Saturday, 17 September 2011

My latest Hodder Education post preview before it goes on the site

 So……… the majority of teaching staff have gone through their first two weeks of the new academic year.

For some this is the first rotation of a two week timetable, for others the chance to see classes a handful of times to create those key early learning hooks to engage classes and make an informed assessment of where their classes are after checking through books and discussions on a class and one to one level.

Many of you including me are tired (after reading that extended last paragraph) getting back into the routine… 

Alarm, tea, drive, turn computer on, check resources for the day, briefing, emails, meet and greet for class and then bang teaching…… turn computer off, mark books, drive home, turn kettle on, dinner, think of lessons for the next day, bed.

But I’m not writing this to fill you with dread but to perhaps give you a flicker of a light in the distance of does it have to be like this?

I’m watching / listening to the TED x London conference whilst I write this as I’ve found that listening to others and engaging with passionate people has helped me be creative and sit down at the drawing board and think as creatively as I can to try and create a table tennis environment of fire out an idea, get one back and give one back again. I get this from twitter on a daily basis and this is my connective to my last blog post. (I keep hearing you have to connect the learning from one lesson to the next).

“Georgia TED – This morning I’ve being on facebook, google maps found where Camden is, checked the roundhouse website found out how many it seats, downloaded the tedxlondon app so I’ve done loads of learning so far and I’m not anywhere near school. Why do we learn loads of irrelevant material?? That in our lives we will never use!?!?!?!?”


This blog post is going to focus on blogging. Because lots of small voices makes a loud noise and influence. I say this as it seems to be the buzz word surrounding new school learning activities. 


I’ve dabbled with blogging, creating my own blog of resources that I have made at PGCE level and beyond. I’ve used it to inform others of useful websites that I have found or been told about. I’m put videos that I have converted onto it that have inspired me. It has become a resource communication medium for me. I’ve been told by educators, peers, colleagues ‘Oh I looked at your blog, lots of good stuff on it’.

This is where the trigger for me and many bloggers out there has hit home in our thinking that this resource is a gold mine for students.

Via twitter I have received links from my PLN (Personal Learning Network) for their class blog, which has a vast array of STUDENT created material. They have asked for comment on the posts created by their students. I think this is brilliant as you find what happens next is that the student creates more, purely due to being inspired as they’ve captive audience to write to that are positive and often from places far and wide or from friends. Some comments give advice but most positive messages from teachers are open-ended seeking more from the student. I’ve mainly seen this in primary where students write stories on their blogs.

Many teachers out their included me have spend hours and hours creating resources and jazzing things up like blogs. BUT what blogging appears to be doing is providing engagement. It appears to get students writing and writing A LOT! Therefore it seems to be bringing students writing on and at an accelerated rate! 


I’m sick and tired of seeing targets and looking at the projected target path for each of the students I teach. (In a robotic voice say the following - You are a level 4c you will reach a level 4a by the end of the year. Next year you will reach a 5b).  I’ve seen many students who once they hit that target stagnate ‘well I’ve reached my target’. Then it becomes an uphill battle trying to persuade them no no no this is just the beginning and you can go on from here and achieve more!

I remember seeing BBC breakfast and @DeputyMitchell and some students from his school blogging and he told the journalist correspondent how it had drive students achievement through the roof!

So blogging has great potential for primary. But what about Secondary?

Well David Mitchell has created an amazing concept called Quadblogging. It has the principle to set up multiple blogs from different schools who are similar age, or blog about similar things such as having a subject specific focus such as geography. I think this could be massive and get schools up and down the country working together to really bring each other on with their geography. It could also engage our students into seeing the importance of learning about far away places when they are blogging with students who live in those far away places!

For the new school that I have joined I am going to meet with all the A-Level students and get them to create a blog of their work as an e-portfolio. So that universities that they apply to can get a feeling about their potential before even meeting them in a more informed manner than relying purely on a UCAS application. Why limit their chances especially when we hear that competition is so fierce especially to get into the elite universities like Oxford and Cambridge.

However I have a problem! My school has blocked bloggingL So why am I so passionate about it still?!?!?!? Well lets engage students at home! Why ask them to do homework that they don’t want to do and see no value in? Why not give them the freedom to blog and learn about what they want to do! So if they want to blog about geography great. If they want to blog about maths great, if they want to blog about dancing and them performing great! We need to stop stifling and beating into kids do this, this, this, but be creative with what they want their life journey to explore. Blogging allows students to link up with other like minded students from around the world and also different minded students to create intriguing and open ended dialogue of constructive differences. Sounds odd but students looking at a problem or blog post from a different perspective have really opened up students minds to a different way of doing something other than their own way or their teachers way of doing something. As a teacher is my way the best for all the student that I teach always?

What about other benefits of blogging? Blogging allows students to peer and peer assess by leaving comments on each others blog, it allows staff to easily mark, find what students have created by the date entry and leave a mark / comment. It allows parents to see what their child has done and whether their teacher is commenting on their learning blogs. 

Blogging can be done via a computer so in the classroom and at home via a computer. BUT it can be opened up as it is mobile. I use posterous in this way. I have live blogged a week residential student camp for parents to find out what activities their child is up to. It has then created a great memory board for when students get home they can look at it and comment on it to keep that memory forever.

So what about geography blogging? What should it look like?

A big question! 

Should it be about sharing pictures of locations staff, students have visited around the world? Or be more focused on where they live and their every day lives and linking this to students around the world and how they live their lives? Isn’t that HUMAN GEOGRAPHY? This might give students a clear insight into where might suit them in the future as a location to flourish at what they are passionate about.

Should it be about the use of technology and posting clear demonstrations of creating a landform diagram and explaining it using voicethread? 

Should it be about students putting essays on it? 


@ewanmcintosh at TED x London and his problem finding education why not set up a geography blog where we set up problems for STUDENTS to try and come up with solutions for? Possibly as an ENVIRONMENTAL GEOGRAPHY approach.

This is where it is over to you and your thoughts on the matter as I think it is an area as geographers that we should sit down and have a debate about blogging and our subject as it is clearly a medium on the rise.

My next post will be about setting up a geography club.


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