This past year was my first experience blogging with students. It certainly had its ups and downs but was a positive experience overall for me and for my students. To read why we were blogging in science class (and why I think your students should blog) go here: “Why Are We Blogging in Science Class?”
How I started:
In September, I set up each of my 100+ students with an Edublog of their own. I used the tips found at The Edublogs Community and The Edublogger liberally. The gmail hack for setting up their accounts and the tip to use Google Reader to follow their blogs were great. Actually the whole series on setting up student blogs that begins here is a must read. I set up folders in Google Reader for each of my classes and followed all of my students’ blogs from there. I also followed all of their comment feeds to monitor them. All blogs were public and comments were not moderated. I have had to remove ~50 spam blog comments this year but the process is quick and easy.
Once they were set up, I asked my students to play around in Edublogs by setting up a theme they liked and making a first post called “What I Want to Learn this Year.” This got them familiar with the control panel and the posting process.
How it progressed:
I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted the students to do with their blogs. I had them do a few assignments that were posted there, I had them reflect on completed projects, and I had them do extensions there. I quickly realized that they needed to know what makes up a good blog post. So, we brainstormed that together and I made this post: “What Makes a Good Blog Post.” The posts (for the most part) continued to improve.
Problems I encountered and how I addressed them:
- Lack of computers at times – addressed by booking labs when needed and buying more computers for next year (I’ll be close to 1:1)
- Lack of computer access at home for many students – I gave ample class time to complete assignments and plenty of extension opportunities for those who finished more quickly
- Attendance – ample computer time and extensions (see above). I do think that the electronic structure of my classroom with Edmodo and Edublogs made students more aware of what they had missed and more likely to catch up
- Note: these are all problems that I had encountered before and will encounter again
- Some students wrote too little – I left them comments with specific feedback
- Some wrote too much – feedback comments
- Many did not read the comments that I dutifully left them – I need to work in more regular interaction with their blogs in my class
Benefits & Successes:
- Many students wrote much more on a blog than they ever would have written on paper
- Students were much more willing to revise their work than they would have been with paper assignments
- The blogs integrated photos and links to sources. I enjoyed reading them much more than I enjoy reading lab reports or research papers
- The blog became an excellent tool for differentiation – my class was more differentiated last year than ever before. My faster working students were able to continue on with greater depth or extension assignments of their choice while I was able to provide more assistance to students who wanted or needed help
- The combination of Edublogs and Edmodo (free online course management software) helped me to keep up with student work as it was posted and I provided much more specific feedback than ever before
My vision for the coming year:
The students’ blogs will be their electronic portfolio for my class. I hope to rope in some other teachers to this as well and if I can, each student’s blog will be his or her electronic portfolio for multiple classes. Students will create pages to demonstrate work samples and best works and reflect upon them. They will journal along the way as well, although I won’t mandate any minimum number of posts (maybe I’ll give them a maximum). I’m going to use the new RSS import feature in Edublogs to roll students’ posts through my blog as well. I also hope to find time to get them reading and commenting on each others’ blogs more. I hope to use Jing (thanks, TeachPaperless) to give student quick screencast feedback, rather that just written comments.