Ran across a site called “Visit My Class” that seems to be offering up free Weblog space for educators. While there, I found this post from Chris Burnett:
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.
yoram orad says
Hi Will. I enjoy reading your weblog, which is an absolutely new medium to me. I am used to discussion groups. As a new weblog user I am still enchanted by it and have some thoughts of introducing it to my collegue teachers and to my students, and using it for my educational work.
As for your two citations from two different people using weblogs, I think that a blog is a tool focused in the individual. That, in comparison to discussion group which is focuse in a community. I agree to what you said about the strength of weblogs in the blogging process itself. The blog is a tool of expressing one’s thougts, feelings and for upgrading one’s writing and expressing capabilities.
I have reached your weblog through a news item which introduced the rising of use of weblogs for educational purpopses in the u.s..
AS for myself, I am an Israeli citizen who live in Israel.I am a science teacher for high school and in high school junior students and a curriculum developer and also write popular science articles.
I intend to keep reading your interesting blog.
I agree with what Yoram said and think that the Kairos person was using blogs in a way that wasn’t working. I don’t think blogs are meant for discussion in the same way that discussion boards are. Blogs are a better way for the writer to think through and write more and better than they would in a discussion forum. Getting comments on a blog is more like having someone understand your point or simply be touched by what you had to say. A discussion forum is more an exchange of ideas. I think both have a place in the classroom. How about a discussion forum based on someones blog post?
Corrie Bergeron says
I wonder if we’re looking at a distinction without a difference in some cases. LittleGreenFootballs and FreeRepublic are nominally blogs, but they function more as discussion forums – comments threads grow to the hundreds of messages, with respondents arguing back and forth with sometimes little further input from the blog owners. The difference between the two, of course, is that anyone can start new threads in a forum, while a blog owner controls the threads on his or her blog.
Jim W. says
We met this summer at the Building Learning Communities Conference. Since then, I have set up the visitmyclass.com blog site. At this time I am offering blog space to teachers in my area. I will pass on your comments about Chris Burnett’s blog to her.
In addition, I think one of the power of blogs is that it is a way for students to publish their work and to receive feedback on what they have written. The question is how do you attract visitors to your blog that will make appropriate comments? We don’t want to beat students into the ground on their first try.
I am proposing setting up a network of people who would be willing to comment on one or two pieces of student writing a month. The teacher would request feedback and give some guidelines to help the reader. The reader would look at one or more pieces of writing and make their comments. I am setting up a listserv for this purpose. I would like to you opinion.