Using a blog with my service learning students has been a challenge. I want to say failure, but I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. Besides, failure is something to celebrate (like in Meet the Robinsons)--failure means there are lessons to be learned!

What's gone wrong? Here's the short list (warning to fellow English teachers, these will not be parallel or grammatically correct):

Students don't understand the difference between a blog post and a comment.
Students can not figure out how to log in.
Blogger.com is accessible from school, but not Gmail which students must have in order to have a blogger.com authorship account.
Names are not on posts
All150 students were posting comments to the same blog in random order
Students are posting but not talking to each other.
Students know how to log in but don't remember their password.
Students don't read what is on the screen in front of them.

What's working?
Many students are posting.
I can post content for students to view/read and then have them respond to it.
With students listed as authors on class period blogs we can now dialog or post comments to each others' writings.
Entries or posts are time and date stamped.
Assignments are available 24/7 .

I know what I want out of class blog: discussion, dialogue, resources and links we can visit and discuss. I want a class blog to live as an online version of our classroom--filled with a variety of resources and reflecting rich student work. The trick is teaching students how to do it or how to develop problem solving attitudes so that they are not flummoxed and shut down by log-in or other issues.

Our class blog is titled, At Your Service . Eventually, I would like to restructure how my service learning classes are run, so that we really are studying issues and creating projects to address them-- the class blog would become the space where we could trace, keep and reflect on our work.

I reviewed blog posting again today. We'll see what happens.

Views: 21

Comment by Jack Phelps on March 1, 2008 at 8:20am
Hi Lee Ann~ Wow, I can't believe nobody has answered your question yet. I guess that's probably because it's a tough one: blogs are tools best used (insofar as the classroom is concerned) to facilitate collaborative, constructivist, or publishing activities, or else simply as a way for a teacher to distribute information.

Personally, I think there are a lot of things some teachers try to do with blogs that might just as well be done on paper. Part of the problem is that they don't have any fundamental classroom structure: normally, you assign a task, your students hand it back, and you mark it up with a red pen (or something). That's an activity you basically turn on and off; but with blogs it's really hard to exert any control when you give your students a task. And an understood structure to an activity is part of what makes it useful: if everyone knows what they're supposed to do, they can just go and *do* it. But the example where your students are making posts when they should be leaving comments (or just talking to you in person, by the looks of it) is clearly one where they have to spend time figuring out what to do, which is distracting and no good for your teaching.

Try creating activities with more well defined directions. For example, with respect to the two social movies, don't link to the videos on youtube when you can embed them into the post so your students don't stray. Then, instead of saying 'tell us what you think,' be real specific and say "your homework is to click the comments link right below this and leave a comment describing something you find moving or persuasive about these videos." (or something). Unless your students know what they're doing and you plan a very specific activity, I'd suggest *not* allowing them to post on the blog. The times when it's useful for them to post are those when you've assigned something specific like, say, have them take turns posting about news articles and then having the other students leave comments in response.

I do like what you did with the wiki--asking students to go present an idea and the give their peers feedback. But the comment system on a wiki is probably not so great for this; why not have each student make a wiki page representing their project, and ask them to start off by just putting their idea. For each successive step in the project, have them evolve the page. As the project goes on, have them leave comments, questions, affirmations, etc. on each others' pages. You'll need to add extra support, like making sure they have a central listing of all the projects and know how to use the system, and also that they can't shred up each others' pages!

Would you mind if I post about this problem/solution on my blog? I try not to be all commercial messages here on Steve's Ning, but I actually run a classroom software company you might check out called ChitChat. We're very young still, but we're building tools to make it easier for educators like you to use the web effectively. The site is here: http://ChitCh.at

Good luck!

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