Oct 222011

It’s been good to reach the end of a very busy half term and find time to reflect on the way in which Posterous has become an integral part of my teaching.

Two years ago I started a Posterous site for sharing homework assignments. Students were encouraged to set up their own site, and to publish their homework as often as possible. There were some enthusiastic early adopters, particularly Becky, who maintained a very high standard of work, though once we had entered the frantic final months of Year 11, the focus inevitably moved towards exam paper practice and the Posterous blogs were sidelined. I realised from exam paper analysis, that students who had put most effort into online homework, and made the effort to tag and organise their posts, seemed to be better at recalling detail in extended questions.

At the start of the year I decided to invest a little more time into building a more complete homework Posterous site, taking advantage of developments in the platform, especially the advent of Spaces. Homework assignments remain at the core of the site, but I wanted to make a feature of the learners’ own blogs, as well as the various digital resources that I’d incorporate into lessons. I added syllabus and revision notes, and expanded the use of tags, with a view to making it easier for the learners to reflect on the classroom activities.

I began to use the “like” button to highlight posts from students that deserved to be read by the rest of the class and the very best examples were mentioned on Twitter. Comment only marking is the sole form of assessment open to me, though I’m starting to notice the students remarking on each other’s work in a pleasingly non-contrived form of peer assessment. To monitor progress I make a copy of my feedback into an assessment spreadsheet and then add a colour key to indicate whether the work is above, at or below the expected standard based on target data. Although I do set deadlines, I’ve found that it’s best not to be too prickly if work is submitted late. There is usually a perfectly good reason! In return for their cooperation, I try and give feedback as soon as possible. Each month I’ll nominate the student who has made the most progress through their Posterous. Chloe was the first winner!

I’m very happy with the way that the Posterous platform has become a seamless part of my teaching. I’m convinced that the act of publishing for a real audience inspires the students to put more thought and care into their work. It’s possible that a minority of learners lack a little confidence to publish their work, especially in light of the very high standards achieved by some of their peers. Yet I also see evidence of Foundation level learners being inspired. Some students have even published un-solicited extra work, while others are keen to make creative and adventurous use of applications like Google Maps. Most importantly, there’s an embryonic social network developing around the study of GCSE geography, enabling learning to continue beyond the classroom. I’m very grateful to the class for their enthusiasm, and I hope that at the end of the course, the Posterous site will provide a rich source of revision materials.

I attempted to share the theme of this post at the Clevedon Teachmeet, though my delivery was somewhat handicapped by laryngitis! I’ve included a copy of my presentation below: