School blogs are a national success story, as the Education Blog Awards 2012 demonstrate
Blogging has become much more than a tool for teachers for reflection and sharing good practice; it's also a highly motivational media for learners and a great driver for literacy with its global audience and instant peer assessment.
"It has been a pleasure to run the Education Blog Awards again" says organiser Chris Ratcliffe. "I had hoped that we would beat the number of entries that we got in 2011, but the response was staggering - more than double the number of blogs nominated and nearly 8,000 votes cast!"
Education secretary Michael Gove MP might want to hear children reciting poetry from memory, but if he took time to read children's writing on school blogs, he should get an even better experiencee. And reassurance for the future of his own trade – journalism – with their celebration of writing.
Publisher Chris Ratciffe, who works for Scholastic, explained: "The best thing about these awards is seeing the pride and excitement generated when a blog is shortlisted. There has been an incredible number of comments on the blog, and on the blogs of nominated schools. I've been to a few of the schools who were shortlisted last year, and they still have posters up in school now!
"I have to say thank you to the judges and sponsors, without whom these awards wouldn't be possible. The judges – Tim Rylands, Peter Ford, Ollie Bray, Margaret Vass and Tim Major – give up their time and massive expertise for free. I am ever grateful."
Launched in May, the Education Blog Awards 2012 have been run by Chris Ratcliffe and supported by three sponsors – Child Education, Primary Blogger and Just2easy. More than 900 blogs were nominated – nearly 8.000 votes were cast.
The top ten blogs in each of four categories went through to the judges who operated according to strict criteria. The blog with the most votes in each category won.
The Education Blog Awards 2012 cover a fascinating range of work that represents an increasingly potent force for UK education since Scottish teachers first demonstrated what a rich contribution it could make to continuing professional development. They made it a grassroots medium for sharing good practice (undermining bad practice too!) and it soon became evident that it held rich rewards for teachers that they could enjoy both personally and professionally.
As it has spread, blogging has also proved itself as a source of information that wasn't readily available from the usual media sources, and this was exemplified by the impressive hit rates of the most popular sources. However, the involvement of learners instantly exploited two elements of pedagogy shown by research to be highly motivational and effective – writing for an audience and peer assessment. Blogging provides an instant, global audience which can also provide meaningful peer assessment. And the technology allows this happen in a safe, positive way.
Now blogging is possibly becoming mainstream for schools as its effectiveness in supporting literacy is becoming obvious. Teacher bloggers like David Mitchell (@DeputyMitchell on Twitter) are celebrated by media sources including the BBC (see also "The Innovators – 25 David Mitchell" on this website) and he is already making new waves as "quadblogging" takes root (follow @QuadBlogging on Twitter – "40,000 pupils from 1,000 classes in 28 countries can't be wrong!").
This grassroots movement is touching on people right across education. Julia Skinner had retired from an ultimately stressful career as a Bristol headteacher when her positivity returned – in spades – with the experiences she enjoyed in her new world of tweeting and blogging. She came up with her own service, the 100 Word Challenge, which held instant appeal for learners and schools in that the challenge wasn't out of the reach of struggling children while it presented a new challenge to the high achievers to limit their contributions to a concise form. As it took off Julia Skinner was able to scale up her band of volunteers who ensure that all contributors received meaningful comments.
When you bear in mind that the 100 Word Challenge, itself an outstanding achievement (that will soon be celebrated, along with Julia Skinner – @TheHeadsOffice on Twitter – in The Innovators section on this website) was on the shortlist for the Most Influential Blog category of the Education Blog Awards, then you get a glimpse of the importance of these awards. Incidentally, the Most Influential Blog happened to come from Scottish education – the aptly named Pedagoo .
These are the winners:
Class Blog of the Year – 6D's Blog
Judges' comments "Well done - this is a great blog that gives a flavour of the learning that's taking place in class. The children are contributing to it and are obviously benefiting from sharing their work with a wider audience."
"I really love the variety of media on the blog, including text, video, polls and collaborative documents. I thought that using the blog to allow children to give feedback on their teacher was a fantastic idea!"
Whole School Blogsite of the Year – Miriam Lord Community Primary School
Judges' comments: "A thriving comments section and a really good focus on school events." "A great 'window' into school life."
Teacher Blog of the Year – Miriam Lord Community Primary School
Judges' comments: "A terrific blog featuring a range of different media. It shares best practice and project ideas, making this blog as useful to the outside world as it is for the children and parents of Miriam Lord Community Primary School."
Most Influential Blog of the Year – Pedagoo
Judges comments: "Organised events and cross-posting to other blogs has created a supportive network of Scottish teachers." "An effective and sustainable model."
Competition for the Education Blog Awards 2012 was very intense, and the difference in scoring was relatively slight, which means that anyone interested in this important development for schools should take time to check out the shortlisted entrants. Here are the two runners-up for each category:
Class Blog of the Year shortlisted blogs
Ferry Lane Year 6 Blog
Judges' comments: "It was great to read lots of children's contributions on the blog. There is evidence of lots of learning being shared and the class will be motivated knowing they have so many visitors."
Rosneath Primary P5/6
Judges' comments: "A lovely blog involving all the children and a great way to show parents what is going on in school, with lots of comments which shows that it is well used."
Whole School Blogsite of the Year shortlisted blogs
St John the Baptist's Blogs
Judges' comments: "Packed-full, with separate blogs for every class, plus blogs on outdoor learning, ICT, clubs and more!"
Ferry Lane Primary School
Judges' comments: "Very good literacy blog posts from children, with blogs for each class, plus a leadership blog."
Teacher Blog of the Year shortlisted blogs
Judges' comments: "Clear blog with varied posts on different aspects of education."
Cronton Year 4
Judges' comments: "Very appealing class blog with lots of images and communication with children."
Most Influential Blog of the Year shortlisted blogs
100 Word Challenge
Judges' comments: "Countless class blogs enter the 100 Word Challenges each week. This site makes the most of a very simple idea – 100 word challenges – and has created an international creative community in the process."
I'm a teacher, get me OUTSIDE here!
Judges' comments: "A wonderful blog that shares innovative (but very simple) ideas very effectively."
'An awards scheme that scores way beyond its bank balance!'
The Education Blog Awards 2012 might not enjoy the big-budget marketing accounts of other UK award schemes but they score way above their bank balance! Every single link on this page deserves a visit as they celebrate tremendous contributions and achievements by children and teachers and show how simple, innovative approaches can make a world of difference to learners' motivation and opportunities. Congratulations to everyone involved in producing a celebration that is worthy of revisit after revisit to garner the full value of digging beyond the winners. And good luck to those who will help make the Education Blog Awards 2013 even bigger and better.