Some nice discussion at Kairosnews about the reactions of students when they get their own blogs. The thread starts with a link to a post on TechSophist that I think makes some interesting points about why classroom blogging is sometimes difficult for students.
While questions about assessment and posting requirements and quality are ones we all have to think through, I’ve often felt that one of the hindrances to blogging with my students was that we met every day and that I only saw them for nine weeks. To me, a blog almost feels more like something I would do outside of class, or that it would keep me connected to my peers and teachers when we weren’t physically together. In college where classes meet once or twice a week, that would work well. But in K-12, unless you’re using some alternate day block schedule, we pretty much see each other every day.
Ironically, however, that’s not the case with the author of this post:
…to accelerate the “community feel” that exists in a successful group blog, I will have blogging be in-class with the video-projected screen to lend accountability. I did that this summer, but not every class period; most of the blog assignments were outside of class and intended for discussion the next class period. Unfortunately, class time would come and postings were embarrassingly low, leading to weak discussions by the few students who read the assignment at all. In order to get the blog habit going, daily class time may be needed… Moving the bulk of blogging to in-class writing may seem artificial, but writing instruction can seem that way anyway.
I guess I wonder, however, if that isn’t the point…why should we continue to teach kids to write in artificial environments when blogs give us an opportunity for real writing? Why not stick to paper? Just thinking it through…
The discussion mentioned above has some other great ideas. Connection to a community space is essential. Dennis Jerz adds:
I give students their own blogs but also make those blogs integrated into a communal site. Assignments in which students are asked to comment on each other’s blogs, but are also asked to “Find two peers who disagree with each other and blog about their differences,” or “Quote from a primary source to support or disagree with a statement made by another student.” I let them know that their portfolio would include general requirements such as these. I also think it was very successful when students were asked to blog their oral presentations first, and in class to present from their blog. Those students who posted early often got comments from their peers (or their friends who are blogging in other classes, or strangers who happened across the blog entry).
And Samantha Blackmon talks about the importance of keeping it all relevant:
This term I am relying on blogs heavily in my advanced comp class where we are focusing on political rhetoric and looking specifically at the convention bloggers (as well as other things). I think it could get interesting very quickly, especially if the students don’t want to blog (or just don’t get it)!
The distinction is how do we nurture blogging instead of just the use of blogs? By creating community. By making writing real and relevant, not artificial. By giving students audience. I’ve said it before, Weblogs are just tools, but blogging is where the learning takes place.
I really enjoyed your thoughful analysis, Will. I agree that we should “nurture blogging instead of just the use of blogs” and use that concept as a personal measure of success in the classroom. This was my first time using a group blog in a summer writing class though, and the limited (six-seven weeks) time led to, well,….what I wrote about. It may be that six weeks is simply not long enough for that sense of community and ownership to develop. It certainly does work during the regular semester, especially with the interaction possible in a group blog using Drupal.