More from the Weblog in schools research front from Jason Ward of the American University Sharjah who writes about “Blog Assisted Language Learning (BALL): Push button publishing for the pupils.” I think that it does a pretty good job of reinforcing what were starting to know about Weblogs and blogging, namely that for blogging to be effective we need to ask students to use it in authentic and personally meaningful ways, and that we’re always going to struggle with the disconnect that arises when we assign it and evaluate it.
In order to get my students blogging, I started out by designing an assignment with one eye on the syllabus and the other on the ‘blogsphere’ to come up with the topics of news, views and reviews. I wanted the students to respond to an item in the news; articulate their opinions about an issue of their choosing; and critique a film and a book. I chose these topics because they were ‘authentic’; that is they commonly appear on weblogs, and also because of several communication needs that needed to be addressed in the course. In order to have sufficient time to develop, the weblog was introduced at the beginning of the course and collected at the end. There were also a couple of posting deadlines to ensure that the students had started posting their blogs.
He also touches on the idea that even “coerced” blogging, while not staying totally true to the ideal, can have some lasting benefit a la the “at least we’re getting them to think and act like bloggers” effect. Read, synthesize, reflect, read.
However, coerced-blogging can still produce excellent weblogs, and hopefully some students will continue their blogs after assessment. Furthermore, their membership of this growing discourse group may help to develop their communicative skills beyond their Com 101 class. In such classes, blogging could help to provide some relief from English class clichés, such as the standard 5-paragraph essay, and provide the students with a genuinely communicative environment to express themselves more naturally and fluently.
I’m rolling up my sleeves to see if I can’t do some classroom research on blogging (v.) with one of the media lit teachers next quarter.