University of the West of Scotland School of Education Masters Dissertation Children’s Online Voices – A Case Study

“Can Weblogs, Wikis and other associated emerging social software tools be used to create an effective on-line learning community?”

Margaret Vass Matriculation Number B00013865 May 2008 Word count – 20200

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education Advanced Professional Studies

Table of Contents

Abstract Acknowledgements Research Questions and Aims Rationale Review of Literature and Current Thinking Design and Implementation Findings Conclusions Implications References Bibliography

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Abstract
Current thinking in the review of literature suggests that it is possible to draw on the online communication skills already being developed in pupils' lives outside of school. The literature also proposes that, as blogs and wikis are not unlike the new media tools currently being used by young people today, these media could potentially be adapted by schools to allow e-learning to occur successfully. This study sets out to investigate whether weblogs, wikis and other emerging social software tools can be used to create an effective on-line learning community. The research is confined to one particular class of primary 7 pupils who have been using these new social software tools since entering their final year of primary school. A fresh approach to using the blogs and wikis was adopted during the three month research period and the children were given the freedom to use the tools as they wished within a supportive online environment. The teacher’s role became that of a facilitator, and guidance was provided through creating a sense of online audience by submitting comments on the children’s posts regularly. Offline, new interesting posts were shared with the children. Particular consideration was paid to: • •
• •

Online Identities / gender issues The relationship between the online / offline environments Resulting impact on teaching and learning Consequential formal and informal learning

A case study method was adopted. Data was gathered systematically throughout the research period and focuses on:

Observations - regular checks in order to monitor blog posts and comments, and wiki entries Field notes – updated regularly on a blog set up for the purpose of narrating the research journey

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Interviews (structured and unstructured) – in order to establish views of all concerned Triangulation – enlistment of a sceptical colleague and a critical friend to ensure that the perception of events is fair and accurate

This case study consists of two elements. The first is concerned with the wider field of focus, and analyses the breadth and depth of posts and comments. The second narrows in to investigate any formal / informal learning taking place, and explores the useful features and barriers of managing web 2.0 tools with primary school children The findings show that the relationship between the digital and the real worlds began to merge and this had an impact on teaching and learning. The children’s informal online voices began to have a direct influence on what was to be included in their more formal offline learning programme. Sharing the entries from the blogs and wikis in the offline environment of the classroom had a direct influence on the teaching and learning taking place. The curriculum became more ‘child led’. The children gained confidence and competently used these social media tools to guide and reflect upon their learning offline. Formal and informal learning merged to become authentic and personal. This led to student engagement in relevant and rewarding learning – both in school and outside of school.

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Acknowledgements
I would like to say thank you to some people for helping me with this research.

First of all I would like to thank the p7V pupils – without them this case study would not have been possible. Thank you, too, to Evelyn Livingstone, Head Teacher at Carronshore Primary School. She allowed me the freedom to carry out this case study and to make any subsequent changes to the curriculum

Kim Pericles is class teacher in Sydney, Australia who agreed to be my online critical friend. She deserves a very special thank you for taking on the responsibility of ‘keeping me focused’. Her encouraging and pensive comments inspired me to look at the research in different lights and at times kept my spirits up

I am indebted to the advice and interest shown by researchers Jackie Marsh from Sheffield University, Victoria Carrington from the University of South Australia and Zoe Williamson from Moray House Institute

Marlene Hart agreed to be my sceptical friend for the duration of the research period. I’m glad to say that she eventually ‘saw the light’ 

Thanks to Anne Pirrie, my tutor at the University of the West of Scotland. I have valued her advice and was grateful for her prompt replies to emails asking for advice and clarification

Finally, thank you to my family for their support, encouragement and understanding

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Research Questions and Aims

Question:
“Can Weblogs, Wikis and other associated emerging social software tools be used to create an effective on-line learning community?”

Aims:
Aim 1 - investigation of the useful features, and barriers, when using blogs and wikis in a supportive online environment Aim 2 - To guide and monitor progress Aim 3 - To evaluate motivation, as well as formal and informal learning

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Rationale
The Context
In order to justify the reasons for deciding on the focus for this case study, I will re-visit my preceding chartered teacher module entitled ‘E-Learning, ETeaching, E-Assessment – Supporting Pupils’ Learning Online’. The task for this module was to write a report for the school entitled: A Critical Analysis of the Key Concepts and Issues related to supporting Pupils’ Online Learning. The summary included a statement made by HM Senior Chief Inspector of Education, Graham Donaldson (2007):
“Information and communications technology (ICT) has transformed the means by which we inform ourselves, remain up to date with world event and areas of personal interest, and further our learning. For many, books and journals are no longer the first or primary source of information or learning. We now regularly rely on images, video, animations and sound to acquire information and to learn. Increased and improved access to the internet has accelerated this phenomenon. We now acquire and access information in ways fundamentally different from the pre-ICT era. The findings outlined in this report confirm that Scotland is well placed to build on current strengths in order to realise the full potential of ICT to improve learning and achievement. The challenge is to make that happen.”

On a local level, the school report included the press release by Julia Swan, our Director of Education (24/04/07) after the council’s annual ICT Fair:
“We are seeing the growing use of ICT in the classroom and pupils are responding very positively to developments. Feedback from teachers shows that pupils are generally more eager to participate as they use the ICT equipment to engage with learning. Many staff has reported that they have found attainment rises the more pupils are involved in using ICT in the learning process and suggests that this is an area in which we will be prioritising our resources.”

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Both these statements suggest that there is a significant need to include more “e-learning” in the school curriculum. The report I wrote set out to define the most relevant form of ‘e-learning’ appropriate for my own school’s particular circumstance. It also addressed the need for suitable staff development programmes, to encourage teaching, learning and assessment approaches.” Other main points raised in the report are outlined below:

In The Paper, 'A Digitally Driven Curriculum' Buckingham and McFarlane (2001) remind us that today's children know much more than the majority of adults and that schools need to engage with, and build upon the new kinds of informal learning that are developing around these media.

Many pupils are using sites such as My Space, Bebo, and MSN1. Educators should monopolise on the online communication skills already being developed in the pupils' lives outside of school.

Blogs2 and wikis3 are not unlike the social network tools already being used and can potentially be adapted to allow e-learning to occur successfully, leading to the development of an on-line community of learners

Bob Godwin-Jones (2003) of Virginia Commonwealth University stated in 'Emerging Technologies' that blogs and wikis offer powerful opportunities for online collaboration for learners

Steve O' Hear wrote in The Guardian (20/6/06) newspaper that:
‘The web's shift from a tool of reference to one of collaboration presents teachers with some rich opportunities for e-learning’

He also remarked that many believe that the web has entered a second phase where new services and software – collectively known as web 2.0 – are transforming the web from a predominantly “read only” medium to one where anyone can publish and share content and easily collaborate with others. He explained that the "new" web is already having an impact in class, as teachers
1

MSN Web Messenger enables users to talk online to friends in real time. Bebo and MySpace are social network sites 2 Personal websites often used like a journal 3 A collection of web pages designed to enable anyone to contribute or modify content

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start exploring the potential of blogs, media-sharing services, and other social software, which, although not designed specifically for e-learning, can be used to empower students and create exciting new learning opportunities.

Significant Relevance
At the time of writing the report (May 2007), individual pupil blogs and wikis were already in place in my class. The class network of blogs and wikis had evolved gradually since first discovering their existence in the autumn of 2006. I began by setting up a single class blog and allowed individual children to write posts on it. The purpose was to introduce the children to the technology and to hopefully improve their writing skills. Eventually I discovered that by creating a shared wiki space, the children could all be allocated their own area within that space. As we shared a common password it was not an ideal situation, but I felt in control of the space because I could access it at any time. I was aware that some pupils in another authority had their own individual blogs and made contact with the ICT support team there to learn more about the set up. They kindly offered to set up individual blogs for the children in my class and to host them on their own server. The blogs were set up in such a way that I was able to access them at any time, so had a degree of control over their use. They were used as a platform to provide the children with an online audience for their class work. As these blogs were hosted by another authority, however, I felt a responsibility to carefully guide their use, and restricted the content to school related posts. When the children moved on to High School, they were informed that blogs and wikis could be used as a vehicle to keep in touch with Primary School. A handful of the children wrote at length about their High School experiences in the first few days and weeks of being there. The number of blog entries soon diminished, however, and presently very few of the High School children post to their blogs, and only one writes on a regular basis. I began to question whether I was making the best use of these tools. They were very ‘teacher directed’ at Primary School level, possibly giving the children the message that they had limited ownership of the blogs.

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This session, however, I managed to set up a network of individual blogs without the help from the other authority. I allowed the children to have more freedom to use the tools from the outset. For example:

The main class blog contains news about class events. Here, interesting posts or stories from the children’s online spaces are shared. In addition, it contains the various pages that take visitors to the children’s individual blogs and to our assortment of wiki spaces

In an attempt to give the children a sense of ownership over their blogs, I chose not to make use of them solely as an ICT time activity. Instead, the children have been encouraged to use them in their free time at home and at school

The children have been encouraged to personalise their blogs by choosing their own themes and creating avatars using online sites such as weeworld4 or voki5

Although this sessions children have been given more freedom over the use of their blogs, online safety is still paramount and a page containing our ‘blogging rules’ is embedded in each individual blog6

Taking part in this final stage of the Chartered Teacher journey, however, has provided me with the opportunity to investigate the possible consequences of allowing the children total control over their use of these tools.

Potential Impact on Teaching Studying the results of this new approach to using blogs and wikis with this particular set of pupils, will have a direct impact on how I use web 2.0 tools with future classes. I am interested in whether allowing the children the freedom to use the tools as they wish will increase their motivation in a variety of ways. I am also interested in whether or not they will begin to respond to each others’ posts, thereby creating an online class community.
4 5 6

http://www.weeworld.com/ http://www.voki.com/ See appendix 1

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Potential Impact on Local Authority Schools Our school development plan for this session includes the setting up of blogs for all primary 7 and 6 stages in the school. Some staff is keen to do this, others are sceptical (I have arranged for the Depute Head to be my ‘sceptic friend’). The results of this study will impact on the eventual setting up and managing of these blogs also. Despite the scepticism of the Depute Head, the Senior Management Team in the school has expressed an interest in the study and is extremely supportive. There are no other blog and wiki class networks in the Local Authority. I am aware, however, of a high level of interest in the initiative due to the number of requested visits we receive from teachers in other schools. Potential Impact on the Wider Community I am aware of the fact that other educators in this country and abroad are interested due to the commenting, both on the main class blog directly and through email contact. I believe that the pupils taking part in the study and their parents will also be interested in the results. The research proposal was discussed with my own pupils and, at a recent Parent Evening, it was mentioned casually. All participants were contacted more formally and given precise details of the research. Permission to include their contributions was given by both children and parents.

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Review of Literature and Current Thinking
Introduction The Futurelab website7 describes weblogs as easily updatable personal websites, often used as personal journals. The social aspect of weblogs, it says, can be seen in the ability for readers to comment on postings, to post links to other blogs and, through using pingback or trackback functions, to keep track of other blogs referencing their posts. This enables bloggers to know who is referring to, and building on, what they say in their blogs. The website also states that the term ‘social software’ came into use in 2002 and is generally attributed to Clay Shirky. Shirky, a writer and teacher on the social implications of internet technology, defines social software simply as “software that supports group interaction” (Shirky 2003). Shirky (2003), states that weblogs are not necessarily social, although they can support social patterns. He maintains that there is a revolution in social software going on and that the number of people writing tools to support or enhance group online collaboration or communication is astonishing. He reminds us that it is now possible for every grouping, from a Girl Scout troop on up, to have an online component, and for it to be lightweight and easy to manage. Davis and Merchant (2006) find the growing popularity of blogs that use relatively simple and inexpensive publishing tools of particular interest. They set out to explain how blogging has become such a seductive activity so quickly, and for so many. They go on to say that blogs which have “frequent commenters” often develop a strong sense of audience. From November 2004, through to November 2005, they used their own activity of blog-posting and associated digital practices such as reading, linking to and commenting on other blogs as a focus for reflection and analysis.8 They found
7 8

http://www.futurelab.org.uk/ drjoolzsnapshotz.blogspot.com and myvedana.blogspot.com

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that an auto ethnographic approach allowed them to experience at first-hand, and therefore to understand more closely, how blogs work as a new type of text. As they began to reflect on their own experiences of blogging, the idea of “authoring the self ” (Holland et al 1998) often came to the fore. They noted that, not only were they pushing at the boundaries of academic self-publication, they also became aware of broader issues of identity in their online writing. They examined specific issues surrounding the development of online identities. They revealed that their notions of identity were informed by social theory, and perhaps best captured in the work of Giddens: “The existential question of self identity is bound up with the fragile nature of the biography which the individual “supplies” about herself. A person’s identity is not to be found in behaviour, nor—important though this is—in the reactions of others, but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going. The individual’s biography, if she is to maintain regular interaction with others in the day-to-day world, cannot be wholly fictive. It must continually integrate events which occur in the external world, and sort them into the ongoing “story” about the self ” (Giddens 1991, 54). They maintain that a plural narrative begins to develop, and that the perception of an actual or imagined audience prompts us to think about what we wish to show. Identity performance involves a sense of audience—an audience to whom one is presenting a particular narrative (or narratives) of the self. In a study involving young people’s use of blogs, Stern (2007) found that knowing that their personal sites are publicly accessible does not lead most young people to envision a broad audience for their online works. Despite their recognition that virtually anyone with Internet access can pore over their sites, most adolescents, by and large, cannot imagine why “some random stranger” would be interested in visiting. Rather, the typical audience that young authors visualise as they deliberate what to post online are those people that they know actually visit their sites and those whom they have directed to visit their sites.

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Stern (2007) emphasises that despite the awareness of audiences, nearly all young authors identify themselves as their principal audience. Many consider their online presentations to be most appealing to, most beneficial for, and most frequently consumed by themselves. She goes on to say, however, that although many young authors contend they give little thought to their audiences as they deliberate what to post online, when pressed, they generally reveal an intense awareness of how their personal sites—and by extension, they themselves—might be perceived by their online site visitors. Indeed, she found that the young people in her study concerned themselves simultaneously with how they appeared to themselves and to their audiences. She explains that, although this process is not unique to online presentation, the deliberate nature of the construction magnifies the experience. Her findings show that for many young people, the goal is not simply to construct a personal site, but to do so with careful attention to detail, navigation, and aesthetic finesse. In this sense, personal sites are reminiscent of private diaries, which have frequently been considered as objects for self-examination and engagement. They appear to be particularly meaningful during adolescence, when young people consciously search for a sense of who they are and how they fit in within their social worlds. Time is often devoted to mapping out personal beliefs and values, questioning taken-for-granted truths, and navigating ever-more complex relationships. Stern (2007) argues that because personal sites are made public, many critics often overlook this internal focus that such creative works can activate and that, ironically, this internal focus is often the most revered aspect of online expression for adolescents. Self-reflection is, she maintains, perhaps the most commonly cited reward of maintaining a personal site among youth authors. Ownership of a personal site, for many young authors, seems to be accompanied by a sense of obligation: the blog needs to be updated, the home page must be modified. Stern (2007) found that a surprising number of young authors use the word “therapeutic” to describe how it feels to express themselves online. As in the case of Davis and Merchant (2006) mentioned previously in this review, she
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cites Giddens (1991) who argues that in modern times, people feel obligated to continuously work and rework themselves, as they seek to weave a story of their own personal identity. In this context, the self is viewed as evolving and flexible. Stern (2007) also found that the strategy and intentionality behind selfpresentation is illuminated in online settings. In the absence of audible or visual cues, they often feel less inhibited, a sensation heightened by the experience of crafting messages in front of a computer screen, frequently in the privacy of their own room or other personal space. She claims that authors possess more control over the impressions they give than they do in offline spaces, since they make all the decisions about what to reveal, omit, embellish, or underplay. She adds that the self-presentations that youth authors offer on their personal sites must be viewed as constructions, not mirrors, of teens’ emerging sense of self. Young authors, she claims, use their personal sites to engage with their culture and to practise ways of being within it. She states that it has long been established that media consumption helps adolescents identify with a youth culture and “feel connected to a larger peer network, which is united by certain youth-specific values and interests.” She argues that listening to what young people have to say about their experiences of cultural production yields a valuable—and irreplaceable—perspective as we endeavour to understand the changing role of new technologies in contemporary adolescence. Wenger9 (no date) explains that the new technologies such as the internet have extended the reach of our interactions beyond the geographical limitations of traditional communities. However, the increase in flow of information does not obviate the need for community. In fact, he says, it expands the possibilities for community and calls for new kinds of communities based on shared practice. He states that the concept of community of practice is influencing theory and practice in many domains. Communities of practice, he explains, are groups of

9

http://www.ewenger.com/theory/

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people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. He claims that three characteristics are crucial:

The domain: A community of practice is not merely a club of friends or a network of connections between people. It has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest.

The community: In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions and help each other and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other.

The practice: A community of practice is not merely a community of interest--people who like certain kinds of movies, for instance. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice.

He maintains that it is the combination of these three elements that constitutes a community of practice, but that these communities come in a variety of forms. Some are quite small; some are very large, often with a core group and many peripheral members. Some are local and some cover the globe. Communities of practice, he states, have been around for as long as human beings have learned together. He claims that at home, at work, at school and in our hobbies, we all belong to communities of practice. They are a familiar experience, so familiar perhaps that it often escapes our attention. Yet when it is given a name and brought into focus, it becomes a perspective that can help us understand our world better. In particular, he claims, it allows us to see past more obvious formal structures of such organizations, classrooms, or nations, and perceive the structures defined by engagement in practice and the informal learning that comes with it. He argues that schools are organisations in their own right, and they too face increasing knowledge challenges. The first applications of communities of

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practice have been in teacher training and in providing isolated administrators with access to colleagues. There is, he claims, a wave of interest in these peerto-peer professional-development activities. Yet he reminds us that in the education sector, learning is not only a means to an end: it is the end product. In schools, changing the learning theory is a much deeper transformation. This, he maintains, will inevitably take longer, and claims that the perspective of communities of practice affects educational practices along three dimensions:

Internally: How to organize educational experiences that ground school learning in practice through participation in communities around subject matters?

Externally: How to connect the experience of students to actual practice through peripheral forms of participation in broader communities beyond the walls of the school?

Over the lifetime of students: How to serve the lifelong learning needs of students by organizing communities of practice focused on topics of continuing interest to students beyond the initial schooling period?

From this perspective, he states, the school is not the privileged locus of learning. It is not a self-contained, closed world in which students acquire knowledge to be applied outside, but a part of a broader learning system. The class is not the primary learning event. It is life itself that is the main learning event. Schools, classrooms, and training sessions still have a role to play in this vision, but they have to be in the service of the learning that happens in the world. In an article in the Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) ‘Connected’ magazine, Salmon (2006) shares her views on the key success factors that enable successful online communities of practice. She writes that working online is really a new environment for learning, not just a tool. She cites Greenfield (2004) who demonstrates that the accessible and interactive dialogue younger people take for granted has great potential for learning and development, if we can tap into it. She goes on to say that the availability of digital resources and the internet as a mediator invites all those seeking learning or understanding to work together in new ways.
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The online environment, she argues, provides a medium for communication and also shapes it. Participants do not need permission to contribute and individuals can receive attention from those willing and able to offer it. Face-to-face identities become less important and the usual discriminators such as race, age and gender are less apparent. Owen et al (2006) refer to how Wenger (2000) believes that acquiring knowledge involves interplay between socially-defined knowledge and personal experience which is mediated by membership of a group. The authors state that communities of practice are groups of people who have specific reasons to have an affinity. A potential important factor in the use of social software for online communities of practice, they say, is the ability to cross boundaries. Learners might be able to join groups in which age, pre-existing knowledge, gender or location are no longer an apparent barrier. There is also no barrier to young learners establishing their own communities and networks. An article in The Times Online (9/3/08) states that whilst blogging used to be the preserve of men with obsessive interests in particular subjects, young women are increasingly entering this arena. The article cites a Pew Internet Project10 report (19/12/07) which states that content creation on the internet by teenagers continues to grow and that blogging growth in that age group is almost entirely fuelled by girls. This trend, it is claimed, is likely to be echoed throughout the West. Social Software and Education In an interview with the Learning and Teaching Scotland “Connected Live” magazine, Heppell (2007) states that technology has given us a much flatter playing field. Young children online, he says, can be whatever age they want to be. This means they can be involved in really engaging debates and they can be making a contribution. He explains how he finds it fascinating to see what happens when technology allows children to learn together online. He recalls a
10

Pew Internet explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life.

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primary school child who was leading an online debate about badgers and everyone else in the debate had a PhD and had an average age of 28. He goes on to say that it was not possible to tell that she was a primary school child, and explains that she was out researching intensely to make sure that she stayed ahead of the others. Buckingham (2008), however, states that recent studies suggest that most young people’s everyday uses of the Internet are characterised, not by spectacular forms of innovation and creativity, but by relatively mundane forms of communication and information retrieval. The technologically empowered “cyberkids” of the popular imagination may indeed exist, but even if they do, they are in a minority and they are untypical of young people as a whole. He argues that there is little evidence that most young people are using the internet to develop global connections, and that in most cases it appears to be used primarily as a means of reinforcing local networks among peers. In addition, he maintains that in learning with and through these media, young people are also learning how to learn. They are developing particular orientations toward information, particular methods of acquiring new knowledge and skills, and a sense of their own identities as learners. In these domains, they are learning primarily by means of discovery, experimentation, and play, rather than by following external instructions and directions. In considering the role of these new media in learning, Lee and Berry (2006) also acknowledge that many students find that their learning is most effective when they actively construct knowledge during group social interaction and collaboration. Characteristics of such approaches also include: an awareness of multiple perspectives, provision of realistic contexts, a sense of ownership and voice, learning as a social experience, an acknowledgement of multiple modes of representation and a sense of self-awareness (metacognition, or learning about learning). These approaches, they say, are variously called social constructivism, social learning, collaborative learning or aggregated learning, and that theories of social constructivist epistemology and Vygotsky’s(1978) zone of proximal development provide a rigorous underpinning for such pedagogies.
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Learning Theories and Social Software Godwin-Jones (2003) explains that blogs and wikis offer powerful opportunities for online collaboration for learners. He states that the encouragement of peer to peer networking and buddy learning is central to a constructivist learning approach, and goes on to say that there has been an increasing interest in using blogs in education. The Concept Classroom Website11 provides a series of online professional development workshops. The Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning workshop12 describes that the constructivist theory states that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things, and reflecting on those experiences. A constructivist teacher encourages pupils to constantly assess how an activity is helping them gain understanding. They become “expert learners” and learn how to learn. The constructivist classroom, it states, also relies heavily on collaboration. Siemens (2004) states that constructivism is one of the three broad learning theories most often utilized in the creation of instructional environments. He points out, however, that the behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism theories were developed in a time when learning was not impacted through technology. He believes that connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education, he maintains, has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. He is of the opinion that connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.
11 12

http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/index.html http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html

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The starting point of connectivism, he states, is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organisations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to the individual. A paper developed by the LTS Future Learning and Teaching (FLaT) Reference Group (2006) states that the individual learner has a claim on the time and the assistance of both teacher and peers, but has an obligation to make a positive contribution in return. Personalised learning is part of the process of establishing the school as a mutually-supportive community of learners. The authors go on to say that learning is an intrinsically social process. For most people, most of the time, developing understanding requires interaction with others. The social dimension of education, they maintain, is not simply a byproduct of particular institutional structures such as schools which have been developed to offer universal education in a cost-effective form. Rather, it is something which is intrinsic to any humane process of personal or intellectual development. Owen et al (2006), state that in the educational arena, we are increasingly witnessing a change in the view of the purposes for education. There is a growing emphasis on the need to support young people, not only to acquire knowledge and information, but also to develop the resources and skills necessary to engage with social and technical change, and to continue learning throughout the rest of their lives. The authors go on to say that in the technological arena, we are witnessing the rapid proliferation of technologies that can lead to the creation of communities and resources in which individuals come together to learn, collaborate and build knowledge (social software). They believe that this offers significant potential for the development of new approaches to education. The authors state that, at the heart of agendas for change in education there are a number of key themes which relate to questions of how knowledge, creativity and innovation are generated in the practices of the ‘information society’. They
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go on to say that there are also changes in our understanding of practices of creativity and innovation – from the idea of the isolated individual ‘genius’ to the concept of ‘communities of practice’, where reflection and feedback are important collaborative processes. They ask whether it is possible to draw on the activities emerging through social software to create learning communities that offer young people personalised, collaborative learning experiences such as those that are already emerging in the world outside the school gates. They remind us that children and young people are increasingly becoming authors of blogs, and that research is only now beginning to catch up with these activities. There is, however, growing concerns about the safety and privacy of young people using these media. Adults worry that, by displaying personal information, young people are putting themselves at risk from predators who may take advantage of the anonymity and unbounded nature of the internet to make contact with young people. On 6 September 2007 the Prime Minister asked Tanya Byron to conduct an independent review, looking at the risks to children from exposure to potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games. The final report will be published towards the end of March (2008). Recently, however, an article in The Times Online (18/1/2008), entitled, ‘Parents Don’t Understand Risks Posed by Internet’, quotes Byron as saying that new technologies have created a generation gap between parents and children: “Parents are worried about online predators, but children are more concerned about bullying and they don’t differentiate between the real world and online. It starts in the classroom and, when they get home, it’s all over their MySpace page,” The article goes on to say that her research found that parents had little idea how to place filters on their child’s computer to protect them from inappropriate material.

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Social Software in Education – The Research Green and Hannon (2007) found that there are some powerful myths that inform the way people think about youth culture. They set out to challenge some of those myths, in order to explore the real value behind the digital interactions that are part of everyday life. Over a six-month period the authors undertook interviews, group discussions and informal conversations with children and young people around the UK. They asked interviewees to fill in diaries tracking their media consumption – what they used, what they used it for and how often they used it. These diaries were a starting point for a series of focus groups. They spent time in primary and secondary schools and youth groups with over 60 children and young people aged between seven and 18, speaking to them about how new technologies fitted into their lives. They also polled 600 parents of children aged four to 16 across England to find out their views on learning and the role of digital technologies in their children’s lives. Polling was not designed to be representative in a quantitative sense, but to enable them to view digital technologies from the perspective of parents as well as children. The main finding from their research was that the use of digital technology has been completely normalised by this generation, and it is now fully integrated into their daily lives. The majority of young people simply use new media as tools to make their lives easier, strengthening their existing friendship networks rather than widening them. Almost all are now also involved in creative production, from uploading and editing photos to building and maintaining websites. The authors argue that the current generation of decision-makers – from politicians to teachers – sees the world from a very different perspective to the generation of young people who do not remember life without the instant answers of the internet. They maintain that schools need to think about how they can prepare young people for the future workplace. They state that, rather than harnessing the technologies that are already fully integrated into young peoples’ daily lives, schools tend to make it clear that these new media tools are unwelcome in the classroom. Green and Hannon (2007), however, state that their research suggests that the blanket approach of banning and filtering may not be the most effective
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safeguard. The children they interviewed were on the whole aware of potential dangers and adept at self-regulating. Where children found it easy to bypass the rules set by schools and parents, they were dependent on their understanding of what constituted inappropriate or risky behaviour. Where once we spoke of ‘computer literacy’ now academics are pointing to a generation that is ‘multiliterate’ in several technologies. The authors argue that, the more children are encouraged to expand their digital repertoire, the more adept they will become at using different tools for different purposes in their everyday lives. Their research also indicates that children are learning a whole range of skills when interacting with each other. This type of learning – anything which is loosely organised and happens outside the confines of the school gates – is usually defined as informal learning. The authors maintain that it is difficult to prove when and exactly how a child has learnt a skill, particularly when children themselves can have difficulty talking about and transferring this learning. Informal learning, they say, exists under the surface of everyday activities like staying in touch with family and friends, and as children spend only 15 per cent of their waking time at school, it is essential that we understand it. The authors are of the opinion that schools need to invest in three sets of relationships: • First there is the relationship between the student and their formal educational experience. Schools need to find ways to make this more meaningful and more engaging by building on their approach to informal learning experiences and providing spaces for critical reflection. • Second, schools need to develop a deeper understanding of the relationships that young people have with their parents, families and wider social networks outside school and how this impacts on their learning. • Finally, they argue that schools need to develop strategies to bridge these two worlds. This is not about subsuming or absorbing informal learning into the formal environment, but finding ways of connecting these different learning experiences.

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Re-connecting with learners Green and Hannon (2007) maintain that one of the key differences between learning that goes on outside the classroom and learning in the classroom is that informal learning is driven by the interests, enthusiasms and passions of the individual. It is not enough, they say, to simply listen to children and orient lessons around their out-of-school practices. Schools need to do more than this in order to recognise the value of, as well as build on the new kinds of learning that are taking place. They need to create spaces for students to reflect on their learning and articulate their thoughts about it, which will enable them to transfer their skills. The report states that there has been significant research into how this can take place, and that meta-cognition is at the heart of it: the capacity to monitor, evaluate, control and change how one thinks and learns. In less formal terms this means reflecting on one’s learning and intentionally applying the results of one’s reflection to further learning. In this context it means reflecting on the kinds of skills young people are developing outside the formal environment. The authors maintain that schools need to set their own agendas around bridging home and school, and that it is not about trying to formalise the informal; rather it is about using this newly emerging third place in ways that stimulate students and enable them to transfer their skills. Third Places Wikipedia (no date) states that "The Third Place" is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. Oldenburg (1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. Oldenburg describes our “first” place as our home and those we live with. Our second place is the workplace — where we may actually spend most of our time. Third places, then, are "anchors" of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction.

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Glogowski (no date), focuses on the use of blogging communities in education and discusses how to prepare an online space for learning and plan a learning community. He observed that the online community he has built with his students every year often resembles a third place. He decided to investigate what contributes to this development. He discovered that ensuring that certain features and freedoms are in place before learning begins, can have a strong impact on the development of a classroom community and its potential movement away from what Oldenburg (1991) calls second place (a place of work) and towards a third place - an informal meeting place that can facilitate and support creative interaction. Glogowski (no date) states that he tries to ensure that the online environment he prepares can grow into a vibrant and engaging community. His idea is to ensure that the students see the online environment as their own - not merely an extension of the classroom, but a place where they feel free to interact and write as individuals. He explains that he does not see it as a process of building a community but, rather, as a process of laying the foundations. His plan is to ensure that the online environment he has prepared can grow into a vibrant and engaging community characterized by meaningful and personally relevant interactions. Preparing Online Spaces Lafferty (2004) is quoted in the Learning and Teaching Scotland Connected magazine as saying: “To develop an online community requires a more student-centred approach with the tutor transforming into a facilitator from ’sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’. It is my belief that potential moderators should be introduced to the subtleties of online facilitation from the perspective of first becoming an online learner, thus enabling them to actually feel and experience the myriad of online processes which provide them with the whole picture. How else can you develop and properly hone the almost ’sixth sense’ you
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need to be able to read your participants’ requirements online – tuning in to the subtleties and nuances and reading what is not being said?” During the University of the West of Scotland Charter Teacher E-Learning module (2007), the students were asked to take turns of taking on the role of emoderator. This is what was found: •

The role was that of a facilitator The learning was a ‘2 way process – learning from each other through the discussion process It was not necessary to stick to a topic – discussions led to ‘sideways’ topics being explored Reflection was important It was important to acknowledge others’ contributions It was important to move discussions forward – not just a case of agreeing or disagreeing The discussions led to a ‘building’ of knowledge It was important to develop an ‘online voice’ ….. e.g. ‘yes, I see what you’re saying, but/and have you ever wondered about/if’

• • • • • •

Uzuner (2007) focuses on conversations and quality of talk in online discussions. He draws upon constructivist theories of learning as well as the notion of “exploratory talk” and characterizes two distinct types of talk: educationally valuable talk (EVT) and educationally less valuable talk (ELVT). The potential of each talk type for collaborative knowledge building is discussed and teaching implications are considered. His paper states that Mercer (1994) came up with a taxonomy of three types of non-overlapping categories:

Disputational talk, whereby speakers challenge other speakers’ views, but without attempting to justify their challenge by building on previous utterances or offering new information

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Cumulative talk, whereby speakers contribute to discussion by taking up and continuing a previous speaker’s utterance, without explicit comment Exploratory talk, whereby hypotheses are proposed, objections are made and justified, and new relevant information is offered.

Mercer’s taxonomy suggests, the author states, that there are some talk types that are educationally more valuable, and therefore, more desirable than others due to their potential to nurture collective knowledge building. Uzuner (2007) states that, although not referring to online environments, Mercer’s (1994) notion of “exploratory talk” offers insights into what type of interactions have this learning potential that other types of talk do not share. The notion of whether online talk is ‘educationally valuable’ or ‘educationally less valuable’ when analyzing the use of blogs with children is not always seen as a focus for research. However, Marsh (2007) worked on a project alongside a primary school teacher in England whose pupils were blogging about Dinosaurs. The teacher had set up a project with another teacher in the USA. Both their classes were free to use the blogs to engage in the topic in whichever way they wished to, which led to a range of creative and imaginative work. It was established that the activity of blogging did not privilege the written word. Rather, image, sound and words combined to make meaning, replicating children’s encounters with multimodal texts outside of school (Kress, 2003). Marsh (2007) states that, since the topic itself had been negotiated with the teacher in the USA, children’s ownership of the project was somewhat limited. More frequent opportunities for more open-ended explorations, she claims, would be a useful addition to current pedagogical practices. She adds that enabling children to create blogs based on their own interests and experiences, rather than linked to a classroom-based topic, might offer opportunities for them to create networks of peers interested in similar topics, thus offering valuable learning opportunities with regard to social networking software (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006). She states that, because of the range of learning opportunities presented by digital technologies, new pedagogical approaches are needed in schools if the
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curriculum is to be sufficiently engaging and appropriate for children and young people. She believes that it is essential that schools offer opportunities for all children to become competent and effective analysers and producers of a range of multimodal texts and artefacts. Barriers to Social Software in education Valentine et al (2005) report that teachers are reluctant to use these new technologies in the classroom because of concerns about digital divides between those pupils who have access to home based ICT and those that do not. However, the high level of computer ownership (89% in their study) suggests that the digital divide in terms of hardware is now so narrow that schools need to be developing children’s home use of ICT for school work and redirecting their leisure uses towards educational purposes. Their study found that children, whether explicitly or implicitly, picked up the message that they should use ICT at home if they had access to it and thus were able to benefit from the advantages that it offered. The teachers in their study were not openly setting homework using ICT, but considered it acceptable when pupils produced work using this technology. Other studies show that many teachers are not confident in using new technologies. Sefton-Green (2004) states: “… in their leisure, at play and in the home with their friends, young people can find in ICTs powerful, challenging and different ways of learning. The emphasis is on sharing, working together, and using a wide range of cultural references and knowledge. This mode of being emphasises the capacity to make, to author and to communicate. It is completely dependent on the interest of the marketplace. At times this vision clearly scares schools and the formal education system, but unless education policy makers can find ways to synthesis learning across formal and informal domains, our education system will become the loser in the long run.”

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Buckingham and McFarlane (2001), state that children are often seen to be highly active and autonomous in their dealings with the new digital media. They go on to say that it is argued that today’s children know much more than the majority of adults, and that it is now up to us to catch up with them. They also state that schools need to engage with, and build on, the new kinds of informal learning that are developing around these media. In the publication ‘Coming of Age: an introduction to the new world wide web’ (2006), Will Richardson is quoted as saying that: “One of the reasons we fear these technologies is because we as teachers don’t yet understand them or use them. But the reality is that our students already do. It’s imperative that we be able to teach our kids how to use the tools effectively and appropriately because right now they have no models to follow.” Falkirk’s Curriculum Development Manager (2008) is quoted as saying that using new technologies in education is certainly seen as the way forward to develop all sorts of areas of learning. At the moment, however, there is no specific policy in place about the use of these new online tools. The main priority is to find ways of helping teachers to feel comfortable with the new technologies.

Design and Implementation
Design
The Time Scale:
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Monday 12 November – Sunday 25 November • • • • Study the various methods available for data collection Appreciate the difference between qualitative and quantitative data Consider the different approaches required for qualitative and quantitative data Decide on the best method/s of data collection for the project

Monday 26 November – Sunday 16 December • • • • • Consider the different methods of data analysis Decide which methods of analysis will be most appropriate for the project Investigate different methods for presentation of data Consider how analysis of Findings leads to Conclusions and Implications Finalise the design for the research plan

Monday 7 January – Sunday 27 January • • Complete the writing of your Review of Literature. Submission of draft review of literature to tutor by Monday 28 January

Monday 28 January - Sunday 10 February • • • Revise research plan Revise literature review Implement research plan

Monday 11 February - Sunday 24 February • • Implementation of research plan Discussion of issues arising on ‘Blackboard’

Monday 25 February – Sunday 9 March • • • Confirm with tutor that research plan is on time Implementation of research plan Discussion of issues arising on Blackboard

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Decide on methods of presenting findings

Monday 10 March – Sunday 30 March • • Implementation of research plan Consider likely findings, conclusions and implications

Monday 31 March – Sunday 20 April • • • Prepare findings Completion of research plan Begin preparation of dissertation

Submit of draft findings to tutor by Monday 21 April Monday 21 April – Sunday 18 May • Completion of Dissertation.

Submit bound copy of dissertation to the University by Monday 19 May Questions addressed in this section: 1. What is the main methodology of the research? 2. Will there be the opportunity for cross-checking? 3. Will the depth and breadth required for content validity be feasible within the constraints of the research (e.g. time constraints, instrumentation)? 4. How will data be gathered consistently over time?
5. What type of data is required?

The main methodology used in this research is a case study method. Cohen et al (2007) cite Hitchcock and Hughes (1995) who consider the hallmarks of a case study: • • It is concerned with the rich and vivid description of events relevant to the case It provides a chronological narrative of events relevant to the case

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• • • • •

It blends the description of events with the analysis of them It focuses on individual actors, or groups of actors, and seeks to understand their perceptions of events It highlights specific events that are relevant to the case The researcher is integrally involved in the case An attempt is made to portray the richness of the case in writing up the report

Cohen et al (2007) add that it is important for events and situations to be allowed to speak for themselves, rather than to be interpreted, evaluated or judged by the researcher. I intend to describe the events, both on-line and off-line, as they unfold. The participants will include me, the class pupils, and anyone else who contributes. Data will be gathered systematically throughout the research period. Although the data will show the breadth and depth of online contributions, I intend to have regular off-line informal class discussions, as well as more formal discussions with smaller groups of pupils. This will help focus on any outside influences, and will also provide information about the children’s perceptions of events. Cohen et al (2007), however, remind us that there can also be problems with a case study approach. These problems are outlined below, along with my solutions:

Organisation difficulties – The blogs and wikis are set up in such a way that the pupils and I have equal administrative rights. Difficulties in tracking posts can be overcome by the use of an RSS aggregator such as Google Reader. All comments need to be moderated by the blog owners, and I will receive an email each time a comment is awaiting moderation. I will also receive notification by email whenever a wiki is updated.

Limited generalisability - As a result of this study, I hope to identify general trends e.g. gender issues if applicable … but only within this

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particular group of pupils. No claim will be made that the same effect would happen with a different set of pupils in another class situation.

Problems of cross-checking – A variety of data gathering techniques will be adopted. I will analyse the blog and wiki entries. I also intend to carry out both informal and formal pupil interviews and discussions.

Risk of bias, selectivity and subjectivity - I have asked the depute head in school to meet regularly to discuss the research. She is very sceptical about the use of blogging and admits that she sees no difference between what I’m doing and allowing the pupils to freely use other social networks such as ‘My Space’ or ‘Bebo’. We have a good working relationship generally, so it won’t be perceived as a threatening situation. Kim P, a teacher from Sidney, whose pupils also blog, has agreed to be my critical friend during the research period. Some of our pupils communicate with each other regularly through their blogs.

The Data Gathering Techniques used will consist of:

Observations - regular checks in order to observe who is posting / commenting Field notes – I intend to make notes by regularly updating my own blog, set up for the purpose of narrating this dissertation journey Interviews (structured to unstructured) – these will be necessary so that I can establish that my view of what I’m reading is correct. Informal interviews can be held in class, formal interviews will ensure anonymity if required and may be useful for gathering data from pupils in Australia via teacher email and via my online journal (blog)

Triangulation - this will be employed to ensure that I don’t ‘just see what I’m looking for’. Discussing my perception of events with my ‘sceptical colleague’ (depute head) and my ‘critical friend’ (Kim P from Australia) will be one way of ‘keeping my feet on the ground’.

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Stages in the Case Study:

I will start with a wide field of focus by looking closely at the ‘big picture’. Who is posting and commenting? Who is receiving comments and from whom? What is being said in posts and comments?

Progressive focusing will involve me taking a closer look at comments in order to establish any formal / informal learning taking place. At this stage I will also hold formal and informal interviews in order to verify my interpretation of events are the same as the children’s

I will produce draft interpretations of what is happening via my own blog. I will also have on-going off-line discussions with my sceptical friend, as well as on-line discussions with my critical friend.

Data Analysis Although a ‘Case Study’ approach is mainly concerned with qualitative data, Cohen et al (2007) state that, in order to probe beneath the surface of the school’s structure to examine the less overt aspects of the culture(s) and subcultures, it is important to combine quantitative and qualitative methodologies for data collection. The two methodologies are explained in this table: Quantitative Qualitative Approaches Numbers/statistics Pre-determined Measuring Patterns/regularities Comparing Describing Objective facts Outsider looking in Structured Value-neutral
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Approaches Words/illuminative Open-ended/responsive Portraying Uniqueness Portraying Explaining/interpreting Subjective perceptions Insider looking within Unstructured/semi-structured Value-laden

Qualitative Research concerns: In this section of the data gathering, I will be concerned with two main aspects. •Validity: This includes - honesty, richness, authenticity, depth, scope, subjectivity, strength of feeling, catching uniqueness, idiographic statements. •Reliability: This includes - accuracy, fairness, dependability, comprehensiveness, respondent validation, ‘checkability’, empathy, uniqueness, explanatory and descriptive potential, confirmability. Quantitative Research concerns: • • Descriptive statistics will be applied to summarise features of the sample or simple responses of the sample (e.g. frequencies or correlations). No attempt will be made to infer or predict population parameters.

Presenting and Reporting the Results 1. How will I ensure that everyone will understand the language or the statistics? I intend to treat the readers of the report as ‘educated lay persons’. The research will be made available to all the stakeholders. I intend to present statistical results in an uncomplicated manner so that the reader can easily link the findings to the research focus question. I hope that by presenting the results in this way, the readers will follow the unfolding sequence of events more clearly. 2. How will I report multiple perspectives? I will employ triangulation techniques by comparing, contrasting and discussing perceptions of events in order to help gain reliable results. Other people’s perception of events, for example my critical friend and my sceptical friend, should help me gain a deeper understanding of what is really happening and perhaps allow me to see the study in a new light. Informal classroom discussions will also allow the children’s perceptions of events to be heard and
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taken into account. These views will be reported in the analyses of the findings, either in the body of the report or in the appendix section.

Implementation
Anonymous descriptions of the schools and the pupils The ‘two stream’ school has a role of 500 primary age pupils. The catchment area includes children from a wide range of social and economic backgrounds. Each class has its own computer and there is also a computer suite where eighteen computers can be accessed. All the computers in the school have internet access. This study involves one of the two primary seven classes. There are 26 children in the class – 13 girls and 13 boys. Two of the children do not have internet access at home. This was not thought to be a major disadvantage, however, because both children regularly visit close relatives who do have access. There is a main class blog and the children all have their own individual blogs and wikis. Parents are very supportive of the use of these tools and have attended parent workshops where children have given presentations to demonstrate how they are used in various curricular areas. The other primary seven class teacher has recently set up a class blog also, but does not feel confident enough with the media to introduce individual blogs for the children in her class. Although the school development plan includes the introduction of class blogs throughout various stages in the school, staff training is required before this can transpire. Descriptions of the resources selected At the onset of the case study, the class blog was hosted13 at edublogs and the individual blogs at learnerblogs. During the research period, however, it was necessary to relocate the children’s blogs to edublogs. This was not planned during the design stage but the move was not deemed to have had any real impact on the subsequent research findings14. The network of blogs and wikis are set up in such a way that they can be accessed by me as well as by the children, each having separate passwords and username. As the children are
13

Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own for use by their clients as well as providing Internet connectivity. 14 This incident is explained in more detail in the conclusions section of this report under ‘monitoring progress’

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able to log into and add to their blogs at any time, there is still a high level of trust involved. Publication of all activities on the media, however, is notified either by email or by logging on to a feed aggregator.15 Blogging rules are also embedded in a page in each of the children’s blogs.16 We use a variety of wiki17 types to allow the children to publish extended pieces of writing on the internet. We also use an ever increasing assortment of free open source software18 to enhance the appearance of the media. I also created a blog so that I could record the research process as it developed. This also proved to be an invaluable way of informing my critical friend of the unfolding events as they occurred. Even although we have never met in person, a friendship built on mutual respect has resulted in having a common interest in using web 2.0 tools with our classes. As well as keeping abreast with the developments of the study, Kim also had an insight into my perception of the developing story. Comments on the use of resources related to the topic Prior to the commencement of the research period, the children were encouraged to use the tools in class time, especially during our timetabled visits to the school computer suite. Occasionally the children were asked to incorporate a homework tasks into their blog or wiki. For example, each child has a recordable mp3 player and when studying World War 2, they were asked to interview an older member of their family (e.g. gran or grandad) in order to find out about life in the past so as to give them a sense of history. These were then shared with all the class members via the interactive whiteboard. Once the study began, however, I refrained from these practices so that the children might establish ownership of the tools. They were encouraged to use them when and how they wanted to.

15

Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates, creating a unique information space or "personal newspaper." Once subscribed to a feed, an aggregator is able to check for new content at userdetermined intervals and retrieve the update 16 See appendix 1 for an example 17 A wiki is a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content. Our wikis, however, can only be edited by the owner 18 Software developers publish some software with an open source license, so that anybody may also develop the same software

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A summary of the research work and how it developed As well as the unexpected hiccup with learnerblogs mentioned previously in this section, two other significant circumstances arose during the research period.
1. Some of the children have built up an online friendship with pupils in a

school in Australia. These Australian children are in the class taught by my critical friend. At the start of the research period I realised that the Australian children would be going on their extended summer break from school. Reading their class blog, I was aware of ‘goodbye’ messages being posted by both teacher and pupils and I understood that they would be moving on to High School as their school year finishes in December. The children in my class began posting their ‘goodbyes’ on the Australian class blog, too. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when an email arrived from Kim to inform me that it was in fact a composite class and that only half the children were moving on. There was a six week lull, nevertheless, as the pupils there went off on holiday.
2. Not long in to the research period, I was informed that a 4th year B.Ed

student would be visiting our class for a period of ten weeks. As a large portion of that time was to involve Miss L (the student) taking full responsibility for the day to day management of the class and their learning, I was concerned that the informal group and class discussions I had planned to have with the class during the study period would not be able to take place. A compromise was reached, however, when it was suggested that I gather the pupils together at the interactive whiteboard each morning for about twenty minutes to discuss any issues regarding the progression of the study. In actual fact, Miss L’s arrival had a very positive effect on the study. She became very interested in the occurring events and was keen to set up her own blog. Having someone new on the ‘blogging’ scene led to renewed enthusiasm by the children, and in turn, more depth to the study.

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The Findings
Introduction
The research involved investigating the useful features and barriers when using blogs, wikis and other emerging social software in a supportive online environment. Progress was then monitored. Motivation and formal and informal learning were evaluated. This part of the report is organised into two main sections. Section one examines the wider field of focus, reporting and analysing data gathered about the number and types of posts and comments. Section two focuses on the emerging issues as events unfolded during the course of the three month study. Observations from a reflective journal kept in the form of a weblog19, information obtained from informal class discussions, as well as more formal small group discussions provide a descriptive explanation of events.

Section One
This section analyses of the number of posts and comments on the blogs. Early in the study, it was noticeable that the comments were not being placed in a column following on from a post. For example, if pupil A commented on a post by pupil B, pupil B replied to the original comment on pupil A’s own blog. This made it difficult to follow the depth and breadth of any resulting discussions. It was still possible, however, to obtain valuable information by monitoring the comments in their own right. This section, therefore, is subdivided into two further sections. The first analyses the blog posts, the second examines the comments. In order that the success of the environment is not judged merely on the quantity of posts and comments, a coding framework was devised to determine the range and depth of themes.

19

http://mvass.edublogs.org

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Subsection 1 – Posts - a holistic view During the three month period, there were 210 posts in total. There are 26 children in the class and the gender breakdown is 50/50. The boys made 53 posts and the remaining 157 were provided by the girls. In order to ascertain if this corresponded to the children’s use of social websites at home, an informal class discussion established the fact 11 girls and 5 boys use MSN regularly, and that 4 boys and 6 girls use bebo on a regular basis. All the children were, however, familiar with the structure of both sites. MSN Web Messenger enables the children to talk online to friends in real time. Bebo is a social network site where, as in the case of the blogs, the space can be personalised and pictures, videos and posts can be added. A bebo site also contains an area where friends can leave messages. All the children who had a bebo site had set their profile to private, limiting access to friends. The children admitted to feeling more comfortable with their private bebo sites than with their blogs. When this was noted in my online journal, it led to an interesting dialogue between me and my online critical friend.20 An additional perspective was revealed in an email correspondence with a Professor in a Research Institute in Australia.21 The range and depth of topics - The blog posts were grouped into five different categories and a coding framework was devised. The five categories were:

Transient – very short posts containing mainly pictures, or very short miscellaneous statements Informative – posts containing information about what was learned either at school or elsewhere Invitational – posts containing some information on a topic and inviting others to respond (these posts were also either experiential or reflective)

20 21

See Appendix 2 for the full transcript See Appendix 3

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Experiential – posts containing information about the pupils (e.g. ‘let me tell you about me’) Reflective – longer posts that contain evidence of deeper thinking about a particular topic

As with the holistic view, gender breakdown continued to be one of the focal points. The information gathered from the framework is displayed in Table 1. The results are shown in percentages to allow for direct comparison between boys and girls. Table 1 Gender boy girl transient 27 17 Informative 20 20 invitational 2 18 experiential 8 83 reflective 2 36

The posts covered a wide range of topics and in order to find the most popular, the invitational, experiential and reflective posts were scrutinised. The decision was made not to include the transient and informative posts in the investigation, as it was apparent during the initial gathering of information that the subject matter included in these posts consisted mainly of shallow content. Once the popular topics had been identified, it was noticed that particular themes were recurring in a number of different children’s blogs. Recurrent themes included: • • • • • Jobs / choices 19 Hobbies 12 Favourite music 9 Book reviews 8 Miss L 6

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Table 2 provides the gender breakdown in percentage form. Table 2 – recurrent themes gender boy girl jobs/choices 2 22 hobbies 4 12 Favourite music 3 8 Book reviews 8 Miss L 11

The fact that these themes were recurring led to further examination. There is evidence that one pupil would write a reflective post and, rather than leave a comment, the children tended to replicate the introduction of the post, then personalise it with their own viewpoint. The jobs / choices theme started by Nina provides a perfect example of this.22 Subsection 2 – Comments – a holistic view Tracing the comments proved to be more of a challenge. It was more complicated because in order to obtain a holistic view of the scene, it was necessary to monitor comments left on all our blogs. As well as commenting on each others’ blogs, the children also left comments on the main class blog, the blog set up by the visiting student teacher, and on some of the AllStar23 pupil blogs in Australia. Comments left by other visitors to the blogs were also significant as they contributed to the emerging events. Comments were moderated before being placed on the blogs and email notification was sent to a specially set up address whenever a comment was left. This made the task of tracking the comments more manageable. In total, there were 363 comments left during the period of this research. Table 3 provides information about where the comments originated from. In this table percentages have been included for clarity.

22 23

See Appendix 4 for this example http://allstars.edublogs.org/

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Table 3 SOURCE Class girls Class boys Other girls Other boys Teachers and other adults NUMBER 147 38 62 9 107 % 40 10 17 2 29

A closer look at the pupils’ comments left on each others’ blogs revealed that not all the comments were constructive. In total 87 comments were made by the pupils on their peers’ blogs. 32 of these were from boys and 55 were from girls. They were divided in to three categories. Those that were:

Transitory – brief statements with no referral to the post, e.g. ‘Hi, visit my blog’ Responsive – evidence that the post being commented on had been read as it was referred to in the comment Reflective – evidence that the post had been read and that there was a real attempt to develop the topic

Table 4 displays the results. As in table 3, percentages are included.

BOYS number 22 9 1 % 69 28 3 number 3 40 12

GIRLS % 5 72 23

Transitory Respondent Reflective

My online critical friend24 informed me about strategies she had used with her class in Australia to improve their commenting skills.25Although our rationale for
24

Kim P is a primary school teacher from Sydney, Australia. We make regular contact through our blogs and by email 25 See appendix 2 for the transcript

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blogging differ (the Australian blogs are more teacher directed), there was some improvement in the quality of the comments left after implementing Kim’s strategies26 in my own situation. The majority of the comments made by girls and boys not in class displayed in Table 3 were made by the children in Kim’s class. A similar ratio of boy / girl comments is evident there, although the circumstances in the Australian school need to be taken into account. It is a composite class and most of the boys are new to blogging (their new school session began in January). Almost all of the girl comments came from one particular frequent blogger who comments regularly on several blogs in various countries. A scrutiny of her blog reveals that there were 17 comments left there by the girls in my class. There were also 64 comments left on the children’s individual blogs by adults. 61 of these were from both me and the visiting student, Miss L. The remaining 3 adult comments were from: •

a parent who left an amusing comment on her child’s blog, my sceptical friend27 after she was directed to a poem a pupil had written during a discussion on the use of the blogs a teacher who had previously taught the pupil and was in the process of scanning other blogs with a view of setting up one for her new class

The pupil whose parent left a comment was initially very embarrassed by it and was reluctant to moderate it. My sceptical friend wrote the comment with the help of the owner of the blog. The third adult comment resulted in much excitement. The children were unexpectedly bewildered by it, and had difficulty coming to terms with how the blogs were discovered by this teacher. Although all the children were aware of search engines, and had personal experience of using them, they still could not quite grasp how this visitor had stumbled upon one of their blogs. Visiting children, on the other hand, did not surprise them at all.

26

Kim’s blog post details the strategies used and can be found at http://kpericles.edublogs.org/2007/10/02/commenting-confidence/ 27 Mrs H is the school depute

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The noteworthy comments made by the children were those added to Miss L’s blog (the visiting student). There were 32 comments made by the girls in the class and 5 made by the boys. These are analysed more closely in Section Two.

Section Two
In this section, a narrower field of focus is established. It provides a descriptive account and analysis of the complex issues involved in the unfolding events. Three topics were analysed: • • • Online Identities / gender issues The relationship between the online / offline environments Any resulting impact on teaching and learning

Online Identities Prior to the study commencing, JM a researcher at the University of Sheffield 28 was consulted as she had also carried out some research on the use of blogs with primary school children. Her advice is included here:
“I have had a look at the blogs and they are great! I like the way you are letting the children drive the use of the blogs, that is so important if they are going to be successful. An interesting area to explore would be gendered representations of identity, it strikes me just from the pictures the children have used!”

JM was referring to the children’s use of WeeMees29. It was apparent that the children had great fun designing these characters for their blogs.30On closer examination, differences in the ways in which the girls and boys depict themselves came to light. The girls seemed mainly concerned with representing their physical appearance, paying particular attention to hair and fashion and
28 29 30

http://digitalbeginnings.blogspot.com/2007/11/school-blogs.html http://www.weeworld.com/ See appendix 5 for examples

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trying to achieve a look very similar to their own. The boys, however, appeared more concerned with hobbies and interests. Their characters included guitars, footballs, computer game characters, etc. The boys were not physically recognisable in their ‘weemee’ form. However, it was still easy to tell who was who because of the interest and hobbies depicted. This corresponded well to their choice of blog posts i.e. the girls chose to reveal their thoughts and the boys’ tended to use their blog to portray their interests and hobbies such as cars, computer comic book characters, wrestlers, etc.31 In an informal discussion with Courtney, she explained how important it was for her to find strategies to improve her spelling in her new online environment. She had been identified as having difficulties with spelling, but stated: ‘I don’t really care about my spelling in a jotter because only me and the teacher sees it, but when I write on my blog, I don’t want a showing up when the likes of Nadine from the AllStars reads my stuff. She’s really good at spelling.’ The choice of blog theme also proved to be an important issue for creating their online identity. This was reinforced when the decision was made to move from learnerblogs to edublogs32. A greater choice of background theme and widgets33 on edublogs resulted in a renewed motivation to ‘get to know and furnish’ their new space. When Miss L (the visiting student teacher) expressed a desire to set up a blog34, the children were keen to help her to create an online identity by showing her the various themes on offer, and by helping her create a blog avatar. They also helped her to settle in to her new ‘home’ by leaving comments such as Rebecca’s:
‘HEY Miss L congrats on getting your new blog im sure youll luv it !!!it is a bit complicated at first . Jaydean also says heyah !! well al luv having u in the class’
31 32 33 34

See Appendix 6 for examples See http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/04/01/our-class-move-to-edublogs/ A widget is anything that can be embedded within a web page http://cpsmisslaw.learnerblogs.org/

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As noted in Section 1 of this part of the report, significantly more girls than boys commented on Miss L’s blog. Many of the girls shared interests with her, especially art, fashion and taste in music. Early on in the study, I had noted in my online journal that two of the boys had been very excited after having received a comment from a boy in an Inverness school telling them about his football blog.35When we followed the link, it was difficult to understand the posts on the blog because they consisted mainly of large black squares accompanied by a very short sentence. We later discovered that the black squares contained video clips of football games. The host video site is blocked by our school authority and the boys were very disappointed that they were unable to enter into any resulting debate. It was suggested that they could join in at home, but the consensus was that they had wanted to take part in school as a group. There were a number of occasions, however, when boys did add comments and posts from home. A comment left by Russell led to a discussion about the relationship between the online and offline environments. Russell commented on Miss L’s blog: ‘YOU WILL BE PERFECTLY ABLE TO TEACH ANY YEAR BECAUSE AFTER
TEACHING ALL OF 7V I THINK EVERYONE AGREES WITH ME BY SAYING YOU ARE A FANTASTIC TEACHER. ’

The Online / Offline Environment When the comment was noticed on Miss L’s blog, a reflective post was added to my online journal36. Russell would not have felt it appropriate to say something like that in the class, and the comment was not mentioned next day. ZW37 had prompted the journal entry following an email regarding this study. She wrote:

35 36

http://wwwfootymad.wordpress.com/ http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/02/11/my-butterfly-mind/ 37 Z W is a lecturer at Moray House. I contacted her via email as she has some interest in this topic

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“I noticed in your blog that you were raising some questions about the connection between the online conversations and the offline (how the online is not often referred to in class) - I wonder if this is perhaps an interesting issue to explore. What is the relationship between the online and the offline? (I am also currently involved in a large national research project looking at the use of online learning environments and the relationship between the digital and the 'real' )”

The relationship between the digital and the real worlds had been detected early on in the research. It became apparent that an online relationship was developing between me and a few of the pupils. The online relationship was much more casual than the offline relationship and, as in the case with Russell and Miss L, the two environments always remained separate. Towards the end her placement, Miss L posted to her blog: ‘Before joining 7V I would never have dreamed of having a blog but it’s been
great. I know I haven’t written many posts, as I have not had the time, but I’ve loved reading everyone else’s. It has allowed me to get to know the class really well’

During a class discussion about the subject, the children were asked if they thought that the blogs had impacted on their own offline relationships with their peers. Typical examples of the children’s responses are cited here:
‘Yes, because in our own blogs we’re allowed to write about what we want to write, so we’ve got to know each other better.’ ‘Some people in class don’t talk to me very much, but I can read their blog and find out more about them’ ‘I feel that I know my close friends even more now because of what they write on their blog’

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A further example of an instance when the online / offline environment interconnected was when blog posts and wiki writing considered worthy of note was shared during class time. This tended to happen as a result of children coming in to class and announcing that they had posted / written something that they wanted to share with an audience. Resulting Impact on Teaching and Learning The desire to share what they had written with their classmates impacted on the delivery of the curriculum. Stories the children had written were shared via the interactive whiteboard. These showings resulted in class discussions about what makes a good story, directing the children’s attention to nice use of descriptive words, etc.38 Other ways in which the blogs and wikis directly influenced teaching and learning came about after the sharing of blog posts in class. For example: • As the pupils began adding more posts about what jobs they would like to choose, we began to seek out people from the ‘World of Work’ to come in to class and tell us about their job. We interviewed them and posted the videos on the class blog

Some of the children shared their love of reading in their blog posts. As a direct result of those posts, a book club was formed. The club was run by the pupils themselves and they shared their favourite books on ‘library loan’ basis and discussed their favourites39.

During her placement, Miss L agreed to set up an art club. This arose because a number of the children had written blog posts about their love of drawing

In her email to me, VC40 had mentioned:
38

One example of a story shared in this way can be seen at http://cpsbethanyr.pbwiki.com/Locked+in+the+Art+Room. It is also worth noting the reason behind the large copyright sign at the end of the story. This was reflected upon in the online journal at http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/04/07/copyright-issues/ 39 The children put a post on the main class blog. It can be viewed at http://carronshore.edublogs.org/2008/03/11/our-book-club/ 40 A Professor at Hawke Research Institute and Centre for Literacy, Policy and learning Cultures at the University of South Australia

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‘ I will be interested to hear how these things are translating into classroom practice – whether the use of co-existing online communities enhances and/or changes the offline context of your classroom; whether it shifts the ways in which you and your students conceptualize and operationalize curriculum; whether you find yourself changing the ways in which you teach and deliver curriculum......’

The evidence shows that the posts and comments on the children’s individual blogs and the stories written on their wikis did indeed change the offline context of the classroom. The curriculum changed to one that was more ‘child led.’

Conclusions
Introduction
This study set out to investigate whether weblogs and wikis and other emerging social software tools can be used to create an effective on-line learning community. An analysis of the findings suggests that important conclusions can
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be drawn from this small scale case study. The research was confined to one particular class of primary 7 pupils who have been using these new social software tools since entering their final year of primary school. Although only some of the children had used similar social network sites at home, all revealed that they had been familiar with the function and management of such tools. Much of the current thinking in the review of the literature suggest that it is possible to draw on the online communication skills already being developed in pupils' lives outside of school. The literature also proposes that, as blogs and wikis are not unlike the new media tools currently being used by young people today, these media could potentially be adapted by schools to allow e-learning to occur successfully. Indeed, Godwin-Jones (2003) is of the opinion that such tools provide ‘powerful opportunities’ for online collaboration for learners. Aim 1 - investigation of the useful features, and barriers, when using blogs and wikis in a supportive online environment

The first aim of this case study was to investigate the usefulness of such an approach, but also to examine the potential barriers that might hinder success. . Useful Features: The findings of this case study illustrated that all the children were able to manage the blogs and wikis easily. The evidence showed that they were all capable of writing posts and uploading pictures. The ease with which the children coped with these tools confirmed the assertions made by, among others, Davis and Merchant (2006) and Shirky (2003). It was also relatively simple to set the tools up in such a way that regular notification of all new activity on the blogs and wikis was received. This had been an important consideration when originally creating the class network. While working on the dinosaur project, Marsh (2007) established that the activity of blogging did not privilege the written word. Rather, image, sound and words combined to make meaning. This was also the case with the primary 7’s in this study. Each pupil personalised their blogs by choosing their own individual look and theme. All of them successfully created avatars and, in the case of the boys
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especially, the inclusion of pictures and videos in posts was very apparent. The children quickly established the different uses for the blogs and wikis. The blogs being used for reflections, thoughts, short pieces of writings and uploading pictures, and the wikis for more extended pieces of writing, such as imaginative stories – usually updated over an extended period of time. Barriers: The findings demonstrated that there were problems tracing comments. Although the literature reveals that there are similarities between blogs and the social software sites already familiar to the children, there are important differences in commenting functions. Rather than reply to a comment on their posts, the children commented on the homepage of the comment author (this is how it would be done in a bebo site). They did not experience, therefore, the ‘reflection and feedback’ concept referred to in Owen et al (2006). The literature offers conflicting advice about protecting children online. Whereas Byron (2008) advises the use of filters to protect children from accessing inappropriate material on the internet, Green and Hannon’s (2007) research suggests that banning and filtering may not be the most effective safeguard. The children they interviewed were on the whole aware of potential dangers and adept at self-regulating. There was understandable frustration felt by the boys in this case study when they were not able to take part in a discussion about football because of the authority’s filtering system. The children often approached the subject in class during the study and were perplexed by the decision to control what they can and cannot access at school. Valentine et al (2005) report the reluctance of teachers to set homework based on computers because of concerns about digital divides between those children who have access to them at home and those who do not. In this study, although no computer based homework was set during the research period, it was considered important for the children to have access to their blogs outside of school. There were two children who did not have home access. It was decided
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that it was not a problem, however, because they regularly visited relatives who did have access. As mentioned previously in this section, new posts were easily located via a feed reader. Similar access to a reader was provided for the children, although this resource was seldom used. Any new posts, therefore, had to be shared by directing the children’s attention to them in the offline classroom environment. Aim 2 - To guide and monitor progress Guiding the progress: During the case study period, progress was guided both online and offline. When reviewing the literature prior to the commencement of this case study, Lafferty (2004) was quoted: “To develop an online community requires a more student-centred approach with the tutor transforming into a facilitator from ’sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side.” It was decided to adopt such an approach during the research stage and pupils were left free to choose the content of their blog posts and wiki writing. Guidance was provided through creating a sense of online audience by submitting comments on the children’s posts regularly. Offline, new interesting posts were shared with the children. The findings show that this had the effect of influencing others to add new blog posts on their own blogs – often on the same subject. This approach was also influenced by Glogowski’s (no date) preparation of his own class blog set up. The findings in this study show that by laying the foundations, then allowing the children the freedom to write as individuals, led to blog posts such as Maryam’s ‘Pakistan and Families’ post.41 Monitoring the progress: Current thinking regarding the safety of young people on the internet was referred to earlier in this section. Although new posts and comments were
41

See Appendix 7

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carefully monitored during the study period, there was one unfortunate incident that led to the decision to transfer the children’s blogs from learnerblogs42 to edublogs43. Edublogs chose to have all new blogs, including pupil blogs, hosted at the edublogs site. It was made clear that all existing learnerblogs could, if chosen, remain where they were. Around the time of this announcement, however, spam44comments began to appear on a few of the children’s blogs. Email alerts usually ensured that these were deleted promptly. On one particular occasion, though, such a comment was noticed by a pupil in her comment moderation queue when she logged in to her blog. Unfortunately, it contained very inappropriate content. The incident occurred during a weekend and the pupil made the correct decision to leave a comment on the class blog asking for advice. It was thought unsafe to leave the blogs in the now (seemingly) unprotected learnerblogs domain and they were transferred to edublogs. It was a relatively straightforward task – with the help of the primary 7 pupils.45

Aim 3 - To evaluate motivation, as well as formal and informal learning

Motivation: The findings illustrated how the move from learnerblogs to edublogs (described previously) renewed the children’s motivation to ‘design and furnish’ their new web pages. Stern (2007) discusses the importance young people attach to personalising their online spaces, and how they prepare them with careful attention to detail. Although the move to edublogs was unplanned and did

42

Learnerblogs are where student blogs were previously hosted. See http://learnerblogs.org 43 Our blogs are hosted on here. See http://edublogs.org 44 unsolicited, often commercial, messages transmitted through the Internet as a mass mailing to a large number of recipients 45 http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/03/23/goodbye-learnerblogs/

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involve a degree of extra work, it provided a reminder of the level of importance that children place on attaining ‘ownership’ of online spaces. The findings also demonstrate the distinct difference in the way the girls and boys used their blogs. The number of number of ‘invitational’, ‘experiential’ and ‘reflective’ posts made by the girls far exceeded those made by the boys. The Times Online article (2008) referred to in the literature review, and discussed in the online reflective journal46 set up to broaden the focus of this research, confirms that this same trend is mirrored in studies both in America and the UK. A further observation in the online journal, describes how some of the boys in the study demonstrated their enthusiasm at the local authority’s latest ICT fair47. Twelve children volunteered to come along to the after school event – seven boys and five girls. The boys, especially, took great pleasure in describing how we use web 2.0 tools in all our learning and it was apparent that afternoon just how much they valued the type of learning taking place. They spoke confidently about:
• • • •

our involvement with the Voices of the World etwinning project48 our camera club the fun to be had creating avatars the use of our mp3 recorders to create podcasts to involve parents and grandparents the interviews with people from the World of Work and the recording of these using our digital video camera our use of freely available online tools such as Photostory3, Photobucket, Animoto49

It was also the boys who were keen to be the cameramen for the event.

46

http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/03/09/84/ http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/04/26/more-on-gender-issues/ 48 http://onevoice.ning.com/ 49 Free host sites for pictures and videos. Embed codes are generated to allow content to be uploaded onto websites
47

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Another demonstration of how the blogs provide motivation for the boys in the class is expressed in a third journal entry50and was contributed by my sceptical friend Mrs H who takes the class twice a week for French lessons. After one particular lesson, I returned to find her very excited about our use of blogging. She explained that the children had been lethargic about French lessons in general, and mentioned to them that it might be a good idea to video the event and include it in the class blog. She had not anticipated the high level of motivation that resulted from this suggestion.51 Much has been written about the importance of audience. Stern (2007), for example, found that the young people in her study concerned themselves simultaneously with how they appeared to themselves and to their audiences. She explains that, although this process is not unique to online presentation, the deliberate nature of the construction magnifies the experience. Formal and Informal Learning: Green and Hannon (2007) state that any learning that is loosely organised and happens outside the confines of the school gates is usually defined as informal learning. In this part of the conclusion section, therefore, any learning that took place in the classroom as a direct result of the children’s exposure to the blogs and wikis and associated web 2.0 tools will be referred to as formal learning. Learning that took place outwith the boundaries of the classroom will be referred to as informal learning.

Formal Learning: The findings demonstrate that sharing the entries from the blogs and wikis in the offline environment of the classroom had a direct influence on the teaching and learning taking place. After her involvement in the dinosaur project, Marsh (2007) proposed that by enabling children to create blogs based on their own interest, valuable learning opportunities might be developed. This was certainly the case during this particular research period. The obvious interest shown by the children’s responses to Nina’s52 ‘World of Work’ post, for example, opened
50 51 52

http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/04/02/the-importance-of-an-audience/ See Appendix Number 8 See Appendix 4

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up superb opportunities to involve the children in activities such as learning interview techniques and thinking about the consequences of asking open and closed questions. Sharing the stories that the children wrote on their wikis also provided ideal opportunities for formal learning to occur. Where previously, the children hand wrote their class stories, then peer assessed them using the formative assessment approach of providing the author with ‘two stars and a wish’, these stories were able to be shared on the whiteboard for the whole class to enjoy. The stories were mostly written at home, usually in instalments that were easy to detect as email messages are received whenever a wiki entry is updated. It is clear that the children often went home and improved parts of their stories after having heard them read aloud in class. Bethany’s ‘Locked in the Art Room’ adventure53 was the first story to include class members as participants in the escapade. The children in Bethany’s story got to visit the places in each others’ art pictures. It was obvious that the author had read these children’s blog posts about their hobbies/aspirations, etc. and had incorporated this information into the story. An important lesson regarding copyright was also learned as a result of the sharing of these stories. Several discussions about copyright issues had taken place during the case study period but it was evident that the children were finding the concept difficult to grasp. When other children began to closely mimic Bethany’s storyline, however, she publicised her objections by adding a very large copyright announcement to the end of that tale and any subsequent fictional writing on her wiki. Informal Learning: Buckingham (2008) argues that through using the new media, young people are learning primarily by means of discovery, experimentation, and play, rather than by following external instructions and directions. The findings show that the boys in the class were more interested in uploading pictures and videos than in writing blog posts. Andrew’s54 blog illustrates this point well. I left a comment on one of his ‘picture only’ posts inviting him to provide more information about why he chose that particular car picture to upload to his blog. Weeks later he
53 54

See Appendix 9 http://cpsandrewl.edublogs.org/2008/01/14/42/#comments

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received a comment from the original artist replying to my request. The comment is included here:
Hi Andrew and Mrs V I’d like to answer your question - ‘Why did you choose that one for your blog?’ Answer: Because it’s a brilliant picture! Seriously though, thanks for your interest in my car artwork. I’ve been looking at your school blog sites and it’s good to see that you’re learning about the internet as it can teach you a lot about drawing and how to render images. Feel free to ask any questions or use other images from my website. Hopefully there will be some newer work on there in the next few months so check back now and then! I get my images for reference from a site which I think you may have found already looking at your other car pictures. (Mrs V: I’ve used it for a while and I pretty sure it’s a ’safe’ site.) Keep up the good blogging!l Phil

This comment provided a new insight into to the boys’ fascination with images. In her investigation of young people’s use of social media, Stern (2007) uncovered an explanation for the motives for including artwork and images in their blog pages. In the literature review, she was noted as arguing that the main audience for their blogs was the authors themselves and that they were self reflecting as they tested out different versions of their current and possible identities. She also maintains, however, that they were continually testing out other audiences too, and that they were hungry for peer approval. This argument provides an explanation for the distinct differences in the way the two groups in this study used their blogs. The findings show that during the case study period, the boys and girls posted an equal number of informative posts. These were posts containing information about schoolwork. Prior to the commencement of study period, the children were always reminded that they had the choice of adding schoolwork examples to their blogs. As the study progressed, however, no reference was made to this option and these types of posts dwindled. As I took on the role of facilitator and became the ‘guide on the side’ (Lafferty, 2004), the two groups went off in different directions. The
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evidence shows that the girls tended to write about themselves and the boys uploaded their images. It’s worth noting here, too, that the findings section reveals that the girls had a role model in the Australian pupil55 who constantly encouraged them through her comments to add more personal details about themselves. The boys had no such role model. It is also perhaps worth noting here that last sessions Primary 7 children still have access to their blogs now that they have moved on to High School. Although there have been the occasional post on these blogs, Marc in particular has updated his regularly. There have also been occasional comments left by him on the class blog. As stated in the Rationale section of this report, last year’s blogs were set up with the help of the member of another Authority56. Marc’s most recent comment was to inform that he has been voted as the second most popular blog in that Authority. The comment he received is included here:
Hi Marc, this is just to let you know that last month, April 08, your home page was the second most popular entry page on edubuzz.org, with 2571 visits. You must have quite a fan club. Well done, I look forward to hearing more about your days at High School. David

In the review of the literature, Heppell (2007) refers to the primary school child who led an online debate about badgers with much older PhD graduates, and explains that it was not possible to tell that she was so young in that online environment. Salmon (2006) also states how, when using these new media, face-to-face identities become less important and that the usual discriminators such as race, age and gender become less apparent. Owen et al (2006) refer to opportunities social software offers for crossing boundaries and remind us that learners are now able to join groups in which age, pre-existing knowledge, gender or location are no longer an apparent barrier. It is obvious from Marc’s reaction to the news that his blog was so popular that he had no idea of the
55 56

http://www.nadinel.learnerblogs.org/ http://edubuzz.org/blogs/home01/

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scope of his audience. I still feel a responsibility to check the High School blogs and was aware that adults in that Authority were reading and commenting on his blog posts about his interest in drama, etc. It re-emphasises the views of Stern (2007) who stresses that knowing that their personal sites are publicly accessible does not lead most young people to envisage a broad audience for their online works. The findings section demonstrated that the ability to envisage a broad audience was also out of the scope of the children involved in this case study. The following extract describes the children’s reaction to a comment left by a previous teacher at our school on one of the children’s individual blogs:
“The third adult comment resulted in much excitement. The children were unexpectedly bewildered by it, and had difficulty coming to terms with how the blogs were discovered by this teacher. Although all the children were aware of search engines, and had personal experience of using them, they still could not quite grasp how this visitor had stumbled upon one of their blogs. Visiting children, on the other hand, did not surprise them at all.”

Like Marc, they appeared to have had no real conception of what it means to publish to the ‘world wide web’. Their perceived audience was themselves and their peers. In the findings section there is even a description of Anna’s embarrassment when her mum left a comment – that comment is still awaiting moderation. The literature review reveals that there is growing emphasis on the need to support young people, not only to acquire knowledge and information, but also to develop the resources and skills necessary to engage with social and technical change (Owen et al, 2006). The authors go on to say that in the technological arena, we are witnessing the rapid proliferation of technologies that can lead to the creation of communities and resources in which individuals come together to learn, collaborate and build knowledge (social software). They believe that this offers significant potential for the development of new approaches to education. They go on to say that there are also changes in our understanding of practices of creativity and innovation – from the idea of the

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isolated individual ‘genius’ to the concept of ‘communities of practice’, where reflection and feedback are important collaborative processes. The analysis of the findings of this case study initially revealed that there was some evidence of reflection and feedback occurring online as a result of the children’s blog and wiki entries. Upon closer scrutiny, however, it became apparent that, as the online and offline contexts of the classroom began to merge, there were clear indications that a considerable amount of reflection and feedback was actually taking place. This case study was carried out in order to find an answer to the following question: Can Weblogs, Wikis and other associated emerging social software tools be used to create an effective on-line learning community? Having analysed the findings in relation to the three aims of the study and the review of literature and current thinking on the topic, clear conclusions can be drawn. In this particular study, there was a gradual fusion of the online and offline worlds of the classroom. When the study began, the distinction between the relatively casual online teacher/pupil connections contrasted sharply with the more formal offline classroom relationships. As the study period progressed, however, there was a continuing merging of the two spaces. The new online familiarity led to a greater awareness of pupil personal interests and concerns. This resulted in offline discussions occurring and eventual changes to the delivery and content of the familiar classroom curriculum. The children’s informal online voices began to have a direct influence on what was to be included in their more formal offline learning programme.

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Implications
The Standard for Chartered Teacher Document (2002), states that:
“In every Sphere of his or her work the Chartered Teacher should be reviewing practice, searching for improvements, turning to reading and research for fresh insights and relating these to the classroom and the school.”

Taking part in this case study has given me an opportunity to reflect on my own teaching. Some of the findings from the research were unexpected. I set out to
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investigate if the strategies I had put in place would lead to the creation of an online learning community. I was not prepared for the effect this would have on the offline environment of the classroom and for the changes to the content and delivery of the curriculum. Giving the children the freedom to use their online spaces as they wished allowed a deeper insight to their persona. An online community did develop, but that was on the periphery. The sharing of thoughts, opinions, ideas and personal likes and dislikes began as online blog posts. These were then developed in the offline classroom setting, giving rise to opportunities to increase motivation by modifying the programme of study to one that was more ‘child led’. Early on in the study, doubts began to creep in about whether or not leaving the children ‘to their own devices’ might result in blog and wiki entries fizzling out. I felt despondent at the lack of written posts by the boys in particular. An entry in my online journal, however, describes the level of enthusiasm they displayed when demonstrating to adults how we use the new media. This prompted a comment from my online critical friend, Kim. She made some important observations which I’ve included here:
I’ve just realized that your preparations for your CPD sessions actually reinforced your findings in your dissertation! You said in your dissertation that the boys especially enjoyed telling visitors to your ICT stand (at a technology show) how they used ICT in their learning, and that they would be great at helping at your CPD sessions, by making and using Vokis and Animotos. The Vokis and Animotos are visual - like the prevalence of pictures on the boys blogs. I’ve noticed that the boys in my class also are really good at making topic related vokis and animotos. In my experience, girls use these applications in a different way - more about how they see themselves, or want to see themselves; as opposed to the boys filling these applications with topic specific pictures and content. So you see ….. your preparations didn’t actually hinder your dissertation prep just supported it in a different way. PS Girls seem more word oriented evidenced by their blogging stories, commentaries etc; whereas boys tend to prefer visual (and less text oriented) ways of expressing themselves. Maybe

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boys prefer to talk and show how to use an application, rather than using application for personal reasons.

The CPD (Continuing Professional Development) sessions mentioned in Kim’s comment was instigated following a discussion I had with our Local Authority’s Curriculum Development Manager before the commencement of this study57. I had wanted to find out the Authority’s view of using web 2.0 tools with pupils. I was left with no doubt that this was seen as the way forward to develop all areas of learning. At the time of that conversation, however, there was no specific policy in place about the use of these new online tools. I was informed that the main priority was to find ways of helping teachers to feel comfortable with the new technologies in order to monopolise on the online communication skills already being developed in the pupils’ lives outside of school. As I was undertaking this research study, I was approached by the Authority’s curriculum development team and asked if I would host some CPD sessions to introduce teachers to blogging with their classes. Three twighlight sessions were arranged and the response to these was overwhelming. Despite the fact that there was a failure to advertise the sessions until a week before their commencement, fifty three teachers applied to attend. Unfortunately, as the venue consisted of a limited number of computers, only twenty places were available. At the time of writing this account, two of the three sessions have taken place. During the first session, it became apparent that the teachers attending the session had varying degrees of computer skills. It was later noted in my online journal58 how I had been torn between helping those who were having difficulties, and occupying those who were ready to move on. I also noted that I intended to enlist the help of some ‘experts’ by inviting some Primary Seven pupils to come along to the two remaining sessions. This proved to be a very popular decision for both teachers (the learners) and pupils (the instructors). Maryam put a post about the experience on her blog:
57

The journal entry can be accessed at http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/01/09/blogging-with-pupils-a-local-perspective/ 58 See http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/05/03/bad-news-and-good-news/

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.... Then we had went back upstairs and we waited for all the teachers to come. Then when they had all came we started our presentations. Anna and Sophie went first. Then me and Darcie but we had sort of made a muck up of it! Then after we had went around helping the teachers. THAT WAS THE WEIRD BIT! I’ve never helped a teacher and it was a bit embarrasing going up to them and saying, ”Do you need any help?” I had helped a few people but the computers there are a bit slow and they keep cancelling things so it was a bit hard. I can’t wait till next week if we are going back!” In the Literature Review section of this report, Wenger (no date) was referred to. He

claims that one of the characteristics crucial to developing a community of practice is that members engage in joint activities and discussions and help each other and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other. Inviting the children to help out at the CPD sessions went some way to developing a community of practice in our Authority. The children saw themselves as the providers and this was welcomed by the teachers on the course. Two of them asked me to help place a comment on one of the pupil’s blogs:
Sophie Thank you very much for all your help tonight. We couldn’t have done it without you. You were extremely polite and helpful. Good luck at High School. Keep up the good work! Mrs F and Miss B

Many of the teachers stated that they were going to return to school and ask if arrangements could be made for some of the pupils in my class to visit their own classes to arrange some peer to peer tuition sessions. The children obviously
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relished the thought of being able to be part of this. This has far reaching implications for the provision of future CPD courses on the use of the new web 2.0 tools with classes. Glow is a national schools intranet set up to digitally link Scotland's 800,000 educators and pupils. There are no Glow mentors as yet in my own Authority. However, Mentors across Scotland have been exploring the potential of this tool to support their own learning and teaching. A wide range of ideas and uses have been identified so far. These include using Glow to:
• • • • •

support Primary 7 to S1 transition demonstrate examples of good practice showcase pupils’ work for family and friends who are not Glow users allow pupils to advertise school events promote enterprising activities within school.

As we await Glow being introduced to our schools, teachers could prepare by utilising the already freely available web 2.0 tools. All of the ideas for using Glow identified above are able to be implemented by using class blogs. For example, a few of last sessions primary 7 children still keep in touch via their blogs now that they have moved on to High School. Recently there was a post on Stuart’s blog. The target audience was obviously this session’s primary 7’s and he wanted to allay any misgivings they might have about next August’s transition to High School59. Learning and Teaching Scotland (no date) describes a mentor as an experienced person who provides guidance and support in a variety of ways to another person - by acting as a role model, guide, tutor, coach or confidante. A Glow Mentor, it goes on to say, is someone who will provide support to staff and possibly pupils in learning how to make use of Glow.

59

See Appendix 10

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It also lists some of the attributes a Glow Mentor should have. A few of them are included here:
• •

enthusiasm for new ICT projects and a willingness to try things out awareness of the potential of online learning, communication and collaboration ability to provide everybody with the opportunity to see the creative potential of ICT innovative with the technologies available - no matter how limited ability to communicate knowledge and ideas to others.

• •

It could be argued that the primary 7 pupils who helped out at the CPD sessions displayed these very attributes. The director of technology at Learning and Teaching Scotland, Laurie O’Donnell, was interviewed by Times Online (31/3/2008). He is quoted as saying that Glow is, in effect, a gateway that provides the means by which education can take advantage of the digital age. A five-year project, costing £37.5m, it is being rolled out local authority by local authority, school by school, until all the country's pupils and teachers are linked to each other. Every pupil, he states, will have a homepage and an e-mail address. Chat rooms will develop for each subject, classes will be available in the form of video conferencing, teachers will be able to access lesson plans, homework will be submitted directly for marking, and parents will be able to talk to teachers by e-mail. The article goes on to say that, for O'Donnell, a former teacher and local authority adviser, the intranet, the development of pupil and teacher blogs, and the use of computer games as teaching aids is not so much a revolution as an evolution. It is clear from this statement that there is a place for web 2.0 tools to co-exist alongside Glow, and that there is a need for teachers to develop the necessary skills to make this ‘evolution’ happen.

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This section of the dissertation began with a statement from The Standard for Chartered Teacher Document. The Standard for Chartered Teacher consists of four key components • • • • Professional Values and Personal Commitments Professional Knowledge and Understanding Professional and Personal Attributes Professional Action

All four key components of the Chartered Teacher Standards: Professional values and personal commitments; professional knowledge and understanding; professional and personal attributes; and professional action, have been addressed as a result of taking part in this action research.

References:
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Carrington, V. (2006) Texts, fugue, digital technologies. Paper presented at the Daiwa Foundation Supported UK Literacy Association’s (UKLA)/University of Nara Seminar, May 2006. Carrington, V. (2008). Literature Review No.1. Available: http://mvass.edublogs.org/2008/01/13/literature-review-no1/. Last accessed January 2008. Cohen, L Manion, L Morrison, K (2007). Research Methods in Education. 6th ed. London: Routledge. Davi,A Frydenberg,M Gulati,G. (2007). Blogging Across the Disciplines: Integrating Technology. Available: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no3/frydenberg.htm. Last accessed 22 December 2007. Davis,J Merchant,G. (2006). Looking from the Inside Out: Available: http://www.soe.jcu.edu.au/sampler/Text.pdfpage=177. Last accessed 17 January 2008. Davis J. (no date) Available: http://drjoolzsnapshotz.blogspot.com/ Last accessed 22 December 2007 Devine, M. (2008). Blogging with pupils - a local perspective. Available: http://mvass.edublogs.org/. Last accessed January 2008. Donaldson, A. (2007). Improving Scottish Education: ICT in Learning and Teaching. Available: http://www.hmie.gov.uk/documents/publication/iseictilat01.html/ Last accessed January 2008 FLAT Reference Group. (2006). Learning Teaching Scotland. Available: http://www.ides.org.uk/images/FLAT_Paper_on_Personalised_Learning_tcm4454255.pdf. Last accessed 20 December 2007. Giddens, A. 1991. Modernity and Self Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Oxford: Polity. Glogowski, K. (2007). Classrooms as Third Places. Available: http://www.teachandlearn.ca/blog/2007/09/08/classrooms-as-third-places/. Last accessed 12 December 2007. Godwin-Jones, R. (2003). Emerging Technologies: Blogs and Wikis environments for online collaboration. Available: http://llt.msu.edu/vol7num2/pdf/emerging.pdf. Last accessed 5 December 2007
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Green, H Hannon, C. (2007). Their Space: education for a digital generation. Available: http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Their%20space%20-%20web.pdf. Last accessed 12 January 2008. Greenfield, S (2004). Tomorrow's People: How 21st Century Technology Is Changing the Way We Think and Feel. London: Penguin Grennon Brooks, J. (2004). Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. Available: http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html. Last accessed 4 November 2007 Heppel, S. (2007). Learning About Learning. Available: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/learningaboutlearning/movies/onlinelearningcommu nitiesstephenheppell.asp. Last accessed 22 December 2007. Hitchcock, G. and Hughes, D. (1995) The Critical Method in Historical Research and Writing 2nd ed. London: Routledge Holland, D Lachinotte, W., Skinner, D. and Cain, C. (1998). Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Horrigan, J. (2008). Writing, Technology and Teens. Available: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/247/report_display.asp. Last accessed 20 April 2008. Krassa, M. (no date). The Third Place. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Place. Last accessed 22 November 2007. Kress, G. (2003) Literacy in the new media age London, Routledge. Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2006) Blogging as participation: the active sociality of a new literacy. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association’s Annual Conference, San Francisco, CA, April 2006. Lafferty, L. (2004). Everything in Moderation. Available: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/connected/articles/10/specialfeature/inmoderation.a sp. Last accessed 20 February 2008. Lave, J and Wenger, E (1991) Situated Learning: legitimate peripheral participation Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Learning and Teaching Scotland. (2008). Glow - lighting up learning. Available: http://www.glowscotland.org.uk/index.asp. Last accessed 2 May 2008.
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Mercer, N. (1994). The Quality of Talk in Children's Joint Activity at the Computer. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 10 (1), 24 - 32. Merchant G. (no date). Available: http://myvedana.blogspot.com/ Last accessed 22nd December 2007. November, A. (2006). Coming of Age: an introduction to the new world wide web. Available: http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/files/Coming_of_age.pdf. Last accessed 22 January 2008 O'Donnell, L. (2008). Laurie O'Donnell, academic with Star Wars glow. Available: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article3653762.ece. Last accessed 15 April 2008. O'Hear, S. (2006). Web's second phase puts users in control. Available: http://education.guardian.co.uk/elearning/story/0,,1801086,00.html. Last accessed 12 January 2008. Oldenburg, R (1991). The Great Good Place. New York: Marlowe & Company Owan,M Grant,L Sayers,S Facer,K. (2006). Social Software and Learning. Available: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/documents/opening_education/Social_Sof tware_report.pdf. Last accessed 20 January 2008. Richardson, W (2006). Coming of Age: a new introduction to the new world wide web. Available: http://fordlog.com/wpcontent/uploads/2006/04/Coming_of_age_v1-2.pdf. Last accessed 12 December 2007. Salmon, G. (2006). Reaching out Online. Available: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/connected/articles/10/specialfeature/reachingout.as p. Last accessed 15 December 2007 Sefton-Green, J. (2005). A Brave New Digital World is Outside the School Gates. Available: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/connected/articles/13/specialfeature/bravenewdigita lworld.asp. Last accessed 20 February 2008. Sefton-Green, J. (2004). Literature Review in Informal Learning. Available: http://www.futurelab.org.uk/resources/documents/lit_reviews/Informal_Learning_ Review.pdf. Last accessed 14 January 2008

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Bibliography

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McIntosh,E. (2008). Economist debate rumbles on... Part 2: The Rebuttal. Available: http://edu.blogs.com/edublogs/2008/01/economist-debat.html. Last accessed 27 January 2008. McIntosh,E Bugeja,M. (2008). Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education. Available: http://www.economist.com/debate/. Last accessed 27 January 2007. Mcniff, J. (2002). Action research for professional development. Available: http://www.jeanmcniff.com/booklet1.html. Last accessed 20 January 2008. Sachs, J (2003). The Activist Teacher Profession. Philidelphia: Open University Press. Walford, G (1995) Doing Educational Research Routledge, London (1995)

Appendices
Appendix 1 – the list of ‘blogging rules’ embedded in each child’s individual blog

Do only use first names

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Don’t post photographs of people (unless you have teacher permission) Don’t post personal information – such as your home phone number or home address Don’t share your Password with anyone Do tell your parents or teacher if you come across anything that makes you feel uncomfortable Do obey the ‘Grandmother rule’ - anything you put on the internet could be read by your grandmother so only write things you could say to the nicest of grannies

Don’t post anything that could hurt anyone Don’t make arrangements to meet anyone over the internet!! DO enjoy using your Blog

Appendix 2 – Some reflective conversations via the online journal between myself and my critical friend
21. Kim | Hello Margaret, I was talking to my daughter about your post (as we are on holidays she is my only almost age appropriate (13 years old and 1 year out of

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Primary school) young person at the moment, and she is an avid Bebo-er, on daily). We talked about the types of things she does on Bebo - down loading favourite videos, tunes, music clips as well as leaving comments/chatting to friends; adding new background skins and displaying photos. Perhaps the exposure is not just a safety issue but has to do with the more academic, school related writing and activities we ask our students to post on their blogs. From what I have seen on Bebo there isn’t a lot of personal response writing, or reflecting on learning or even narrative writing going on. We both know that it’s easier to write on our class blogs than writing on our personal blogs - it is much more exposed and confronting especially when sharing our reflections, questions, wonderings. A quick report back on a course or seminar is not too bad though! Maybe the “uncomfortableness” is a necessary/positive part of individual blogs that tension between casual conversations and sharing between uncritical friends (Bebo) and the more structured comments and sharing of personal academic work on students blogs. The idea of the “whole world” looking at what you have written is scarier and out of our control but it also supplies the “buzz” of the comments and responses from that “whole world” (as opposed to just your friends replies). What do you think? What do your kids think? 22.My response Hi Kim, It has really surprised me how much the online world of the kids in my class have changed in the last year! I know for a fact that NO children in my last session’s class had access to a bebo or myspace account (I can say this with certainty as it was discussed in detail after my youngest son who was in a music band at the time was interviewed on local radio - one of the pupils asked if the band had a myspace or bebo site and it turned out that only one of them could access it and only through an older sibling’s account). So when my tutor suggested that I find out the present class’s access to these sites, I expected the response to be the same as last session. I was surprised as well about their need to keep their sites ‘private’. They talked about the ‘open sites’ being for older teenagers. Maybe more of them are using it because the ‘private’ option has just recently become available?? (I’ve learned that the opposite has happened in ‘Facebook’ very recently …. if you don’t tick 76 | P a g e

the privacy box when setting up your account, your site can be accessed by anyone). Some of the pupils in class ARE very comfortable with their Individual Blogs .. and are becoming more confident. I’m enjoying watching the online friendships unfolding between pupils in our classes. As you say, I find it much easier to post to the class blog than to an individual blog…. even to the ‘learnerblog’ I set up recently (the encouraging comments from a couple of the pupils were great - even they sensed my “uncomfortableness”!). There have even been one or two comments from them on this blog.

23.Kim | Just a wonder about your idea of looking at posting and commenting because I think that the types of posts being written during the case study time will impact on the types of comments that will be made. Would you concentrate on one type of post in your case study period or on a variety? ## types of posts - report backs, publishing narratives or poetry, imaginative writing, preliminary project work (info gathering), published project work, opinion reponses. All encourage different types of comments from short personal affirmations to longer questions. Maybe it comes back to the whole purpose of blogging in your room - have you discussed this with the kids? What do you use your blogs for? Also looking at comments there are a few different sorts of comments as well. I have found that when we worked on commenting as a writing focus the kids wrote better comments, asked better questions in their comments and received better answers as well. Maybe it will be useful/interesting to categorize or note the different types of posts and the different types of comments received. This could be part of the data collection/ documentation/qualitative part of your study?

My response 24.Hi Kim, I have noticed a great improvement in the children’s commenting skills. At the beginning of the session, the comments consisted of statements like, “Hi, great blog. Visit mine.” The pupils now tend to actually READ the post they’re commenting on - I hasten to add that this is a direct result of reading your own ‘Commenting Confidence’ post - thanks 77 | P a g e

You ask about the ‘purpose of blogging’ in our room. This is a tough one! I’ve agonised over how to use the individual blogs this session. Last session, it was new and exciting to both me and the kids. I began with having only the class blog, but wanted to give the class more control. I set up a wikispaces account and gave them all their own ’space’ for them to ’showcase’ their writing… this did sometimes lead to problems of one pupil logging off and the whole class losing their unsaved work! Eventually, with the help of David Gilmour of East Lothian council, individual blogs were set up for the pupils in a way that I had control over how they were used. I was very grateful for the help … but, as we were using blogs set up by another authority, I was aware of our ‘responibility’. We began by having a ‘uniform’ like theme until I felt comfortable. Eventually, they were allowed to choose their own individual theme, but I was still very prescriptive about their use and the types of posts (poetry, project work, etc.) and comments of ‘two stars and a wish’ style were encouraged. Some of the best posts were made, however, just prior to the class going off to High School. They had gone for a 3 day visit and it was super reading their views about their experiences. I realised that, up until then, the blog content had been too ‘teacher led’. Soooo with this session’s P7’s, I’ve decided to take more of a ‘back seat’. I no longer say how the blogs have to be used. Some pupils do say, ‘Can I write my book review on my blog?’, some choose to hand write - some use their blogs because they want to (Anna’s ‘Thought of the Day’ idea is great - and she obviously enjoys it!). One or two boys have simply been posting pictures of their favourite cars, etc. It may work, it may not! I had an earlier comment from Ewan McIntosh about the need to ‘kick start’ an on-line community to keep it going. I wasn’t sure about this, but now agree. Just before the Christmas holidays, I came up with the idea of showcasing the ‘Blogs of the Week’ RSS feeds in the sidebar of the class blog. These will be chosen by the children. I suppose it’s another way of having the children look at what makes an interesting blog post ….thanks again for giving rise to the idea from the ‘commenting confidence’ post Finally …. loved your suggestion quoted below and will definately use it … thanks! “Maybe it will be useful/interesting to categorize or note the different types of posts and the different types of comments received. This could be part of the data collection/ documentation/qualitative part of your study?”

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Appendix 3 I have VC’s permission to use her email message here.
Hi Margaret, Sorry for the delay in responding to your email. I've been trying NOT to read email or blog during the xmas/new year - have really needed a bit of a break and some downtime.

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Your dissertation sounds cool. I read your entry about the kids in your class and their preference for bebo. This corresponds with feedback from slightly older kids in the UK and here in Australia (13 and 14 year olds). they say they use bebo because it does more interesting things than myspace, but also because they have more personal control. they're very wary of handing over any control. the other thing that is striking is that most of the kids i've come across (i have a small set of early adolescents i watch here in australia and one of my doctoral students is watching another group in the UK) is that the bebo accounts are pretty much an extension and intensification of social contacts they have offline. the online-offline movement seems very fluid. Most of my own stuff in this area has been about out-of-school learning and use of text/literacy. i will be interested to hear how these things are translating into classroom practice - whether the use of co-existing online communities enhances and/or changes the offline context of your classroom; whether it shifts the ways in which you and your students conceptualize and operationalize curriculum; whether you find yourself changing the ways in which you teach and deliver curriculum; whether a schoolsourced online community will have the same features and adoption as one created by the kids outside school. will be really interesting. Let me know if there's anything i can do to be of use to you as you undertake the study. i'm back and forth to the uk so might run into you at some point as well. take care - stay in touch victoria

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Appendix 4: Nina’s post that led to our ‘World of Work’ series of interviews
Decisions. There is so much decisions in life there right infront of you,some are hard and some are easy(i tend to ask for advice on the hard) Like one for example what should i have for breakfast?But the one thing that is the hardest i think is what your career should be. Well when we were young we all wanted to be heroes and heroines like firemen, Police, Vets, doctor, teachers, dancers and more. But when you get older you start to think more about this. I’m not old enough to get a job yet of course but it just makes me think. I wanted to be a Ballet dancer when i was small but i don’t go to dancing because of my spine, therefore ballet is not a job option for me as things have changed.Well i think if i go to Uni or College i could become most of the things because i think i’m quite clever not at language though,i don’t like it. Here are a few jobs i’d like to do and why.Well my first one is a Journalist i’d like to do this because i like to find out things and it would be interesting and i think i’m alright at writing.I’d like to get in touch with a newspaper and get better at my writing. My second idea is to study elephants.I know it’s pretty random.I ‘d like to study elephants because they probably shall be extincted in around 15 years so the newspapers say.People kill and butcher them. But some are taking care of them there is only about 2000 left in the world!There once was a programme on channel five about the Extinction of elephants and i saw the people who studied them.And how the people killed them it was sooo sad i thought i was going to cry but it was also interesting.So if i want to study them i’ll probably have to go around the world and i like to travel.It would be nice to study them before they’re gone. My next idea for a job would be to be a teacher.Well it would be tough with all the menacing children but from a child point of view the teacher can be bossy to! But it’s their job to teach children so they can learn for the future.I’d really need to go to Uni or College to be a teacher because there’s just some things you don’t learn at school.I’d like to teach Primary 2 ,in my opinion they’d be easy.I love children even though i’m one.Some are menaces some are angels but they’re all nice.I think i’m alright at most subjects like reading,maths,art,p.e and topics.I mean you learn everyday.It would be good aswell because you get the holidays off. The last but final job is a vet.I know you have to be clever to be a vet and not be too squeamish and it will take you a while to learn all the bones and that.I want to be a vet because i love animals and i’m not too squeamish unless your pulling out intestines or putting animals down.You get good money for that too my Mum says.I’d like to be able to help them and like to see the differences between the animals bodies.But there’s always a but, they might bite you and that would be sore. 81 | P a g e

Well there are my four dream jobs that i thought seriously about.I just hope one of them happens and it will be great.Or maybe more than one.But you don’t have to start thinking about jobs just yet but you can start preparing. And i hope all your jobs come real.I hope you enjoyed my post everyone that would be exciting if a real journalist came to school well i certainly am thrilled.

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Appendix 5 – examples of the ‘weemees’ created by the children

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Appendix 6 – examples of boys’ picture posts

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Appendix 7
I don’t come from Pakistan, a lot of people think that though. I am Pakistani but my parents are from there. My Mum had moved from there when she was eighteen years old. She had came to Scotland to get married with my Dad. This might sound shocking but my Mum and Dad are cousins.I don’t think thats really weird though some of use might. Im happy they are :D. My Dad came to Scotland when he was about six months old. So meaning he is use to it here. He owns a shop. Though he was hoping to be an engineer but he didn’t want to go away for a long time meaning that he won’t see us alot.So he just wanted to have an easy job so he owned a shop. Im glad he did because i eat alot of sweets :D.We had lived in Bonnybridge then we moved to Carronshore because my Dad wanted my sister , Aksah , to go to Larbert High School because he had went there when he was younger so its also mainly that. The reason my Dad moved from Pakistan was because his brother did so all of the family wanted to so thats why we live here. I am glad i live here but i always miss going to Pakistan but i don’t want to leave Scotland so i just want things to stay how they are. Pakistan is a really great country. I have been there 3 times in my life.Once when i was young then another time when i was five then another time when i was seven.So i haven’t been for almost 4 years. I still miss all of my relatives there though i am going on holiday to see them this year in the summer for about 6 weeks. Whenever they phone my Mum they always want to talk to me but i always go shy and don’t know what to say but whenever i go on holiday i yapp on with them all day that makes them pretty tired i bet. Well, i cant wait till i get to see them agian!

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Appendix 8 – a diary entry made by Mrs H, my sceptical friend during the case study period

‘The children, at this time in P7′ had been rather lethargic about French in general. Discussion of a ‘cafe’ afternoon wasn’t met with too much enthusiasm. However, when filming conversations between waiters and customers, and adding these to their class blog was mentioned, the interest levels rose considerably. Suddenly the children were volunteering to pair up with a partner and try out phrases. They were checking with vocabulary jotters and with me to ensure accuracy and pronunciation. The follow-up lesson (the rehearsal) was a delight - total co-operation and effort. The children were highly motivated by the ‘real life’ context, but also because their performance would be viewed by others - in a very wide context. I will definitely introduce filming to a lot more French lessons!’

Appendix 9
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Chapter 1 It started off a normal school day until me and my friend Anna was sent to get newspaper from Mrs Williamson’s art room, as we were painting. We walked there and searched but we couldn’t find it and eventually our friend Darcie was sent, by Miss Law, to check on us. We decided to search one more time and by this time Nina and Maryam had been sent to tell us that Miss law wanted us back to the class. So we walked to the door and it wouldn’t open. We were locked in! “Help!” we all chorused together as we banged our fists against the door. Then we remembered there was an assembly so everyone was in the big hall. Obviously by this time miss law thought we were having a big carry on so she came herself to get us to the assembly. Miss Law arrived at the art room and tried the door but to her surprise it was locked. She shouted our names and we heard so we walked up to the door and looked through the tiny piece of glass. “We are locked in!” wailed Nina. "Yes. We are and I am getting worried!” said Darcie. “I will go and get some help, “ said Miss Law with a worried look on her face. While we were waiting, we took some pens, pencils etc and started to draw. Nina drew an elephant and a lake in front of an African sunset, Maryam drew the queen eating chocolate biscuits, Anna drew Johnny depp, as Jack sparrow, in Disney World with a big smiley-faced balloon, Darcie drew Zac Efron at a photo shoot and I drew the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. stars in New York with 3 big pepperoni pizzas and a vanilla ice cream cone each. Once we had finished our pictures we stapled them together and admired them. Suddenly there was a booming and a whizzing sound that went along with the sparks that started filling the air. We slowly started to move more and more toward our pictures until our faces were touching them. Then in one big sudden movement we all got transported into to the pictures! We didn’t leave each other though we all stayed together while we visited each picture. The first one we visited was Nina’s. We all landed with a thump on the sandy ground surrounding the elephant. I was the first to get up and when I did the elephant filled its trunk up with water, from the lake, and spurted it out all over my face. At that Maryam burst out in to laughter rolling about the place. Once she had got rid of the giggles and everyone was up we all walked cautiously towards the elephant. Nina gingerly put out her hand and stroked the elephant’s wrinkly skin followed by Anna and me but Darcie and Maryam backed away. The sunset was getting darker and we were all roasting hot but we didn’t know how to move on to the next picture.

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“I know!” said Darcie, “ We all hold hands and run as far as we can and maybe it will take us to the next picture “Its worth a try,” Anna replied. So we all held hands and ran as fast as we could towards the far side. We began to feel the heat of the sun ease off and we ended up with Zac Efron at a photo shoot.

Chapter 2 “AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Darcie and Anna screamed in unison, “ Its Zac Efron!" Now it was my turn to roll with laughter at the sight of Zac’s shocked face. “Hhhhi,” Nina struggled to say as she walked towards Zac. “Hi!” he replied, “ Who are all you and what are you doing here?” Maryam explained what happened while Darcie and Anna started to ease off the fact that they were standing in a room with the boy of their dreams. We talked with Zac for a little while longer but then he said that he had to leave as he had a premiere to go to so we decided to leave too. “Ready? After 3,” I said, “ 1,2,3!” and we all started running until we arrived in Disney world . “Wow!” said Nina looking wide eyed, “Look at this place and all the people here". “I know,” said Maryam in amazement,” I’ve never seen so many!” Anna pointed to Johnny depp and whispered to Me “Hottie!” I just laughed until I noticed who was standing next to him. “Its Rhiann guys look!” I exclaimed. "So it is!” replied Darcie walking over to her. "Hey stranger!” Nina said to Rhiann. “What?” Rhiann said shocked, “What on Earth are you doing here?" "Well I was going to ask you the same question but we can explain first.” said Anna and so Anna told Rhiann the whole story. Rhiann then began what she was doing in the middle of the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, "Well someone came into the assembly at school and they had a gun! So everyone was scared and we all ran in different directions. Then whatever we were thinking about thats where we ended up "Wow!" said Maryam shocked, "Do you know where some people ended up?" "Well," Rhiann started, "I think Miss Law ended up ice skating and Mrs Vass ended up in PC World!" I laughed and said "You are with us now so do you wanna come to the next picture with us?" "That would be so fab you guys!I was starting to get lonely." Rhiann said. So we all held hands and ran just as we had done twice before. This time we ended up in Maryams picture. 88 | P a g e

Chapter 3 "So this is Buckingham Palace," Anna whispered to Darcie. "I know. I can't believe i am in the queen's house!" replied Darcie excitedly. "Who on Earth are you girls and what are you doing in my house?" belowed the queen. "Looks like we have some explaining to do," I said and I began telling the queen what happened. She sat back in amazement and offered us a chocolate biscuit which Maryam immediately accepted. Then to our surprise Sophie walked in, dressed like an artist, with a big easel and art utensils. "Sophie?" Nina asked in surprise. "Guys what are you doing here?" said Sophie. After we had explained yet again, Sophie said that she was dreaming of what it would be like to draw pictures of famous people and so she ended up drawing the queen. We spent a little more time with the queen and then ran to the final picture which was the one i drew. It was 99 degrees celcius in new york and we were all sweating but that didn't stop me from jumping up excitedly when i saw my favourite F.R.I.E.N.D.S stars sitting right before my eyes. Then i spotted Jaydean and Chloe standing next to them and jumping up just like me. "Ahhhhh!" i screamed, "Its Rachel, Joey, Monica, Ross, Phoebe and Chandler!" Rhiann was just as excited and so she started to scream too. After me and Rhiann had calmed down we shook all of their hands and then started to talk to them. "So," Rhiann began, " Is there going to be any more F.R.I.E.N.D.S episodes?" "Well. We don't know, we have to wait until the director contacts us, " Matt (Joey) said as he shrugged his shoulders. Then we all started to talk to Chloe and Jaydean. Guess what their thoughts were? Surprise, surprise they were thinking about F.R.I.E.N.D.S and how great it would be to meet the stars. Then I saw Jaydean drooling all over the table, all the while staring at Matt. " You don't know this but one day i am gonna marry you!" Jaydean said to him. All of us were killing ourselves with laughter and so was Lisa(Phoebe), Courtney(Monica), Jennifer(Rachel), David(Ross) and Mathew(Chandler) even Matt was laughing. Jaydean realised she had been drooling and she also realised what she had just said so her face started to go pink with embarressment. "Way to act in front of your true love!" Maryam said through her laughter! "Sophie!" Anna whispered, "lets sing!" So they began to sing ' Jadster and Matt up a tree K I S S I N G!' and so on. Jaydean's face went from pink to scarlet as her embarressment increased.

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The sky of New York was getting darker but we were starting to become really friendly with the F.R.I.E.N.D.S characters and so we didn't want to leave, also we didn't know what to do as we were in the last picture. Then all of a sudden there was a big bang and a whoosh and a small fairy landed on my hand. The fairy had delicate neon pink wings that had green neon stars on them and she was wearing a dress to match. Her face and hair was just like Monica's except the hair was a bit longer. "Hello!" the fairy said to us. It had Monica's voice too! "Hi, " we replied in shock. " As you can see i am your good friend Monica, dressed as a fairy, and i wondered what it would be like to fly so i ended up like this!" the new Monica told us. Rhiann, Anna and Sophie laughed as Monica twirled and took a bow. The F.R.I.E.N.D.S characters were mezmorized at Monica as alot of people think that fairies are not real. So we had to explain the whole story again about how we arrived here and the whole thought thing. They were all gobsmacked as everyone else we had to explain the story to was. Chapter 4 I checked my watch to find it was almost midnight yet none of us felt tired at all! "Guys," I said, " Its almost midnight!" "Wow!" they all replied including our new-found, famous friends. Just then one of the city clocks struck midnight and the castle from DisneyWorld appeared with Cinderella ,(and Johnny Depp with the balloon), at the front of it looking for her glass slipper. At the other side of us Nina's elephant and African sunset appeared. Everywhere around us was covered with the pictures we drew. There was a bang and then suddenly our whole class appeared including Mrs Vass and Miss Law. "Well, we eventually found you all!" Mrs Vass said with a smile on her face, "I hear you girls have had some adventure." "Who told you that?" I asked Mrs Vass. "Well before Monica flew to you, she flew to me and Mrs Vass and told us." Miss Law answered. "But Monica wasn't with us to begin with so how did she know about what we were doing?" Nina wondered out loud. And before anyone else could answer Monica jumped in and said, "Don't you know that fairies have special powers? So if i am a fairy then i have special powers." "Oh ok then," Sophie said quietly. Everyone in the class got to visit all the pictures as they were all around us but none of them had experienced what we had. Then me, sophie, anna, nina, monica, maryam, rhiann, jaydean,chloe and darcie all rose

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magically into the air. We held hands in fear as we went higher and higher up into the night sky. "Bye!" all of us shouted to the F.R.I.E.N.D.S characters. Then a big firework came from the disney castle and in a jiffy we were all back in the art room with the art utensils messily laid out around us. Nina wailed for the second time, "Oh no! This time we really are locked in and we don't know who will help us!" Just then Miss Law came running to the door with a key to let us all out. "I am back and with the key!" she shouted as she turned the key in the lock. We all smiled as the door opened and we walked out of the art room. "That was some adventure!" Anna commented. "What was?" Miss Law asked, "You can't have had a big adventure when you have only been in there for 10 minutes!" We were all absolutley speachless once we found out time had hardly changed but i managed to say with a wink, "You'd be surprised Miss Law. You'd be surprised!" THE END!

COPYRIGHT!

Appendix 10

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Sorry, not been in touch much because couldn’t find a computer to get on. LHS is the best high school ever people talk about getting your head getting flushed down the lavvy isn’t even true.The work isn’t too hard and you get 2 go up the street 4 u lunch and get anything you want up there. Me and Marc were in a talent show but him and Iona never won and I never won so boohoo. High school is really great but some subjects like french, english/language, R.M.E, H.F.T (writing part) are all a little boring. P.E is brilliant but if you pick it 4 2 nd year it isn’t always physical sometimes it can be writing, Tech is excellent too but same again it’s not always practical work some is writing. High school isn’t scary but it is FUN. You barely even get lost because after a few weeks you know your way round but I will admit sometimes it will just slip your mind where your going. And you’ll need 2 get use 2 not skiving out class saying yuo need the toilet only sometimes if you are really bursting or if you have got a toilet pass which lets you go to the loo any time you can only get one if you have a medical problem. And you don’t get golden time up here. HUB cards are used to buy food at the hub but if you lose it you need 2 go 2 the front office and ask 4 a temperary card until they order a new one. Mine broke at first then I got a new one and I lost that one. I am absolutely tired so am going 2 ma bed cause it’s 5 in the morning and am at a sleepover so catch you later.’

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