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!