Take 23 P3 students, add 23 weblogs…

We've jumped in the deep end, and we didn't drown. Here's some things we learned from the first 2 sessions, each with 23 children.

  • Create shortcuts to the individual student blogs: Although Robert had burned the midnight oil creating the blogs in advance, and had created shortcuts to the blog web site (James Farmer's
    learnerblogs.org ) on each computer, we could have made things go much more smoothly by creating individual shortcuts that led directly to each student's blog. That would have avoided the need for students to key in blog URLs, usernames and passwords – all these led to plenty of hands going up!
  • Focus on "hands on" as soon as possible: With the first class, Robert gave a short introduction using a projector, showing each child how to type in the URL of their own blog. They then moved to the computers and tried it, but many needed support. With the second group we concentrated on getting them at the computers from the start, so that they could perform the task immediately after the demo, and that saved a lot of time.
  • You don't need a lot of bandwidth to start whole-class blogging: The whole school shares a 2-channel ISDN network connection, so there's only a maximum of 128Kbps available. We were pleased to find that performance was acceptable. The wireless Mac laptops (12) were noticeably slower, but still fast enough to get by. Clearly things would be different if a lot of images were being uploaded, or browsed!
  • There's something special about having your own blog! It was interesting to see the positive reaction when the children got logged in and saw the home page of their own blog, with their (first) name prominent in the header. That perhaps helped with understanding of what blogs were all about, and they quickly showed a sense of ownership. Of course, at this point they were all using the default design (
    Kubrick ). We mentioned they'd soon be able to choose their own design, and they liked that idea!
  • Writing to your blog is fun!: All were asked to write a Post titled something like "Cool Stuff" describing things they liked. All were enthusiastic about the task, regardless of their writing ability.

For the next classes, we're planning to:

  • Create login shortcuts for each blog, with password stored: We proved that by checking the "Remember me" box on the
    login screen while logging in, then creating a browser shortcut (Favourite), we could get an instant login. As a bonus, the shortcut had a meaningful title, which identified the blog by name, like "Aarron’s Blog › Dashboard — WordPress".
  • Prepare seating plans to control which PC each student uses: Favourites are stored locally on the computers used. By controlling seating, we can avoid having to create a shortcut for each student on every computer.

Next update will be tomorrow..