Friday, February 17, 2006

What About Blogs?

We are offering a course on blogs through the Eighth Floor – you already know this. When we first started talking about the idea as an actual class, I struggled a little with its worthiness. What, exactly, were we going to share with participants in the class? “Do it, you’ll love it, here’s how?”

As a college English instructor, I have a gadzillion reasons to jump into blogging with my students. Clearly, a blog offers them more opportunity to write, more opportunity to get feedback from me, peers, or anyone for that matter. (Much depends on how you set up your blog.) A blog puts them “out there” on the web – makes them feel they are writing for a reason more significant than a grade. College students love blogs. Seriously, once they get the hang of it and buy into the collaborative nature of it, they are pretty good at it. Well, most of them – we ARE talking about teenagers still.

Blogs are more interesting to read than essays. It’s okay; we can admit that. It is one thing to know/observe a student in the classroom or via essay writing, but a whole new, more sincere, and often mature, persona comes out in the blog medium. BINGO! (Persona is the “bingo” word here.) Blogs are a fantastic way to demonstrate differences in voice, tone, credibility – persona. It’s not an easy concept for some – we ARE talking about teenagers still.

I can go on, really, and on about the beauty of blogs. However, even the most beautiful creatures have flaws. Alas blogs, like frogs, have flaws. (That one was just for me.) To avoid a lot of alliteration, I’ll call them warts. The most stubborn wart I deal with is getting students to write in a blog with the same high standards as an essay. They are quick to use slang, fragments, poor organization, and a bevy of other composition sins. My personal favorite is when they do an entire blog using text messaging script. Please! It’s not like we didn’t just have conversations, demonstrations, and regurgitations about my expectations (again, just for me) – but we ARE talking about teenagers still.

Anyway, so back to what do people do with blogs. I did some research. Actually, I did a lot of research, and I found some amazingly creative classroom blogs out there. I also found some that just didn’t bounce. I found several blogs that elementary classes were doing. One was very cute – a class of 3rd graders had gone to see a musical (maybe Beauty and the Beast?) and the kids blogged about their experience. I ran across a high school math class that blogged about things I completely didn’t understand (English teacher, remember), but I did get that it was math and the kids were into it.

I found classroom blogs dealing with everything you can imagine. I found blogs on blogs and blogs that linked to other blogs and blogs that blogged about bloggers who blogged about blogs and, well, you get the idea. I found that there is a whole lot of blogging going on out there. Is it all good? Errrr, nope. Is it worth investigating as another tool we as educators can use? Ahhhh, yep! And there you have it - the birth of a class on the Eighth Floor.

Being as this is a class about blogging, we think you ought to do a little, well, blogging. (Those of you reading this who are not enrolled in the class, please jump in!) We’d like for you to share some of your thoughts or concerns about setting up and using blogs:

- What do you want to know about blogs?
- What do you already know about blogs?
- How do you think you can use blogs?
- How do you see others using blogs?
- What are you concerned about when it comes to blogs?
- What experiences (good or bad) have you already had with blogs?
- OR anything else you would like to blog about.

Post your comments by clicking on the “comments” hyperlink at the bottom of this post. You can contribute as “other.” Be sure to include your name, and read others’ comments and please comment on their comments. Honestly, I don’t always talk in circles like this – not always.

Lee Anne


Anonymous said...

How does it work/do you set it up?

I only know that Wil Wheaton (kid actor) has a new career in writing because of his blog.

Ginnie said...

I know nothing about blogs except that I only heard about them a short time ago, that it seems to be addictive, and that there are a few people who sound like they actually do it for a living (not sure how!).

Anonymous said...

My daughers blog, and I'd like to find out more about how we, as teachers, can use this in the classroom. Are there sites available for education/classroom blogging? Can we monitor comments? How are these evaluated? Is it worth our time? Lots of questions . . .

Lee Anne said...

Ginnie asked me an excellent question via email. Hopefully she won't mind if I share it with you all. Obviously, I think it's a great question. I'll also share my brilliant answer.

"Lee Ann, how is this different than comments, etc., from the online classes??"

Ginnie, do you mean how is this different from the discussion board? (refering to Blackboard) You can do much of the same stuff with a discussion board. A blog is just a new/different tool. You could have a classroom blog, or each student could set up his or her own blog and “publish.” Parents or friends could read blogs, whereas they may not be able to get to what a student creates on Blackboard. Is that what you were asking?

Feel free to post your question on the blog – good question!

I like this question because it brings up a worthwhile point. Why use a blog when you have other tools at hand? Definately something you want to consider.

What differences (or not) do you all see? What reasons can you think of?

(Thanks Ginnie!)

Lee Anne

Terri said...

I don't know anything about blogs. I would like to know if this is something that I can use in an elementary school setting.

MatineeMad said...

I posted my comments on the last blog on the page - instead of this location. Hope that works. I guess I need to learn how to delete it and put it in the right place!!!!

M. Ells Perry said...

Classroom blogging can be very rewarding. I stumbled on this site looking for blogging resources/ideas for my own blog (I teach 4th grade). I hope my blog doesn't fall flat on its face but then again, I am working with fourth graders, and the blog needs to be structured in such a way that my honor's reading/language class can blog alongside my regular education students.

Take care,