I’m a huge fan of school blogging and also of Challenge Based Learning. I therefore decided to combine the two for a school project for Year 8. This post shares what we did and also contains links to all the resources you need to replicate the project in your school. Using the CBL wheel as our guide, we started with…
THE BIG IDEA
The Big Idea should be broad concept that can be explored in multiple ways. Furthermore, it should be important to students, and society at large. For this project, the over-riding concept was communication and with a little prodding in the right direction, the students decided to create their very own blog sites to share their writing with a potentially global audience.
The formation of an essential question is a fundamental part of any CBL challenge; it is something pupils can always use to refer back to and forms an umbrella under which they can all work. The students used Padlet to establish “Sometimes our writing never gets read. Can we use blogging to write for a real audience?”
The next task was for the students to embark on their specific challenge. It is imperative that the students generate an area of interest in which to work. By this point they knew they would be making a blog and creating content for it, however they needed to decide what they would be blogging about and organically work out whom they would be working with. Again, Padlet was the tool of choice. In the example below you can see that 4M loosely bundled their choices into video games, pets, cars, photography and sport.
ACTIVITIES / RESOURCES
Once the groups were formulated (via subject choice not friendship) their initial task was to plan their blog. To do this I provided a blog planning sheet for each group. Each group started with a discussion and then took to their computers. They then used OneDrive to begin work on the planning sheet collaboratively in real time and left it in a shared folder for me to check and provide feedback.
Blog Planning Sheet
Another key aspect of the project is the blog design. We are fortunate to have a whole school WordPress site, hosted by the fantastic Creative Blogs. I am a huge fan of WordPress and knowing how to use it properly is becoming an ever more valued skill. Therefore, a significant part of the project is an introduction to some basic skills that can enhance their blog and help them to meet their objectives.
Blog – Design Checklist
Once the subject of the blog has been decided, students then begin to design their blog. This design checklist details things that all students should do and a few things they could do, therefore taking care of differentiation.
I also created some tutorials below that will help the students (and teachers) with the could do section. Flipped learning really does change the dimensions of the classroom and empowers pupils to work independently. Please note that each template within WordPress may have slightly different functionality but the tutorials should certainly point you in the right direction.
Customised Background Image:
There are a couple of ‘Could Do’ options on the deign checklist that don’t have tutorials; that is because if the students get this far they should be able to start to work things out for themselves! The beauty of working with technology is that it doesn’t really matter if you get things wrong, but it is hugely important to experiment and take risks. Of course, if it does go horribly wrong; hit the undo button or don’t save and start again!
Once the site is designed and up and running, it’s time to get blogging! Each group should have a theme for their blog that they opted to write about. This should promote enthusiasm for the task. When you set up your blog, students can be assigned different privileges. Good practice is to ensure that they are contributors as opposed to editors. The reason being contributors can not publish articles without approval from the page administrator which should be the teacher. This should also encourage a good standard of English as only well-written and thoroughly edited posts should be published.
Students can add images and even embed videos within their posts relatively easily. The following tutorials are available should assistance be required with this.
Embedding Video In Your Post:
Inserting Images In Your Post:
Evaluation does not have take place at the end of the project. As soon as the first blog posts are published, pupils can start leaving comments on each others work. Using the comment function of blogging is arguably the most important part of it. Comments provide each author with feedback from a variety of sources. It is also authentic evidence of an audience and has the effect of improving standards as students realise their work has a true purpose. The comments are all moderated by the administrator (teacher) and should be useful and constructive. It’s worth spending time looking at comments and what makes a good quality comment, and indeed a poor comment. Teacher feedback can also be provided via comments and by using social media, comments can even be collected from an authentic global audience and should provide a successful, contextualised answer to the original Essential Question.
Here our some example comments taken from our ‘Blog On’ project: