Monday, June 29, 2009

Tuesday 30th June (end of Week 9)

Once again, time has got away on me! A combination of reports, ERO and illness have taken their toll. Today I have taken another of my Teacher Release Days which seems to be the only effective way to find some time and space to focus and reflect on my e-fellowship project.

We are now in the final leg, with the official project time coming to an end this week. I am aiming to get mt students to complete a second survey, getting them to reflect on the impact blogging has had on their writing, if it has helped with motivation an in any way, and if it has helped to improve their outcomes. It is odd, in some ways this hasn't really felt like a project at all, the blogs are simply just another way that the students get on with doing what they do.

So have the blogs made a difference? It is hard to say. One thing I have noticed it that it seems a little easier for the students to keep on top of their formative writing, the fact that the blog requires so little follow through on their part does seem to make it a rather ideal medium for teenagers. One student who has lost her English exercise book was rather heartened that her online work was safe - although this may not be a feature that seemed that pertinent at the outset, it certainly is useful when your physical stuff gets lost.

One real advantage that I can see for these students is the actual portfolio of writing they are building. Whilst it may not seem that much of an advantage at this point in the year, I get the sense that the students who have completed their formative work as blogs will have a much better archive of their work to come back to in those final weeks before the external exams. Most of the students who have completed their formal essays this way have in fact completed all of their practice essays on their blog. I have also heard anecdotal evidence that the bloggers are increasingly reading a range of each others work before completing their own. I am trying to encourage them to comment on one anothers work. This still remains an area that could be improved upon next year.

So how would I do this differently next year? Well I would definitely continue with the class wikis. Whilst I sometimes feel that a lot of the students don't take full advantage of the class wikis, there is no doubt that it provides the ones who do use them with great support and extension. The area I would like to improve upon is the initial set up of the blogs. I would definitely fight for their blogs being unblocked at school, this would make the initial set up much easier, and it would also allow for more guidance in the outset. I get the sense that greater support at the beginning, opportunities in class time to read and complete peer feedback would have established behaviours that they would have then continued at home. Also, I believe if they had got the exposure at school far more would have participated.

I guess, as this part of the project comes to a close, I do believe the use of wikis and blogs do indeed have a positive impact on the formative writing. The final step will be looking at the surveys the students will complete this week, and to to a certain extent the proof will be in the exam pudding at the end of the year!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tuesday 16th June (End of Week Seven)

Not quite sure where the time has gone! After a tricky start, the project has gained some momentum and we have enjoyed some successes, or as Vince calls them - "aha moments". Now I feel I am experiencing somewhat of a plateau and even a drop off. Eek.

Today I have finally taken one of Teacher Release Days and have accepted that I am only human and that there is only so much I can achieve whilst at school being a Head of Faculty and in the evening when being a Mum takes a happy priority position. A lack of time and head space has definitely limited the outcomes of this project, the fact that this is just one of many things to focus on has made it hard to make it really fly.

So what has been achieved over the past few weeks?

Vince came to visit, whilst at AGGS he took the time to chat with a range of students from both by 11 English and 11 English Advanced classes. His findings seemed to suggest that the process of blog writing and using the wiki was having some positive effects, ranging from the opportunity for students to read one anothers work, to the students making the most of the ease of editing and updating electronic text which means they act upon feedback in a way which they rarely would with handwritten work.

On the whole I have been pleased with how the project is progressing, whilst I feel that with more time I could have made this more meaningful, there is no denying that some good has come from it in terms of the students learning and their increasing sense of autonomy. I do however acknowledge that the greatest benefit comes from the fact that it is "another" option for my students. By this I mean that, it is not that blogs are the golden egg, the golden egg is actually that my students can choose the medium that suits them. That they are not limited to one means or another, handwriting or blog writing.

Vince visits again soon, and whilst I have the slightly uneasy sense, again, that I could have done more, I guess I am happy with what has been achieved.

Now I just have to ponder how this makes for an engaging presentation at Ulearn...oh the horror, the horror!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday 24th May (End of Week 4)

Things seems to be progressing well. After being out of school for three days, I returned to the classroom on Thursday with a number of students happily reporting they had embraced their blog. I have been surprised by the way students have now embraced the 1.2 blog as a kind of online portfolio for all of their writing. I think they get a sense of pride from seeing their efforts published, and like that they can see it grow (particularly as I have been setting a rather cruel number of practice essays).

This week I have a colleague coming in to observe the 11 English class doing peer feedback. I am hoping to get the students to create their own marking rubrics by responding to a range of exemplars. They will then use the rubric to feedback on each other's writing, making comments on why they gained a specific grade and advice on how to lift their grade. This will then inform a redraft that I will check out. I am hoping this will encourage them to start placing feedback on on each other's blogs. I think they are checking out other people's work, but are a little hesitant to comment.

Vince (my project leader) will be in Thursday afternoon and Friday to meet with me and my students. I will be interested to see how he views our progress.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sunday 17th May (looking back on Week 3)

Frustration is abating a little. After being thwarted by the lack of open Internet access at school and apathetic students I have manged to get a few more students on board and online. I did resort to getting students signed up using my computer whilst I was logged on. At least I feel there is now enough students involved to make my project valid.

One nice, and rather unexpected development that has happened this week is that several of the students who are blogging are looking at how else they might use the blog. Several students now want to use their blog as a portfolio for all of their practice essays and even their Reading Logs for US8808. Another nice development is the ongoing dialogue in both classes about what they have written and if I have checked it out, there is a sense of pride in completing each entry that really doesn't happen with the paper and pen students. Another positive is that the only students to "resubmit" essays as a result of feedback are two of my blogging girls....hmmm I am interested to see where all this goes in the coming weeks.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tuesday 12th May (Week 3)

After an initial burst of success, I am this week dealing with the frustrations of dealing with ICT in schools and the contrary nature of students!

Last year, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown by students to seize the opportunity to complete their work using blogs. Students rushed home, eagerly signed on to the class website and attached their blogs with glee! This year it is proving quite a different story. I don't know if they are suffering a little stage fright, thinking the world is checking their progress due to it being part of a research project, or maybe they already jaded, quietly scoffing at my twee efforts to engage them with ICT, or maybe they are just apathetic...or I am a little too anxious - admittedly last year I had no real time frame and expectations and we ambled happily through the process together. Will do my best to be patient and see what unfolds. Patience is not something that comes naturally to me.

My patience was again tested today when I thought I could tackle this issue by getting one of the classes into a computer room, giving them a little time and guidance to encourage them to sign up to the class website and get blogging, but alas I was thwarted by basically every blogging site known to man been blocked for students, and my tragic attempt to get around this by having a stab at using the school intranet blog tool, only to find that blogs written on the intranet would not be viewable unless you were logged onto the school intranet. AAAARRRGGHHH!!!!

Unfortunately student patience levels are even lower than mine and I can sense they are becoming a bit dubious of the advantages of blogging altogether.

Trying hard not to let panic show......

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday 1st May (End of Week One)

What a productive week!

I have managed to update the class wikis and have them ready to go for next week. I have also completed the 'ICT and Formal Writing Survey' which looked at how often they use the computer at home, if they prefer writing by hand or on the computer and stating if they plan to complete their 1.2 Formal Writing formative work as a blog or on refill.

I have attached a copy of the survey on my wiki:

I will also post a spreadsheet of the results next week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Monday 27th April (week one)

Well first week in to project time and already experiencing delays! I am at home most of this week with a chicken pox covered daughter. The upside is (as well as cuddling daugther on couch), is that it is giving me some extra time to work on getting the student sites and resources ready. I have updated my 11 English Avanced site from last year, and have replicated the page for for 11 English site also:
11 English Advanced:
11 English:

Over the next couple of days I will be creating a short survey looking at student attitudes to writing and their preferences for using ICT or pen and paper.

Next week I will set up the first topic and students will have the choise of completing the fortnightly tasks by hand or as a blog hyperlinked to formal writing page of their class site.