Sunday, December 04, 2005

student blogs

I've just finished marking my year 10 student blogs for the last time this year and want to write down impressions while they are still fresh. Unfortunately I can't provide links because I didn't get around to asking permission.

Ground rules. I did ask students to blog about the space invaders games they were making but also allowed them to blog off topic if they liked. I modelled the blogging process for them at even though I did run out of time and didn't follow that through to the end. That didn't matter.

My expectation was one blog per lesson or five a week. Some found it hard to keep up with this rate but it did create a healthy expectation in my view that writing and reflection should be a continuing ongoing process. We blogged for five weeks but some asked if they could keep going beyond that.

I also set expectations about technical competence and asked them to post pictures, links, lists, to use formatting and to enable word verification to eliminate comment spam.

Nearly all of the students, except for about 4 out of a class of 23, obviously enjoyed it and found it rewarding. A handful of boys did not write much at all and some others were reluctant writers but did write when pushed. Nearly all of the girls wrote without prompting.

Some loved it and a couple have declared their intention to keep on blogging, perhaps on a new blog.

From my perspective the best thing was that it opened a new channel for me to get to know my students. In class my time to interact with each student is quite limited and is focused pretty much entirely on the IT subject content. The student blogs opened a new door through which students could communicate to me and with each other. Some students who are quiet in class were talkative on their blogs. Other students who are not quiet in class talked about other things on their blogs apart from the narrow subject content. I got to know them in a much broader way. Students revealed their feelings and interests via their blogs. This was very valuable and rewarding for me as a teacher trying to build positive relationships with my students.

The off topic blogging took on a life of its own, some students got into that in a big way. I was surprised to find a couple of girls in my class obsessed with wrestling and the Hardy boys :-)

I published the blog addresses of all students within the class and asked them to leave comments on each others blogs. Posting to each others blogs became popular too, for some.

Other students were much more task oriented and rarely strayed off topic. They posted their design ideas and problems / solutions to do with their games as well. This was the original purpose of the exercise from my point of view. But the blogging communication took on a life of its own far beyond that.

There is a significant marking load involved in the process for the teacher. Over the five weeks I marked their blogs three times, leaving comments on their blog and recording marks in a grid I developed.

update 6th December: I'm adding in the feature of my marks grid in response to a request from wara (see comments)
  • Game Reviews 2* 10 (As well as building space invaders I asked for two game reviews of editable game maker games that I placed in a folder)
  • Quality of writing /5
  • Design ideas about space inviaders (open ended mark)
  • Problems and solutions
  • Feelings
  • Other
  • Off topic
  • Quantity (number of blog entries, expectation was 24)

I also had technical competence marks:
  • word verification enabled
  • links
  • pictures
  • lists
  • formatting
From the grid I can pick out:
  • the quality writers
  • those who focused on design and problems solving
  • those who expressed feelings a lot
  • the off topic champions (and proud of it!)
  • technical competence (I had some who tweaked the HTML too)
As I said, it's a fair marking load, going into this detail. But rewarding.

It's was all pretty subjective and maybe unsatisfactory to tasky purists. I'm a bit inclined that way myself. Next time I'll set some limits on off topic stuff (but still allow some). Also I'll be better organised with space invaders extensions since I've now developed the materials. So I can have a higher expectation there.


Blogger Wara said...

Interesting Bill. I went and had a look at a few of the sites. I agree with the notion of reflecting and involving others in that reflection. The electronic mediums can also be very interesting for developing relationships - for example there are some things that my daughter wants to discuss with me and chooses to use chat from the next room rather than f2f. She has even asked that we do not talk about the subject f2f.

I have a few questions for you please:

Did you use RSS to keep tabs on what the students were doing throughout the course?

What did the marks grid look like - what was being checked or being looked for?

Did students use RSS to keep track of each others blogs?

Kids being kids can sometimes produce some stuff that others might feel is inappropriate. As a practicioner, I am not sure how to deal with that. Any advice?

9:13 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

hi wara,

I'll add the item in the marks grid to my original blog - I nearly put them in initially and now think I should, following your question

I liked the story about your daughters communication - it just seems normal to me now

No, I didn't use RSS feed, didn't see the need for it for such a small project as this - I just published the addresses in the class

There was some inappropriate bad language but not much - I didn't think it was serious enough to intervene, it only started in the last week with one or two students - if I had asked them to stop they would have

I think in the future I'll be forced to shut down the blogger blogs and move over to a safer more monitored environment - I'll deal with that when and if it happens

9:43 PM  
Blogger vonnie said...

Congrats, Bill on integrating blogs into your Year 10 curriculum for encouraging reflection, opening up new lines of communication and fostering positive relationships with your Year 10 group.

Your comments provide useful insights for other teachers.

I'm sure that RSS would facilitate efficient monitoring and sharing, cutting down the time and effort in keeping up to date with all the blogging comments. Good modelling for efficient knowledge management practices.

Like Wara suggests, the issue of dealing with inappropriate content, posted by student bloggers, is one that educators are grappling with. And blogs are often blocked in schools as a means of dealing with this!

Have your (student) blogging activities attracted wider interest in your school community?

11:38 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

hi vonnie,

Thanks for your comments.

I agree that using RSS feeds would be a good thing to model for others and it might save a bit of time and enable me to monitor who is posting and not quickly. Next time!

Yes, the blogging did attract some interest at my school. I've presented twice to staff. First time to English faculty. Second time to anyone interested.

Some other staff started their own blogs but I'm not sure whether they have kept them going.

12:36 AM  

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