It took me an hour and 29 minutes to write a blog post about blogging with Word this morning. Actually, it took me over two hours, because I thought about it last night. Fortunately, the amount of time I spent, which was about 1.5 hours longer than I’d intended, didn’t have too much of an impact on my work schedule, because I did the thinking last night whilst watching TV, and this morning I was the computer by 6am in order to get lots done before I started work.
But why am I telling you all this?
Because when I think of what I need to do to keep my blog updated every day, I realise what needs to be in place for a school blog to thrive. The answer is: a team.
Almost every time I hear or read about school pupils blogging, they are doing so as individuals, or in small groups as part of a project. But actually you could achieve great things if you had a blogging team, and ran the school or classroom blog in a very organised way. I think I can best illustrate what I mean by discussing what I do as an individual blogger, and translate that into school terms.
Come up with ideas
I can often write a decent article in 20 minutes – but only if I have a good idea of what I’m going to write about before I even start! I am always looking for ideas. In fact, I have more ideas than time, and more than my memory banks can handle, so I tend to keep a list of article ideas, and delve into it whenever I am stumped for a topic.
If I was in a school setting, I’d set up a wiki on which pupils could “write” their ideas for blog posts, and they or other pupils could put their name down next to an idea to indicate that they would be able and willing to write it. Often it would be the same person, but not always. For example, a Year 4 pupil may express a wish for an article about what to look for when choosing your secondary school. That would be likely to be picked up by a Year 5 or 6 pupil who has been through that process.
Discuss ideas and their ramifications
Having reached Grumpy Old Man status, I’ve usually got a rant seething inside of me, just waiting to boil over onto the virtual printed page. However, I need to think about things like: will my diatribe land me in the libel courts? Will it come across as too negative, perhaps putting off potential clients? Is it actually on topic, ie about ICT in education in some way? If not, it won’t be any good for this website anyway.
If I was in a school setting, I’d have an editorial committee of pupils, with a member of staff, to discuss this sort of thing. Which of the article ideas on the wiki would be good, beneficial, relevant – and which potentially damaging to the school’s reputation?
All articles benefit from having an illustration of some kind. I like to draw my own or use my own, which means I take a lot of photos and shove them up on Flickr. I also search for suitable photos using search engines like the creative commons one.
If I was in a school setting, I’d encourage the kids to take photos and upload them to a school online gallery. I’d have a picture editorial team whose job it was to find suitable illustrations, taking into account copyright and attribution issues.
Think of a good caption
Photos aren’t much good without a caption. Research has shown that, for some reason, when people read a article they tend to go straight to the illustration and read the caption.
If I was in a school setting I’d see if there were kids who are good at one-liners. Maybe hold a competition every so often, with an iTunes vouchers as a prize. I’d see if I could get a “Caption Team” going, whose sole job was to come up with a good catchy caption for every illustration.
Find good links
Blog posts thrive on links, and further reading suggestions. I sometimes think I can save time by writing an article like “Here are six great articles for you to read”. But finding articles that look promising, then checking them out to see if they are on-topic, reasonably well written, and not with foul language or full of inappropriate advertisements usually takes a lot longer than writing an article myself!
Enter the web research team, specialising in finding decent articles to link to, or to help out with the research side of a blog post.
I love writing. But some people hate it, especially teenaged boys apparently. Personally I think that’s because they’ve not been given anything interesting enough to write about.
There are bound to be some topics on the wiki that pupils, even boys, would love to take on. Moreover, blog posts can be really short – even just a paragraph. If you can’t find a boy out of the whole school willing to write a one paragraph article about something they enjoy, well, I don’t know what to say!
The bane of my life. Spell-checking isn’t enough, of course. Sometimes I’ll hit the ‘Publish’ button, only then to race on trying to correct errors before anyone realises I’ve posted it online. Not good!
Again, have someone in the blogging team who has a good idea for detail – and the patience of a saint!
Ain’t no point in publishing an article if nobody knows about it. I use Twitterfeed myself.
Obviously, in a school setting you need to be careful about using social media willy nilly – so have a group specialising in publicity. Maybe a bulletin board message on the school’s VLE? Notices on the school’s (digital) signage?
As well as reducing the burden of maintaining a (daily) school blog, having a blogging team also has other benefits, such as:
- experience that pupils, especially older ones, can put into their school portfolios or university applications
- links to numerous subject areas
- an understanding of just how involved writing a blog can be (cue violin music!)
I hope you have found this article useful. If you have thoughts or ideas on this theme, please leave a comment or let me know.