Stephen Baker’s class blog, The Ins and Outs, came out on top in the latestINTERFACE Awards. Here we find out what’s behind being the best blog in the business.
Why did you set up a class blog?
I started after attending the ‘Lighting the Flame’ Conference in Rotorua three years ago. I accidentally walked into a workshop on blogging and have been hooked ever since. I find it’s a great way to communicate about what is happening in our class.
Who manages it?
The students and myself operate the blog. Everyone knows the login and can add posts and widgets. Every student has their own blog as well so they’re very familiar with how a blog operates.
We make it our goal to put a new post on every day and have heaps of weekly columns written by the students but the majority of posts come from what’s happening in our class and school. The blog is visited daily in class as we use it for shared reading and writing. I frequently write posts in front of the children to model writing skills and posts are read for shared reading.
The great thing about blogging is it is quick and easy. You can put up a post in less than five minutes and I would spend no more than half an hour a day on our blog.
What are the benefits?
The blog provides a real authentic audience for children’s work. They know people are reading and looking, so feel motivated to produce their best. It makes them excited about their learning. They love producing work – it sure beats writing something in your exercise book or sticking things on the wall! It’s also helped them improve their reading, writing and ICT skills. And it can be accessed 24/7, meaning children are reading and writing after school hours.
From the parents’ perspective, it helps to keep them up to date with what’s happening in our class, as well as provide comments and feedback.
What are the challenges and how have they been overcome?
The biggest has been learning all the different skills involved to operate a successful blog. I have taught myself everything by reading, visiting forums and accessing help sites. My favourite blogging help site is theedublogger.com … it’ll teach you all you need to know about blogging!
Any advice to teachers wanting to start a blog?
Just get in there and give it a go. I remember when I started I didn’t even know how to add a picture but eventually you figure these things out. Start slowly by putting up a post a week and increase as your skills develop. Visit lots of other blogs for ideas and inspiration – I have a list of all my favourite blogs that I visit once a week.
Also, there are lots of different blogging platforms so have a look around at them all and decide what works best for you. I use WordPress but my kids use Edublogs. I found that Edublogs is a great place to start as they offer lots of support.
And your top tips for improving an existing blog?
I believe the most important thing about blogging is to post often. No one is going to visit or return to your blog if it hasn’t been updated for weeks. It’s also important to make your blog clean and easy to read. Don’t write too much! Make it interesting with a variety of different posts. On our blog, I try to mix it up with student posts, photos, games, videos and information.
How does it feel to win ‘Best Class Blog’ in the INTERFACE Awards?
Winning has been the highlight of the year. We received a new laptop, featured in the local newspaper and INTERFACE, of course, and overall it’s raised the profile of our blog.
Any plans for the future?
Next year, I want to continue to improve our blog by focusing more on using video in the classroom. I’m thinking of starting a separate blog based around our student news show ‘Street Talk’.
ABOUT THE BLOG
‘the Ins and outs’ is a blog about what’s happening in Room 9 at Russell street school. stephen Baker is the class teacher and Room 9 is a Year 6 (10-11 year olds) digital class in the senior team.
The blog won the INTERFACE Awards 2010 Best Class Blog – this included the prize of a toshiba satellite Pro t110 (RRP$1513.13). The annual awards recognise excellent and effective use of ICT.
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