It amazes me how feedback from someone other than “The Teacher” can motivate a student! This morning there were a few feedback comments and I read them to the class. I did that mainly to let the kids know that someone other than me is reading their writing. If you ever wanted to see a room of 28 8th graders be stone silent, you should have been in my classroom this morning. A couple of the kids actually looked at the computer to make sure I wasn’t making any of this up. Now I discover that there are about 15 feedback comments for my kids and I can’t wait to get to school tomorrow and read them out loud. I think a new morning activity has been created…”Let’s find out what people had to say!” My kids have been told all too often that “They can’t” and now I can show them that “They can!” Thanks to all who have commented on their writing. Your comments are priceless. With each piece that my kids write, they will get better.
The power of audience revealed, and one of the best parts of Weblogs. Good stuff.
But contrast it to this from Kairosnews:
I used to love blogs. I thought they were going to be the Next Great Thing to introduce in the classroom. After three semesters, however, blogs are losing their lustre. Students are confused by them, unable to write, paralyzed with fear of blogging, or they are already light years ahead of the class with their own LiveJournals which have all the bells and whistles.
I have discovered that my honeymoon with blogs is over, mostly because there really is no room for spirited interaction between my students and myself in the blogs. Yes, I can require that they respond to another person’s blog, but one student said that, compared to a discussion forum, leaving responses to blogs felt more like leaving a note for someone who is out. The discussion forum, she said, felt more like an ongoing conversation which was more fun.
I agree with this sentiment, to some extent. Discussion is hard to get started in blogs, and it just doesn’t work if it’s forced or required. I mean it’s fine if you want students to respond to pieces of writing, as a way of archiving feedback. Sustaining a back a forth conversation on a blog post is not easy, however. But having said that, I’m not sure how a discussion board is any better…
Look, the strength of Weblogs lies in the blogging process, the reading, thinking, writing, publishing, responding process. But to get students to do that effectively, we have to be able to let them own their own spaces by allowing them to write about their own passions and develop their own audiences. That’s a tougher task, no doubt, than asking for specific responses. But I still believe we can nurture those spaces, and at least expose them to the possibilities.