Children’s Online Spaces

It’s official! The Carronshore Blog has received it’s 10,000th visitor!!

It was brought to my attention by Cassie …. who has now provided her Primary 5 class with their own wiki space

In her post, Cassie wrote:

….. I am also hoping that I will begin to see the kind of online community that I witnessed with 7V last year beginning to develop. I know it won’t be the same as they do not have blogs but I’m hoping it creates a community that in turn will be a real audience for their writing.

I’ve been pondering the benefits of giving pupils their own on-line space and have reviseted the Byron Review.

I think that the statements included here, taken from that review, point to giving pupils access to online spaces (Blogs / wikis, etc.) so than they can be educated to use them in a responsible manner under teacher guidance. By doing so, they will be more prepared for eventual exposure to popular teenage sites such as MySpace and Bebo.

• We should empower them to manage risks and make the digital world safer.

• There is a generational digital divide which means that parents do not necessarily feel equipped to help their children in this space

• While children are confident with the technology, they are still developing critical evaluation skills and need our help to make wise decisions.

• Children and young people need to be empowered to keep themselves safe – this isn’t just about a top-down approach.

• This is no different to how we think about managing risks for children in the offline world, where decreasing supervision and monitoring occurs with age as we judge our children to be increasing in their competence to identify and manage risks.

• We cannot make the internet completely safe. Because of this, we must also build children’s resilience to the material to which they may be exposed so that they have the confidence and skills to navigate these new media waters more safely.

Just a thought 🙂


The Predator Myth – Take 2

To follow on from Yesterday’s Post ……… John commented:

I guess this might be different on a class/group blog, I hope so as I’ve commented on a few. My own class always seem encouraged by adult comments on their class blog, I’d not thought through the difference with personal blogs, but it it is an important point I think. (Liking the new blog look and title, John!)

This has got me thinking about some more issues. I think that when you set up a class blog and then give the children their own space linked to that, you are in fact setting up a mini online community. The children from my own school, the children from AllStars, from Sandaig, from Loirston and from Dingwall … along with their teachers …. automatically became part of our online community.

Very rarely do the children receive comments from outwith that community. If children post to their individual blogs, they are either from our own school, or one of the ones mentioned previously.

John’s comment reminded me of one other incident maybe worth noting.

Last session Darcie received a comment from a teacher who had left our school a year previously. The teacher was interested in setting up a class blog and had found Darcie’s blog and left a comment on a post.

 It can be viewed HERE.

 The children were unexpectedly bewildered by this, and had difficulty coming to terms with how the blogs were discovered by this teacher. Although all the children were aware of search engines, and had personal experience of using them, they still could not quite grasp how this visitor had stumbled upon one of their blogs.

Visiting children, on the other hand, did not surprise them at all.

They appeared to have had no real conception of what it means to publish to the ‘world wide web’. Their perceived audience was themselves and their peers. 

It re-emphasises the views of Stern (2007) who stresses that knowing that their personal sites are publicly accessible does not lead most young people to envisage a broad audience for their online works.

(Owen et al, 2006) reveal that there is growing emphasis on the need to support young people, not only to acquire knowledge and information, but also to develop the resources and skills necessary to engage with social and technical change.

The Predator Myth!

Today’s RSS blog reads led me to the Danah Boyd at HHL08 presentation on Alan Stewart’s blog.  I enjoyed listening to her talk, but I particularly enjoyed the ‘any questions?’ section at the end. What she said reminded me of my readings for the Literature review section of my dissertation. I’ve included bits and pieces here:

In a study involving young people’s use of blogs, Stern (2007) found that knowing that their personal sites are publicly accessible does not lead most young people to envision a broad audience for their online works. Despite their recognition that virtually anyone with Internet access can pore over their sites, most adolescents, by and large, cannot imagine why “some random stranger” would be interested in visiting. Rather, the typical audience that young authors visualize as they deliberate what to post online are those people that they know actually visit their sites and those whom they have directed to visit their sites.

Buckingham (2008) states that recent studies suggest that most young people’s everyday uses of the Internet are characterised, not by spectacular forms of innovation and creativity, but by relatively mundane forms of communication and information retrieval. The technologically empowered “cyberkids” of the popular imagination may indeed exist, but even if they do, they are in a minority and they are untypical of young people as a whole. He argues that there is little evidence that most young people are using the internet to develop global connections, and that in most cases it appears to be used primarily as a means of reinforcing local networks among peers.

In addition, he maintains that in learning with and through these media, young people are also learning how to learn. They are developing particular orientations toward information, particular methods of acquiring new knowledge and skills, and a sense of their own identities as learners. In these domains, they are learning primarily by means of discovery, experimentation, and play, rather than by following external instructions and directions.
There is, however, growing concerns about the safety and privacy of young people using these media. Adults worry that, by displaying personal information, young people are putting themselves at risk from predators who may take advantage of the anonymity and unbounded nature of the internet to make contact with young people.  An article in The Times Online (18/1/2008), entitled, ‘Parents Don’t Understand Risks Posed by Internet’, quotes Byron as saying that new technologies have created a generation gap between parents and children:

“Parents are worried about online predators, but children are more concerned about bullying and they don’t differentiate between the real world and online. It starts in the classroom and, when they get home, it’s all over their MySpace page,”

Green and Hannon (2007) found that there are some powerful myths that inform the way people think about youth culture. The main finding from their research was that the use of digital technology has been completely normalised by this generation, and it is now fully integrated into their daily lives. The majority of young people simply use new media as tools to make their lives easier, strengthening their existing friendship networks rather than widening them. Almost all are now also involved in creative production, from uploading and editing photos to building and maintaining websites. The authors argue that the current generation of decision-makers – from politicians to teachers – sees the world from a very different perspective to the generation of young people who do not remember life without the instant answers of the internet. They maintain that schools need to think about how they can prepare young people for the future workplace. They state that, rather than harnessing the technologies that are already fully integrated into young peoples’ daily lives, schools tend to make it clear that these new media tools are unwelcome in the classroom.

Green and Hannon (2007) state that their research suggests that the blanket approach of banning and filtering may not be the most effective safeguard. The children they interviewed were on the whole aware of potential dangers and adept at self-regulating. Where children found it easy to bypass the rules set by schools and parents, they were dependent on their understanding of what constituted inappropriate or risky behaviour.

I think I might have witnessed a bit of what’s been discussed here when I ‘chatted’ to Danni when she was having difficulties getting a Voki to appear on her blog. Danni had already left Carronshore and had no way of contacting me for help apart from leaving a comment on the Carronshore blog. She’d seen that we’d been including Vokis on our edublogs venu, and was having difficulty doing the same on her edubuzz site.

I was able to gatecrash her site, and managed to help her to get the Voki embedded successfully. She left a Thank You post. She received a comment on that post from an ‘unkown adult’  (to her, anyway).

 David Gilmour had been watching the precedings and had left a comment on her blog. When I saw it, I suspected that Danni would have been suspicious that someone outside our circle was leaving comments. It happened on another occasion, too. 

Now, I know that David is a trusted adult – and was able to re-assure Danni the next time we met 🙂

There were other times when adults left comments on the pupils’ blogs. This one was left by the owner of the picture that Andrew had ‘pinched’. Once again (even though I had investigated the comment author) lots of re-assurance was necessary.

It was apparent that comments from strangers were only acceptable on their own personal blogs if they were from children their own age 🙂

Class Blogging Reflections … Take 2

 In ‘Take 1’ of this topic, I set out to reflect on why the Carronshore class blog managed to survive successfully for 2 years … while some other class blogs seem to fail.

I want to add some more here about Jamie’s ‘secret’ gift for writing!

After he posted his story on the wiki, everyone in the class wanted to know where he got the idea from. It turned out that, as well as being an avid reader of certain types of books, he regularly logged on to his computer to play the online adventure game of RuneScape. More and more of the boys in the class logged on from home and became members.

Thomas was one of those persuaded to give it a try and I remember him writing about it ….. and I’ve managed to locate what he wrote (almost 2 years ago now?). It can still be accessed HERE.

The boys in the class took to writing about it in their spare time. They made little notebooks by stapling bits of scrap paper together, and regularly compared drafted stories. I tried, unsuccessfully, on a number of occasions to have the site unblocked at school (after much pleading by the boys). It’s a pity we weren’t able to make more of this great opportunity to motivate.

We had previously had some success with Samorost after having read about the great results blogged about by Kim (I think we’d have been able to experience the atmosphere much more had access to a whiteboard been available …. unfortunately, I’ve never had the luxury of having one in any of my classrooms).

Well …. that was yet another trip down memory lane 🙂 I’ve just realised, though, that this particular example demonstrates that even then there was a merging of the online / offline classroom, and that giving the children an online voice had an impact on the informal learning …… just as was demonstrated a year later when I studied things more closely when collecting evidence for my dissertation!

I see that Cassie has just given primary 5 L/W children a wikispace too. She also discovered this great site. It looks super – I’ve used it to leave a message for the children in her class …. hoping it works …. fingers crossed 🙂




Class Blogging Reflections

 As the number of class blogs continue to rise in Falkirk, I’ve been contemplating why it is that some blogs go on to be very successful … and some just peter out (a few more blogs could have been added to the ‘Falkirk Blogs’ list in my sidebar, but they didn’t survive beyond the initial ‘first post’ stage).

I produced a powerpoint presentation to demonstrate ‘reasons to blog’ with classes. I’ll try to include it below ….. true last minute edublogs style 🙂

Reasons To Blog 2

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.


More recently, however, I’ve reflected on my own attempt at maintaining a class blog and why it has managed to survive successfully for 2 years now. I think it might have had to do with the fact that I had a definite focus for having a class blog? I wanted to use it as a vehicle to improve the children’s writing. Our original Blogger blog still has the ‘About Us’ statement in the sidebar – still accessible HERE

I’m glad that I still have access to the original class blog, because it reminds me of how important it became to give the children their own space to write. I wasn’t comfortable enough with the medium in the early stages to give them their own online space, so we shared a wiki. I set it up and we shared a common username and password …… an exercise in trust as the children were encouraged to log in at home.

It was from home that Lisa posted her Two Stars and a Wish post on her wiki space. We’d been experimenting with the idea of assessing our own writing and the writing of peers using the formative assessment strategy of awarding 2 stars and a wish

We even made our personalised ‘2 stars and a wish’ templates … I think this might have been Danni’s? (this link goes to her own blog …. I eventually found a comfortable way of doing this thanks to Don who pointed me in the direction of David)

One of the stories that Lisa peer assessed belonged to Jamie. Jamie was (at the time) a popular, quiet member of the class. He didn’t seem to ‘shine’ when it came to writing …. until I saw his entry on his wiki page! If I hadn’t seen him writing it up in the computer suite, I’d have accused him of plagerism 🙂

Some of it is included here:

 Laughing In The Face Of Death

His face shone dark in the moonlight, while his coat lay torn slowly floating in between the reeds. His shirt was dirty and wet. The dark waters that lay behind him gave him the appearance of a demon or a dark shadowy creature moving in the night. His sheath was well padded and worn away because of constant usage, it had three diamonds encrusted in it. It had a gold rim and a thin copper lining wrapped around it. This lay on his back but it never wieghed him down as it was as light as a feather. He had black boots on and they were half-covered by his camouflage trousers.
He walked on at a normal pace when he heard a purring noise, after a while he ignored it and carried on his stroll. He heard it again. He was watching a certain bush knowing that there was a creature behind it because of all the wierd purring noises. the world stayed as still as a stick insect as they lay eyes on eachother there was more rustling then the beast came out, a tiger that was as orange as sunset heading speedily at Kai. In reaction Kai drew his sword from his sheath and took a deep slash at the tiger’s leftpaw then stabbed it twice roundabout the same place the tiger had gave in to the pain and there it lay dead……

You can read the rest of jamie’s story HERE.

Before I press ‘publish’, I have to admit that going through the process of writing this post has raised some important questions for me.

 Is my own qualitative research (a case study methodology was chosen) really less valuable than Jaye’s and Derek’s as suggested?

I wouldn’t know how to quantify my ‘story’ 🙂


I think I’ve got Calameo working on here now – but the important ‘view full screen’ tab is the only one not working 🙁 

Oh well … I’ll put a link to the ‘working doc’ on the Falkirk VTC area HERE

Here’s the ‘full screen not working’ version on edublogs …. hopefully 🙂



New Job Update

I’ve spent a long time avoiding posting on this site …. not sure why 🙂

Happy to see that edublogs seems to be up and running again, too.

Anyway – I’ve been VERY busy in my new post. We’re about half way through visiting each of the ICT co-ordinators in their own schools and it’s great to be able to help out with school websites. Almost all schools have moved over to Schools-Online and I’ve become comfortable with the set-up.

I was happy to discover that it’s possible to embed files using html codes, and this has meant that I’ve been able to allow staff to access some CPD courses online via the Falkirk VTC staff website. For example, courses on Blogging, Podcasting and Comic Life are all online. I’ve uploaded some ‘How To’ videos on to the site as well.

Last week, however, I learned (while delivering a course!) that it’s not possible to upload more than one photobucket video to schools-online sub pages – each video appeared to upload ok, but when I clicked on the sub-pages during the actual presentation, all we got to see was the first video over and over again 🙁

Luckily, a bit of ‘thinking on my feet’ led to me logging on to my actual photobucket account and we viewed the videos from there …. phew!! I’ve since hosted them at schooltube … things seem to be working fine now 🙂

 I’ve also been experimenting with other ways of showing the videos. Sliderocket, for example, allows you to easily embed videos within an already uploaded powerpoint slideshow. It’s also very easy to resize the uploaded video by just dragging from the corners (the same way as you would with a pic here on edublogs). Hopefully this link to the falkirk vtc site will work to show what I mean (the video is on the second slide – a work in progress).

Click HERE to find out if it works 🙂

I’ve also found that powerpoints hosted at Google Docs can take an age to load in some schools. A better option seems to be Calameo. Check it out below. It’s also possible to upload and share large pdf files. I tried it out with my 98 page dissertation and it showed up fine at work … unlike scribd which, like Go-Animate, can be hit or miss (dreaded bandwidth issues?).

I’ll do the usual edublogs thing to embed html codes … just have to press ‘publish’ and can’t check it works before I do that so fingers crossed. Let me know what you think of calameo (if it works) – check out the option features as shown in the image below, too!


 Didn’t work 🙁

I’ll try again!

Teacheet, Teachmeet and SLF’08

 Thanks to Mr W for the photograph. I spotted it on his flickr link. I’ve cropped the original a bit to show Shirley and myself deep in conversation at Teacheet. Shirley decided to come along at the last minute and I’m glad she did ….. more great CPD 🙂

……And she’s hoping to come along in January to meet up with Kim. Isn’t it amazing that we’ve all become virtual friends as a result of having class blogs!

This was my third visit to the Learning Festival, but my first time viewing the events in my new role. I’m not sure why I was able to attend the festival as a class teacher for two years in a row (I think I must have said I wanted to hear one of the speakers who was talking about a topic that might have helped my Chartered Teacher studies). Normally it was only members of the management team who went …. I’m pretty sure that, in my 12 years of being at the school, no other classroom teachers had the opportunity to attend – maybe they never asked :).

During recent visits other schools, however, I’ve become aware of the extent that some school management teams have gone to this year to make sure that as many class teachers as possible were able to attend the festival. On my own first visit in 2006 l stumbled upon (only because I had some time to ‘kill’) the one seminar that led to a total change in my classroom practice, the basis for my CT dissertation … and my eventual secondment opportunity!

Wednesday was a very long day. I attended some great seminars. On Thursday, I even met Sharon Toner when I attended her 12 minute session on the use of mobile phones in the classroom (I seriously need to upgrade my phone!)

But back to Wednesday ….. before Teacheet, there was Teachmeet – it was great. I really regret not taking notes. I remember thinking … gosh, that’s a great idea! …. several times during the evening. When I returned to work on Friday my colleagues asked me what the highlights were and I talked about quite a few, but I knew I’d missed some. That’s why it’s great that some of the presenters are blogging about their ‘slot’. Jonesieboy was one of these bloggers. His pupils made a great GoAnimate animation – unfinished 🙂

I’m also glad that he mentioned that it would work just as well with Comic Life – we’ve just installed it in all our computers, and as we only have intermittent access to GoAnimate (something to do with bandwidth?), it’s great to know we can have similar projects in our own classrooms.



Two Bits of News

The first bit of news is that I finally got round to signing up for this year’s TeachMeet and I’m looking forward to ‘lurking and listening’.

I see that on the list of ‘lurkers’, there’s an Ian Cameron – I wonder if it’s the same Ian? 


The second bit of news is that I received an email to say that the Voices of the World project is all set to resume soon.

Cassie only mentioned last week that she’d love to be part of this with Primary 5L/W via the Carronshore Blog ….. great!!!

Cool Tools!

The last post showed an example of how Ian Cameron used Comic Life in his classroom. I referred to how he used it on the Falkirk VTC website …. but because Schools Online has got a really annoying habit of timing out after a very short time, I can’t link to the entry so I’ll include the text here.

“Ian Cameron, a Staff Tutor with Dundee City Council, kindly allowed us to use this video. The children used a very simply made cut out figure as a stimulus for making this comic. They brainstormed what ‘mischief’ the character could get up to. They then wrote a draft script before going off to record the action on camera. The comic was constructed using photographs and text before being exported as a video.”

I’ve quoted him from memory …. hope I got it right 🙂

Ian was also interested in some of the freely available online tools we’ve used in class blogs. Some of them are listed (with examples of how they were used) on the Staff area of the VTC. The example below shows how we used Voicethread to showcase how groups of children were responsible for researching a particular Aboriginal Dreamtime Story as part of our ‘Australia’ topic.


I’ve since found this wonderful wiki that gives links to loads more …. and they’re really well organised, too! I’ts at cooltoolsforschools