I’m quite proud of my school blog. For something that is only 14 months old and for someone who hadn’t owned or commented on a blog prior to that, I believe it has quite a settled feel about it. It wasn’t like I was pushed into creating it either. I’d been wanting to set up something similar for a couple of years, but didn’t have either the confidence or knowledge to know whether that could or should be a wiki or a blog or a moodle or one of the other plethora of platforms out there. It wasn’t until I came to Japan that I found in YIS the perfect environment to experiment and in Kim Cofino the perfect teacher. It was also at YIS that I learnt to distinguish between the different platforms and appreciate that blogs really are the jack of all trades.
From the start I was more concerned with function over form. I wrote down a list of what I wanted my blog to do and to be. I can’t find it anymore (ironically it was on a piece of paper), but it went something like this:
- Student portal – a place where students can go to find information as well as be directed to other blogs/websites that I have vetted and deemed appropriate for their level of learning.
- My wiki – a place where I can keep class notes / power points / articles etc for future use.
- Student communication - a place where I can post class assignment due dates, notices of tests and generally inform the students what is happening.
- Postings – a place where I can post my ramblings on economic or history topics and allow students to comment and engage in discussion. I try to do so once every ten days or so.
- Paperless teaching – a place that will become the centre piece of my paperless classroom.
- Audience appropriate – a place that is for my students, most of whom are grade 11 and 12 IBDP students.
With respect to form, I wanted the blog to be both accessible and have a mature, almost professional, feel about it. With that in mind, above is the top part of my homepage. In its current state it meets most of my form and function objectives. There are, however, three key aspects of my blog’s look I am considering changing.
First is the slightly crammed feel. I was interested to read Anne Aula and Kerry Rodden’s blog on eye-tracking about how we scan web pages. Although their work was largely based on search engines, it got me thinking that there is little that draws the eyes on my blog. I imagine it can be a little intimidating for students. Below is a another screen shot of the homepage from a little further down. There are too many words and links. My blog needs cleaning up – a good spring clean. I like having the three columns, but that might have to go. As the saying goes, three’s a crowd.
Second, my postings could be more user friendly. The Micheal Agger post on blogging suggests that blog posts should be approximately half the length of ‘conventional’ writing. That is a skill I am yet to acquire. My posts are far too wordy – this post being proof enough. My average post is 600-700 words, but many are far longer depending on the topic. I believe I am getting better and the average length is coming down, but there is still some way to go
Third, in my quest to make it age appropriate and appeal to my grade 11 and 12 students, I can see how the blog is perhaps too clinical in its overall look. Apart from the pictures, it is a sea of blue and black writing. I believe that blogs such as Rebekah’s and Alex’s make much more effective use of colour. Essentially our layouts are the all the same – theirs just look a little more fun. It’s something to which to aspire.
Similar to how I see myself, my blog is a work in progress and I’m comfortable with how it looks, but that’s not to say it couldn’t do with a little nip and tuck here and there.