Well, I’ve been back in class for eight whole days now (five of those with the children) and it’s been a busy time! I’m with a Primary 6 stage class and one of my goals in coming back to class was to try to set up an ePortfolio for each child. I’d beenplaying around with the ideawhilst on secondment and couldn’t wait to try out the concept ‘for real’ and this post is hopefully going to help me to learn from what’s happened so far …… it’s been a rocky ride at times 🙂
During my secondment, I had the opportunity to work with a small group of children for a few afternoons and I helped them set up an ePortfolio (of sorts). Jaimey’s can be seen here . I decided on wikis over blogs, because I liked the idea that the children could put menus in the sidebar and have things neatly compartmentalised. I’d used wikis in the past with children, but mainly to allow them with a place to experiment with writing stories . I’d also previously provided children in my classes with individual blogs but wasn’t convinced that they were the best means available for the purpose – I’ve actually moved my thinking on and now see a place for both, but I’ll save that another post 🙂
So – what about my attempts so far in helping my class to build their ePortfolios? I began by introducing them to our class blog . Because it’s been on the go for about four years now, I was able to locate lots of examples of the benefits of class blogging – and I also told them about what happened when I gave children in previous classes their own individual online spaces and explained that I hoped to eventually give them their own blog , too. I’d spent some time during the summer setting these up via GLOW (I’d originally planned to use primaryblogger– a fantastic support for schools! – but then decided, for various reasons, to give the GLOW ones a try). I’d planned on giving everyone in the class a GLOW login anyway, so I decided to set their blogs up at the same time.
Here’s my step-by-step explanation – there are probably better/quicker ways?:
log in as pupil and go to ‘My Glow’
add the ‘Glow Blog’ web part
click on ‘Advanced Settings’ then ‘Go to Site Administration’
Go to ‘Manage Users’ then ‘Add Users’
Add own Glow username to the ‘choose users’ box and click on ‘administrator’ role
When email is received, click on the link, create the blog and set the permissions, etc.
After that, I am now a member (administrator) of every child’s blog and have customised them as I would have done with any other blog ……
On Saturday, I tried out the new blogging facility in Glow.
I admit that I was a bit perplexed at first because the dashboard seemed to have a lot less options that the ones I’m used to. However, I eventually managed to upload a picture and add some widgets to the sidebar – and I’ve even figured out how to customise the header, now 🙂
There’s no option to easily select font sizes and colours … and I spent ages trying to embed a Voki (it didn’t work!). John has since left a comment, though, explaining that both the images and the wysiwyg is a bit broken at the moment, but that “the glow guys have all summer to fix it ;-)”
I’ve also received three other comments on the trial blog. The first two were from Alan and Malcolm (a colleague from work) saying they were looking forward to seeing how I’ll use the blogs with my Primary 6 class next session. I haven’t replied to their comment, but although I’d love to use Glow Blogs, there would need to be changes/additions made. I know that changes are planned, though, because I also received a third comment from Andrew asking for feedback so that any necessary tweaks can be made over the summer…. so here’s my tuppence worth 🙂
At the moment, class teachers in Falkirk are using Primaryblogger and we’ve been spoiled by the super service they provide . Blogs need to be user-friendly because class teachers don’t have the time to spend hours trying to get them to do the things we need them to do. My new class won’t have experienced blogging before and it would put them off if it was too difficult.
It would be great to use Glow Blogs, though, so fingers crossed they can provide the things on my wishlist 🙂
My Wish List For Glow Blogs:
Can we please have more options on the Dashboard?
It’s not easy to figure out how to add widgets – and changing the custom header (on K2 theme) took me a long time. If there was an ‘Appearance’ option like this on (even just the widgets and custom header submenus) that would save loads of hastle.
Some classes have worked very hard and are very proud of their class blog. For example, my own Carronshore one has been on the go since 2006. It’s been looked after by others during my secondment …. and I know I’ll need to import Mrs Willianson’s art posts in to another blog for her, or she’ll just refuse to give it back to me! (it’s an edublogs blog as I’m a ‘supporter’ until 2048 – but that’s a long story!)
Would it be possible to have the option to import existing blogs into a new Glow Blog by the addition of the ‘Tools’ menu?
The blogs we are using at the moment offer the option of dragging over some very useful widgets to the sidebar. The ones shown in the image here are not normally available, but the people at primaryblogger have added them to the bank of available widgets.
I know that they could probably be added by teachers themselves using text widgets and some code, but the ‘drag and drop’ of custom made ones saves a lot of hastle – and they’re great teaching tools, too.
John mentioned in hisblog post that he’d like to see more storage space in the Glow blogs and demonstrated how quickly 10mb can be used up – even if images are resized. One of the great things about primaryblogger is the generous 1000 mb
Please fix the ‘Visual’ tab so that we can easily change font size/colour, and upload images
I’m presuming that this is something that the Glow RM Team are working to fix. I spent ages at the weekend trying to embed a Voki into a Glow Blog. Embedding slideshows, sound files, etc. is a very important part of blogging … especially if there’s a file upload limit.
I’m not sure why there are no page tabs showing in any of the themes I played around with. I was able to create pages, but the only way to see them was to activate the pages widget – once I found where the widgets were hiding 🙂
Well, that’s my wish list for Glow Blogs….. so far! I hope this post doesn’t read like an advert for Primaryblogger. I have used other blog hosts in the past, but there were always frustrations involved – and that’s what makes class teachers just give up on the whole idea of blogging with classes.
Primaryblogger’s John McLearhas always been very supportive, though, and has actually been in touch offering to help with the Glow Blog set-up. He mentioned that the main plugin used to simplify the primaryblogger interface is: Qwerty admin panel …all double-dutch to me, but it might be of some use to the folk at RM 🙂
I have less than 2 weeks left of my two year secondment as a Curriculum Support Teacher (the title has changed a few times since I first took up the post) and all the secondees who are leaving the team to return to class were asked to put together alumni presentations to share any changes/successes that we have influenced – or been part of – in our particular area of practice.
On Friday afternoon, the wider Curriculum Support Team members were treated to some very imaginative, fun activities such as: fairy stories; poems; games.
My own presentation probably seemed bland in comparison :-).
I chose to tell the story (as best I could) of a few of the changes I’ve made that I’m most proud of and I shared four of these …. there are more, but we only had 5 minutes 🙂
How it Began
I intended to begin my presentation by talking about what I’d been up to before I embarked on my secondment journey – but, as I missed out some of the important stuff, I’ll take this opportunity to add it here.
I don’t know how many applied, but there were 8? candidates interviewed. I must have said something to convince them that I was the right person for the job because I here I am two years on writing this blog post about my secondment. My main remit was to introduce others to any online resources that could improve the learning and teaching experience.
Success Number 1
The first success I talked about was the number of class blogs I’ve helped to create.
The screenshots on the powerpoint slide show just a small amount, and in some schools every class has their own blog.
I’ve also had lots of feedback from teachers telling me about the positive impact of having a class blog has had on their classroom practice.
The second success I mentioned was having had the opportunity to spread the news about the host of freely available online tools. These tools can greatly benefit both online and offline classroom learning. Digital Storytelling, active learning, parental involvement and collaboractive activities are just some of the areas they can help enhance.
Sharing how using simple inexpensive tools such as mp3 players with built in microphones or digital cameras can make a difference to the quality of the learning experience was made easier because I was able to demonstrate by showing real life examples from my own class blog (capably looked after by others until my return).
Success Number 3
The third success on my agenda, was the changes to Falkirk’s Virtual Teacher Centre (known as the VTC). Part of my original remit was to oversee the day-to-day management and maintenance of the website. As a class teacher, I wasn’t very familiar with the VTC. I knew that it had links to great resources, but as I could never remember the password, I opted to use Google searches or the LTS website instead.
I was aware from talking to other class teachers that the VTC was not the first port of call for them either when they were looking for online resources. I managed to persuade my new colleagues that it would be a better idea to have the VTC more accessible by taking away the need for a password.
As an added bonus, the Staff area of the VTC is now the default homepage for every primary school staff teacher in Falkirk – what a great vehicle for sharing news, websites, case studies, etc.
Success Number 4
My next choice for a ‘Success Story’ was the realisation half way through the secondment that teachers are not always the best recipients of CPD sessions. When I began hearing statements like:
“This looks great, but I’m not sure I could manage to do this with my class”
I offered to work directly with the children – this was very warmly received..
“Can you do that?”
.. was the typical response.
When she heard about this approach, my new line manager was convinced that this was the right path to take and gave me the ‘thumbs up’.
Working with a few students, and allowing them to become the ‘experts’ – who then spread their new knowledge to create other ‘experts’, who then spread their new knowledge …….
“When I mention this to others in my own Local Authority – and to others outwith the Authority – the first question I’m typically asked is : “So … what is an ePortfolio?”
I find the answer to this question difficult. I think it’s because when I first heard about the idea, I was so attracted to it that I began reading any available relevant literature. This led me to writing a blog post about what I understood about the concept … but I can’t regurgitate all the bullet points in that that post every time someone asks me to explain in a few sentences what I mean by an ePortfolio, so I’ve tried to reduce them again to get the main points (as I see them) across.
1. What is an ePortfolio?:
It’s a collection of student work that tells the story of the student’s efforts, progress, or achievements
2. What should they look like?
There should be evidence of self-reflection
3. What’s the teacher’s role?
They need to plan carefully to provide clearly defined criteria
Effective feedback should be given to students, to encourage them to observe their own learning journey
4. What about the pupils?
Comments should go beyond “I think I did OK” or ” I think I have more to learn.”
Pupils should be monitoring their own learning so that they can adjust what they do when they perceive they are not understanding.
The next question that I need to prepare for is: ” How do you manage something like that?”
Whilst on secondment, I’ve only been able to ’play around’ with the idea and I’m looking forward to trialling it ‘for real’ when I return to the classroom in August. I’ve been very encouraged, however, by the motivation shown by the children I’ve helped set one up for so far. Because I set up the wikispace eportfolios, I receive an email every time a change is made to one of them.”
Back to the Future
I’m really looking forward to seeing where my ePortfolio idea leads to when I try it out for real in the classroom.
The insert in my powerpoint presentation was a clip of Memoona talking about her view of an ePortfolio and what it means to her.
I’ve included the origional Voki here. She seems to have grasped the idea 🙂