The impact of blogging on individuals is just that. Individual.
Ferry Lane Primary School in Tottenham is a great little school with fantastic children in an area of very high deprivation. Our children tend to have very little exposure to the rest of London, let alone the rest of the country, so blogging has been an effective way to give them a window on the world. Year 5 has been blogging for since October 2010. Years 4 and 6 have just begun their blogging journeys.
The impact of school blogging on a population of children is clear. Engagement rises as a result, peer-marking means the quality of writing and thinking improves, and boys want to write more. Underneath the data that supports these statements of course, lie the individuals whose learning is affected. Here we will meet two individuals upon whom blogging has had a significant impact in recent months.
Jozef and Sharon have very different needs. They are both 10 years old and in my Year 5 class. Jozef arrived from Slovakia to Tottenham last year. His family are all learning English. Sharon has no problem with her English. In fact, she is probably the most talented writer I have ever taught. So how has blogging made a difference to them?
We will start with Sharon. It is rare to find a child with such a flair for language. She is Eritrean and her first language is Italian. She GETS writing. Sharon is able to play with a reader’s emotions and expectations, to make one laugh, and to make one think. You can read her blog posts here. Here is an extract from a piece she wrote at home, independently, on the blog:
“Mum, just sign the letter, for crying out loud!” you would screech and pester your parents on a day to day basis “Why? A blog is just another ridiculous website which children waste time gaping and writing hopeless things on it. I mean why in the world would you want such an atrocious thing!” your concerned (but SO incorrect) parent would shout back.
Here Sharon explains the purpose of blogging to parents (in a blogpost which was then sent home in our school newsletter). As a direct result of the audience Sharon receives on the blog, she has been given many opportunities. Her poetry has been commented upon by Valerie Bloom (), she has been asked to guest-post for Brainpop.co.uk () and review books for Teach Primary magazine. In her post about blogging, she goes on to talk about the opportunities given to her through blogging:
I didn’t think that this would ever be possible to do as a child, did you? I felt outstandingly brilliant knowing that there is something in me worth showing and it could be adored by dozens of people. ” Wow, that’s amazing I can’t believe you got to do all this. What more could you want?” you might wonder. Well there’s a lot more. After a while I as just popping into class until I found that Mr Sloan had a gigantic parcel in his hand ” Parcel’s arrived for you, Sharon!” I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what he was talking about. Personally I was hoping that it was big wads of money to share with teachers (of course)! Although it wasn’t there were four books, joined along with a letter. It said that I could write a book review and they would publish it on a teachers magazine! I was utterly speechless! I mean that moment is extremely rare to little girls, don’t you think!
For a gifted young writer like Sharon, blogs can provide a genuine and critical audience. Sharon’s skills are being tested, and she is now writing with greater purpose. Whilst she is writing at a level much higher than anyone in our class, she IS being stretched because she knows that her audience has high expectations. She thrives on the praise she gets from her writing, and knows that there are many people across the world who come to our blog specifically to read her writing. The comments she receives help her to improve and she is getting a taste of what it’s like to write within a brief. Through the blog, Sharon is a published writer, not only at ferrylane.net, but also in print and on many websites. I can’t think of a more effective way to expose gifted and talented writers to the world.
Jozef is less visible on the blog. He does write regularly (here) and his writing is improving rapidly. The blog has had a different type of impact on him and his family however, one which is harder to see. Jozef and his family are new to the UK, having arrived last year. We have been publishing a list of “Free Stuff to do in London this weekend” each week as a way to encourage our children and their families to explore the fantastic experiences that London has to offer. It has been slow to catch on, and hard to convince families to participate. Jozef and his family have been enthusiastic however.
Each week Jozef tells the class where he has been. He is being exposed to language and experiences which are helping him and his family to learn English rapidly. He has taken part in painting classes at Somerset House, been bird-watching at nearby Tottenham Marshes, went to the macabre “Cryptmas” fair, and visited some of our country’s best museums. These experience are vital for rich language acquisition, and something which I feel we need to promote heavily in our school. Through the Free Stuff to do blog posts, Jozef is learning about the world around him and this is, I feel, having a significant impact on his education. He is becoming more articulate, more engaged with his learning, and sharing some rich experiences with his family.
So. The impact of blogging on individuals is just that. Individual. Each child can use a blog in a different way, and that is part of the beauty of it all. Children love blogging because it works for them as individuals. Blogs provide automatic differentiation, and we need to make sure that we exploit that. Jozef and Sharon use the Ferry Lane blogs for totally different purposes, but the impact of blogging on both children is both positive, powerful, and clear to see.
To finish with a much more talented writer than myself, here Sharon tries to convince all those skeptics out there to give blogging a go. I hope that this article will go some way to convincing people of the power of blogging in the classroom.
“A blog is a website where you learn how to improve your writing and to play games…BLAAH, BLAAH!” Oh come on, think outside of the box. Of course you will learn to improve your work. However, when have you ever thought that billions of people from around the whole world would even bother to comment on your work? Well it has happened, and you’ll never guess who commented on my work. No it wasn’t an Arsenal football player, or Cheryl Cole. In fact it was someone ten times better. VALERIE BLOOM!! You know, the famous poet, an inspiration to all. I just came to school like regular and all I heard for the rest of the day was” Oh Sharon you lucky girl, Valerie Bloom commented on your work AAH!” I felt like fainting (literally!) And from that day forth I had a term full of opportunities glimmering in your heart.