2/25/2006 10:20:00 pm

In an earlier post I wrote about how blogging positively impacted some students who "graduated" from my classes last semester. Alan Levine left this comment:

Thanks for sharing these stories-- I was looking for what I think were your November posts when prepping for these sessions as worthy discussions of "What Happens at the End of a Course Blog?"

Hopefully it is an evolving practice where the examples you describe move from extraordinary to ordinary.

At the same time, I am curious about the kids who have the experience but have not taken such leaps.

I too hope the practice evolves from extraordinary to ordinary. I also hope that when blogging classes become more pervasive students in those classes continue to exert the kind of efforts they are now; hopefully the class blog experience wont become old and passé. I think that as long as the international community of blogging educators continues to participate in each other's classes, providing students with an authentic, learning focused, global audience students will continue to produce "world class" work.

Alan's last paragraph is an important one. In every class I teach I have students that do not make the effort to learn. Blog or no blog, they may show up to class physically, but that is all. There's not much I can do other than provide opportunities for students to learn. I try to encourage, cajole, inspire and give motivational speeches to try to get my students to take learning seriously. In the end, the decision lies with each individual student. Some of them simply refuse to engage in learning. Why is that? I suspect it's strongly connected to the push vrs. pull paradigm of education that Will wrote about a while back. Our current system aligns with the push paradigm:

"Learn this because one day you just may need to know it."

"Really? When do you think I'll need to know the quadratic formula outside a math class?"

No matter how I encourage kids to pursue an education, some, perhaps many of them, wont because they don't see the value in it. The idea of acquiring a habit of mind is foreign to them. Some of this is cultural. North American culture doesn't truly value education and has little respect for educators. (You just have to look at how governments allocate tax dollars to education. And when they cut education budgets also look at how the population at large reacts.) Teaching is not widely considered a profession, and hence, teachers are not widely seen as professionals. In some communities teachers aren't even trusted to teach.

But, I digress. I originally sat down to write about a student who dropped my class on Monday. She dropped the class "because of the blog." "I don't like computers," she said. One mark on every test comes from blog work. And their scribe posts (they have to do about 3 or 4 over the entire semester) counts for 5% of their class mark. These are easy marks to get. As long as the student does the work they get full marks. If they don't do the work they get zero. She had decided she would not participate in the blog and didn't want that decision to impact her grades.

Her situation was further complicated because her parents had disconnected the internet at home. Her younger sibling abused it; he would play on the internet and not do his school work. I had arranged for her to have a special student account at school. She could use the school's computers to do her blog work. This meant that she would have to use time from her spares or lunch hours to do her blog work. I guess she felt it was all just too much of a hassle.

I was a little taken aback by all this. A student dropped my class because of the blog. This was a first. I began to second guess myself. Should I have a blog supported class if some students are so turned off at the idea that they drop the course? Students drop classes all the time. How many this year had dropped my class because of the blog but hadn't told me so? (Students who drop are usually there one day and gone the next.) I have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the class blogs. One student who refused to participate throughout last semester's Pre-Cal 20S class finally came on board for the very last blog post of the semester. What he wrote was so powerful that it is being published in a print magazine. Nonetheless, if the blog is pushing students away maybe it's not such a good idea after all.

I spent the next two days mulling (agonizing?) this over in my head.

On Wednesday the young lady came to see me again. She had discussed her decision over with her parents. Together they decided that the way my class was structured (my instructional and assessment practices but also the blog) would better prepare her for university. "Can I please come back?" she said. I said yes.

Not all our students are digital natives. I wonder how many of them are disinclined to take a course because there is a blogging component. I wonder how many students would withdraw from a class because of the blog. And is this decision based on their academic objectives or is it a result of ennui?

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