Whose job is it to make up all these bizarre new ICT words – wikis, podcasting and blogs? I‟d like that job! Take the last of those, blogs. It‟s actually short for weblog - a log or diary that you keep on the world wide web. With an estimated 70,000 new blogs (or online diaries) created worldwide - everyday - it‟s clearly an important phenomenon. Whereas a diary is usually an intensely personal affair for your eyes only (what I wouldn‟t have given to have read my sister‟s diary all those years ago…) a blog is a bit different. A blog takes the personal and conversational nature of diaries and give this a public dimension, via the web – and allows you to do this easily, quickly and without the need to be, well, geeky… Think of it as a personal web page made up of frequently updated information. You can give voice to your opinions on any subject. If you create a blog you‟ll become a „blogger‟ engaged in the process known as „blogging‟. Designing your blog is point-and-click (using words, pictures, video or sound) and you can be up and running in minutes. You can update your blog as often as you wish, keeping it fresh and attractive for regular visitors. Importantly, you can show links to other material, such as other blogs or web sites with relevant, additional, information. If you‟d still like to keep your thoughts private or by invitation only, you can protect it with a password. But because most blogs are public, you might be surprised how many people read and comment on your views and thoughts. So why should you want to blog? As a teacher, you might find that you benefit from keeping a journal of your experiences in the classroom or as a place for storing those late night flashes of genius or notes from an inspiring course. And, because your readers can leave comments, they may add some insight to yours. A big part of blogging is about sharing. But, be aware that some people that leave comments can be less-than-kind. At its simplest, a blog can be an online portfolio of children‟s work containing text, scanned images, sound, photographs and even video. There is also the opportunity to be more inventive and use a blog as the basis of a class topic or investigation. One of the best school blogs, Sandhaig Primary School, for instance, not only includes a number of online galleries in its blog but is an excellent example of a school regularly updating its blog. There are book reviews, journal entries for school events and trips, and even examples of Flash movies they have created. You can visit it (and comment) at http://www.sandaigprimary.co.uk/ There‟s a huge potential audience for your blog and, because your blog site can show how many „hits‟ or visits there have been, children will love the fact that they‟ve had so many readers. From this, other benefits develop too. The audience is potentially so large, real and live that writing for blogs takes an additional responsibility. Combining text and images can help to organise ideas more carefully and pupil confidence, not just with ICT, can increase. You might even find that blogging encourages greater accuracy, care and motivation. Blogging provides a great opportunity to give children a voice. The ideas and implications of blogging in a school have been a major point of discussion and exploration. A blog can be a way of holding up a mirror to your class or school. Almost everything that takes place in the busy primary school classroom could be reflected in the blog. In some ways you could say it is another way of making the walls of the school transparent, giving the opportunity for the wider community to see just how much marvellous stuff is going on in your establishment. Here‟s just a few ideas to get you thinking: • A daily diary for a science experiment over long period e.g. a diary of the sunflowers with experiment notes, scanned observation drawings, photographs, measurements and results. • A gallery of artwork – scanned or digitally photographed. • A list favourite and appropriate links to other blogs and sites. This, to use the jargon, is called a Blogroll. The blogroll could provide sources of information that could help children when they are rising to the exciting challenges you have set for homework. • Work of the day/week/month – scan or digitally photograph hand written work or upload a digital version • Set homework tasks – children respond to challenges with the teacher moderating and publishing responses • Create an ongoing class novel • A poetry anthology with recordings of the bards themselves reading their epic tales. • One of my favourite books (*A Five Year Sentence by Bernice Rubens) features a character who begins to challenge herself to do more and more daring activities in her mundane life, by writing a diary of what she was going to do tomorrow. A simple use of a blog could be to herald what the lessons in the next few days are going to be about. Parents and children can share some research, or a clearer understanding of objectives, or even offer ideas and resources. • Lunch time supervisors could broadcast the menu for the week (comments could express a constructive review of the lumps in the custard!) Getting your blog up and running There are lots of blogging sites out there, most of which are free. Perhaps the two most popular free ones are Blogger.com and WordPress.com and setting your first blog site up can take just a few minutes, a relatively modern computer and a reasonably fast internet connection. You will need an e-mail address. You could use your existing email address or you might choose to set up a new one purely for blogging purposes. Choose a name for your blog e.g. ourclassblog This would give you a blog address something like http://ourclassblog.blogspot.com or http://ourclassblog.wordpress.com - depending on which of the two blog platforms mentioned you decide on. Why not get the class to compete in coming up with a short, sharp and succinct name? The person setting up the blog and consequently deciding on its look, presentation, posting privileges is known as the Administrator – so that‟s you, or your ICT co- ordinator. Once the set-up is complete you will be allocated a User Name and Password to access the Admin Control Panel whenever you want. Look on this as being the Master Control info - so keep it to yourself! In the Control Panel you can authorise „posting‟ privileges to pupils - either as individuals or as a group (or groups within the class). A post is the latest information that you are going to put on the blog. If you do give this privilege to pupils, they would have access only to areas of the Control Panel needed to create posts. In the Control Panel, you also set pupils‟ user names and passwords and they would not able to change settings or moderate comments - more on that in the Safety First section. Similarly, for larger projects, you, as the Administrator, can delegate administration issues to other Administrators (what a relief!) Great if someone‟s off on a course or similar - the blog doesn‟t grind to a halt. Sensible steps for safe blogging The power of the Blog is awesome yet with that power comes responsibility - that of safeguarding your blog and your pupils from all the nasty, spammy and plain dodgy stuff that we all know is out there. These problems can be overcome and shouldn‟t really be a barrier to the potential benefits to be gained. Indeed, it‟s a good opportunity to share and discuss these issues of web responsibility with pupils in circle and SEAL time. You may find that your blog starts to attract undesirable interjections in the way of ‟spam‟ (unwanted e-mail), nuisance and uninformed comments. Most of that spam will come from „comments‟ to you or your students‟ posts. Children being children, will post comments on each others blogs, most likely in mobile phone text format, “darren u smell.” While that may indeed be true, it‟s not the sort of silly stuff you want on the blog. Even well meaning but ill-thought-through comments can be harmful to self esteem. (I still worry about my spelling thanks to a comment my dad made on my essay on Tornadoze! ) So the sensible thing to do is to set up your blog to only show comments that you or your administrator, have approved. In your Admin Control Panel, tick the box that allows you to „moderate‟ any comments before they appear on the blog. You will be e-mailed when a comment has been posted and then it‟s up to you to approve it or delete it. This is another reason why it is good to set the administrator‟s e-mail to one that you, and only you, check regularly, and carefully. Don‟t be flattered into “approving” all of the comments your blog receives. Even an apparently innocuous comment such as, “Hey! Fantastic blog! Michael,” could contain a link to a site selling those bright blue pills that help various parts of your anatomy… Putting these controls in place and being a little bit wary will prevent automatically-generated spam comments but also these inappropriate and unwelcome comments from individuals. Both of the Blogging platforms I‟ve mentioned do have effective anti-spam systems. As we touched on earlier, before they start contributing to the blog, it is important that children are aware of the rules of „net-iquette‟. The risks of blogging are very much the same as with any other website or email system but, because it is so easy to update blogs, anyone writing in a blog should ensure that the blog contains no information that could potentially identify them. Ideally, your guidance for blogging should form part of the school‟s internet and web acceptable use policy. At the excellent Hope School blog site, Class 2 have devised their own set of „blog rules‟ to make sure blogging is fun and safe. The rules include a range of behavioural advice from “Don‟t give out your address or phone number or any personal details” to “Remember from our RE lessons, you‟ve got to be a friend to have a friend.” Visit the rules and the blog itself HERE That‟s it. Once you‟ve created your blog, you‟ll be able to create posts and start publicising your new blog to parents, other schools and beyond!