post into this category.

Mobile Podcaster is very easy to use, you can view a video on how to use it to publish a podcast, optional text and picture straight to you class blog.

Limitations of this method:

  • you cannot edit the recording before publishing – it would be nice to be able to trim the beginning and end if necessary
  • the sound files are stored on the WordPress site so you may soon run out of space and have to upgrade
  • you are currently limited to 15 minutes recording (not that this will be a problem for the work we are currently doing!)

I will add some links to some of our podcasts shortly.

Using YouTube to embed videos in your blog using an iPad

One of the problems with publishing videos on your blog is making sure that the video can be seen from all platforms. If you publish a video directly from an iPad it may not play automatically on a PC and vice versa. One way around this problem is to publish your videos via a third party site such as YouTube or Vimeo (Vimeo has the advantage of not showing adverts!) In this article I will explain one way of embedding videos in your class WordPress blog by uploading them to YouTube.

You will need the following:

  • a WordPress based blog eg PrimaryBlogger
  • a school or class YouTube account
  • an iPad with the iMovies and WordPress apps installed

First, make your movie in iMovies. This could be a simple video of someone reading aloud or a sophisticated movie that has been considerably edited. Once you have your movie, go back to the main iMovie projects screen, select your movie, click on the share icon and select YouTube. You will be asked to sign in, enter your username and password (these will now be stored) and you will arrive at the Share Project screen. Here you can fill in details about the video – remember not to reveal any details that you shouldn’t. Under Privacy I strongly recommend that you select “Unlisted” – Private would mean that no one else would be able to see it, Public means that it is listed for everyone to find. When you have completed this click on “Share” and the movie will be exported to YouTube. This may take some time depending upon the size of the movie and your connection speed.

Once uploaded, you will get a screen offering a number of options. I suggest you click on “Tell a Friend” and that you email yourself the link.

Open your email, copy and paste the URL into your post and then add the following text directly to the end :

?rel=0

So that it looks something like:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A9h0ADLoAQ?rel=0

This extra bit of text makes sure that no adverts or suggested videos appear after the video has finished.

Publish your blog and the video should now be visible from most screens.

What to do on a class blog

I’ve recently been asked by a number of teachers “what shall I do on my blog?” So this gives me an excuse to do list on a blog!

  1. Make a list! People love lists, pupils love lists, so make a list of something that is relevant to your class. But don’t make it too long (unlike this list!)
  2. Set a challenge. The main reason for using a blog with children is to help them learn and there are so many things you can learn through either writing a blog or reading and commenting on a blog. There are some really good challenges out there on the blogosphere already such as 5SC (Five Sentence Challenge) and 100WC (100 Word Challenge). It is very easy to set your own challenge, post a photo and ask the children to describe what is going on, or the story that might surround the photo. Give the first line or paragraph of a story and ask pupils to write the next page. Give the last line of the story ….
  3. Point your pupils at posts by other children on your blog or on other class blogs and encourage them to comment. It works best if they are give several positive, encouraging comments for each constructive criticism that they make. Suggest that they think about how they would feel if they received the comment that they have written.
  4. Celebrate your children’s work. It is so easy now to put a photo or video onto a blog, especially if you use a tablet such as an iPad with the WordPress app installed as I am using to write this post. Parents, grandparents from across the globe, friends and relatives love to see their children’s work online or to hear them reading their own work. And if you have a visitors map attached to your blog you have your next geography lesson sorted!
  5. Visit other blogs to get ideas. Blog dipping is a great way to see the best of what is happening on other school blogs.
  6. Join Quadblogging. Link your class blog to three other class blogs across the globe. You take it in turns to blog and to read and comment on other class blogs and this will give you loads of new ideas, give your pupils lots of opportunities to provide critical analysis of other work, and another geography lesson will be sorted!
  7. Perhaps the most important thing is to make the blog live, it needs regular input and feedback from yourself, the pupils and an audience out there. As David Mitchell says “A Blog needs an audience to keep it alive for your learners.” Sugata Mitra introduced the idea of the “Granny Cloud“, people “out there” who are encouraged to praise, comment, suggest and challenge via the blog. Why not build up your own community of cloud grannies to help keep your blog alive?

If you have other ideas do please add them as a comment!What to do on a class blog wordle

Embed YouTube videos in WordPress – remove related videos

If you upload videos to YouTube before embedding them in your WordPress blog you may want to remove the related videos that display automatically when you get to the end of the video. This can be done by typing ?rel=0 directly after the URL eg http://YouTube.be/M_f4u4rWXHA?rel=0