08 October 2011

Reflections - Introducing Class Blog to Intermediate Teens

At last! Success!! I managed to get two classes using their blogs this week - with mostly success.

Teenage Intermediates
Age: 13 to 17
No of students: 8
Blogging Platform: Blogger
Equipment: Netbooks x 4 (1 netbook between 2 students)
Classroom layout: Smallish classroom consisting of chairs with table flaps - students need to be careful not to drop the netbooks.
Time: 90 mins

All of the students had previously told me they already have email addresses and as they are 13+ I decided to stick with Blogger for them. On the day, one student said she didn't have an email address. Most students have very basic computer skills with only two of the eight who had a "feel" for how to fix something that went wrong. All say they don't use computers at school.

Lesson Overview
1. We went through an overview of basic computer vocabulary such as screen, scroll, arrow, mouse, keyboard, type, etc.
2. I had prepared a model of what they were to do. I showed them the model, and demonstrated how to do it.
3. The students who had gmail addresses created a Google account and I gave them permission to join the blog. The students who did not have gmail addresses created a Google account then I gave them permission to join the blog. One student had a problem with this and was unable to join the blog. He said he would do it at home when he had more time.
4. The students took turns finding a favourite song (with strict instructions that there should be no nudity or bad language) and wrote five sentences. Then the second student did their video.
5. Homework is to comment on their classmates songs.

I am very happy with the students as most of them managed to complete the task without too much trouble. They do not have experience of blogging, generally got on with the job and enjoyed the task of contributing to the blog.

The bad side is that yet again, using Blogger with students creates problems. Last year and the year before, I also had one or two students who had problems with Google accounts, even though I had already set them up. Sometimes Google decides to do a security check, other times the anti spam code is too difficult to read and it takes forever to create the account because of this.

Another problem is that using one netbook between students causes it's own problems in that students need to check who is logged on, etc. For less computer savvy students, this can be confusing.

This year, partly due to this class being smaller, partly because it is my third year using Blogger with students and feeling confident in managing the class and partly because of time, I decided not to give students a handout with instructions or set up the students' permissions before the class (even though I've experienced the same problems in previous years!). On reflection I think instructions would have given the students more security and allowed them to at least try to complete the task and overcome problems themselves.

To Consider for next time
  • Use a different blogging platform - Google is too unreliable - maybe edublogs
  • Prepare a basic handout - at least students can try to follow instructions and it also encourages reading and autonomy.
  • Make sure all students have already been invited or been set up before doing a task.
I have learned a valuable lesson here, although I know Blogger well, have used it with classes for some time and can easily fix most problems, I need to be available to all students throughout the class to help students with little hiccups. It is not feasible spending time trying to set up an individual email account as it can end up taking a lot longer than anticipated.

For all the problems, the students did a great job, and enjoyed the class. I am pleased to note that some of them had already done their homework three or four days early! Click here to see their work.

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