I’ve done a good deal of thinking recently about the practical uses of blogs as a teaching tool in the English classroom, and a summary of this will be appearing shortly in Coming of Age #2. But having arrived at the stage of seeing so clearly how such a tool could save hours of repetitive note-making for formative assessment, I began to look at why it doesn’t seem to be taking off. After all, it’s not exactly rocket science (no pun intended, but I quite like it)
Let’s postulate an English teacher, with a pretty academic S4 class. She sets up a class blog for working, say, on a Critical Essay. (During the S4 course, she may set five such essays) The pupils use the blog to assemble their ideas, collaboratively at first, but gradually moving towards the point where each individual is working on his/her own essay. And gradually the teacher’s comments will become the kind of thing that in the past she will have been writing on the pupils’ scripts as they submitted them – formative assessment.
Now, as I see it, part of the joy of this is that the comments will be available for others in the class to see and benefit from; in fact the teacher could highlight points which were more widely beneficial by putting them in a post instead of a comment, with indication, perhaps, of exactly which pupils need to heed this post. But there’s the rub – maybe. For the comments are there for not just the class to see, but the teacher’s line manager, the headteacher, the parents, other teachers ….. and so on.
If a teacher doesn’t really go in for helpful comments on a pupil’s work, if she merely ticks and grades and throws it back for the hapless pupil to make it better all on his own, then that kind of teacher isn’t going to want to blog. If a teacher is uncertain actually of how to tell a pupil to improve their writing and prefers to leave a vague comment rather than expose her own uncertainty, then that teacher isn’t going to want to blog. Most principal teachers in fact have little time to inspect the ongoing assessment within their department, and laying down ground rules about how teachers actually assess individual pieces is all very well but hard to enforce. But if each teacher in a department had their assessment in the public domain – indeed, their whole year’s work in literature and writing on record for all to see – who is the winner there?
The answer has to be the pupil. Not just because of the benefits I’ve already discussed elsewhere – the permanent record, the sense of audience – but also because their teacher will be equally aware of audience. There will be no chance to shut the classroom door and hide the evidence in the cupboard. And it may be that this is the big fly in the ointment for the teacher unwilling to go public. Maybe blogs are just too open – not for the pupils we spend so much energy “protecting” from the big bad cyber-public, but for the majority of teachers who prefer to keep their work within the four walls of their classroom.
And now I’ll go nail this to the edublog door …….