Working in a primary setting, I am apprehensive of idea of using social media for educational purposes, mostly because my pupils are not yet of age to use social media; legally or responsibly. I spend most of my e-safety lessons teaching appropriate online behaviour. I can, however, see the potential for its use in higher learning contexts, as I’ve heard success stories in language classes where the students in undergraduate classes have carried out discussions around current events in a forum based on social media. In this instance, Facebook was used as a VLE-style tool to host the discussions around events as they happened outside of classroom time.
I am still weary of the implications of linking traditional social media into my classroom practice. Instead, I have implemented blogging using a platform called kidblog.org as a way of including responsible social media and a VLE in my classroom. This platform, which allows children to communicate/collaborate in class and at home via their blog is perfect for teaching a wide variety of skills. Through Kidblog I have taught literacy units, addressed HTML units and used it as a platform for presentations. Children complete assignments in the form of a blog post and other children in the class respond to their peers’ work and all of the content/comments are moderated by me.
In attempts to build a more participatory culture, as discussed by Jenkins et al (2006), I ask children to post topic-related homework on their blogs instead of handing in paper versions at the beginning of each term. In this way, pupils are able to meaningfully contribute to the discussion around the topic and offer new creative expressions by having access to a multiple mediums that blogging provides. Children have linked to youtube videos to discuss and extend their learning on their own time.
One of my main arguments for the use of technology in general mirrors what Jenkins (2006) discusses; the need for pupils’ to develop the skills needed to participate in a digitally driven world outside of school. Thus my desire to explore new digital literacies and fostering appropriate social actions online instead of writing everything in a literacy book. In the past I have asked pupils in year five to compose blog posts using the HTML section of the writer, a task that I’m sure many adults could not come near achieving. Yet, this is a skill that will be in high demand when these children reach secondary school or the work force.
The potentials for blogging using a platform such as Kidblog are vast, providing that it is embedded into the classroom as regular practice. In my experience, any VLE-like platform does not work as an occasional tool.