Thursday, May 26, 2005

Some questions about blogs in the classroom

Mr. McNamar over at The Daily Grind has an interesting post reflecting on blogging in classes. He asks and answers some interesting questions. What intrigued me most, however, were the questions at the end of the post that he didn't answer.
1. Should the teacher post on the classroom blog?
2. Should the teacher interact, through comments, on the classroom blog?
3. Should posts be graded, if so, what should the criteria be?

Now, I cannot answer really from my own blogging experience with my students, but I am willing to take a stab at answering them anyway.

As to teachers posting on the classroom blog, I definitely think they should. But it has to be done with a purpose and in moderation. Care should be taken not to monopolize the class blog and, as a result, keep the students from posting as freely as they might.

Barbara Ganley has a slightly different perspective, though. She says
* I stay off the blogs as much as possible. The blogs are for student exploration and discussion--not for me to guide and teach and dictate. I don't just talk about student-centered classrooms, I am committed to them. Of course, this means I have to plan the blog and the course very carefully, a complicated choreography which calls for the teacher to be confident in the process and in herself as teacher.
We must, of course, bear in mind that she teaches at the university level. But she makes a valid point. If we are truly committed to student-centered classrooms, we have to get out of the way. But I think that teachers can post as an equal member of the learning community. It requires a certain classroom environment, but I have seen it happen. I see teacher comments on the classroom blog as important, too. Here again, they must be made with the idea of facilitating discussion, not stifling or eliminating it.

Anne Davis' blog Teachers & Technology is an example of a class blog that is almost entirely done by the instructor. Her approach is to have the class blog for announcements and such while students do their posting to their own blogs. I will say, though, that there seems to be very little commenting on each other's blogs by members of this particular class. Anne's blog with elementary school students, the Write Weblog, was handled in the same way: Anne posted to the class blog and the students posted to their own blogs. But there is one notable difference between the elementary student' blogs and the college students' -- the elementary students commented on each others' blogs.

Well, this post has gone on long enough. I haven't answered anything, have I? And I haven't even gotten around to number 3, the question about grading. So I guess I will leave it here and come back and finish tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you have any ideas on the subject, please leave a comment.


Anonymous said...

I guess I saw multiple teachers commenting and writing on the blogs in my experiment. I didn't create a class blog, though -- we went the route of aggregating all of our blogs so that everyone saw everything.
I wonder if I would have dominated a class blog -- and I think that I would have -- and perhaps for good reason.
My students, in the beginning, needed someone to get them going with prompts and questions. I also was interested in their answers, so I was always posting questions.
Like you, I'm beginning to ramble, so I'm going to quit. But I'll be watching.

M. Ells Perry said...

Hmmm... this is an interesting question. I teach 4th grade and use my classroom blog to ask students literature circle questions, extend student learning by linking to sites for further independent research, and bringing in guest experts for students to ask questions of (so far we have an astrophysist, a veterinarian, and a test pilot).

I wish students could post to each other's comments to further discussions. In this I feel that platforms such as Blackboard have the edge (although Blackboard doesn't seem to be as visually friendly as I can make my blog). In any case, this is the first year I've tried using a classroom blog and so far it's been amazing.