By nature blogging is a public act. Its purpose is to share ideas and opinions far and wide and gain reader feedback. Needless to say privacy concerns make it a difficult subject to teach primary school students. But that did not stop teacher Angana Ghate from initiating a blogging project for her Grade 4 class. She turned to itslearning in order to mitigate privacy concerns.
“itslearning offered a safe and protected environment (as far as possible) for students to learn about blogging, including how to blog and its purpose,” explains Angana, who teaches at Shiloh Point Elementary in Cumming, Georgia, USA. “As a result the blogging project was a success. The kids learned how to blog and the purpose of a blog entry: getting feedback from ‘the world’. They also learned how to work through the writing process online and not on paper.”
The blogging project ran over the course of the fall semester 2013. First the students researched six different North American tribes, from the Inuit people in the Canadian Arctic to the Nez Perce people of the Pacific Northwest. They then wrote blog posts using the itslearning blogging tool where they described what it would be like to live with the tribe of their choosing.
Alena Zink, instructional technologist at Shiloh Point Elementary, says technology played a large role in the project. Students researched for one week, collecting articles, pictures and videos on a shared resource page (using the itslearning discussion board). They also worked in the school media center over one-hour periods for four days where they had access to pre-set online resources. “This is our first year with itslearning and we are all getting to know the platform,” Alena says. “The students really love using the platform and it fits in well with our Bring Your Own Technology focus. The project really required a lot of planning and, in the end, it was a great experience.”
The mark of a good blog post is the discussion it generates. So parents, administrators and fellow students were invited into the classroom to comment on the posts. Student Mackenzie said she liked reading the comments on her post. “It was fun to see what other people thought about my post. It also showed me where I could improve. It was also nice to see that an adult was reading my post,” she said.
The students were also asked to support their posts with pictures or videos. Uploading media to the post was not a problem for student Gage. “It was easy to put up a picture and to write the post. There was nothing hard about it. It was great,” Gage says. In his post, Gage writes about living with the Hopi tribe. “I chose them because they eat a lot of corn and they like to go fishing. I like corn and I like to go fishing so I wanted to know more about them,” he explains.
Angana admits that she could have used other online tools such as Wikispaces or Edublogs to run the blog project. “But we would not be able to work in such a protected way as itslearning offers. Online safety is important for elementary students,” she says, adding that she is already experimenting with other itslearning features. “Why not use itslearning?” she asks. “It’s like any other tech tool or app: different tools offer different options, and you won’t know the beauty of each until you try.”