Catching the Blog Bug.
A few weeks ago my VCE English unit 2 class and I took the leap and created a class blog. I have a pretty amazing group of ten students (I am the envy of many teachers in my school – not only for the small size of my class but also for their personality and performance). It was a new experience for all of us, although at least two of us are bloggers already. I had read a few class blogs from other schools but didn’t really quite know how to make it work.
Anyway . . . we had established a Friday routine of ‘cake day’. Each week I provide the tea, coffee, milo and milk and one of them brings a cake to our double.
In second semester we expanded this to a round table discussion of current affairs designed to hone our debating skills and expand our knowledge of persuasive language. This seemed the ideal food for a class blog. We spent a lesson discussing the format for our blog and how we would ensure that everyone would/could be involved. So our cake roster now includes added responsibilities . . . on your week you bring cake, stimulus material for discussion (media article, cartoon, interesting question) and you write the blog post based on the round table discussion.
We got our first two posts up and tweeted. We started to get a hit or two on our clustermap. Then I got sick! I missed the Friday session.
However, the students drove the session themselves and even posted the blog. I was so proud and impressed that they had done this without me. Then I missed the following session.
But, in the meantime a couple of colleagues from my PLN had followed the tweet and left comments on the blog. My students took it upon themselves to reply . . . some of them actually doing it at home (I hadn’t even set it as homework!!). One of the colleagues encouraged her students to comment and before long our classes were sharing ideas and debating the issue of homework.
I missed last week’s session also. They still had their discussion and the post is still being written . . . although we are almost ready for our next cake day!
Initially I gave the students ‘author’ roles – they could post and approve but it turned out they couldn’t edit. One student pointed out that she was used to the auto-correct in Word and had developed the habit of not using capital letters at the start of sentences. In Word, of course, this doesn’t matter. But once she had posted her comments on our blog and noticed the lack of auto-correct she couldn’t go back to edit. If I ‘unapproved’ a post/comment and requested the student edit, they couldn’t. The solution . . . I have upgraded the students who have taken the responsibility for posting to ‘editors’. The students who are active on our blog now have more power/responsibility.
Do I have 100% participation? No! I am still encouraging (nagging) one student to get their blog post written (overdue by three weeks now) and a couple of students have not made any contributions yet. However, it is making those who are contributing clearer in their thinking and writing. I am especially happy with one of my ‘quiet’ classroom students who has suddenly found a medium to express her very valid opinions.
Along the way we are discussing and exploring issues relating to digital citizenship . . . copyright (we created our own banner but followed rules for crediting the art work), access to information, information and identity protection. That old ‘authentic learning’ chestnut in action again!
If you are thinking about taking the plunge into class blogging, I urge you to jump!