Having just recently returned from a week with Grade 6 on Camp, I thought I’d share my live blogging experiences with you.
Taking 11 and 12 year old children 700 km away from their parents for 5 days is no walk in the park. For many students and parents it was the first time they had been separated from each other for that length of time. As a result, in the days leading up to our camp, there was some apprehension amongst child and adult alike. Mobile phones were not coming with the students – too much of a distraction to a very busy schedule – so there were a few cases of cold feet ( to the mild annoyance of a certain Camp coordinator who couldn’t nail final numbers down.)
It was then I decided to soothe the parents’ nerves by opening up my alternate blog to the school community and blog live from Camp. Because we have yet to embrace blogging as a school ( it’s in my plans for this year ) I knew I had to make some adjustments. First, to ensure privacy wasn’t an issue, I made each day’s blogpost password protected. I sent a note home to the parents explaining my plans and gave them the password to access the blog.
I created and published the whole week’s collection of blog posts directly from my iPhone using the WordPress app, which I was able to link to my Edublogs account because I have a Pro account.
It really was very easy to keep the blog up to date. And while I am considered the school ubergeek, there is no reason why any other teacher couldn’t do it in the future without me.
It really was just a simple matter of opening up the WordPress App, typing in a few comments throughout the day and clicking on the photo button to take photos directly from within the app. Alternatively I could access photos from the iPhone’s Camera Roll and add them to the post. A quick click of the update button and the post was up on the Net ready for the expectant parents to access back home.
I posted updates during the bus trip up and back, letting parents know where we were during the day and letting them know of estimated arrival times. tech addict that I am, I even posted Google Map screenshots and freeway signs showing how many kms to go. There was a constant stream of photos each day from all the sights we visited and from the daily comments left by the parents on the blog and the upwards spike in the visitors tab it was obvious the effort was much appreciated and made everyone much more comfortable about the separation. From the students’ point of view, they also enjoyed reading their parents’ messages and being Internet stars as well.
The experience wasn’t without its glitches. The WordPress app appears to have a bug with photo uploading. The first photo always went through without a hitch but subsequent photos seemed to be met with intermittent error messages. It took me a couple of days to override the problem by simply clicking upload/cancel several times quickly. After I worked it out, I managed to post a lot more photos on the last two days. I also had a problem one day getting the post to publish due to some syncing problems with Edublogs. It’s also a little off putting that the app composes in HTML code so to novice teachers and students it would be a little confusing seeing code instead of photos. the final product also lacks a little polish because you can’t really edit the photo layouts. It resulted in simple vertical stream of photos with words in between (but the parents didn’t mind in the least).
Overall though it really was a simple process. I’m hoping to get the students more involved next time if or when they have their own blogs to use. They’ll still need access to iPhone personal hotspots to get the school iPads connected but since most of the staff have iPhones that shouldn’t be a problem. I can see this being a process we could use on other excursions and at school sporting events to keep the community updated. Lots of possibilities. Would like to hear from others if you have tried similar experiences and how it was received. For us, it was a big hit – two weeks on, I’m still getting approached by happy parents. Augers well for future blogging plans, I hope.