New kids on the blog!
An interview with Ester Boldú
Type the words ‘teacher’ and ‘blog’ into the Google search engine and you’ll get nearly 80 million hits! Blogs are playing an increasingly large role in classroom life. But how easy are they to set up and maintain? Can they make our teaching lives easier or are they just an extra component to worry about?
This term we interview Ester Boldú, an experienced ‘blogger’ who has been using blogs with her ESO students in IES Pau Vila, Sabadell, for the last two years.
Tell us about how you set up your blog.
I created my blog in just one weekend, though it did take me the entire weekend! I already had a lot of ideas for the contents, so it was just the case of brainstorming these at first. I have to admit that the technical side was fairly easy for me as I’d had my own personal blog for three or four years. But for anyone new starting up, there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to guide you step by step towards creating your own blog.
So, I created my class blog two years ago and tested it out with my students last year. First it was just a ‘meeting point’ to go to other websites (such as www.isabelperez.com). Since then it’s become our school newspaper, our class diary, an extra-resources bank, a post-it board and our place to publish work.
Why did you use Blogger?
It was easier for me to use Blogger than WordPress, though both work more or less in the same way, though my main reason was because I prefer the layouts that Blogger offers. WordPress layouts tend to look more classic, whereas Blogger is more vibrant and eye-catching. However, the WordPress does have an advantage in that it is broader whereas Blogger is just one long column.
The other reason I chose Blogger was because I’m a fan of Google and I already had a gmail account, which you need to set up Blogger. But I also have a WordPress blog linked to XTEC but I don’t use it much. It’s really only my personal resource bank. But here’s a link so that you can compare both layouts: http://blocs.xtec.cat/esterboldu
How do you integrate it into your classes?
Well, I use it with my spilt group when we go to the computer room (once every two weeks) but I often direct my students to the blog for any extra practice I feel they may need (you’ll see that there are many language-based activities up there). I also encourage them to email me for guidance if they have any doubts or queries about anything. In addition, it’s really useful for any student who may be off sick to keep up with what we’re doing in class and it’s a good place for me to remind students of important news (homework, exam dates, etc). It’s a great link between school and home and once it becomes part of their mindset, it’s just another routine. They find it extremely easy to use and the colour coding helps: you’ll see that posts and links for students in 1st ESO are in purple, those for 3rd ESO in orange (these are the two levels I teach this year) and those relevant to everybody are in sky blue).
How did you upload the various materials on to your site?
Most things you upload onto your blog can be classified into two groups: gadgets and widgets. Widgets include Web 2.0 tools and can be plugged into virtually any site, whereas gadgets are specific to one site. Go to my blog http://anglester.blogspot.com/ and what’s the first thing that catches your eye?
Maybe the virtual girl standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge? She’s my avatar – a digital version of me! (scroll down a little further and you’ll see the real me!). She was created using an excellent Web tool called Voki. Click on the ‘play’ arrow and you’ll hear her give a welcome message. She’s an example of a widget, as are the mini iPod and the cartoon boy just beneath it. You create them on a separate site (eg www.voki.com or www.acapela.tv) and then upload them to your blog. You should be able to find the html code fairly easily. Here’s an example with Voki (click photos to enlarge):
The clock and the calendar are examples of preset gadgets which you can locate and upload through your own blog site. Go to the layout setting and again choose 'add gadget' as above.
Text, pictures and videos are really easy to upload. The text is typed into the text box and the pictures and videos can be uploaded just by clicking on the relevant icons:
It's very easy! YouTube and TeacherTube are great sources of videos. It's important to add cool stuff to your posts in order to grab your students' attention. No one is going to read a post without a picture or a video.
How many hours a week do you spend on your blog?
Well, I have to admit that I'm a bit of an ICT geek! I love new technology and I'm always trying out new things, so I spend lots of time in front of my computer. But as far as the blog's concerned, I only spend about 20 minutes a day checking posts and uploading material. One thing to bear in mind is that you can schedule an activity to appear at a certain time. Just publish your post as usual but click on Opciones de entrada at the bottom and adjust the date:
I created all the songs I knew I wanted to use in my classes throughout the year and scheduled them to appear at certain times. This meant a lot of work at the beginning but then I didn't have to worry about it. Of course there are updates I have to post throughout the year, such as greetings messages for special days or announcements (like the famous snowfall last March), as well as updating the news and my daily quotation. But the great thing about blogs is you can adapt them however you like, to whatever your tastes and your students' needs are.
Do other classes use your blog?
Yes they do, but mainly because I convinced the rest of the teachers of the advantages of using this tool in their classes. It's a great way of sharing resources and ideas with your colleagues. So all of the ESO classes in our school are now using the blog every two weeks and one colleague has been inspired to create her own blog! Let's face it, new technology can be frightening and ovwerwhelming, but it's the unavoidable future.
How do you moderate what your students write?
I use filters. I recommend filtering any comment that the students might wish to publish. To do this, click on the Settings tab (Configuración) and then on Comments (Comentarios). Scroll down to Comment Moderation (Moderación de Comentarios) and choose the Always option. Write your email address in the box provided and then every time a student posts a comment it will show up in your inbox. Finally, in order to avoid spam comments, you should tick the option of Verificación de palabras.