So most of my students have been blogging for about a week now about their final projects, which means I finally get to share some of what they’ve been doing.
Overall, I think the blogs are working very well. I intentionally gave the students minimalist directions (for the full assignment, click here). I have provided each group with prompts to respond to before each class (I see different classes on different days, so not all students are in the same spot):
- What topic do you want to do your presentation on? Why? What’s an idea for each segment?
- How do you make history/news funny? What makes something funny?
- What is the biggest challenge your group is facing right now?
Without much suggestion from myself, different student blogs have developed different uses (for each use, I’m just going to site one or two examples, but more can be found within the blogs – links to all of them can be found on any of the pages):
- Probably the most common use has been to help the groups brainstorm ideas.
- One group’s blog is looking like a pretty traditional link blog, which they are using to share research.
- Different groups are using the blog as organizational tools in different ways. Here is a rather detailed list of everything a group needs to get done, whereas here is just a simple reminder of a looming deadline.
- Here’s an example of a student from one class learning, and commenting, on a blog from another class.
- Here is a student who posted a technical question that was quickly answered by another student.
- And finally, Dan wins the funniest post award for the first week.
Pretty early in the process, Caitlin wrote “This is working out really well. Like email only…okay so it’s exactly like email.” I think Caitlin’s assessment is for the most part fair to this point. The blogging has been working out well, but only as something like ‘public e-mail.’ In that sense, the blogs have been great in that they are a public forum for my students to share their ideas. This only hits two out of the three main goals I had for my students in assigning blogs to help with the final project.
The last, and most difficult goal to achieve, is to use blogs to help develop more critical thought and discourse regarding the project. With only a very few exceptions, students have not starting commenting on other groups’ blogs. I hope that when I assign this as one of the blog prompts over the weekend, that this will lead to more interesting inter-group conversations, and therefore help the groups to better develop their ideas. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can help my students take their blogs to the next level? (I’d also encourage anyone to compliment, constructively criticize, and question my students. Unfortunately due to some practical considerations, I’ve required a Blogger account for commenting, but that can be gotten pretty quickly here and does not require having a Blogger blog).