Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blogging in the Classroom--A Reflection

In Campus Technology, I recently came across "Avoiding the 5 Most Common Mistakes in Using Blogs with Students" by Ruth Reynard. I will summarize the main points of the article and then reflect on how my student's blogging assignments fit Reynard's advice. I highly recommend the entire article if you are planning on having students blog in your course.

I am going to re-frame Reynard's list to read as 5 Suggestions for Effective Blogging:

  1. Communicate a clear context for use of blogging tools--this includes thinking about where the tool will be used in the course, how often it will be used, and how necessary is it in the learning process.
  2. Identify how blogging will contribute to learning outcomes--blogging allows for analysis, synthesis, and application of content will develop higher order thinking skills. Blogs can also be a place for the development of new ideas.
  3. Be sure a blog is the right tool for your goals--educators often use blogs when a wiki or discussion forum might be a better tool. Student blogs can provide teachers insight into their thought process and give them a place to articulate their thoughts.
  4. Clear grading practices--students should have a clear understanding of your blog grading practices. Reynard suggests that a rubric can be developed based on reflection, commentary, and application of new ideas.
  5. Adequate time--because students vary in how they process, adequate time should be given to students to blog in response to the learning context. my number one goal for students in my Psychology classes is literacy around my course-specific glossary. Students need to think, speak, and write like a psychologist using psychological terms and definitions. How am I doing in regard to Reynard's 5 suggestions? Let's take a look...

  1. Clear Context--my favorite way to engage students in their blogging is to ask them to relate a story from their own lives that includes an analysis using the specific terms from a unit of study. I have students highlight the vocabulary and I also ask students to tag their blog posts as well. In other ways, I sometimes make uses up as I go along. Sometimes I ask students to reflect on outside readings and video clips. Other times I ask them to participate in on-line experiments and blog about the study that might include a critical review of the methods and/or a prediction of the outcome. I think I will be able to refine the purpose of the student blogging over the course of the year.
  2. Learning Outcomes--As mentioned before, psychology literacy is my number one learning outcome. But I also want students to learn from each other. By reading a classmate's blog, they have insight to how others think and apply terms, concepts, and theories of human behavior. Students are able to benefit from the experience of others and not just be dependent on their own, sometimes limited experience. Finally, I also believe it is important that my students are exposed to technological tools that will help them in their own learning. Blogs, readers, rss feeds, embedding video, hyperlinks, voicethreads, and wikis are just a few tools my students have been exposed to in the first 5 weeks of school.
  3. Right Tool--Sometimes, I might use the blog as a place for students to drop another type of homework assignment which I know isn't the way I should use the blog. I will try to be more specific as to what I ask students to write and Reynard's article has given me a lot of food for thought. I am having more difficulty in coming up with collaborative tasks that might use wiki tools. But that's another post for another day.
  4. Clear Grading Practices--This is the weakest part of my approach. Students don't know how they are being graded (beyond a completion grade) because I am still not sure how to grade all these blog posts. I could say that for the first month of school I just want my students to get comfortable with blogging and now I will incorporate specific grading practices based on Reynards suggested areas of reflection, commentary, and application of psychological principles. In fact, I think this is exactly the direction I will go. Thanks, Ruth.
  5. Adequate Time--I understand that students are on their own individual schedules regarding the processing of new information, however, the school environment is built around course calendars, grading periods, and exam schedules. While I hope I give students enough time to process information for their blogging assignments, students need to understand that they need to think and process in a timely manner. I will, as Reynard suggest, keep the blogging tool open all year long. What I am seeing develop is an archive of student learning for the year. It would be cool to give each student a hard copy of all their blog posts after I close the blogging for the year. Hmmm, how might I do that?

My overall grade using Reynard's analysis of effective blogging? I give myself a B- but seeing we are only in October, I hope to raise my grade before the quarter ends!


Wendy said...

Hi Dave,
I have my grad students at Fisher blog and they develop their own rubrics for grading - one for writing an effective post and one for contributing a comment. Along with the descriptors in the rubric for content and mechanics, they also link to on-line examples to illustrate each. It has made grading a snap and has also increased the quality of the posts and comments by the students.

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