…The biggest advantage I have found is that the work is either in the Web log or it’s not. I had a number of students yesterday who went back and found work that I had supposedly missed. In some cases, they were filed in the wrong department. (For instance, when checking for their beat entries, I just clicked on the link to those posts and started counting and reading.) In other cases, the work was there, but after comparing the date stamp to the due date, it was clear whether or not I had indeed missed it (which did happen on a couple of occasions) or the student had posted it late.
Another advantage is that department-ability of Manila. I like being able to sort their posts into different categories, and I’m thinking of expanding this use next quarter. (I still wish that I could create a template with all of those departments pre-entered and the code for the links already in there.)
But on the flip side, Web logs aren’t without issues. For one, many of my students were disatisfied with the absence of a grade on the assignments they posted. (They would get that if I collected, read, and handed back their work on paper.) I’ve struggled with this issue a bit, and we talked about it in class. Grades are such a touchy issue to so many of my kids that I’m not comfortable including the assessment with the feedback I post online. (And this, actually, is another issue. That little discuss link at the end of every post carries an expectation that I will give feedback or reply to every post. That’s just not realistic.) Some of them suggested posting just a letter grade. Others suggested weekly updates. I’m still mulling over this issue.
Also, as I use Web logs as the way students turn in assignments, it changes the way I need to operate in checking their assignments. Used to be I would collect the papers and check through them at my leisure. Now, I find myself scanning through their Web logs right before class to see if assignments are posted. (By the way, this is another reason why I need to resolve this aggregator issue one way or the other. If I could just “collect” their assignments through the aggregator, my life would be much simpler.)
Many of them asked if the Web log itself was going to receive a grade. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of that. But it is a good question. It would mean, however, that I really teach Web logs as well as journalism. To date, I have taught about Web logs and their impact on journalism. But I haven’t done much in terms of production. And unless I teach how to do it, I can’t really assess the product. Still, there is some thinking I need to do here as well.
Finally, my experiences yesterday brought home the importance of teaching the process. Next quarter, I need parents and kids to sign off, not just on the fact that their work will be published on the Internet, but that they understand the concept and process. It’s such a new technology, and I have been throwing it at my kids without too much concern for detail because I know they’ll pick it up. But when you offer up all your content online as I do, the lesson is the content and the procedures better be clear and specific. Things like if there is an assignment due and for some reason you can’t post it, I need to a) know that you’re having problems, and b) see it in some other form so I know you did it. Things like assignments are to be posted before class, which means by 9 a.m. on the day it’s due. Like I’m not going to respond to every post, in fact I may not respond to most posts, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
And there’s much more I’m sure. There are a whole slew of issues to work through, ones I’m sure others have some insight on. Feedback, as always, appreciated (assuming you managed to read this far.)