In December 2012, almost a year after creating this blog, I decided to take a long break from it. In fact, I hadn´t been able to post anything for almost 2 months. I was tired, had run out of original ideas and needed to recharge my batteries. Don’t misunderstand me, I LOVE the blogging process (reflecting, writing, rewriting, editing, finding the right picture to illustrate the article, etc) but the truth is last year I ended up having... 6 blogs! Although I wasn’t in charge of every single aspect of all of these projects, I felt responsible for them and what was (or wasn’t) published.
Anyone who has tried blogging knows how much time and effort it requires, especially if you want to feel proud of the final result. Well, anyone but me! At first, I thought I would be able handle everything but I couldn't have been more wrong. After months of trying to keep a balance between online and offline living, I discovered that as much as I would have liked to be wonder woman, I was not. Finally I had to lower my expectations and assess my priorities. This is what my mental priority list looked like:
- My personal life (my boyfriend, family, friends)
- My job
- My studies (“Especialización Docente en Educació y TIC”, a post degree course)
- 2 of the blogs I was in charge of (this one wasn’t so relevant )
2 important blogs with a common objective
As part of “Laboratorio Pedagógico”, a project the Ministry of Education had chosen me to coordinate at school, my students and I decided to set up a students-run blog, one which would help them express their ideas and show how talented they are (I know my students are talented, because ALL PEOPLE ARE). As all of them should be able to contribute and parents should be able to read, the blog was set up in Spanish, our mother tongue.
We decided to cover important school news, publish interviews, surveys, videos students created, photos, and much more. The project was so ambitious, I felt a little intimidated. But, guess who weren’t? My students! The only problem was they needed guidance on what web 2.0 tools they could use to say what they meant.
That is precisely why I created “Laboratorio 2.0”, a blog which focused on blogging! The truth is I had to set up a blog as part of the course I had enrolled on and I decided helping my students was what it was going to be about. This site also had to be in Spanish (all students and teachers taking part in the project had to be able to understand it, regardless of their level of English).
Organizing our work and... getting a prize!
How did it all start? As soon as I knew “Laboratorio Pedagógico” wanted student-generated content to be published online, I decided to involve all the school community. I asked for the headmister’s permission, told colleagues about it and asked all students for ideas. As many teeenagers had been working with blogs as part of the English class (with me,of course) creating one was the most popular idea.
Once we agreed on what to do, it was necessary to form a team of dedicated students to be in charge of the blog and its content. I invited everybody to a meeting during the lunch break the following Thursday but I was very clear about one aspect: those taking part would not have better marks or privileges, they had to consider the idea only if they wanted to share what they knew or wanted to learn more about technology. I also warned students the project would require some of their free time.
14 students turned up the first day (most of them were 14-15 years old) and as soon as I evaluated their knowledge and we discussed their tastes, we divided the tasks among the group members. The ones who knew the most about technology became blog administrators (and, just in case, I became one,too) and those who loved art were in charge of illustrations and design. There was obviously a team of writers and another one with journalists and interviewers. From that day on, each person knew what to focus on and “El blog de los alumnos de la EES Nº 572” was born.
We decided to keep on meeting once a week, every Thursday during the lunch break. I created a facebook group so that we could keep in touch and the other blog,“Laboratorio 2.0”, to explain what I didn't have time to when we met. It was soon after this that one of the boys, Guido, told me about a blog contest held by the most important newspaper in our area, La Capital de Rosario. As we fulfilled all the requirements, we decided to take part in it and that was a great motivation for all of us. During the following weeks the team brainstormed ideas, took photos, interviewed teachers, filmed and typed. We did all the work with mobile phones, my laptop (which I took to school as frequently as I could) and some digital cameras. Sometimes we worked during school hours or breaks, but we frequently continued after class.
By December, I must confess I was awfully tired. The school year was finishing ( with all the work it implies), and I kept on helping the blog team and trying to update the rest of the blogs. Luckily, it was then that we found out we had won the 2nd prize in the contest, which meant we would be interviewed, and a brand new laptop and digital camera would be given to us so that we could continue working during 2013. How did my students feel? They could hardly believe the news! It was a tremendous self-steem boost. They understood they could produce quality material professional journalists and educators appreciated. I was SO PROUD of my team!! If you want to have a look at the newspaper article,click here.
My experience was amazing but pretty exhausting. What do you think about it? Have you ever helped students create their own blogs? Would you like to? And what about taking part in competitions? How motivating can it be? Please, share with us any ideas, tips and tricks.