Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Benefits of our School-Wide Blog

Last year I pitched the idea of having our Year 5 & 6 students contribute to a school blog.  We have a few class blogs but I felt that a school blog would be a great way to share with the community the learning going on in different parts of the school.  It would also provide a student voice about school events and give all classes a chance to share their learning, even if they don't have their own blog.  The homepage of the school website would also have access to fresh content on a weekly basis, something I have done since I started managing it.

The benefits for the students themselves are learning how to:
  • decide which events are newsworthy
  • approach teachers to ask them to be in a story
  • come up with questions and interview students and teachers
  • take notes and turn those into a news article
  • take photos and choose the best ones
  • use a video camera and help edit the footage.

When we started the 'Te Totara Times' last year we used it as an opportunity to extend our GATE students.  Three students from each class were selected by their teachers, and some were more interested than others.  Over the year, there were eighteen students involved in gathering stories.

When it came to interviewing students and teachers about their learning, I met up with our reporters after lunch and went with them to the selected class to help them.  Then they met with Renee, the teacher who worked with me on the Times, over one lunchtime and wrote up their article.  The articles are short and sweet - we decided that we wanted regular articles rather than longer pieces as we didn't want to overtax our students or remove them from their classes for too long.  The articles then came back to me to be typed up and put onto the blog and then the website.  Renee and I got together at the beginning of each term to talk about what events and areas of the school the students would write stories about.

Overall I felt the school-wide blog was successful and I was pleased when I was given the go-ahead to continue with the blog this year, although I had to find a new teacher, Jemma, to help me.  A new student leader initiative in our senior classes meant a change to the way we recruited our student reporters.  Instead of having them selected by their teachers, student leaders were offered the opportunity to volunteer to be on the Te Totara Times.  We ended up with six student leaders, who we put into two groups of three.  I have to say that we have more motivated students this way, as they have chosen to be reporters rather than had that decided for them.

This year we decided to allow the students more say in what they are reporting on, so they can bring more of their ideas to the blog.  We let them know what events are coming up and then they work out what to cover and what classes to approach about their learning.  So Jemma and I have input but I feel the students have more ownership than our reporters from last year.

This week the reporters did the first video interview for the Times.  This is something I had been interested in doing but it was the students who led the way.  We can improve both in front of and behind the camera but it was a great first effort.  I have only just received my first Macbook and had to get help from Renee again working out how to use the latest version of iMovie.  Nothing like having to post something in a couple of hours to move along the learning process!

Another thing I feel we can work on as a school is to have more classes and teachers comment on the blog.  That might encourage parents to comment as well.  In some cases I think this is an education issue so I will try to help teachers feel confident to comment.

I think that a school-wide blog is a great way to get some of the benefits of blogging without requiring all teachers to do it.  I am very pleased to be involved with it and am enjoying watching it evolve.

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