Breaking down classroom walls

Getting your students to write blogs is becoming increasingly popular, and the most eloquent exponent of the form is undoubtedly Konrad Glogowski. I recently challenged Konrad to lay out his ‘utopian vision’ student blogging. Here’s part of his reply:

I know that blogging is about conversations and building networks. So far, my students have been building networks within our class community and with some amazing results. It’s time to extend those network-building efforts to include the world outside of their immediate environment.

What benefit would my students get from the comments? I look at it as breaking down the classroom walls. That’s what I want to do next. I want the students to build knowledge by building networks, and I also want them to be able to take those networks with them once they leave my classroom.

I want my student to keep blogging about child soldiers and communicating with experts in this field even after she leaves my class in June so that next time one of my students says “I’m interested in child soldiers,” I can say: “Take a look at this blog. She was in my class a couple of years ago. Send her an e-mail. Subscribe to her blog. You’ll learn a lot.”

Note “communicating with experts in this field”. In classroom blogging, usually only other students from the class are permitted to comment. Konrad wants to extend that, but most schools would see it as inappropriate to allow open commenting on a student blog.

It occurs to me, though, that the ‘share my class with another teacher’ feature in Yacapaca would be perfect for this. It’s a very simple way to permit another adult whom you trust to communicate with your students.

At the moment, Yacapaca doesn’t offer blogs. But it does offer eportfolios, and the two are kissing cousins. The only differences really are that blogs are organised by date, and they traditionally permit permit peer-commenting. In fact, that’s coming for Yacapaca eportfolios anyway.

It’s quite an exciting thought that, with a little interface tweaking, Yacapaca could become the blogging platform of choice for Utopian educators.

Inspiring ICT course blogs at Shrewsbury High School

SHR banner

If you would like to see a really thorough and comprehensive exposition of the course blog concept, loook no further than ICT@SHR from Tim Curtiss. I first spotted it because Tim is a Yacapaca member (and author), and refers his students to it in the blog (example).

What is really inspiring, though, is the huge range of resources all being accessed by the students from this one central location. I have spotted links to resources from Cadbury, Revise ICT, Zamzar, Wayback Machine, the BBC, Teach-ICT, and many more.

The enthusiasm just shines out of this blog, as does the structure and discipline. Take a look, for example, at how the different classes are addressed through a dropdown that filters the posts according to how they are tagged. Simple, easy-to-maintain and effective.

How is it done, and how much did it cost? The course blog is a free account from (same software as this blog, btw) and as far as I can see, all the links are to free resources as well. Notable only by its absense is a £10,000/year school-wide VLE, which does not surprise me as Tim is doing far more than a VLE could, just with the free tools he’s using.

This is emphatically not a zero cost resource, however. Tim (and/or his team – I don’t know the authorship structure) has put a great deal of time into creating this, and is continuing to do so. What will be interesting is to see how much work it is next year, when there is a previous year’s course to build on.