This semester my students and I embarked on a courageous journey together. Each student created a public blog about a topic of his/her choice and accepted the challenge to post every Friday about the topic chosen. See a full write-up of the assignment here. Now that we are half-way through our adventure I want to stop for a moment and reflect on how it is going.
The classes and I have really enjoyed our Friday routine of outlining a post, approving the outline with me, and then typing their post into their BYOD devices using the Blogger app. It is a relaxed atmosphere with the Jason Mraz Pandora station playing in the background. Most students are taking their internet publishings seriously and take pride in their posts. There are a few students who cannot, for the life of them, spend some solid time thinking about and then writing a good post.
I've realized I cannot read and respond to each student's weekly post so I chose 5 from each of my 3 classes to read, grade, and respond to on a weekly basis. The goal being a rotation of about 6 weeks. I've collated the blogs' RSS feed by period into a reader called Feedly so I can see who posted, when, and, using Feedly's "Full Article" view, briefly glance at the content of each post.
Many students got into the habit of not posting in a timely manner or not at all. As a checker, Feedly has really stepped up to help out. It arranges new posts by date the post was published. This enables me to check and apply late credit to students who got a little "forgetful" about posting really quickly. I give students our Blog Post Friday and the weekend to post for full credit. Beginning Monday, they lose one grade for every day they are late until it turns into a permanent zero the Friday after the post was originally assigned.
Believe it or not, plagiarism has been a small issue. Posting to the internet in the past has forced students to really be aware of what they post. For some reason, this project has not had the same effect. As you may know from my original write-up (link above), the students spend 2-3 days a week reading RSS feeds with information about their topic to get inspiration about what to write about. Some students have had a hard time SYNTHESIZING that information into their own words. I called out the perpetrators, some were sweet, good students, and made a blanket announcement that plagiarism is BAD. My advice to them was: if you find a good topic to write about, read a couple different write-ups about it and then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY AND DO NOT PULL IT OUT UNTIL YOUR POST IS WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED. We've found that when they use their device to "get the facts" right they end up using too many similar phrases and words to the original article.
I don't know if it is the senioritis kicking in for my students but posts are pretty lazy in some cases. I've had to add requirements to the post, letting the students know that if their post gets graded this week and the requirements aren't there, they will lose points. It really seemed to booster the quality.
One of the bigger reasons I wanted to integrate blogging in the classroom was to allow students to comment on each other's blogs. The hopes with comments is to teach students how to evaluate what they read and practice decent internet citizenship. I've integrated in the Blog Post Friday routine but not very successfully. I haven't figured out a good way to hold students accountable for doing the commenting. If you have an idea, please tweet me at @techclassroom.
Possibly more importantly is access. One fault of Feedly is that they don't have a sharing option yet. While I've been able to pull in the URLs of all 110 blogs of my students, I cannot make my reader public so my students can access as well. I'll research possible Readers this summer that might be better for this project but if I don't find one, I'll create a page on our class website with a link to each blog for access. Even better (my mind is swirling with ideas now) I might have each student pull in the feeds of everyone else to their own readers so they can have the option to read the blogs during RSS Feed time in class.
If you have any comments or advice for me, please let me know. I'm at @techclassroom on Twitter.