Over the past few years I had read about other educators using Kidblog to get their pupils blogging. I didn’t delve into it too much as I had been teaching younger pupils for the past few years. However, now that I moved back up to 6th class, I decided to investigate this blogging platform and to see how I could use it in the classroom. I knew that Nigel Lane had been using it with his pupils, so I asked for his advice. I decided to take the plunge and set up a class account.

The benefits of using Kidblog are:

• It is used by educators around the world to enhance and compliment the curriculum

• It is a safe and secure platform that is specifically geared towards schools

• The teacher is able to control activity

• It is a means to motivate pupils to learn, write, ask questions

• It teaches pupils the rules of Digital Citizenship and how to behave responsibly in an online community

I wrote to parents and explained how Kidblog is designed for primary teachers who want to provide each pupil with an individual blog. Pupils can publish posts and participate in academic discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. The teacher maintains complete control over student blogs and user accounts. The pupils’ blogs can be private and viewable only by classmates and the teacher or they can be public. Schools can connect with each other through Kidblog. Pupils can work on their blog at their own pace/level at home or at school. Pupils are able to comment on each other’s blogs but comments can be moderated and approved by the teacher before they appear. Through using this safe and secure blogging platform pupils can:

• create classroom discussions

• learn digital citizenship

• practice writing skills

• create an e-portfolio

• reflect on learning

• formatively assess writing

So, last week, I introduced my pupils to the whole concept of personal blogs and they were very receptive and enthusiastic. Over the course of the first week, to say that I have been blown away by it is an understatement. The figures speak for themselves – 160 posts have been written and there have been 1,000 comments (and this is just the 30 pupils in the class as I have set it up completely secure and just for ourselves). Although I have given some written assignments for homework to be done on the blog, there has been quite a lot of spontaneous written work appearing on pupils’ blogs. Pupils are writing about their hobbies and interests all week so I have been reading about horses, dogs, planes, football, birds, animals, hurling, online games. The list is endless. Kidblog seems to have given the pupils what the Ebglish curriculum intended – writing for a purpose with a real audience in mind.

However, two things have been really interesting for me: firstly, the way that the blog has gelled the class together – they are been hugely positive and supportive to each other and commenting on each other’s posts and asking each other questions; secondly the blog appears to be serving all ability levels within the class, and there are varying degrees of ability. Everybody is working at their own abilities and the others are supportive of that in their positive comments and encouragement.

The tag graphic to the right shows the range of topics that have been written in the last week. Some of the things that we have been doing on the blog include:

Θ They have been writing posts in response to the class novel that we are reading, “Under the Hawthorn Tree”

Θ They have written what they have learned about the Celts that we have been studying in history

Θ They have been taking photographs of their art work with our iPods and uploading them to their blogs as a digital art portfolio

Θ They have been writing about their own interests and hobbies

Θ I have given them maths puzzles every night taken from the 7 Puzzle Blog – they don’t have to do them but many are loving the challenge (“keep them coming!!!” one pupil commented)

Θ They used the Strip Design App on their iPods to create a simple comic strip using the Gaeilge phrase that we had been learning “Is breá liom a bheith ag ….” and they uploaded this to their blogs. Some even wrote spontaneously “as Gaeilge” how they had completed their “leabhar grinn”.

Θ I have used the Hokusai App to record their Gaeilge reading and uploaded it onto the blog as an MP3 to help them with reading for homework

Θ I have used the Show Me App to record solutions to maths problems and uploaded them to the blog as a video to help with maths homework

Θ I’ve put links up to websites that I want the pupils to visit to practise a particular skill eg. this week they visited Edware to practise the counties of Ireland

Using Strip Design for Gaeilge

From the evidence of activity on Kidblog during this first week, it has been hugely motivational. It seems that pupils are excitedly doing blog work at home and delighting in the comments they are receiving. I’m trying to comment on most of the posts and they seem to like that also. I’ve got very positive feedback from some parents who are amazed at the enthusiasm of the pupils for it. One parent remarked that she never before saw her child so eager to do homework!

I’ve even had to put a curfew on activity on the blog – 9pm is now cut-off point with the threat of losing their account if they are on it after that time. I can see that some pupils are on the blog even before they come to school. Some pupils have even been blogging this weekend, without prompting from the teacher. The activity has been so hectic this week, I’m sure the novelty will wear off at some stage and that enthusiasm may wane. However, I have plenty of ideas to keep the pupils motivated and wanting to produce their own work. Time will tell for sure, but at the moment Kidblog has been a huge hit with my pupils.