Blogging has long been a popular way for giving pupils and students a reason to write, with a real audience from which, if permitted, they can receive feedback on their writing. A blog also makes a great place to share achievements and build a portfolio of learning.
Of course, during school closures a blog can be even more powerful, allowing children to keep a diary, share photos of non-digital work and projects they may have undertaken at home, and more.
However, many blogging platforms were not designed for children and/or may not have the privacy settings that allow us to lock-down the blog so that it can only be seen by peers and school staff if needed.
In this blog post, we will look at three different ways we can get pupils and students blogging, with free, secure, school-friendly tools.
Seesaw has become very popular over the last few years and has both free and paid-for options. It provides an online platform through which pupils can publish and share work to their teacher and class. Teachers create accounts for their pupils who can log-in in different ways, for example via QR Code, which is useful for younger learners for whom usernames and passwords can be a challenge.
The teacher has control over whether pupil posts are visible to other pupils, whether they need approval and much more. Teachers can also provide feedback to posts in different ways, including by recording voice comments.
Much more than just a simple blogging platform, Seesaw also supports distance learning by enabling the teacher to post assignments, and switching on Family Access so that parents/carers can see their child’s work and assigned activities.
The Purple Mash platform from 2Simple contains a wealth of web-based, primary-age programs and resources, which are being offered at no costs during school closures. One of these tools is 2Blog, which enables both individual pupil blogs and a class blog. Individual blogs are only visible to the pupil and teacher (unless the teacher changes this) and there are powerful controls over who can see, comment and post.
The class blog has the option of being made public on the web, so that posts can be shared to a wider audience and comments moderated by the teacher (or switched off completely.) When making their blog posts, pupils can write text, insert clipart, attach other work they have completed in Purple Mash and more.
3. Google Sites
Google Sites isn’t strictly a blogging platform, but it does provide a powerful way for older learners (UKS2+) to publish to the web. It forms part of G Suite for Education and should only be used with learners using education accounts. Usually, on an education G Suite domain, published sites are only available to people who have accounts on the domain (in other words, staff and other students, not the general public.)
There are currently two versions of Google Sites. The ‘New’ platform is a template driven website builder. Students can post different types of content and customise the look to present a professional looking website. It’s easy to embed files from Google Drive and so makes an ideal platform for a portfolio of learning.
What it doesn’t feature, however, is the ability to have readers comment on the content of the site, as they would be able to do with a ‘true’ blog.
If this feature is desired, then the less slick but nevertheless very functional ‘Classic’ Google Sites can help.
By creating a site and adding ‘Announcements’ pages, a comment box is added which readers can use to leave feedback, so providing a more genuine blogging experience.
For more ideas and information about how technology can support remote learning during this time of school closures, please see our other blogs from the Herts for Learning Technology in Schools team.