Saturday, February 18, 2006

student blogs: preliminary observations

Here's are some preliminary observations about how my year 11 students IT blogs are progressing after 3 weeks.

The semester one IT course is about game design, making and issues about games (addiction, violence). The course is online here.

I've asked the students to solve a series of challenges and to blog about how they have solved the challenges. Some have had experience with game making and blogging before and some haven't, so the playing field is not level to start with.

I've started off by modelling the process and posting some instruction at I'll keep doing this if it seems to be useful but already I've noticed that students aren't much interested in my blog even though they are interested in each others blogs.

My marking scheme is 5 marks for each problem, broken down like this:
written solution out of 3 (A standard = 3, B=2, C=1, Requirement Not Met = 0)
help: out of 1 (who helped me, how did they help)
screeshot 1

As well as that I give bonus marks for off topic (1 a week), links, tips, categories, themes and blogroll.

By far the best thing so far has been that some students who are shy in class express themselves quite freely in their blogs. This is really striking for some students. It's also true that some students who are not shy also express themselves more fully through their blogs and since I'm prepared to put in some extra time and read their comments at home then I get to know their thoughts much better than I would otherwise. In short, blogging is fantastic for improved teacher - student connectivity.

However, there are a small number of students (boys of course) who seem to hate writing and it just may not work for them. You can't win them all.

Those students who have blogged before (I had some of them last year) are reading each others blogs and writing comments to each other. Most of students new to blogging haven't picked up on this yet, they are still finding their feet, but I know they will shortly and at that point their enthusiasm for the enterprise will grow.

What happens is a transition from one mindset (the teacher made me do it) to another mindset - I can own this myself and it's fun. This happens with the off topic posts and writing comments to each other, they begin to feel the power of their own free expression.

This creates problems for me of course. Bad language has cropped up earlier this year than last year. I want my students to express themselves freely but we're all trapped in a mind numbing, archaic, dumbed down to the max education system which frowns on such things. Oh well, we'll see what happens. Still thinking about the best way to handle it.

Today I've aggregated all the student RSS feeds at one spot which will help me keep track of updates.


Blogger Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Bill. Perhaps with the swearing thing it might be opportune to take a quick look at the systems used by some organisations to gather intellegence through email and comment scanning. Such as filters that block swear words, or security filters that scan emails for specific words, phrases, and even pictures of a certain pixel colour!!

It might be good "workplace training"/relationship building to show kids how to swear in email without getting caught. Sh!t, f**k, and stuff like that.

2:24 PM  

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