Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More on Why I Want Students to Blog

Yesterday, I posted about a Freshman who had published over 100 blog posts in a single semester of my West Civ class. A few readers asked if he was one of those outliers who stand apart from the crowd.

That's a tough one to answer. Because in one sense, yes of course any kid who writes that much over the course of a semester is an 'outlier' of sorts. But so are the kids who only produce a dozen posts. In my classes, over 80% of the students posted more than what was required. What does that mean? "Why" are some kids compelled to write so much and put so much time into their blogs? I come back to the idea that a student writes 100+ posts in a semester because the student owns the learning.

I've posted here screenclips of blog archives of four students in my Latin III class. These are high school juniors in a year-long class. Collectively, they produced five-hundred-and-fourteen posts in a single semester. They comprise everything from notes on vocab to student translations of Latin primary sources to pieces that consider current events from the eyes of ancient historians.

And by-and-large, few of these posts were instigated by me. Rather, the students decided what, when, and how to blog. Each student used her or his blog in a slightly different way. Some use them as their primary 'notebooks' while others use them more for personal reflection on issues both within and without the classroom. The students post tests, translations, and bibliographies directly to their blogs: this way, they have easy searchable access to all of that material available on the Cloud via any computer or device.

As a blogger myself, I certainly subscribe to the notion that our blogs are extensions of our personalities and windows into our thought processes. On a personal level, blogs are searchable web-based archives of our own formation and development as thinkers and learners. In recognizing that, we come face to face with a new reality about the way that we should be assessing our students -- as well as ourselves.


  1. I'm considering having students blog next year. What sort of guidance do you give them? What sort of feedback? How are the blogs assessed? Are they graded? Do you also encourage/require students to comments on others' blog posts?

    Thanks for any suggestions!

  2. @David

    In terms of feedback, it's a blend of comments, Jing comments ( http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/2010/03/example-of-jing-used-to-comment-on.html ), using posts as jumping off points for class discussion, and peer reading/review.


  3. David:

    Go for it! I had my 10th/11th-grade English students blogging this year for the first time ever. My kids also wrote a ton, so feedback definitely became the big question for me too--Avoid the biggest mistake I made this year: make sure your students have safe, ample, and easy ways to collaborate before you worry about how you'll grade them.

  4. So your students basically used the blogs for note taking, is that right? Or did the students create that use? Good idea, but what about the deeper thinking, analysis, reflection? Was that there too? What about the others who didn't blog too much. How do we get them to be motivated? I've used blogs, and am still searching for the best use. I love the idea of journalizing and "owning" the learning...I'm finding that many students do not like to blog.

  5. @Randi

    They used the blogs for a number of things -- taking notes (though we tend to have a more discussion oriented class and 'notes' often take the form of reflections), posting translations/essays/projects, and posting personal reflections on poetry, history, and current affairs.

    In my Freshman classes, we experimented with hosting a 'class blog' in which students could post material to a wider public audience -- working on ways of building on this for next year (their class blog: westcivproj.wordpress.com ).


  6. You are so right about the power of blogging to get us to think about what we are and where we stand and how we think... I have been empowered by my blog and that surely is the effect on students.... teachers must give them the chance to work through their ideas and own their learning.

  7. It is so interesting that you integrate blogging with your classroom! It definitely allows students the opportunity to actively learn material. I am a pre-K bilingual teacher, and although the kids I teach are rather young, I will definitely try to apply this method with them!!

  8. What do you do when students are only motivated to blog if there's an evaluation connected to it? How do you encourage them to read one another's blog without having to mark and give feedback to every entry?

  9. I taught AP American Government this year and every student was required to create a blog for the class. That blog was my window to their view of what was going on in class. Students were asked to write reactions to what we were doing in class. Essay questions were expected to be answered in the blogs. Students had their blogs available to them when ever we took a test. I even experimented with Open Internet Assessments. (it is really useless to you unless you have been using on-line resources in your learning) Freed from having to worry about fact questions we were able to get deeper into what we examining. I will say with 14 student blogs to read I did a lot more reading and thinking myself over the course of the year. Sometimes it overwhelmed me, just like sometimes school overwhelms the students.

    We all followed each other's blogs and so anytime someone added something to a blog everyone knew it and most of us read them. It was a lot of new stuff but everyone seemed to like it.

    Guess we will see what the results are at the end of the month when the AP scores come out. Blogging however made it a class of the students, for the students and by the students. I truly became a student of American Government! Try it and remember....it won't be perfect and on some days it will be down right horrible. You have to open a lot of oysters to find a pearl.

  10. I've been blogging with students for two school years now. This school year has been the first full year of blogging. I've collected data (google docs surveys and also used other more qualitative/ anecdotal methods) to determine whether or not students were viewing this tool as effective, important, and valuable in the learning process.

    Overwhelmingly, students have been pretty receptive to the blogger platform as a means for expression and communicating with an authentic audience. I did have a couple students start to use their class blog for "extra" posts, like your 100+ post student. I asked them to go ahead and create a personal blog. They were happy to do so.

    More than anything, I hope that blogging gives my students a feeling of community (with students in class and the wider edublogger community), a sense that their opinions matter, and a familiarity with basic tech language/ skills. I feel like this has gone well so far. I can't wait to utilize this platform more next year and watch my students' blogs grow!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.