Students at St Therese Primary School, in the Auckland suburb of Three Kings, are the stars of the school’s new website.
Launched in April this year, the new website puts the work and achievement of the school’s 147 students at centre stage.
Each class has its own blog, school sports days and events are constantly uploaded, and the school’s Year 8 technology class writes, composes, performs, records and uploads its own song to the site each term.
Laura Geaney, teacher of a combined class of Year 5 and 6 students at St Therese, says the main focus of the website’s development was the children.
“We wanted it to be all about the children, to showcase what they are doing in class. There is a little bit of information about the school, but the vast majority of the information on the site has been produced by the students.”
Each of the school’s classrooms has a blog on the site, where students upload individual work, art projects and other group activities. The older students also have individual blogs where they can upload recent work, including book reviews, poems and stories; and there is hot competition each week to find the school’s ‘Blog of the week’.
“The introduction of the blogs has opened up the world to the students,” says Geaney. “One of the students’ blogs recently received a comment from someone in Canada. The students were simply amazed their work had reached so far across the world.”
The blogs and the website have the additional benefit of motivating students to complete class and homework to the highest possible standards.
“Only the best work the students produce is allowed to go up on the site,” she says. “The students are very proud of it and it’s a great way for them to show friends and family overseas what they’re doing at school.”
The site is also used as a tool to communicate with parents. “We’re finding more and more parents are using the website to see how their children are doing and to see what they are doing,” she says.
“Contact with our parents is vital and the website is a great way for the school to communicate to parents – we find it is much better than sending out paper newsletters.”
A further benefit of the new website is that is gives teachers an opportunity to see how a student’s writing, sentence structure and grammar is coming along.
“Some students might not be pen and paper learners, but they can write well on the internet,” explains Geaney.
However, she says the learning the students get from the website is not just writing. “It is also oral, how to follow instructions, and learning about how to use the equipment.”
And it’s not a static site, the school’s homepage and class blogs are constantly changing and being updated. “We’re constantly building additional features onto the site,” says Geaney. “For example we are in the process of developing a Twitter-like service on the home page – called School Talk – where the students can upload little bites of information about what’s happening in the school.”
The home page also features a broadcast news bulletin featuring the school’s intermediate age students.
Predominantly written, filmed, produced and controlled by the Year 8 students over the first two terms, these students then become teachers to Year 7 students who will be in charge of producing the bulletin in the following year. “The students themselves take a vast amount of responsibility for the site,” says Geaney. “We have groups of students responsible for different areas such as writing articles, putting the news together, presenting the news and recording it.”
A core component of the intermediate students’ curriculum is focused on technology. The students choosing to take the music rotation within that unit are able to write, compose, record and upload their own song.
“One of our support staff members is in a band and has put a lot of effort into teaching the students how to use the recording equipment and he turns one of the offices into a recording studio once a term,” says Geaney.
However, it’s not just the students who have had to learn to use the technology to upload information to the website and write their own blogs. “It has been an interesting journey for the teachers too.”