Before I even started working at my new school I knew I wanted to set up a class blog, partly to share with the parents what was going on in our classroom and partly to motivate the children to write for a wider audience (and hopefully receive comments from all around the world). I was a bit naughty and set up the blog before I’d even asked my headteacher but luckily he’s a big fan of using ICT and as soon as I told him what I was doing he arranged to have blogs for every class set up. We now have a multi-user wordpress site hosted for us by Peter Ford (@peterford) which is great as it means we can add new blogs whenever we want and also add new users as and when.
Trying to get the children engage with the blog is taking a bit of time. As I have mentioned before my class are not the most highly skilled at the moment with regards to ICT (a bit strange after having a very techy year 6 class last year). They are excited when we look at it in class and love getting new comments but so far only a handful have been on and commented themselves. I’m wondering if giving them their own account to log on and write blog posts (which must be approved) will help engage them a bit more?
After setting up the blog I decided I wanted to get the word out about it. I am a massive fan of twitter and this blog has an automatic wordpress to twitter function. I asked Peter Ford to install this function on our blogs too; he did but the actual authentication of it proved very complicated! Luckily Tony Sheppard ( @grumbledook) came to the rescue and helped out. He is planning to do a blog post on this to help explain to the people who, like me, just don’t get it. If this does prove too complicated, a simpler way is to use something called twitterfeed which does pretty much the same job, although is not as instant. Also with the twitter account I have used futuretweets (I know there are lots of other programmes that will let you schedule tweets) to schedule reminders of school events. Hopefully as more parents link to our account we can send out message reminders and set up another avenue of communication.
As another social media service that many parents use, I decided to set up a facebook page for our school too. Facebook has its own facebook to twitter app but for some reason it wasn’t working when I tried to install it so I googled and found this article which sorted the problem. This means that the blog automatically sends a tweet to twitter, which then automatically updates facebook. I have been having a discussion with some other teachers who have set up school facebook accounts with regards to moderation. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn off comments posting so it’s just a case of keeping an eye out for any inappropriate content. Users can then be banned from a page so there is a little bit of control. (And of course our pupils are too young to be using it so we have a policy of reporting them if they have an account on there.)
The final piece of the puzzle is putting a twitter feed on to our school website. I used this widget to create a feed box which I’ve asked to be added to our website front page. This way I (or whoever writes the blogs/twitter) only has to write once and whatever way the parents choose they will see what’s going on.