Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Initial Thoughts about Student Blogging

This semester I am embarking on blogging with two of my classes (Grade 10 Academic History and Grade 11 University Prep English).  My reasons for blogging are many:

  • Visible Thinking--a way to document the process of learning
  • Creation (not just consumption)--a way to create a personal understanding
  • Collaboration--a way to share and to challenge learning and ideas
  • Individualization--a way to make choices about learning
  • Authentic Audience--a way to have others see work, not just the teacher
  • Community Creation--a way to build a group to learn from
I find the students' blog posts easy and interesting to read and to respond to.  It was admittedly time-consuming to read the first blog posts and responses because I wasn't just responding to their ideas, I was also giving the students feedback on the quality of the posts and their responses.  Additionally, I like that the feedback to the students is visible.  It isn't feedback just to look at, then throw in the trash.  The feedback is always there, for the individual to see and for others to see.  It is important to note that the feedback is both positive and constructively critical.  I have also noticed that students have read my feedback and have used that feedback to guide their own work and to help others.

Upon first blogging, there was a concern with goofy behaviour.  For example, one student tagged every post with #swag, another posted about a "pimpin' cat", and one more with Stanley from The Office laughing.  The next day I had a chat with each class about how we were using the blog space.  Fortunately, there haven't been any other issues.  My other concern is that students won't blog outside of class time.  I have provided class time so far, but I think I am going to start requiring students use time outside of class.

Next year when I blog with my students I will give a hard copy of the instructions to get on the blog.  For some reason, I assumed that the students would be familiar enough with UG Cloud that they could maneuver it without step-by-step instructions.  I was wrong.  Additionally, I would provide more direct teaching about responding to blogs.  Students often respond with "Nice post!" or something equally as generic.  I want them to actually have a dialogue with each other to build upon each other's knowledge.  I have noticed, though, that the quality of the responses are improving, especially since I gave feedback to each student about their responses.

At first I wasn't sure how I was going to keep track of the students' posts and their responses.  I like things nice and orderly, so I have a rubric for each student in a duotang, alphabetized.  Every time I read a student's post, I note the date on the rubric and place check marks in the appropriate places on the rubric.  The feedback is given as a comment to the student's post.  At midterm and final, I will look at the rubric and determine the student's mark based on where most of the check marks have fallen.  For some, this might not be specific enough, but I don't think that assigning marks is an exact science and I don't see the difference between a 73 or a 74 or a 75.  I follow the same method to assess comments to other students' blogs.

Another tip, which was shared with me by Lisa Unger (@l_unger) was to have the students label or tag their posts.  This makes it easy to find the students' posts quickly.

And finally, have a blog post with a list of prompts or ideas for writing.  Sometimes the hardest part of blogging is having an idea.

1 comment:

  1. What a great reflection on your class blogging experience - way to be as visible in your learning as you want your students to be! I like that in addition to explaining what you've done, you also shared what you would/will do differently next time.
    I think your thoughts on marking them is great. I like that the focus in the blogs is on the reflection and feedback, rather than a mark for each post. I absolutely agree with you about the different between 73-75.
    I hope you see the growth in the students' posts that you are hoping for. Keep us posted.
    BTW, you going to blog about Macbeth as well? maybe once you can share a bit of your storify?